My third mystery, Crook’s Hill, soon to be published, has two main settings: New York City and Crook’s Hill Farm, near fictional Spring Woods, Ontario.
The farm is based loosely on one that my godfather bought when I was twelve. He’d already involved me in his interest in horses, taking me many Sunday mornings to a place where you could rent a nag to shake every bone in your body. But he decided he wanted the full country life, and I visited his farm the day after he took possession of his farm.
This place wasn’t like many older Ontario farms, with square, two-level red or orange-brick houses on manicured front lawns. The house sat well back from the main road at the end of a long laneway, a bit like a lonely widow hiding on a hidden park bench, and it sprawled over one level, ivy consuming its stucco sides. It seemed to have been empty for months: the air was dank, the ancient cream wallpaper stained and peeling, and a massive hearth in the living room cold and dirty. And around the house, debris and thick brush ruled, hiding an ancient swimming pool and collapsed structures behind.
In other words, intrigue swirled around the place! Which only deepened when my godfather shared the local rumour that booze had been run from the farm during the Prohibition, and that the illegal proceeds were used to build not only the house, but the pool, cabanas, a ballroom and thoroughbred stables with leather-lined stalls.
So when I imagined writing a mystery involving two brothers who’d been fractious since the younger caused the older a terrible injury on their boyhood farm, I used my godfather’s place as a starting point. And if I self-publish, I’ll use the view of the back of the Crook’s Hill house shown above for the cover. My good friend and artist extraordinaire Peter Fischer did the painting, and below is a cool time lapse of his progress on the house.
And in Crook’s Hill, the house is only a small part of the intrigue!
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