By Emily Brightwell
Writers long to write about what captivates them, and I’m no exception. When I was working on Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods, I explored an idea that has always intrigued me: coincidence. In my opinion, coincidence is a great, unknowable, and exciting mystery. Skeptical people believe that coincidence is merely two random and logically unrelated events happening simultaneously, but I want it to be more than that. I see coincidences nudging us towards a different way of looking at the universe; to questioning the great unknowns of existence. Do we get any answers? I’m not sure, but when it happens to me, the coincidence makes me stop and then think about the world from a different point of view. One of my main characters in the novel, Mrs. Goodge, feels the same way.
You see coincidences all the time in daily life. You are about to call someone you haven’t contacted in months; the phone rings, and it’s that very person. When you’re on vacation in Hawaii, you run into someone from your church, or you get on a plane and find out that two people you used to work with are on the same flight (yes, that really happened to me.) Something like that has happened to all of us, but usually we can brush it off without too much thought. Not if you are a mystery author.
Since the beginning of time, storytellers have used coincidence, random chance, fate, and destiny to make philosophical points, or simply to move their plot lines along. All of those ideas can and have been at the heart of some wonderful tales….but is it okay to use “coincidences” in a murder mystery? Of course it is, as far as I’m concerned. Anything that happens in real life can and should be used in fiction. You just have to play fair with your readers.
In Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods, the idea of playing and having a bit of fun with my love of coincidence was too hard to resist. Oh, don’t panic now. I didn’t cheat and solve the murder by using any “coincidence” trick to catch the killer. I’d never do that. But I did use the device to illustrate something I genuinely believe: sometimes the universe uses coincidence to tell us that no matter how smart or clever we might think we are, there could well be forces impacting our lives that we don’t acknowledge or understand. Just ask Mrs. Goodge. She’s a strong, no-nonsense character who has lived a long time and isn’t easily fooled. Yet she sees the coincidences in “Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods” as a mysterious force giving our intrepid band of sleuths a helping hand. The others in the household aren’t so sure. There’s only one-way to resolve this conflict – you’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself.