When I first began writing mysteries, I had no particular interest in true crime. To be honest, I avoided it like the plague. I watched the occasional episode with my husband but only because he enjoyed it so much.
Yet as I write this post, I’ve finished reading Robert Ressler’s Mind Hunter and am halfway through Ann Rule’s fascinating portrayal of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy in The Stranger Beside Me.
My recent forays into true crime have inspired contemporary short stories such as “The Christmas Stalker,” published in Heater Magazine, and “The Evidence Never Lies,” available on Amazon. I never thought it would inspire a Haydn Mystery as well. But it has.
“Whiff of Murder,” my latest Haydn short story, is inspired by a killing that occurred sometime in the late-twentieth century. A woman set out for work as she always did on a fine summer morning but never returned home. A search of her home initially revealed nothing.
The house was clean, the dishes washed, the bed had been made. A second, more thorough search, however, revealed a rather disturbing clue: a heavily bloodstained mattress. But there was still no sign of the woman, or any signs of a corpse—hers or whoever had been killed in that bed.
Investigators found themselves flummoxed by the case. Quite a few people had seen the woman that morning. Yet no one could recall seeing her return home. Even more perplexing, no one had seen or heard anything suspicious.
This puzzle-aspect of the story quite appealed to me, and I wondered if I could use these ingredients to concoct a mystery Haydn could solve. I would need to devise a more solid motive than investigators had in this case. They could find no reason for the woman to kill anyone or to be killed herself.
I turned to the oldest motive in the book: infidelity. There’s always a motive for everyone involved to murder one of the other people also caught up in this awful situation.
Frau Altdorfer, a beautiful woman, several years younger than her husband, the baker of Eisenstadt, has no qualms about straying from her husband’s bed. Although the entire town is aware of her indiscretions, her poor cuckolded husband appears to have been in the dark.
Haydn, immersed in his music, is unaware of the rumors as well, but soon figures out which way the wind blows when the baker seeks out his aid at the behest of the Bürgermeister. But in the absence of a corpse, there really is no way of knowing who was killed and for what reason.
Haydn has his work cut out for him until a painful memory from his own past helps him unravel the mystery.
I hope you enjoy the story. Although inspired by true crime, it’s nothing as dark as the case it was based upon. And, at the end of it all, Haydn earns a lifetime supply of cherry kuchen for his efforts.
“A Whiff of Murder,” if you’re interested in reading it, is available at Taste of Murder The story will give you a taste of Haydn’s detecting skills as well as prepare you for his involvement in “The Baker’s Boy,” a young Haydn mystery available in Day of the Dark, an anthology of eclipse-centered stories edited by Kaye George.
How intriguing!! Love that a real story inspired you.
Thanks, Ellen. It was such an intriguing case, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. And although it was a challenge turning the material into something appropriate for a cozy, I really enjoyed fashioning a story out of it.
What a researcher and storyteller you are, Nupur!
Every time I visit your website I enjoy it more. 🙂
Oh thank you, Kate! I’m so happy you enjoyed this post.