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Connectedness a clue to Sunshine Coast mystery authors’ success

Three mystery writers shortlisted for awards
Karen L. Abrahamson, Elizabeth Elwood and Charlotte Morganti.

Three writers of crime fiction from the Sunshine Coast have been nominated for prestigious awards for their short stories. The trio—Karen L. Abrahamson, Elizabeth Elwood, and Charlotte Morganti—are all members of the Canada West chapter of Sisters in Crime, an international association of writers and fans of crime fiction. 

Abrahamson, of ts’ukw’um (Wilson Creek), edged out 175 competitors to become a finalist for a Derringer award for her short story “Chicken Coops and Bread Pudding,” which was published in Moonlight and Misadventure, an anthology by Superior Shores Press.  

The Derringers are annual awards for short stories and novellas awarded by the international Short Mystery Fiction Society. 

Abrahamson is also a novelist, with nearly 60 titles to her name. The stories’ diverse settings reflect her yen for globetrotting — she has written a series of romance novels set in the Okanagan; the latest installment in her Phoebe Clay series, Within Angkor Shadows, takes place in Cambodia. It was released on April 30. 

“Chicken Coops and Bread Pudding” is set in the Cariboo, where a teenager visits the home of a social outcast only to discover that the individual has been murdered.  

“It’s just a fun little short story,” said Abrahamson. “The mystery genre right now is experiencing huge popularity with family crime-type dramas. The idea of taking a troubled situation and making things right really resonates for people.” 

Elizabeth Elwood, of Garden Bay, and Charlotte Morganti, of Gibsons, have both been named as finalists for Crime Writers of Canada’s 2022 Award of Excellence for Best Crime Short Story. 

Elwood’s nomination is for her story “Number 10 Marlborough Place” in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, published by Dell Magazines. 

The story was inspired by Elwood’s memories of the Great Smog of London in 1952. In the same bleak year, the UK’s worst peacetime rail crash occurred at Harrow Wealdstone station, and bodies of the serial killer John Reginald Christie’s victims were discovered. 

Elwood, who is also a novelist, playwright, and professional marionette artist, said, “I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to try to weave a mystery story using those three events around the everyday life of my fictitious characters, and incorporating the atmosphere of those three things?” 

Her affiliation with the Sisters in Crime organization gives her insight into the peculiar powers of female crime writers. “I think that women authors tend to gravitate more to stories that deal with personal, character-driven mysteries,” she said. “I do tend to see that the more hard-nosed crime stories often are [written by] male writers, whereas women tend to deal with matters that depend more on interpersonal relationships.” 

Morganti served for two years as president of the Canada West chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is a retired lawyer who publishes novels, essays, and short stories. The hero of her Cheakamus novel series is a high-flying lawyer turned private investigator — and part-time bartender. 

Morganti says that Sisters in Crime provides valuable support. “We have workshops and put on events with speakers like police officers, coroners, forensic people — and others who talk about the business of publishing,” she said. “It helps with the gritty side of trying to get your work recognized and published. On top of it all it’s a really collegial, fun place to hang out with other writers of mysteries.” 

Morganti’s nomination is for her story “All My Darlings” in Die Laughing, an Anthology of Humorous Mysteries, published by Mystery Magazine.  

The tale, which Morganti describes as “a little woo-woo,” involves a writer who struggles to carry her stories to completion. The writer’s characters materialize in real life and refuse to depart until the procrastinating scribe draws their narratives to a close. 

Later this month, Morganti will be a panelist at the Maple Leaf Mystery Conference, a virtual event for Canadian crime fiction authors and aficionados. 

The Crime Writers of Canada’s 2022 Award of Excellence will be presented on May 26. The Derringer winners were announced last weekend.