Every other Sunday is our day for Guest Author Postings by mystery writers who base their stories in non-US settings. We think it a great way of introducing our readership to new experiences and places. We’re pleased to have with us today Beate Boeker, whose name literally translates into “Happy Books,” leaving her little choice but to write works that have been shortlisted for the Golden Quill Contest, the National Readers' Choice Award, the 'Best Indie Books' contest, and the RONE Award. Beate lives in the north of Germany with her husband and daughter and her website is http://www.happybooks.de
For Expected Death, the fourth novel in my mystery series, “Temptation in Florence,” I decided to throw the victim from a tower. It shouldn't be too difficult to find a nice tower for murder in Florence, I figured, after all, the ancient town with its century-old buildings offers plenty of choice. The first that came to my mind was the world-famous Campanile, of course.
However, I had two obstacles to overcome – first, I only had two days to find the perfect tower because I don't live in Florence (something I really have to remedy one day!), and second, I had to find a place without tourists. Particularly the second condition turned into a huge problem - because a murder that's being filmed and watched by an international multitude is not a good base for a good mystery yarn with some nice complications along the way. And in a city like Florence, finding a spot without tourists is almost impossible. This also ruled out the Campanile straight away – I mean, how likely is it that a murderer and the victim will both line up for hours before going up the tower together? I already knew that my main protagonists (the murderer and the victim) were no friends, so I could not count on them standing in line next to each other in perfect harmony.
I asked around among author friends who knew the city and even contacted the tourist information, who were probably slightly alarmed by my request. I searched the Internet, poured over maps, checked out pictures and calculated heights, but I knew I had to see the place first hand before I could take a decision.
When I arrived in Florence, I first tried my luck with the tower of the Pallazzo Vecchio, but a bored guard at the uppermost platform put a hold on any murderous intent. It would be foolhardy for any author to push someone from that tower – because it would leave nothing to do but a quick arrest.
Remembering a recommendation from a friend, I then turned to the “oltrarno” - the other side of the Arno – to check out the Torre di San Niccolò. It has only been re-opened to the public in 2011, so it's not quite as well-known and overrun with tourists as many of the other spots in town. It also has a very satisfying height if you're looking for murder – sixty metres with flagged stones at the ground create a pretty good drop. The Tower San Niccolò was built in 1324 as a gate and part of the town wall. When centuries later, cannons were introduced and used to bombard the town, the high towers suddenly presented a good target, and so most of them were lowered, or decapitated, as the Italians say. The Tower of San Niccolò, however, remained at its original height because the hill right behind it protected it from the cannons.
I thought that was providential until I stood on the top platform of the tower San Niccolò. The breathtaking view toward the historical city barely impressed me because when I turned into the other direction, I was ready to stamp my feet in frustration: I had overlooked that the hill behind the tower is topped by the famous Piazzale Michelangelo, which is one of the busiest places in the whole of Tuscany. Why, you ask?
Because from the top of that hill, you don't only see Florence in all its splendor, but you can also park dozens of busses at once – with the result that every single tourist bus in Tuscany stops at the Piazzale Michelangelo for ten minutes or less to allow tourists to take a hurried picture before moving on to the next national treasure.
I was devastated. Murdering someone on that tower would be like enacting a stage play, covered by the latest in Japanese filming technology. The picture shows that you're almost eye-to-eye with the tourists, particularly if you consider the strong zoom many cameras offer.
Besides, the space between the merlons was secured by sturdy steel bars that made it terribly difficult to push the victim over. You really had to heave someone over the edge (and that someone had preferably be dead or unconscious already), otherwise, it would be way too difficult. A simple push wouldn't get you anywhere.
My time was running out, and I still hadn't found a perfect tower. In the meantime, I had realized that planning murder at public buildings is “difficultissimo,” to say it in Italian, i.e., very difficult. However, I was not yet willing to give up. Being an author, I was at liberty to tweak some other details. As a first step, I made the victim very slim and small, so it would be easier to heave her across those bars. I also created a very foggy and rainy day with no view at all for the murder – to stop the tourists from seeing any details. And so I managed to get away with it after all, and the tower of San Niccolò will be a focal point of Expected Death coming out later in 2014.
Guest Blogger Beate Boeker—Sunday.