Too Many Murders…but whodunit?


Colleen McCullough introduces us to Too Many Murders

Too Many Murders is the second in my series of whodunit novels featuring Captain Carmine Delmonico of the Holloman P.D.

The whodunit format lends itself particularly well to the cases and feats of one single detective~ as demonstrated by the huge number of whodunit authors whose detectives are household names, from Sherlock Holmes, through Hercule Poirot to Adam Dalgliesh. When the plot of a book revolves around a puzzle the writer, has to seek a common denominator elsewhere, and the detective is the most logical. If the readers like the detective, or find him interesting in some way, then he (or she) becomes a friend whose next mystery/adventure is seized upon – what’s he up to now?

Having lived for fifteen years in the state of Connecticut U.S.A, I found that part of the world extremely rich in a history largely unknown even to many Americans from a different part of the country; I thought to situate my detective in a historical American place also containing an historical Ivy League university would add atmosphere both to my books and to the kind of cases Carmine encountered. So I invented the town of Holloman – a sea port about halfway up the Connecticut coast on a (fictitious) river, the Pequot, and containing a fictitious Ivy League college named Chubb Holloman has a downtown, suburbs, ghettos and all the trappings of an old New England mini-city that is half educational and half industrial. It offers Carmine and his small team of detectives plenty of crime, including murder.

Too Many Murders concerns exactly twelve murders in one day. Unheard of! Impossible! Yet it has happened, and the detectives have to find out why.

Here I must add a caveat: my Holloman is not quite contemporary. Captain Carmine Delmonico and all the other characters are living in a day and age when DNA and forensics do not exist – the 1960s. So the detection has to be the old way, the hard way. No help from the test tube or the computer – this is before their time, which adds to the fun. Books about computers are wearying, in that computers are not human beings with all a human being’s cunning, guile, deceit and dishonesty. Not to mention willingness to murder.

Too Many Murders takes place in the midst of the Cold War between America and Russia -democracy versus communism. A time when the spy existed, stealing industrial and military secrets from both sides did it. As the book unfolds, it becomes clear to Carmine that a spy is at work in an industrial giant located in Holloman. Which complicates matters: is the spy operating independently of the murderer or are spy and murderer the same person?
How many of the twelve murders are relevant versus how many committed to muddy the waters? Who is Ulysses? And who is Stravinsky? And will the FBI be a help or a hindrance?

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