Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Cozy Location for Conflict

Yesterday I spent the morning on my favorite stretch of river, a little place that Lewis and Clark called "quick sand beach" in the record of their travels.

It's not really quick sand, and I don't know why the old boys called it that. The sand along the wide, placid river is velvety smooth, perfect for burying your feet or building a sandcastle.

To get to the beach from our car we followed a gravel path dappled with sun and shade, surrounded by the forest of deciduous tress that indicate a close source of fresh water (in this case, the Columbia River.) I looked to the left and right of me and noticed the land was boggy.


"Quicksand Beach" isn't near a bog.

My daughters thought the water forest was spooky and skipped ahead as fast as they could.

Because "Quicksand Beach" isn't just any old beach the parks department created canoes out of concrete to commemorate Lewis and Clark. Once you reach the canoes you can run down a long stretch of beach, just as if you were at the coast, spread out your towels, shade tent, cooler full of juice bags, low slung beach chairs, buckets, shovels, water bottles, sunblock, sunglasses, hats, grocery sacks full of lunch, hibaci, and make yourself at home.

We got to the canoes, ready to run. But the cold waves of the river that leads to the second most dangerous bar crossing in the world (and the end of Lewis and Clark's journey) were splishing against the sides of the concrete memorials. In July. When the waters should have been almost as low as they would be all year.

We met our friends for our picnic up on high ground. I asked why the river was so full and the forest so boggy. Completely nonplussed my friend said, "They let some water out of the dam."

Mundane, for someone who lives right on the river. But for me? A cozy mystery author? Priceless!

The setting was perfect for a summer mystery. Cool waters, warm sun, deer munching grass just down the woods a bit. Paradise but for that one thing that seemed "off" and piqued the curiosity of the Amateur Sleuth.

Perhaps the water was supposed to be let out at just that time. But...perhaps not. Perhaps someone was murdered at the dam and their body tossed over the edge, and the water released to wash it away.

Cozies are so delightfully comfortable despite the corpses and psychopaths, in part because of their settings. The mountain cabins buried in the snow at ski season. The knitting shops full of fluffy wool. The coffee shops with steaming mugs of heavenly brew. The quilting circles made up of old ladies who know a little bit too much about each other. And, just perhaps, the perfect riverside getaway on a sunny morning in July.

What nefarious crime do you think the high water at "Quicksand Beach" was covering up?

Traci Tyne Hilton is a mom, Sunday School teacher, novelist, and award winning playwright from Portland, Oregon. She is madly working on her next mystery series which has finaled in the Books of Hope Contest at Write Integrity Press and has an impending deadline.

Traci earned a degree in History from
Portland State University and lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director from Kansas, their two daughters, and their dog, Dr. Watson.

More of Traci's work can be found at

Read her newest cozy (this time, the setting is space!)...The Queen's Snare for Kindle and Nook

Review of The Queen's Snare (from Amazon)
"I'm picky when it comes to science fiction. I have to say, this is a keeper. I liked Verity. She was tough without having that over-the-top persona that some heroines have and fun to read. The story was very fast-paced (I read it all in one sitting) and well-written. I'm hoping there are plans for a sequel. I look forward to reading the next installment."


  1. Hi Traci,

    Ooooh! I like the premise you created for "Quicksand Beach." Your post brought to mind a case where a body was released in much the same way when the rain flooded a stream. A 12 year-old boy had fallen off his bicycle and drowned but his body got caught in the undergrowth. At the time he disappeared all his parents found was his bike. It was several months before his body broke free. Could be a premise for a mystery.

    Thanks for the fun exercise!

    ~Nancy Jill Thames, Author
    The Jillian Bradley Mystery Series
    "Queen of Afternoon Tea"

    1. Nancy--is that a true story? How sad! The poor, poor parents. And at the same time...that's what a good setting can do. The high waters could stir a thought in the amateur sleuth and in digging she could stumble across something that had very little to do with why the water had been released!

    2. Yes, it happened to some neighbors of ours with their only son. The whole thing was a nightmare and very tragic. They were Christians, though and with God's help were able to get through it. I'll never forget her saying, "Oh Jill, this grief is something else!"

      ~Nancy Jill

    3. Loss is different for believers, but still so incredibly sad. My heart goes out to your friends.

  2. Someone is timing the release of water from the dam to cover up a crime!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. As mystery lovers, we can only hope so! ; ) It is such a tantalizing question, isn't it? Maybe they timed the water to upset the shipping schedule so that the record keeping would be off so they could abscond with some tax payer funds... ; )

  3. Definitely agree with the other comments--a great setting for a mystery!

  4. Thanks. : ) I need to add it to my short list...Perhaps Mitzy will have to take a day at the beach...

  5. You know I'm a California girl and I live near the beach, but I'm not a beach person. So I think it's the perfect place for a crime to occur. Soo much sand and so many places to conceal a body. And don't get me started on the jelly fish!

    1. I swear the sand on the river is sooo different than the sand at the ocean! Neither my husband nor I care for the beach at the ocean! Sure, the Oregon coast is stunning...it's just so cold and sandy! lol.

  6. Another great post Traci. I like taking things from our everyday life and posting about them.
    Debbie Malone
    Death in Dahlonega

    1. Thanks Deborah! Isn't it the truth that our "mystery writer brains" are always on? At dinner last night I thought of the terrible things the restaurant could be hiding with their loud music...


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