Meet Mary Angela.
Mary Angela is the author of An Act of Murder, the debut novel in the Professor Prather mystery series, and an English teacher at the University of Sioux Falls. When she’s not grading papers (when is she not grading papers?), she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. An avid mystery fan, she is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Visit http://www.maryangelabooks.com for more information about Mary or her work.
Guest Post – Setting
There is something wonderful about delving into a cozy mystery during the dark days of winter. The sky is gray, the air is cold, and the last thing you want to do is put on your coat and go somewhere. But open up the pages of your cozy mystery novel, and you are transported to another place without ever leaving your living room. Right now I’m enjoying the balmy summer breezes in a brewing mystery that has me wondering if I should trade in my wine for beer. It, like my novel, is driven by setting, and for me, this is one of the greatest allures of the genre.
South Dakota is a striking place but not in the usual way. It doesn’t have lakes or mountains. The Black Hills (what the Lakota Sioux call “Paha Sapa”) are just that, hills, and The Badlands really mean “land bad.” It is a literal translation of the Lakota “Mako Sica.” Yet The Badlands National Park is one of the most majestic places in the state and, covering 244,000 acres, the largest preserve of mixed prairie grass in the nation. No wonder it’s one of the most popular vacation destinations west of the Missouri River.
An Act of Murder is set in eastern South Dakota in an area known for its lush farms and bottomlands. A fictional college town, Copper Bluff lies atop an orange-colored ridge above a winding river. The university campus is central to the town’s mystique, and walking around the quartzite buildings and quiet courtyard, students might wonder if they’ve stepped back in time. Some of the edifices date back to the nineteenth century and others come complete with turrets. The towering trees, which line the campus, are the oldest in the area and guard this city within a city like sentinels.
Yet students will soon discover that though the town is charmingly nostalgic, it is also quite modern. The community thrives on university activities, which bring in entrepreneurs and artists from all over the world. The characters are just as eclectic as they are diverse, and people have passed generations or just a few days here. Some stay for the farm; others come for the education. The residents are ever changing, but one thing remains the same: those who reside here feel fortunate to know such a place exists, and hopefully, readers will too.
I once saw a quote that said, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” Many times in my life I have had to stay where I am. Family, obligations, children, jobs. You know the gamut. Still, there’s no place I’d rather live than South Dakota—except when I wouldn’t. Then I can pick up a cozy mystery and go absolutely anywhere.