VIU Creating Writing and Journalism professor Susan Juby said her new book, Mindful of Murder, is a “murder mystery, but it’s a funny one.”
The novel, released March 8, is Juby’s twelfth and her “first real big” mystery. She has written mysteries for a Young Adult audience, but this is her first entry with an actual murder.
Mindful of Murder takes place at a new-age retreat centre on a fictional island in British Columbia. When newly-qualified butler Helen Thorpe’s former employer and owner of the retreat unexpectedly dies by suicide in the midst of a three-month silent retreat, it’s up to Helen to settle the affairs.
Helen runs a mock retreat with the family to determine who will inherit the business, but as the plot unfolds, it seems more likely that Edna’s death was murder.
The first aspect of Mindful of Murder that came to Juby was the main character; Helen. Juby said she also loves butler stories, so she knew Helen would be a butler, and “a woman of a certain age,” as well as a Buddhist.
“She’s a lot of things,” Juby said.
But it wasn’t until Juby herself was at a two-week silent meditation retreat that the surrounding plot “fell into place.”
Although it is still early days, Juby has received strong reviews for Mindful of Murder.
“Mystery readers have a certain type of mystery they like,” she said. The people who have reached out to Juby about the book so far think she’s met that standard.
In fact, Mindful of Murder made CBC’s “22 books to read for International Women’s Day 2022” list. Juby was pleasantly surprised. “It’s got a strong woman,” she reflected, talking of Helen.
According to Bookmanager.com, Mindful of Murder is also the number one new release across independent bookstores in Canada. Juby said when her editor told her, “I nearly collapsed.”
Juby is a huge fan of the mystery genre. She loves the puzzle aspect of the genre, the interview scenes, and the fascinating and characteristic investigator. She also finds the genre a bit cathartic.
“I love the idea that there can be justice in the world,” Juby said, especially in 2022.
Describing her new book as “cozy with humour,” Juby recommends Mindful of Murder to fans of tamer mystery stories, like her own previous reader base.
One for variety, Juby has another book coming out at the end of March dealing with quite different subject material.
Me Three is inspired by the experience of children whose parents faced consequences for their acts of abuse in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
“What would it be like to find out that a parent you idolized was capable of such behaviour?” Juby asked. “Me Three comes from contemplating the fallout from such a situation.”
Juby shared that Mindful of Murder took six years to write and started out very slowly at first. She wasn’t sure if the book would work or if it was worth taking the time to make it work, but she is glad she kept at it. Now she’s hoping to write a series with Helen Thorpe’s character.
Juby’s final message is: if it doesn’t get out at first, don’t give up writing!