Carrie Doyle's Hamptons Murder Mysteries Books Define 'Cozy Mystery'
Admit it—you’re kind of fascinated with crime. That doesn’t mean you want people to suffer, or that it’s fun to hear about death and murder, but there’s a part of you that’s curious about solving mysteries, figuring out “whodunit” and seeing a killer brought to justice. And you’re definitely not alone. We live in an age where everyone’s an armchair sleuth. But since solving crimes, especially murder, is little more than an intriguing “what if” for most people, it’s no wonder mystery fiction is so successful. Publisher Dunemere Books, co-owned by East Hampton author Carrie Doyle, understands the allure of a murder mystery and has carved out a niche with a series of “cozy mysteries” that take place right here in the Hamptons.
“Agatha Christie is the grandmother of the cozy mystery,” Doyle explains. It’s the same sleuth, usually an amateur like Miss Marple rather than Hercule Poirot, who is solving crimes. It’s usually not their job. There’s a strong sense of place, so that there are recurring characters and a community that keep coming back, you’ll find them in each book. In addition, there’s not blood and slasher elements. It’s not a thriller, it’s not gruesome, it’s a little softer. Cozy mysteries can be read with your grandmother or daughter.” Doyle acknowledges that the idea of a cozy mystery might sound a little strange. “Of course, Agatha Christie sort of bristled that murder could be cozy!” she says. But the idea has been highly successful; look at classic television series such as Murder, She Wrote.
Doyle’s series, Hamptons Murder Mysteries, stars Antonia Bingham, “an innkeeper who’s moved from California to East Hampton and owns an inn, which is sort of an amalgamation of the Maidstone, Hedges and 1770 House all together,” Doyle says. “She’s an innkeeper and a gourmet chef but she’s a nosy person who likes puzzles—like me—and she starts solving crime on the side. When I was in college, I worked at Barefoot Contessa, so she’s got a little bit of Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson in her.” So far, Antonia Bingham has solved murders in Death on Lily Pond Lane, Death on Windmill Way, Death on West End Road and Death on Bull Path.
Doyle has always been interested in true crime. “The doorman in our building when I was a teenager murdered his wife,” she says. “I had a classmate at boarding school whose sister was murdered when she was at Northwestern, and they never solved the murder. They had discovered her stabbed on a staircase and asked her who did it, but she wouldn’t name the person and died. They assumed it was someone she knew. Also, growing up I always would see Robert Chambers, the ‘Preppy Murderer,’ around our neighborhood and we all thought he was so handsome—bullet dodged!”
Doyle also recounts, “I was obsessed with the O.J. Simpson case. He used to go jogging with my upstairs neighbor, pre-murder, and then suddenly my doorman, not the murderous one, wouldn’t let him up or notify our neighbor when he was there. We thought it was because he was racist, but he said he had seen O.J. beat Nicole up in the lobby and outside of our building. We were skeptical at the time; this was The Juice, after all! Years later we knew this was true. This information was confirmed when I watched O.J. Simpson: Made in America, by ESPN. They showed Nicole’s diary and there was a page that said the first time O.J. beat her up was at Louis Marx’s party on Fifth Avenue. That was right above me! I would have been in bed! So perhaps by osmosis I became obsessed.”
Dunemere Books has been a success for Doyleand her partners, sister Elizabeth Carey and Tiffany Palmer. The company also publishes Young Adult fiction and has taken on other authors, such as Helen Harrison, the director of the Pollock Krasner House and Study Center. But the bread and butter of Dunemere Books remains the cozy mysteries. “People are more attracted to the name-brand streets that we know,” Doyle says, noting her next book is Death on Further Lane. “So we’ll be killing off more people in East Hampton in the fancy neighborhoods!”
For more information on Dunemere Books, visit dunemerebooks.com.