All About Alumni / Summer 2014
Suspense on Spaniel Island

Suzanne Kingsmill is a zoologist, carpenter and mystery author — which leads to some unusual storylines


Suzanne Kingsmill has a flair for the unpredictable. She switched from studying English literature to zoology, and is now a medical journal editor by day, murder mystery writer by night. It’s no surprise, then, that her crime novels keep both writer and readers on their toes. “My plot is usually a two-sentence idea,” she explains. “If I had an outline, my mind would be wandering far from it within the hour.”

Courtesy of Dundurn PressKingsmill’s new novel, Dying for Murder, takes place on the imaginary Spaniel Island, where zoology prof Cordi O’Callaghan is coordinating a birdsong study. A hurricane hits, trapping the scientists – and when the research station director is found dead, Cordi investigates the murder. Kingsmill’s scientific background is inherited by Cordi, while Spaniel Island is modelled after a real barrier island off the east coast of the United States, where Kingsmill spent a summer conducting research on sea turtle hatching for her
U of T master’s thesis.

“When I’m writing, I ‘accidentally’ place certain clues throughout the novel without knowing it,” says Kingsmill (BA 1975 UTM, MSc 1981). “Then 100 pages later, it’s like ‘Wow, I planted a clue already and it’s going to work!’” Letting her mind wander to create plot twists also helps the author keep her storyline and characters fresh. “Every mystery novel needs tension,” she says. “You need to keep the reader guessing.”

Read an excerpt from Dying for Murder:

Excerpted from Dying for Murder by Suzanne Kingsmill. Copyright © Dundurn Press, 2014. All rights reserved. Published by Dundurn Press (dundurn.com).


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