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New murder mystery set in Regina

It’s a mystery Joan Havelange said she is proud of having written.
‘The Séance Murders,’ is set in Regina in 1908.

YORKTON - Joan Havelange is back with a new novel for mystery fans.

The Séance Murders,’ is set in Regina in 1908, and Havelange, who was born in Saskatchewan noted it is her first historical mystery.

“But I have written five mysteries and one thriller. Three of my whodunits are set in the fictional town of Glenhaven, Saskatchewan. As is my thriller,” she told Yorkton This Week.

The Séance Murders is set in Regina at a time the city was the railroad hub of the prairies, and was booming.

“The foxtrot is the latest craze hitting the dance halls, and silent movies are all the rage. But it’s the newest fad, séances, that intrigues Myrtle Vanhoff,” explained the author now from Russell, Man.

“Myrtle is tired of the constraints put on her by her father, Reginald Vanhoff, a lumber baron, and her mother, Amelia. Her mother is determined to make her and her daughter’s mark on Regina’s burgeoning social scene.

“But Myrtle has other ideas. On a lark, the rebellious young woman convinces her twin brother, Leopold, to attend Madame Scarlatta’s notorious séances. They find more than restless spirits. Someone murders a bereaved patron while everyone at the table is holding hands. Myrtle and Leopold are determined to find out who and how. A Regina police sergeant is appalled at Myrtle’s unladylike interest in the murders. But Jonathan Chapman of the Royal North-West Mounted Police is intrigued. Jonathan joins Myrtle and Leopold in their search for the murderer. When Myrtle gets too close to the truth, the murderer targets her as the next victim.”

So where did the idea for the book come from?

“Where did the idea for the book come from?

“In the 1900s, people were interested in the occult, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes,” said Havelange. “Some people believed a mystic could contact their dead loved ones.

“So, what would happen if my protagonist, frustrated by the constraints of society and a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, decides to investigate a Séance?”

Havelange said she bases her novels in Saskatchewan because it is the place she knows best.

“I lived in Saskatchewan for most of my life, and three of my mysteries and my thriller take place in Saskatchewan,” she said. “My publisher: ‎BWL Publishing Inc. has commissioned a historical mystery for each province and territory. So far, nine historical mysteries have been published. To my delight, they asked me if I wanted to write one for Saskatchewan. I jumped at the chance.”

While growing up in Saskatchewan the book still required research to be authentic to the first decade of the 1900s.

“Murder plots come easy for me,” offered Havelange. “It was the research that took time.

“What were society’s attitudes in Regina, a frontier city in the early 1900s?

“How did people dress?

“What events were happening at this time?

“Did the city have streetcars? Traffic lights? Or even stop signs?

“This was the hard part, getting the feel of Regina in 1908.”

Havelange said she was fortunate to find some great sources of information.

“The Saskatchewan Historical Group and the Regina Historical Group were a big help,” she said. “If they didn’t know the answer to my questions, they pointed me in the right direction.

“Newspaper archives were a huge help. Even the advertising in the paper told me a lot about the time. And the letters to the editor gave me an insight into the people living in that era.”

From the author’s perspective what does her latest book offer that she feels makes it of interest to a reader?

“The amazing strength of the pioneers that settled Saskatchewan,” said Havelange. “It isn’t a history book, but it does give the reader a glimpse of life in a bygone era. What we take for granted did not exist back then.

“And Myrtle’s evolution as the story progresses.”

Then Havelange added, “of course, there is the mystery.”

It’s a mystery Havelange said she is proud of having written.

“I created a mystery that even stumped my beta readers,” she said. “So, the mystery is good.

“The feeling of life I described around the mystery also felt real to them. Beta readers have no bias. They give you an honest opinion.”

Now it’s up everyday readers to enjoy.

Havelange said she hopes ‘The Séance Murders’ appeals to “mystery buffs and anyone interested in our proud Saskatchewan history.

“But please remember this isn’t a history book. It is fiction. But my mystery does give the flavour of Regina in the 1900’s; adventure and mystery abound.”

The book can be found via Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble.