Most of New England is recovering from our most recent storm, a record-setting few days that has left us with 70 inches of snow, bitter cold, dangerous and slippery streets, and parking bans. My husband and I have done our twice daily shoveling and snow-blowing, and I took the obligatory photo of the garage and its shapely snowdrift. This is where I should begin talking about cabin fever and other ailments of a finger-numbing and toe-freezing, heart-attack-shoveling winter. But that's not what I saw when I admired the snowdrift.
The shape of the lovely wind-driven pile of snow against our old garage, 1930s vintage, reminded me of the shape of the mystery novel that is my current work in progress. The base of the snowdrift is broad and flat and deep along the garden, which is now completely buried.
The snowdrift rises in smooth narrowing lines, reaching to a final point. And this is how my story develops. Anita Ray and her Auntie Meena welcome eleven guests to Hotel Delite, five of whom are members of one tour. This is the sprawling base along the shores of the Arabian Sea in subtropical India. But as the story progresses, some characters become more important than others. The base begins to narrow. That ragged line near the base of the drift could be considered the murder. After this the snow, still smooth and white, narrows even more.
The series of pummeling storms left us a blanket that is smooth and white, but beneath that, as everyone who has been out shoveling knows, is a crust of ice, as each layer has solidified and settled. The light fluffy stuff on top, like makeup and a new hairdo, is misleading, deceptive. A man with wavy black hair and olive skin in the sun is not as beautiful beneath the tan.
As hotel guests are found to be genuine tourists, more interested in an exciting elephant ride or a boat trip along a canal followed by a meal at a local restaurant, Anita's attentions focus on fewer foreigners, but her gaze grows more intense. Just as the snowdrift rises sharply to a peak at the roofline, so Anita squeezes the main suspect, certain now that she knows exactly who did what and why and how. She doesn't avoid a confrontation and she doesn't blunt her accusations. She carries the reader, like the wind, to the peak of the investigation, the top of the snowdrift.
But what about the garden beneath the snowdrift? That's gone till spring. Not all mysteries can be explained.
Fanciful? Certainly not. A writer welcomes advice no matter where it comes from.