Friday, February 20, 2009

The Village Mystery

Valley of the Lost, the second in the Constable Molly Smith series by Vicki Delany, has just been released by Poisoned Pen Press. For a sneak peek visit Vicki's web page at, to read the first chapter and watch the exciting book trailer.

“The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” Sherlock Holmes, Adventure of the Copper Beeches.

Since the time of Conan-Doyle and Agatha Christie the village setting has been a staple of a certain type of mystery novel. A novel that is as much about the personal and family life of the protagonists as their jobs, that is more about human relationships and love and loss than international terrorism or guns-for-hire, thrives in the small town environment.

And, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, countryside does not always mean peaceful. After writing two standalone novels I wanted to begin a series. There was never much doubt in my mind as to where the series would be set – it needed to be someplace I wanted to spend a lot of time in, even if only metaphysically speaking. In real life, the town of Nelson (pop 9,000) is nestled in the mountains of the British Columbia Interior. Using Nelson as a guide, I created the town of Trafalgar.

Like its inspiration, Trafalgar is surrounded by mountains, and very isolated. It is eight hours drive to Vancouver or to Calgary, and the nearest city is in another country – Spokane, Washington. It is a place of long-time residents, who were born and raised in the valleys and mountainsides. It is also a place of transients and newcomers, attracted by the beauty, the isolation, the artistic community, and the area’s reputation for independence. Neo-hippies - dreadlocks, girls with long colorful skirts, boys with wild beards - mix with the comfortably-early-retired, owners of big houses and expensive hiking equipment; with artists, who’ve moved there to paint or write; and with the spiritual, attracted by the ‘ley lines’ or ‘vibes’. All of these people come together in the village setting where they create a vibrant and active citizenship, full of strong opinions. And the potential for conflict, which is the key to any crime novel.

A reader in Arizona told me that Trafalgar reminded her a great deal of Sedona. It’s hard to imagine two places that look more different, but the sense of both places is the same – the supposedly mystic qualities attracting a variety of people, the conflict between the traditionalists, fighting to keep the town as it is, and new money, wanting more and more development, pushing up the cost of housing, sometimes beyond what locals can afford.

In practical terms, the small town setting allowed me to give the main protagonist of the series, a young, keen, probationary constable by the name of Molly Smith, a role in criminal investigation. In a big city she would be directing traffic, but a small town force does with what they have. In Valley of the Lost, Smith’s mother and Sergeant Winters’ wife become involved in the conflict in a way that is perfectly believable in a small, close town, but would be ridiculous coincidence in a big city. Being local, knowing everyone, is a key to Constable Smith’s character. In the first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier, she thinks: It was hard, sometimes, to be a cop in a town where a substantial number of the residents had seen you performing as Number Two Wise Man in the Grade Three Christmas pageant.

Vicki Delany


  1. Thankk you so much for hosting me. I love the way you've displayed the covers.

  2. I knew I shouldn't have read this! I have no more room on my TBR list as it is! But seriously, it sounds like the kind of book I would love. And a series, no less! Will have to check it out soon.