Five-legged frogs, pregnant fifty-year-olds, and centenarians on longevity drugs, plus a murder or two—that’s what I wrote about in my new murder mystery Downstream.
According to publisher Black Opal Books, my novel is a “cozy mystery” in that both the crime and the detection take place in a nice, small community where all the characters know each other. The reader does not witness the murder itself, so he or she must use his or her brains to figure out who the murderer is on the basis of the information provided. I like this kind of novel because I prefer solving crimes to watching them transpire.
Downstream, which I’d originally called “We All Live Downstream,” focuses on the medication of our planet. The drugs that some of us take to improve our health get into everybody’s water supply—I won’t say how—and then into the bodies of others who don’t have prescriptions for them. So humans of all ages, and birds, bees, bears, frogs, and fish, all take estrogen, anti-depressants, and tranquilizers. Some of the fish get happy, some of the frogs develop five legs. Some of the humans, with the help of their husbands, get pregnant after menopause.
The conflict in 2015 between proponents of the longevity drug Senextra and defenders of the natural environment happens in a town I called Witherston in mountainous north Georgia. It is here, in southern Appalachia, that two centuries ago white settlers stole gold and land from the Cherokees in the 1828 Georgia Gold Rush and the 1830s Land Lotteries, and then in 1838-39 force-marched them to Indian Territory (in present-day Oklahoma) on the “Trail of Tears.” Those events of the early nineteenth century form the historical context of the environmentalists’ fight against the pharmaceutical industry.
Here’s the situation. At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to the municipality of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town’s 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century. The group listening to the geezer do not all applaud. One person carries a sign that says SENEXTRA VIOLATES MOTHER NATURE. Another, KEEP SENEXTRA OUT OF OUR SYSTEM. A third, WE DON’T NEED MORE OLD MEN. Withers flies into a rage. He vows to change his will and disinherit the community. Two days later he is found dead.
Detective Mev Arroyo begins the investigation. But she has a health issue of her own, so she allows her fourteen-year-old mischievous twin boys, Jaime and Jorge, to do much of the detective work. The boys pore over old documents, interview suspects, and provoke the killer into revealing himself.
I’ve been told that all the characters in Downstream are “quirky. I reply that I view them as normal.
Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art. She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.