• Mark Meier

A Necessary Death

I’m always working on a number of different projects, but the one I want to talk about this week is my new historical cozy mystery, A Necessary Death. If you know that in Colonial America a necessary is a privy, you’ll get a hint of the humor. The story revolves around Penelope Corbitt. She can turn a lump of meat and a bit of flour into a mouth-watering pie or make a tasty meal of cabbage and vinegar. But all her skill can’t save her family in the spring of 1763, when Penelope’s long-gone husband is reported dead and she loses everything to pay off his debts. Penelope sees no choice but to move in with her stingy brother-in-law, who doesn’t want her disrupting his life any more than Penelope wants his charity. The miserable journey north is interrupted when their coach crashes. Penelope and her children are stranded at a run-down tavern, a delay that turns ominous when Penelope finds a dead man in the tavern privy. Torn between her desire to help and her fears for her children, Penelope takes over the tavern kitchen in preparation for the funeral. That gives Miles Tucker, the gruff innkeeper and town constable, time to search for a murderer. As this unlikely pair works together to solve the mystery and save the tavern, they develop a growing attraction for each other. But with one character after another confessing, the real trick will be to figure out who’s telling the truth before the killer can strike again. The novel offers insight into the lives of ordinary people in the eighteenth century, giving a fresh view of this rambunctious period. Tucker’s Crossing, the imaginary town where the story takes place, is full of quirky characters who represent the diversity of people living in Colonial Pennsylvania, including Africans, Lenapi, and Europeans -- a real hotchpotch of personalities and cultures that made America. Enterprising and hard-working, Penelope Corbitt is a woman Abigail Adams would have counted as a friend. One of the best things about this story is that it’s set in a tavern. Have I mentioned that historical cookery is one of my hobbies? When Penelope needs to make dead cakes for the funeral supper, I found a period recipe and made some for myself. I love it when research tastes so good.

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