Thursday, November 5, 2009
Museums Can Be Murder
Last week we welcomed a professional clown who just happens to be an author. Today let's welcome a PhD who just happens to write mysteries. Leave a comment for Sarah and your name will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of my Wings novel The Welcome Inn. Okay, here's Sarah.
What if you had to move a large collection of heavy, awkward plaster casts of Roman emperors and Greek gods out of an old building and the only way was to lower them down through an elevator shaft? And someone cut a cable while you were doing it so that a statue crushed your museum director?
This is the premise behind The Fall of Augustus, my latest Lisa Donahue archaeological mystery. It’s set in a fourth floor attic museum very similar to one that I worked in for three years at the University of Illinois. The situation with moving the casts was based on facts; what happened inside the elevator shaft was not.
If a setting can be a character in a novel, then the former World Heritage Museum (now fictionally moved to Boston to protect the innocent) is a humdinger. It was a labyrinth, so crowded that student guards couldn’t see all corners of a gallery. Pigeons soared through broken windows and left their deposits on statues of Greek gods. Dismal enough during the day, it was positively creepy at night. I took my turn at closing the museum, giving my password (the name of a Greek goddess) to campus security, ignoring the shadows cast by suits of armor and the rustling of winged creatures (pigeons, or bats?), and racing down the back stairs before the alarm tripped. What a great place for a murder…
In the novel, storerooms in odd locations (on two different floors and in the basement) provide convenient hideaways for stolen artifacts and dead bodies. The odd layout of the building (one staircase that only goes to the second floor, two others that go to the fourth floor) makes it easy for villains to escape. Needless to say, this drives the police crazy.
The human characters in Fall are just as odd as the building—an Assistant Director with a clothes fetish, a janitor who likes mummies, and a Don Juan preparator who has a talent for making artifacts disappear. And most sinister of all, a new museum director who makes Lisa’s blood run cold. Murder by transport amphora, anyone?
The Fall of Augustus is Sarah Wisseman’s third mystery. It is available in trade paperback and ebook at Wings: http://wingsepress.com/Bookstore/The%20Fall%20Of%20Augustus.htm
For more information, go to Sarah’s website: www.sarahwisseman.com