I feel a kinship with Catherine Dilts’s series because rocks—diamonds—are at the core of First-Degree Fudge, my first novel in the Fudge Shop Mystery Series from Penguin Random House. Catherine and I met at the Malice Domestic mystery conference in Bethesda, Maryland in May.
My series features Belgian American Ava Oosterling and her Grandpa Gil. They operate Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer in Door County, Wisconsin.
Door County is the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” It’s quaint. Fast food chains are banned in the upper half of the county. It’s that thumb of land in Lake Michigan surrounded by 300 miles of coastline peppered with 11 lighthouses and canal lights
The rocky geology and picturesque high bluffs are part of the Niagara Escarpment, a formation carved by glaciers that stretches from Wisconsin to Niagara Falls.
The county is a leading U.S. producer of cherries. Ava makes cherry-vanilla Cinderella Pink Fudge, part of her Fairy Tale Fudge line. Ava’s fudge is used to hide diamonds and choke a famous actress to death in First-Degree Fudge.
For Book 2, Hot Fudge Frame-Up, published this past June, the crime involves the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, which in real life was chosen as “Featured Lighthouse of 2014” by the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival Association. I highly recommend the tour as well as a drive around Door County in late September to see the fall foliage.
That lighthouse is at the top of my web page, www.ChristineDeSmet.com.
I like to think of Ava as the 21st century Hercule Poirot; that famous Belgian character debuted in 1920.
Door County and neighboring counties courted the Belgians in the 1850s with land for sale at $1.25 an acre. Over 15,000 Belgians came to the area. All of Door County’s population today is just 28,000. The area is said to have the largest rural population of Belgians in the U.S.
The Belgians were hit hard by the Great Fire of 1871, which happened the same days as the famous Chicago fire.
Around 1,500 people were killed in Door and nearby counties, with 3,000 left homeless. In comparison, the Chicago fire took about 300 lives.
The resilient Belgians rebuilt with brick. When you travel through Door County you’ll see green farmland dotted with red-brick houses.
Book 3 of my series, Five-Alarm Fudge, deals with fire and an arsonist. Book 3 also puts Ava Oosterling on the hunt for a famous divinity fudge recipe in the real St. Mary of the Snows, a church in Namur, Wisconsin. The church is now used as the Belgian Cultural Center.
On Sunday, September 21, 2014, a kermis will be held on the grounds and you’re invited. A kermis (Dutch origin) is a harvest festival, replete with games such as Belgian rolle bolle (a lawn game), music, raffles, famous Belgian pies, chocolate pastries and confections, and Belgian beer.
Most Belgian communities in Wisconsin hold a kermis sometime during September and October. The public is always welcome.
No kermis is complete without booyah. That’s a chicken stew made over an open fire in large kettles. Booyah features a light tomato base instead of a thick sauce. Recipes for booyah are in Hot Fudge Frame-Up.
You can also visit Door County and a kermis vicariously through my books and find easy-to-make recipes for fudge.
Christine DeSmet is the author of First-Degree Fudge, and the new release, Hot Fudge Frame-Up, in her Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House). She teaches writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies.
Thank you for visiting my blog, Christine. And thanks for introducing us to Door County, Wisconsin.