My Fixation with Maps and the Star O’Brien Series

My Fixation with Book Maps Began with a Texas -Based Author

I stood in the fiction section of my tiny hometown library, the North Haledon Library, in New Jersey. It was the 1990s. I was at the library scouring the shelves for a mystery novel. I started in the author’s last name “A” section, searching for authors who had more than one book on the shelf (a series or multiple standalones). When I came across such a bonanza of books, I carefully pulled one from the shelf to read the synopsis on the inside of the flap jacket. Then I would consider whether or not, I wanted to read the novel and potentially all the library offered for that author.

By the time, I got to the “C” authors, my neck had developed a crick from holding it sideways as I perused titles and author names. Not only was I feeling achy but a panicked feeling invaded the pit of my stomach with the fear that I wouldn’t have enough reading material for the weekend. Then I noticed several mystery books by an author named, Deborah Crombie. I reached for a Crombie book and drew it from the shelf.

When I opened the front cover to read the flap, my eyes fell upon a map, intricately drawn onto the front cover end paper. The back cover end paper contained the same map. Wow! The map details captured my imagination. I’d been to London several times in my career and loved the history, diversity of place, and density of experiences from the roof top gardens in Kensington to the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

Then, I quickly read the synopsis and the author bio. Interestingly, Crombie was a Texas based author writing mystery novels set in England. Intrigued, I immediately produced my library card and checked out one of the books. I left the library with a feeling of anticipation for a new experience. The accompaniment of the maps deepened my reading pleasure. My imagination soared and I relived memories of visiting some of the very places where Crombie’s characters lived and worked. To this day I’ve read every one of Crombie’s books, featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James.

From one of Crombie’s Books

Are you a Crombie follower? Do you enjoy the maps that decorate the end papers in her books?

What I Love About Books with Maps

I love the tactile nature of maps; the opportunity to move my fingers along the map to where the action is taking place. Maps allow me to conceptually imagine in my mind’s eye (as Agatha Christie said) the actions of the characters in the story. Maps guide us and take us to a place where we can world build.

It is my opinion that providing a map is a gift to armchair travelers who have a trip to somewhere else (or maybe another time) on their bucket list. Or maybe like me they’ve been there and enjoy reliving the experience through the eyes of the story’s characters.

What is that you love about maps that go with books?

Maps in Mystery Stories Started in the 1940s

The idea of maps in mystery stories was around long before I discovered Crombie’s books. For example, in the 1940s Dell Publishing put maps (called mapbacks) of where the action took place on the outside back covers of their paperbacks. Nowadays these mapbacks are collectors’ items.

The Maps in my Star O’Brien Mystery Series

I knew exactly what I wanted when I (a New Jersey based author at the time) began writing a mystery series set in County Mayo, Ireland. I wanted maps.

I’ve been going to Ireland since I was four years old. I know all the places I write about. The settings are real places in County Mayo including Cong, Ashford Castle, Clare Island, and Turlough village. Each of these places is unique but they also share a richness of beautiful landscapes and Irish history. These places drip with atmosphere. There are legends, dark, brooding woods, treacherous cliffs that end in the deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, ancient round towers, and sunken cemeteries.

I’ve gone on walks and hikes in these places. Always with some kind of map or trail guide in hand. So, I wanted my series to include a map for each Star O’Brien book. And it does.

Get a copy of a map to go with your Star O’Brien book

Subscribers to my email list receive a copy of a map to go with each book along with commentary from the amateur sleuth, Star O’Brien. For example, the map that goes with “Death at Ashford Castle” is a map of the walk in Cong Woods, including annotations related to the mystery’s inciting event.

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