Jan Drexler, author of The Sign of the Calico Quartz, a Sweetbrier Inn Mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about the Black Hills of South Dakota and why she set her series there.
Welcome, Jan. I’ll turn the floor over to you –
In the first thirty years of our marriage, my husband’s job moved us an average of once every five years. The longest we lived anywhere was seven years and the shortest was six months.
That history gave our family a plethora of interesting experiences, many friends all over the country, more than a passing acquaintance with some great places, and a longing to find a place we could call home.
Then just over ten years ago, we landed in the Black Hills of South Dakota – the farthest north, the farthest west, and the highest elevation of any place we’ve ever lived – and we immediately felt that this was the home we had been looking for.
How does a love affair start? Is it the first bouquet of snowflakes? The first whispers of the wind in your ear? The cobalt blue skies winking a morning hello?
We get to share our Hills during the tourist season as people flock to our area. All summer long the roads swell with traffic. During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August the air is filled with the roar of bikes. Millions – literally millions – of people from around the world make the Black Hills their summer destination.
As much as we enjoy and appreciate the tourists, it’s the off-season that holds my heart. That stretch between Labor Day and Memorial Day when the Hills are quiet once again.
That brings me to The Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in the Black Hills.
The Sweetbrier Inn is an upscale B&B, the long-held dream of Rose Blackwood, Emma’s aunt. When she retired, Rose built the two-story log mansion to house the inn, complete with a professional kitchen where Wil Scott, a professional chef and Rose’s partner, works his culinary magic. The inn’s property is surrounded on three sides by the Black Hills National Forest and is the site of an abandoned gold mine.
The first story in the series, The Sign of the Calico Quartz, takes place during what the tourism industry calls the “shoulder season.” After the winter is (mostly) over and before the tourist season kickoff on Memorial Day weekend. It’s the first week for the inn to be open for the season, and every room is booked.
The inn’s success is interfering with Rose’s writing (she’s working on her memoirs) so she decides to invite her niece Emma to work in the inn for the summer. After all, since her disastrous job loss, Emma has been at loose ends, and Rose could use her help with a mystery that’s been plaguing her.
But before Rose can bring Emma up to speed on the suspicious notes she’s been receiving, a dead body appears in Emma’s room.
Up until then, Emma has felt like the proverbial fish out of water. In her job she worked at executive resorts all over the world, and between jobs, she’s been living in Chicago while she sent out resume after resume. She is hoping a summer in the Black Hills will provide a little bit of peace and quiet…until she finds the body.
Amidst the kerfuffle that follows, Emma discovers more shocking details about her summer home, including the fact that there are places where you can’t get cell-phone reception, even in an emergency!
Her new friends bring her up to speed. Her bestie, Becky, has lived in the area her whole life, and Becky’s cousin, Deputy Cal Cooper is super-helpful, except when he’s investigating Emma as a possible murderer. Rose’s corgi, Thatcher, is always ready to sniff out clues and Emma’s young cat, Tim, is willing to lend a listening ear in exchange for a chin scratch.
Will the crew be able to join forces to solve the murder before the killer strikes again?
They will if Emma has anything to say about it. But meanwhile, she’s falling in love with whispering winds, tall dark trees, and cobalt blue skies.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Jan, and good luck with The Sign of the Calico Quartz, a Sweetbrier Inn Mystery.
The book is available online at Amazon
About Jan Drexler: Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with her expanding family. She is the author of several historical romance novels, including the award-winning Mattie’s Pledge, and is pleased to be starting a new adventure with a cozy mystery series, The Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries.