When author Melodie Campbell started writing her book, The Merry Widow Murders, a memory of her childhood family vacations inspired her protagonist’s name, Lady Lucy Revelstoke.
With 16 books under her belt, Campbell was no stranger to creating immersive characters for her 17th outing. For the Merry Widow Murders, Campbell revisited the family of her previous works with a twist. Set in the roaring 20s, Campbell’s latest follows the relative of a previous character in another series as she sails across the Atlantic Ocean. Campbell spoke about the book and the character’s Revelstoke connection.
When her long-running series about a mob goddaughter was concluded, Campbell wasn’t sure what or who she would write about next. A friend of Campbell’s made a suggestion.
“He said, ‘I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t you write about your protagonist’s –Tina Gallows– grandmother’,” recounted Campbell.
Campbell’s main character started to take shape, but she still needed a name.
The book is a murder-mystery in the style of the genre-defining –late great– Agatha Christie. While reading Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys, Campbell was struck by one of the character’s names.
“Her protagonist was named Virginia Revel and I thought ‘Revel’ is such a neat name. Why do I like that,” recalled Campbell before adding, “and then I thought ‘Revelstoke’.”
Although she lives in Ontario now, Campbell used to live in Vancouver when she was younger. She described her family’s summer vacations and how they would invariably lead to interior B.C. Her mother liked Kelowna, but her father liked Kamloops and Revelstoke.
Campbell said her father’s fondness for Revelstoke came from a connection to his family’s home.
“He said it reminded him of Devon and Dorset and Wiltshire, where his family was from,” she said.
Bouncing their way along the rough highway in a wood panel-sided Ford Country Squire station wagon, Campbell’s fondest memories of Revelstoke were of the smell, the mountains, and a snowball fight in July.
Campbell thought of all these things when she landed on her protagonist’s name. While she was aware of the history of Lord Revelstoke, and how the town was named after him, the character doesn’t touch on the history of the name.
The Merry Widow Murders follows young Lady Lucy Revelstoke, who’s running from Hamilton, Ontario and her connection to the mob. Young Lucy meets Lord Revelstoke on the boat, and they are quickly married, but Lord Revelstoke’s future with his wife is cut short when he dies in a battle in the First World War.
Later, Lady Lucy Revelstoke is travelling alone on the ship when she and the friends she makes aboard discover a body in her cabin.
Campbell explained that the book has the same humour, and mystery as her other pieces, but that it also takes a slightly more serious tone. Campbell lost her own husband prior to writing the book.
“The grief I went through was– it definitely changed me. A year of really deep grief. The grief is in the book,” she said.
Campbell has since remarried and enjoying the release of her latest book. While she hasn’t been back to Revelstoke since she was young, she hopes to return with her husband to see the mountains and breathe the fresh air that she remembered as a kid.