Mysteries usually take place in urban settings. The average person assumes crime rates are higher in the concrete jungle, and therefore, more suited to crime fiction. Even if the stories don’t take place in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Chicago, they often occur in some sort of town. After all, the country too slow, an easier life not conducive to violence. People get along and aren’t into each other’s business because they aren’t up under each other. It’s where the city dweller goes to relax. Peace, quiet, calm Americana.
Sorry, but that ain’t necessarily so.
In a lot of rural settings, E-I-E-I-O spells dead.
The country is where chemicals can dissolve your lungs, invisible gases from silos and cattle asphyxiate, tools disembowel, machinery rips off limbs, and animals, given the right situation, eat you right down to the bone.
Imagine all that opportunity in the hands of a diabolical killer.
Most mystery readers imagine more mayhem in urban areas. In the country, however, murder can be hidden under the lower forty acres, or amidst the livestock feed. Heck, hide the body in the dirt under a livestock barn and who’s going to notice? Drop them in with the hogs and the body disappears pretty efficiently. Just remember to take off the watch or remove the glasses. Pigs spit those out.
So many natural causes and accidents with easy cover up, and fewer people to notice.
And the methods can creep you out.
Manure pits just seem to be a pile of stinky crap. But fall into it, even only knee deep, and you can drop dead in minutes.
Most bulls have their mean and cantankerous moments, and regardless how smart your character is, lock him in with a bull weighing close to a ton and the odds even up pretty quickly.
In a particular type of conventional silo, nitrogen dioxide forms, smelling like bleach at its peak. But the gas is heavier than air. It flows down chutes and collects in lower areas around farm buildings, in corners, under feed bunks, even against the floor. What may seem only like a nasal irritant can result in a person dying in his sleep hours after exposure from fluid collection in his lungs. A crazed antagonist can contain a character and expose him to the poison, then let him loose to die hours later alone, the murderer nowhere around.
Death in the country can be horribly gruesome. It’s easier to dispose of bodies, plus you have a lot more area to do it in. Acres and acres of cropland, woods, irrigation ponds, and pasture. Bring in citified law enforcement, and your bad guy has an even greater chance of getting away with the deed.
The Carolina Slade Mystery Series is set in various rural areas of South Carolina. The country settings make for unusual crime, and there’s usually some agricultural bent to the mystery: a hog farmer killing for land titles, tomatoes harboring drug shipments, seasonal migrant pickers turning into slaves, and with the newest release, Palmetto Poison, a governor has access to deadly poisonous peanuts. This unique arena with all its colorful players, unique murder opportunity, and breath-catching display of nature is what makes Slade’s stories intriguing.
Setting should be as strong a character as your protagonist, but it doesn’t have to mean high rises, airports, apartment complexes, dank city alleys, or industrial parks. America was founded on agriculture. Farmsteads where the sun rises over waves of wheat and seas of corn, where a man fights to work at an honest living in tune with Mother Nature. Where people know how to fend for themselves, deal with threats, and dispose of them in ways a city fella’ would never imagine.
C. Hope Clark is author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series published by Bell Bridge Books. She is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, and her newsletters reach 45,000 readers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com Palmetto Poison is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and wherever books are sold.