The Windmills of Wolfe Island left an impression on mystery novelist Tessa Wegert after a visit some five years ago, spinning her head with possibilities for intrigue.
“I was there for the day and walked around,” Ms. Wegert said. “I was there just to catch the ferry somewhere else, but I spent the day there. Even five years later, I remember being struck by the wind turbines and the wind farm there.
The day was cloudy and threatening while on Wolfe Island, located in Ontario, Canada, at the entrance to the St. Lawrence River opposite Cape Vincent. Ms. Wegert took photos and a video.
“These turbines were towering right over the very green cornfields,” Ms. Wegert said in a phone interview from her coastal Connecticut home. “I couldn’t get over the feeling that something strange was going on here. It kind of sent shivers down my spine.
When Ms Wegert sat down to write the third installment of her Shana Merchant mystery novels, she remembered photos and videos she had taken on the island and used them to jog her memory.
“I remembered having this thought that it would make for some kind of weird crime scene,” she said. “Wolfe Island is so flat and the wind turbines almost look like aliens. It seemed like the perfect place to commit a crime. That’s how “Dead Wind” started.
Ms. Wegert grew up in Quebec and first visited the Thousand Islands about two decades ago after meeting her future husband. Since then, she has returned every summer to the region, and more particularly to a small island near Alexandria Bay, in the channel, owned by her in-laws.
“Dead Wind,” now available as an e-book, will be published in hardcover on April 5 by Severn House, an imprint of Canongate Books. The story follows the life and times of lead police investigator, Shana Merchant, who has moved to the Thousand Islands. The first book in the series, “Death in the Family”, was released in 2020. It was followed last year by “The Dead Season”.
In “Dead Wind”, protagonist Shana Merchant now inhabits the Thousand Islands region, but she is still being pursued by a serial killer who has held her captive in New York, from where she has moved. Her emotional trauma from this episode as an NYPD detective also continues to haunt her in her new line of police work.
Wolfe Island and its windmills provide a setting for the “dead wind”, when a body is discovered under a wind turbine. Shana Merchant and her partner Tim Wellington wonder if the body is a victim of Ms. Merchant’s deadly stalker.
“Because I’m Canadian, I thought it was the perfect time for me to work in a Canadian character and have Shana collaborate with the Ontario Provincial Police, which I hadn’t had before. opportunity to do on the show,” Ms. Wegert said. noted. “It all kind of fell into place from there.”
Ms Wegert also evokes a Watertown-based political scandal, family secrets and old grudges along riverside communities in her fictional “Dead Wind” storylines, highlighting what the editor calls a “small town vibe”.
“Small towns have always been a big part of my life,” said Wegert, who lives in small town Connecticut. “And I spent so much time in Alexandria Bay, Clayton and other small towns in the Thousand Islands. But even when I was growing up in Quebec, I remember precisely when I was quite old, when my parents didn’t hide everything from me.
These revelations shared by her parents opened Ms Wegert’s eyes.
“There’s a lot going on in small towns that I think gets swept under the rug — cases, scandals, and various things that I didn’t even know existed,” Ms. Wegert said. “And I remember so clearly when I started to find out that this was what was going on under my nose with my neighbors and friends and I was completely oblivious to it all. The idea of secrets of a small town and not knowing what’s really going on behind closed doors with your neighbors and past histories between people and not necessarily having all the information about relationships that have existed at one time or another – all of that has always been very interesting to me.”
For “Dead Wind,” with Shana Merchant’s home base in the Alexandria Bay Area, it made sense for Ms. Wegert to unearth fictional small-town secrets and grudges.
“Much the same way I try to solve the mystery over time, she gets to know the community and the people who make it up along with the reader, and she discovers that not everything is what it is. ‘It may seem on the surface,’ Ms. Wegert said.
“Dead Wind” also takes note of the original landmarks of the Thousand Islands region, from the “Heart of the Thousand Islands” sign at the entrance to the village of Alexandria Bay, to a sculpture by local artist William Salisbury.
“The cool thing about the Thousand Islands is that there are so many unique and quirky features that I’ve learned in all my years of visiting,” Ms. Wegert said. “It’s almost like a second home for me. Every time I go there, I pay attention to all of these historical landmarks and features to look for opportunities to incorporate them into a future book because there’s a lot of material there. Lots of potential. »
Some of these features will find their way into the fourth installment of the Shana Merchant series, which is slated for release next year.
“The hard part about writing a series like this is that I don’t know at any point how many books there will be, or if my editor will say, ‘Let’s publish more books,'” Ms. Wegert said. “I had to fly by the seat of my pants in a way writing the series and I don’t necessarily know when I finish a book what the next book would like, if there was a next book.”
WHAT: “Dead Wind”, volume 3 of the Shana Merchant mystery series by Tessa Wegert.
PUBLISHER: Severn House, 230 pages.
AVAILABLE: Now in e-book form, with the hardcover releasing on Tuesday, April 5.
A CRITICISM’S VIEW: “Wegert so expertly merges the detective story with Shana’s never-ending family drama.” — Reviews of Kirkus
WHERE AVAILABLE: Starting April 5, at online bookstores and the Little Book Store in Clayton and Watertown.
PLEASE NOTE: Mrs. Wegert plans to organize a signing session this summer in the Thousand Islands region. “I often do something with The Little Book Shop,” she said. “It’s a great place to get the book. They always have signed copies.