Why Did She Skip Woodstock?
By Kay Kendall
Historical mysteries provide a way for readers to refresh their knowledge of a time period, or learn about it in the first place. The 1960s gave rise to issues that are still relevant today, and in my Austin Starr mystery series I try not only to entertain but also to give gentle history lessons.
Rainy Day Women, new this month, takes place the second week of August in 1969. If you were a young adult or older back then, you are sure to remember some of the week’s highlights. Headlines all across the continent shrieked about the sensational murders in Los Angeles of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends, although Charles Manson and his gang had yet to be fingered. Apollo 12 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were back on Earth and cleared by NASA to rejoin their families. Lovers of rock music throughout the northeastern states were looking forward to a big outdoor concert scheduled for the coming weekend—posters called it the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
My amateur sleuth Austin Starr, however, is only dimly aware of all this. Her new baby is only three months old. She is sleep-deprived and barely learning to adjust her life to heavy new demands. That is when a phone call sends her scurrying thousands of miles to help find a killer. Her dear friend Larissa is suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. Austin must decide how much to risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby's life in danger.
I set my second mystery against the backdrop of women’s liberation because I myself was involved in what has become known as second-wave feminism. My participation changed my life, as it did for countless others, and the ripples from those changes are still spreading, and the rightful place of women in society remains a point of much contention. My character Austin Starr knows very little about the movement, but as she questions members of the dead woman’s group, she finds herself fascinated with the new ideas she hears.
Even though Austin’s young husband is an anti-war activist, she herself is not a radical. I wanted her story to be accessible to anyone today, of whatever political persuasion, and I explore what life was like for a typical young woman—not a headline maker, not a Hanoi Jane or Angela Davis, but a moderate who nonetheless gets swept up by history's tides during the turbulent sixties. All that turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.
I don’t think this is a true spoiler when I divulge that the very day Austin discovers the murderer is the same day it rained hardest at the Woodstock festival. Later she decides she has no regrets at missing the event, saying, “I never liked mud very much anyway.”
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Kudos for RAINY DAY WOMEN:
Austin Starr is at it again, tackling a mystery in the heady days of budding feminism. But this time around she has to juggle her investigation with a new baby. A totally absorbing book. ~~Terry Shames, award-winning author of A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge
Austin Starr is back, great news for mystery fans. Suspenseful and entertaining, this is a worthy follow-up to Kendall’s excellent debut, Desolation Row. ~~Miranda James, New York Times bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks mysteries
Kendall's crackerjack amateur-sleuth novel, set in the days of Mad Men, reminds you how much has changed since then, but also that the rules for writing a knockout mystery remain the same: compelling characters, vivid setting, absorbing story. ~~Timothy Hallinan, award-winning author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender mysteries
Kendall paints a vivid portrait of the times – everything from macramé purses to bell bottoms and beads – but it’s her protagonist who wins our hearts in a mystery that explores issues as timely today as they were for the Woodstock generation. Highly recommended. ~~Lynne Raimondo, author of the Mark Angelotti crime novels, Dante's Wood, Dante's Poison, and Dante's Dilemma
Vivid detail of the 1960s and a clever plot make Rainy Day Woman an outstanding follow-up to Kay Kendall’s strong debut, Desolation Row. Austin Starr is a memorable protagonist, and Kendall’s skill at crafting a compelling mystery kept me turning the pages! ~~Robert Rotstein, author of The Bomb Maker’s Son and Corrupt Practices
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published on July 7--the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The E-book and paperback are available now, and the audio-book will be soon.
FIND KAY KENDALL ONLINE HERE—
(And by the way, I've read the book and loved it! My review will appear in Kings River Life.)