Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vicki Delany on Avoiding the Cabot Cove Syndrome

The final question for Vicki Delany is from Gabriella.

I grew up in one of these hardy winter small towns where you set your mystery.
How do you keep from letting the small town turn into Amityville -- forever
marked as a place where the population suffers a statistically significant drop
thanks to a neighbor they've known all their lives?

That’s a good question, and a very good point. My editor and I have discussed that very thing. How to avoid the Cabot Cove syndrome, or as you put it Amityville. It helps, of course, that my protagonists are cops. They have a reason to be involved in every incident and don’t have to know the people involved personally in the way an amateur sleuth does.

Like its real life counterpart, Trafalgar is a town that sees a lot of transients and tourists. In Valley of the Lost, the victim is a young woman who wandered into town about three months prior. Winter of Secrets is about a group of university students from Ontario who’ve come to Trafalgar for a Christmas skiing vacation. The sort of tourists who come to Trafalgar are reasonably young, wilderness adventure types, not busloads of seniors wearing name tags. In short, the type of people to run into trouble.

Having said that, of course, as I said to Tracy, part of the reason for setting the novels in a small town is so that the family and friends can be involved. And you do get coincidences in small towns that might not be too believable in a big city. For example:

In doing research for the Constable Molly Smith books I spend a lot of time with police officers. One night I was walking the beat in Nelson, British Columbia, pop 9,000 (Nelson is the real-life inspiration for Trafalgar, the town in my novels) and we went into a bar.
My daughter said, “Hi, Mom”
I introduced the officer to my daughter and son-in-law.
The very next day my son-in-law is driving into town without bothering to do up his seatbelt. He gets pulled over.
Same cop he met last night.
In a big city that might be a bit too much of a coincidence to swallow. But it can, and did, happen in a small town.

Despite all that, the reader does have to remember that this is fiction. In Nelson, they tell me they can’t quite remember when the last murder took place. In Trafalgar there are rather a lot.

This is my last posting, this time around, at 7 Criminal Minds and I have absolutely loved it. It was so nice to visit and talk about books. More information about my books, including sample chapters, can be found at
To the Criminal Minds, remember – the door is always open at Type M for Murder.


Meredith Cole said...

Thanks so much for being our guest this week, Vicki! We've really enjoyed having you.

The Cabot Cove syndrome is a problem when you write in a small town, but it seems like you've dealt with the problem nicely. Somehow no one ever complains about when I kill yet another person in New York City in my series, though ;)

Kelli Stanley said...

Vick, thanks for being such an awesome guest and Grand Master!! It's always wonderful to have you!!