by Saralyn Richard
The five books I’ve written have three distinct
settings, all different, all places that I know and love. The two books in the
Detective Parrott mystery series take place in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania.
I have family members who live there, and I’ve been privileged to visit many
times. A paradise for equestrians, artists, and nature-lovers, this is a landscape
filled with wide, beautiful, and peaceful vistas. Country mansions,
old-fashioned bank barns, horse stables, and wildlife abound, and many of the
people who live and work there are healthy, wealthy, resilient, and
independent. Brandywine is the last place you’d expect a crime to take place,
so when outsider, Detective Oliver Parrott, shows up to investigate deaths or
thefts or other crimes, he has an uphill battle.
the way, the books take readers to many of the unique attractions of Brandywine
Valley, including Longwood Gardens, The Brandywine River Museum of Fine Arts,
Kennett Square, incomparable horse trails, and outstanding restaurants. Many
readers have enjoyed these glimpses so much that they have traveled to the area
to experience it for themselves.
contrast, the stand-alone mystery, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL, is set in a far
different universe—the urban high school. Aside from the differences of
outdoor-indoor, wealthy-disadvantaged milieus, the worlds depicted in these
novels contain similar types of tension and drama. The urban high school is a
familiar and much beloved setting for me, since I spent many years as a
teacher, administrator, and school improvement consultant there. In this book,
readers are treated to an administrator’s view of the principal’s office, the
teacher’s lounge, the cafeteria, the football field, and the auditorium—a million
stories beyond the flagpole.
third beloved setting is a coastal island, where the closeness of the community
and the intensity of the summer temperature can be sometimes comforting and
sometimes oppressive. My children’s book, NAUGHTY NANA, and my newest adult
mystery novel, BAD BLOOD SISTERS, are situated there. Having been born and
raised on such an island, I’ve enjoyed sharing the various sights, sounds, and
smells of this setting, and placing my protagonists there.
has been written about the importance of setting in a work of fiction.
Sometimes the setting is mere wallpaper, and other times setting is as
important as a character in telling the story. When I read novels, I learn from
and enjoy the settings. It’s hard to imagine GONE WITH THE WIND apart from the
South during the Civil War, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE without the African Congo, or
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in any other location besides the fictional Maycomb,
write, I cannot separate the setting from the plot or characters, and I hope my
readers sense how integral the setting is to the story.
about you? When you read a wonderful book, how important is the setting?
Richard’s award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries and children’s book
pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor
houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. Saralyn’s most recent release is Bad Blood Sisters. A
member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America,
Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature at the Osher Lifelong Learning
Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Her favorite thing about being an
author is interacting with readers like you. Visit