Thursday, September 03, 2009

Why A Mystery Set in A Battered Women’s Shelter

By Christine Duncan

People often ask me why I set the Kaye Berreano mysteries in a battered women’s shelter. The answer is pretty simple. And yet complex. Domestic violence is still way too prevalent, and yet we tend to not want to acknowledge that as a society.

Consequently, it isn’t easy to do a series on battered women. It’s especially hard to do a cozy mystery series that way. Domestic violence just doesn’t sound cozy, now does it?

But you know, battered women tend to know other battered women. Maybe they grew up in a home where there was domestic violence. Maybe it just makes them hyper aware of abuse when they see it. One woman I talked to in connection with researching the books said that once she finally ended her abusive relationship, she didn’t try to hide it. She felt she wanted people to be aware. Consequently people sought her advice about what to do regarding women they knew who were caught up in violent relationships. So in another sense, it might have been easy to do a mystery series from the point of view of a woman who had been a victim. Dianne Mott Davidson does it with her Goldie Bear series.

But I’m not Davidson and I was afraid if I did it, it would have been pretty awesomely serious. And many people read fiction to escape…well, seriousness.

So I set the series from a counselor’s point of view, hoping to be able to break away from the seriousness of the issue. Kaye’s kids and her own life provide a bit of a counterpoint to the shelter. And yet her job is very important to her so the cause is very much front and center.

Plus, I have met many women who are curious about shelters and what happens there. Even more people want to know why a battered woman would ever even consider going back. I try to answer both those questions in my books, while keeping to the mystery that is the center of the story.

I think that writers often have more than a story to tell; sometimes they have a cause to push. Sometimes they want to educate people about something.

I want to do it all.

Christine Duncan is a Colorado mystery author whose books are set in a domestic violence shelter and her husband wants the world to know it’s not because of anything he did! Read the first chapters at Or catch up with her on Rule of Three

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