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Writing Dig Your Own Grave by Carmen Radtke

It is a great pleasure to have Carmen Radtke visit my blog today to tell me all about writing her new novel, Dig Your Own Grave.

Thank you for inviting me, Val! You might have noticed that Dig Your Own Grave is slightly different from my other crime novels. Usually, I combine history and cozy mystery, to create entertaining stories that transport the readers into another era.

As a trained newspaper reporter, I love research. No wonder that the mystery that started my transition from fact to fiction was sparked by a true event.

The Case of the Missing Bride, the first Alyssa Chalmers mystery set in 1862, became a Malice Domestic finalist and CWA Historical Dagger finalist. The research for that novel led the groundwork for my other cozy period series, the Jack and Frances mysteries set in the early 1930s.

Recently I’ve branched out into contemporary mystery, but at their core, these are all typical whodunnits, with amateur sleuths and villains brought to justice.

Like my other novels, Dig Your Own Grave started with the idea of culprits being punished for their crimes. This time, though, I dug deeper (sorry for the pun). During my reporter years, I spent some time as a police and court reporter. The cases I wrote about would sometimes end in a prison sentence, sometimes in an acquittal.

But what about the many instances when people used legal loopholes to get away with hurting other without any repercussion? Or those cases where the victims were too scared to say anything?

That’s the question my compassionate killer, Marie, finds herself confronted with. She’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she feels as if she’s already living on borrowed time. The question is, does she spend the rest of her remaining hours knowing she could have prevented more evil happening, by taking the law into her own hands, or does she act on her compassion? Spoiler: Marie acts.

I’ve always been fascinated with the distinction between legally permitted, yet morally wrong, and the other way around. I’m not saying that I condone murder, but I could easily compile a list of people (usually dictators), whose early demise would have been much appreciated.

Marie kills because she cares, not despite of it. She cares about dachshund Dash, about old and new friends, and about protecting the innocent.

Another source of inspiration for Dig Your Own Grave came from the incomparable Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Murder on the Orient Express deals with a similar moral dilemma. In Agatha Christie’s famous novel, a criminal who bribed a jury and thus escaped justice, is found murdered on a train. With Hercule Poirot on the case, it’s inevitable that the truth will come out. But will he act on it? And what would he have done in Marie’s case?

Some readers have already asked if my compassionate killer and Dash will return. The answer is, I don’t know yet. I’m working on the next Jack and Frances murder mystery, and Alyssa Chalmers will also return. But it was fun to dive into a whydunnit for a change. Justice comes in all kinds of ways.

The Author

Cozy mysteries. Dastardly deeds. Scintillating sleuths.

Carmen has spent most of her life with ink on her fingers and a dangerously high pile of books and newspapers by her side.

She has worked as a newspaper reporter on two continents and always dreamt of becoming a novelist and screenwriter.

When she found herself crouched under her dining table, typing away on a novel between two earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, she realised she was hooked for life.

Carmen now lives in Italy with her human and her four-legged family.

Although she regularly commits murder on the page, the only time she shed blood in real life, was when she squatted a fly. Even that was an accident. She still feels bad about it.

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