This post was contributed by author Tracee de Hahn. Her cozy mystery, A Well-Timed Murder is currently on tour with Dollycas Escape into a Good Book.
Ready for a trip to a foreign place? In A Well-Timed Murder, we journey to Switzerland, spending time at an idyllic boarding school and at a glamorous watch and jewelry expo in the city of Basel. Following in Inspector Agnes Lüthi’s footsteps, we also travel to the traditional heart of watchmaking country, La Chaux-de-Fonds, and visit the home and factory of a well-regarded watchmaking family.
Agnes Lüthi might have been born in Switzerland, but she shares an appreciation for the country’s traditional architecture with every armchair tourist, thinking more kindly of her in-laws because of their charming chalet. Who wouldn’t appreciate the dark-beamed ceilings and warm fires on a cold day, and the balconies lined with flower boxes that bloom all summer?
A Well-Timed Murder was the perfect opportunity to showcase Switzerland. A little bit of tradition with a dash of modern thrown in. When renowned watchmaker Guy Chavanon dies he leaves behind a modern factory designed to look like it was built in the Renaissance, and an early 20th century house that reflected the “new” modern look of that period – complete with sleek terraces that resembled promenades on ocean liners. Typical Swiss appreciation for the old and the new.
A journey across Switzerland wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a boarding school. I’ve visited my husband’s boarding school in Gruyère many times, soaking in the atmosphere with all the appreciation of an outsider. The school in A Well-Timed Murder was based on his, with a large chalet serving as administration building and dormitories for some of the students. Newer buildings are bracingly modern – smooth concrete, large plate glass widows and highly polished wood accents. I added a few touches to my school, including a poison garden based on the one found at Alnwick Castle in England. Mine is tucked away in the kitchen garden. Why a poison garden? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Boarding school is the perfect place to introduce characters from across the globe. French and English may be the official school languages but the accents range far and wide and many secret conversations take place in languages understood by only a few.
Basel’s watch and jewelry show, called Baselworld, serves as an introduction to Swiss industry: sleek, glamorous, and international. While the show lasts only one week of the year, during that time it is the most dazzling high end shopping street in the world. Take the best of Zürich, Paris, New York, or Tokyo and bring them together: that’s Baselworld. Need a new tiara? Choose from antique models or have one designed according to your specifications. Looking for a watch? You’ll have to be more precise. Do you need it to function down to the depths of the ocean and while flying to the moon? Or do you want to impress your friends with the number of precious stones on the watch face? Want a dial that is only visible when a hidden button is pressed and the enameled butterfly wings open? You will find all of these, and more, at the show.
During Agnes’s journey across Switzerland in A Well-Timed Murder you’ll see the diversity of the people, catch a glimpse of their customs – including food – and enjoy a ringside seat as Agnes hunts for a killer.
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