A new sleuth finds home in the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”
by Christine DeSmet
We’re all “armchair travelers.” The love of a new place, its history and geography and people makes cozy mysteries fun for us all.
I’m inspired by the heart and hardiness found in Door County, Wisconsin—the Cape Cod of the Midwest.
My Fudge Shop Mystery Series features Belgian American Ava Oosterling and Grandpa Gil, whom she lovingly calls “Gilpa.”
They co-own Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer in Fishers’ Harbor, a fictional village in real Door County.
The county is a thumb of land in Lake Michigan surrounded by 300 miles of coastline and dotted with 11 lighthouses. Book 2 of my series, Hot Fudge Frame-Up, features the Eagle Bluff lighthouse, which provides summer tours.
Along with fudge recipes, humor and quaintness fill my mysteries. Because that’s Door County! Fast food chains are banned in the county’s upper half. Two-lane, winding roads take you past fields of flowers, beaches, and cherry orchards. The county is a top cherry producer in this country. Ava created Cinderella Pink Fudge—yummy cherry-vanilla. In the series’ debut, First-Degree Fudge, Ava’s fudge is used to choke a famous actress to death and hide diamonds. Done with tasty humor and quaintness!
Ava is the 21st century Hercule Poirot, also Belgian. I was inspired by that character created by Agatha Christie. I was also inspired by local history.
Curly Lambeau—for which the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field is named,—was a Belgian. The Packers and Poirot debuted during the same season practically, in 1919 and 1920.
This Wisconsin region courted the Belgians in the 1850s with land for sale at $1.25 an acre. Over 15,000 Belgians immigrated here. All of Door County’s population today is just 28,000. The area has the largest U.S. rural population of Belgians.
Book 3, Five-Alarm Fudge, also weaves important history into the modern-day mystery, including the Great Fire of the 1800s (often called the Peshtigo Fire), which happened the same day as the Chicago Fire. The other event involves a Marian sighting by a true-life young Belgian nun, Adele Brise. Ava and Gilpa search for a fudge recipe believed to have been hidden from the Great Fire by the nun.
History of a place creates rich stories for TV and movies, too. I’m marketing with a producer a screenplay and TV series based on the incredible story of Donaldina Cameron. In the early 1900s she saved Chinese girls and young women from enslavement in San Francisco. It’s an inspiring story of how just one person has the power to change things in his or her own neighborhood, an entire city, or even a country. You’ll also find that same gumption in Ava Oosterling.
Please stop by Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer. Join Gilpa at the harbor, watch him work on his boat, and feel the summer breeze while Ava serves you Cinderella Pink Fairy Tale Fudge.
Ava and Gilpa thank you for leaving a book review at Amazon, Goodreads, and other places. Let others know about their tasty adventures and the wonderful history of Wisconsin.
Thank you for visiting Marilyn’s blog. I’d love to hear from you!
Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House). She teaches writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies, including a June retreat. Christine is a Belgian American who grew up on a farm near Barneveld, Wisconsin.
You can also write to her at University of Wisconsin-Madison, firstname.lastname@example.org.