Mystery writers have long been drawn to the antiques field, known for its passion, discernment and, yes, occasional skullduggery. The latest to sample the genre is New England Antiques Journal’s senior editor Judy Penz Sheluk. In Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, journalist Emily Garland and antiques dealer Arabella Carpenter seek clues to murders apparently stemming from an ambitious developer’s reckless disregard for a small town’s historic architecture.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Toronto and have lived within a two-hour drive of Toronto ever since. When I wrote The Hanged Man’s Noose, I was living in the small but rapidly expanding Ontario town of Holland Landing. My husband, Mike, and I moved in June and now live in Alliston, a town about 65 miles northwest of Toronto.
How did you become an antiques editor and writer?
Mike introduced me to antiques. He had an extensive clock collection and I wanted to learn more, so I did a lot of research. In 2003, I wrote an article titled “Collecting Clocks” for Antiques & Collectibles Showcase, a Canadian publication. I started freelancing for them, as well as other antiques publications, including New England Antiques Journal. When the editors of ACS retired, I was offered the job. When ACS was sold in 2007, NEAJ approached me to take on the position of senior editor, which had recently been vacated. It’s a great gig and I’ve learned so much over the years.
What prompted you to write a mystery? Is it fair to call it a “cozy”?
I’ve been reading mysteries, starting with Nancy Drew, since I was a kid. Mysteries are definitely my go-to genre. I wouldn’t classify The Hanged Man’s Noose as a traditional cozy. There is the requisite small town setting, an amateur sleuth with an equally amateur sidekick and there is no overt violence, bad language or sex. But unlike many traditional cozies, there are no cats, crafts or cookie recipes, and the plot is a bit more complex. I’ve coined the term “an amateur sleuth with an edge,” which I think more aptly describes it.
How did you arrive at the fictional town of Lount’s Landing for your setting?
There’s a sign outside of the Holland Landing Community Centre dedicated to Samuel Lount, a politician who was hanged for treason in the Nineteenth Century. My curiosity aroused, I started researching his life. When I established the setting for The Hanged Man’s Noose, I decided to use a much-fictionalized version of Holland Landing and the main street of the neighboring town of Newmarket. The title of the book comes from The Hanged Man’s Noose, a local pub. The bar owner is a history buff.
To what does the name of your series, Glass Dolphin Mysteries, refer?
The Glass Dolphin is the name of an antiques shop on Lount’s Landing’s historic Main Street. The owner, Arabella Carpenter, named it after her first antique find: a pair of cobalt blue Boston & Sandwich dolphin candlesticks. In 2003, when I was starting out as a freelance writer, someone at Skinner mailed me the catalog for the Frank E. Jedlicka collection of Sandwich glass. I studied that catalog for weeks and fell in love with the dolphin sticks. So, in a way, they were my first antiques find. Not that I could afford to buy them!
Will readers recognize the people and places you describe?
I don’t think the people or the places are recognizable, largely because I’ve made them up, but there are plenty of references to antiques. The Glass Dolphin has a wall of clocks, along with a selection of posters, antique maps, furniture, assorted smalls — all the usual items you’d expect to find in a well-stocked shop.
What’s next in the Glass Dolphin series?
I’m currently writing a sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose and hope to have it ready for submission to my publisher midyear, with a 2017 publication date. I’ve also recently submitted the first novel in a new mystery series — Marketville Mysteries — in which Arabella makes a brief appearance.
Planning any public appearances?
I’m attending Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Md., for the first time at the end of April. It’s a huge mystery conference. And I’m hoping to attend Killer Nashville later in the year.
For more information, visit www.judypenzsheluk.com. The Hanged Man’s Noose is available in print and in ebook editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.