A treasure trove, a dead man and an unsolved Second World War murder — perfect for a case for detective inspector Tom Tyler.
But that was all Maureen Jennings, author of the historical fiction books featuring the British police inspector, would say about her upcoming book, Dead Ground in Between.
“My friend found the trove of 137 coins using his metal detector,” she said, explaining the premise of the new novel to about 100 fans at a reading Saturday at the Ramara Public Library. “When I asked him how it got there, he said, ‘It’s a mystery.’ And as soon as he said that, a light bulb went on in my head.”
Jennings is best known for her books featuring police detective William Murdoch, a character who has now been featured in nine seasons of the award-winning CBC series Murdoch Mysteries.
“It’s been amazing,” she said of the success of the series and, subsequently, her books. “Sometimes I get frustrated because it’s not what I would do (with the script), but mostly, I’ve been happy with it. It’s opened a lot of doors because it’s gotten so popular.”
The opportunity to meet so many fans and read to them is largely thanks to the popularity of Murdoch Mysteries, giving Jennings a following of fans of almost all ages.
“I watched the show first, and I found out there are books,” said Abby Whalen, 13, whose favourite character in the series in George Crabtree. “I always like books more than movies, so I figured they’d be great, and they didn’t disappoint.”
Jennings also gave fans a taste of what’s to come next in the Murdoch series — an older William Murdoch.
“The one I’m now working on is set in Toronto in 1917,” she said. “I’m just starting that and there are a lot of questions to ask — like, is he a bit greyer? Is he heavier? Is he thinner? What’s happened to him? It’s fun, but I have to answer all those questions.”
Even though the Murdoch series remains her most famous work, some fans were more interested in talking about her book based in Orillia.
“The one street that she (mentioned) is where my husband and I first lived out in Atherley: Ogden Street,” Barbara-Ann Townson said, referring to Jennings’s novel, The K Handshape, which follows the adventures of forensic profiler Christine Morris stationed at OPP headquarters in Orillia. “So, you associate with that and you forget where you are and you’re right in that story.”
Jennings, who lives in Toronto, said she "didn’t really know Orillia very well."
"Once I decided to have a world there, I tried to get to know it,” she said.
She familiarized herself with the city by driving and walking around town and talking to people to learn more about what her character’s experiences might be.
“She writes in a way you never get bored,” said Pat Berner, who attended the reading. “They’re written in a way you could get lost in the story, and I do.”
But there’s another mysterious affair aside from the unsolved death in the upcoming novel, slated for release in August. It’s an affair of the heart.
“Will (Tom Tyler) have a lady? No? Yes?” she said, noting this novel is “probably a bit more romantic than others."
"It’s more about Tyler’s heart and his feelings.”