Why Environmental Mysteries

After thirty plus years as a professor and marine ecologist, I decided to write environmental mysteries because I believe that most scientists have failed to engage  citizens in the reality of our most pressing environmental issues. Take climate change for example. Based on a recent poll, Gallup reported that over 40% of Americans polled said the issue was “exaggerated in the news”.

Alaska iceflow2

Alaska iceflow

Frustrated by surveys like Gallup’s, I turned to the arts as a different way to connect with people. Mysteries have a long history of entangling readers in social issues (wealth and justice are front and center in Murder on the Orient Express). As a scientist, I love the puzzles mysteries present. So my choice was easy.

hiking MA

Charlene checks out the snow in Glacier National Park where soon there will be no glaciers.

Cold Blood, Hot Sea—the first in my Maine Oceanography mystery series—features amateur sleuth Mara Tusconi. Smart, stubborn, and loyal, Mara suspects that a colleague’s climate change research has something to do with his murder. But who did it? Mara’s investigation uncovers too many possibilities. Is it the skinny, aggressive lawyer with bright red lipstick and high heels who throws Mara out of her office and is on Pacific Petroleum’s board of directors? Or maybe the crazy biologist who tries to drown Mara with his motorboat? Spruce Harbor, Maine is home to a colorful assortment of suspects.

This book will bring readers into the unseen world of scientists trying to figure out what’s happening with global warming––and who are harassed by people with a lot to lose by the scientists’ discoveries. Through Mara’s experiences, readers also get a taste of life aboard research vessels, the Maine coast, and being on and under the water.

A while back, I wrote an essay about environmental mysteries for Sisters in Crime’s First Draft, April 2014 issue. Since then, the interest in Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction) has grown tremendously. Dan Bloom, who coined the term, has a website called “The Cli-Fi Report” (cli-fi.net).

Cli-fi is everywhere in the news. Reuters says “Climate fiction finds its way into classroom” (Kyle Plantz reporting), a New York Times Op Ed asks “Will fiction influence how we react to climate change”, The Guardian says “Welcome to our eco-themed week” (Michelle Pauli).

Links to cli-fi and cozy mystery sites: