Saralyn Richard might call Galveston, Texas home, but her ties to the Brandywine Valley run deep—her brother-in-law and sister-in-law call the region home and she subsequently spends a good bit of time here. The author, who will be in town this week for a private launch party of her new book Murder in the One Percent, (Black Opal Books, 350 pages) delves into the region’s lifestyle and history. Readers can expect to see familiar sights, including Kennett Square, as the mystery unfolds. Here, she shares her inspiration and what to expect in the future.
The Hunt: What’s your favorite part about writing a murder mystery?
Saralyn Richard: I love reading murder mysteries. The real fun of them is that the writer and the reader are engaged in an intellectual and emotional puzzle together. To the extent that the author can put in clues, foreshadowing, suspense, irony and twists and turns in the plot and take the reader with her and then manage to surprise the reader at the end, it’s just a magnificent achievement for the author, but also for the reader. There’s a connection between author and reader in a mystery that doesn’t always happen with other books.
TH: Tell us a little about the plot of Murder in the One Percent.
SR: A group of friends [from college] get together to celebrate the 65th birthday of one of the group. It takes place out on a horse farm called Bucolia. What no one really expects is that this character, Preston Phillips, who’s the former Secretary of the Treasury—he comes with his fourth wife—has no idea that the woman he jilted at the alter years ago is going to be at the party. When he sees her again, he’s completely enchanted by her. That sparks a lot of tension. There’s lust, greed, a desire for revenge.
TH: What’s your connection to the region?
SR: My brother-in-law has lived maybe 13 or 14 years [on his Brandywine Valley farm], so I’ve been coming pretty regularly. I’ve experienced a lot of the peacefulness, natural beauty and atmosphere of the area—it’s a beautiful lifestyle.
TH: What was your inspiration for Murder in the One Percent?
SR: Some years ago I was in a party in the Brandywine Valley—it was a birthday party and weekend retreat at one of the country mansions. We were all sitting around after the Saturday night dinner that was really delicious, opulent and fun, and I turned to the person next to me and said, “This would be a great setting for a murder mystery. But for that to happen, one of us would have to die, and one of us would have to be the killer.” We all laughed about that, but the idea just stuck in my mind. It’s kind of ironic that murder can happen in such a beautiful place. That’s what sort of intrigues me about it—it’s just like a paradise and everything is seemingly perfect. You’d think the police there would have nothing to do. You insert a murder into that setting and it just sparks.
TH: What was your research process like?
SR: I interviewed a lot of people in the Brandywine Valley—foxhunters, food and wine connoisseurs, the police department, the people at Capriotti’s, the medical examiners, some doctors, Brandywine Hospital [staff]. I did a lot of research actually using The Hunt magazine. Some of those [featured] houses are the houses my characters live in—I would describe the house based on what I saw in the magazine. Even clothes, jewelry—a lot of it came from The Hunt.
TH: What are you looking forward to about returning to the region?
SR: This time is different. While I haven’t lived there, my characters have. There’s a part of me in every one of the characters. It’s like coming home.
TH: Tell us a bit about the sequel you’re working on.
SR: Detective Parrott is still with the West Brandywine Police Department, and his next case involves an art heist [in the Brandywine Valley] and a murder. I’m hoping to get it out by October.