Guest blog with Dorothy James

The Passions of the Old
From the novel, “A Place to Die”
Crimes of passion, it is said, are not usually committed by criminals, but by so-called ordinary people, pushed by unbearably strong emotions to find release in what would normally be for them an unthinkable act. The passions of the old are held in check in . . . the Haus im Wald  . . . if more were said, if more discussion were acceptable, if less emotion were suppressed . . . if they only had more sex.  But what then? Betrayal, jealousy, envy, revenge, injured pride, broken hearts—none of these classic motives for crimes of passion are obviated by sex, on the contrary. The fact is that the residents of the Haus im Wald are still alive, and so by definition, whether they have sex or not, their passions run high (324-5).
My murder mystery, A Place to Die, is set in a retirement home in the Vienna Woods, the Haus im Wald. Most of the characters in this novel are over sixty and some are over ninety.  This might have been an odd sort of novel a hundred years ago, but now, life expectancy is on the rise—the number of people reaching ninety has tripled in the last thirty years, we are told—there may well be 8 million centenarians by 2050, we are told. This means that the life of the old is of more and more concern to all generations, to none more right now than to the baby-boomers who, themselves in their sixties, often have parents in their eighties and nineties.  And those who are younger have to live with the thought that they themselves might live into their nineties and hundreds. For better or worse, old age is an expanding term.
In my novel, an old man is killed and an Inspector comes into the house full of old people, seeking the murderer in the midst of them.  Into the lives of the residents crash not only the Inspector but also two baby-boomer Americans visiting an aged mother.  During this tense time, they are forced to take a look into their own lives and what may lie ahead as they themselves get older.
I first had the idea of setting a murder mystery in a retirement home simply because it seemed to me a ideal plot device—a ready-made group of suspects, obliged by circumstances to stay at the scene of the crime.  I did not set out to create a particular microcosm, to examine the dynamics of a group of old people, to analyze the likelihood that a crime of passion—or a cold-blooded murder—could occur among them. But as the investigation proceeded, I found myself looking closer and closer into the particular society I had chosen, the society of the old, that ever-growing segment of the population which is the ultimate destination of us all.
A Place to Die 
Price: $34.99
ISBN: 9781450082709
Pages: 436
Release: April 21, 2010

Price: $23.99
ISBN: 9781450082693
Pages: 436
Release: April 21, 2010

Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from New York to spend Christmas with Franzs mother in her sedate retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Their expectations are low: at best, boredom, at worst, run-of-the-mill family friction. But when the wealthy, charming Herr Graf is found dead in his apartment with an ugly head wound, the Fabians are thrust into a homicide investigation.

Some residents and staff have surprising connections to the dead man, but who would have wanted to kill him? Inspector Büchner tracks down the murderer against a backdrop of Viennese history from the Nazi years to the present day. Witty, suspenseful, lyrical, this is a literary whodunit that will keep you guessing till the last page.

Dorothy James Bio:
Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin.

She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has travelled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector Büchner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels.

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