The setting in a novel is important because it helps to propel the plot forward, situate the characters in the reader’s mind, and provide a sense of unity throughout the story. Therefore, a character’s presence in a particular setting needs to be believable and have a purpose.
The Poetry of Murder takes place in the International House at the University of Chicago in the south side community of Hyde Park. Founded in 1932 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the massive nine story gothic building occupies one full block and overlooks the Midway Plaisance, site of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. International House can accommodate 486 graduate and professional students. The mission of International House is to promote cross-cultural understanding, mutual respect and friendship among students and scholars and on the part of the people of metropolitan Chicago toward individuals of all nations and backgrounds.
I was inspired to pick International House as the primary setting for my novel because of its structural significance in Hyde Park, the building’s layout facilitated various aspects of the story, and the fact that it can provide a plethora of social situations that can be used in future stories. I was intrigued by the idea of contrasting the majestic architecture and academic persona of Hyde Park with the secret lives of the characters who live there.
While living at International House, the amateur sleuth in my novel, Geneva Anderson, has several major events take place in her life including the murder of her aunt, being arrested for her aunt’s murder and learning that her aunt led a secret life. The building’s physical appearance is symbolic of the events that occur in Geneva’s life.
On a practical level, cozy mysteries take place in small settings to limit the pool of suspects and to facilitate the development of relationships. The layout of the building helped to develop the plot by moving events forward, allowing meetings between characters to take place, and the discovery of clues. The Poetry of Murder is the first in a series featuring the protagonist, Geneva Anderson. Because people from around the world live in International House and it hosts a variety of events on a regular basis, it provides fertile ground for future stories in this continuing mystery series.
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