A Clutter of Cats (Signature Editions) is a new women-sleuthing novel from Louise Carson that will pull readers into a cozy mystery, full of all the things necessary to life—cats, desserts, friends, and gardens. In this week’s edition of Where in Canada, Carson shares fond memories about the real house, Greenwood, in Hudson, QC, that the book is based on, and how her characters helped her imagine living there.
Would you like to live in an old twelve-room mansion surrounded by gardens, with a backyard that slopes down to the Ottawa River? Would you be surprised if your aunt passed over more obvious heirs and left the house to you?Do you like cats? Lots of cats?If you answered yes to all these questions, you may enjoy reading about commercial artist Gerry Coneybear, heroine of the five (so far) Maples Mysteries by Québec author Louise Carson. A real house in Hudson, QC, Greenwood (now the Greenwood Centre for Living History), aka, The Maples, is the setting for Carson’s cozy mysteries.In The Cat Among Us, we’re introduced to the house and its heroine, as well as a supporting cast of relatives, neighbours and village eccentrics. There’s the handyman who arrives by canoe; the housecleaner who pushes an old black baby carriage along the winding narrow roads so cars will have to swerve around her; one neighbour is an elderly poet; one collects ceramic figurines (roomfuls of them); another runs a B&B with the help of her basset-beagle cross Prince Charles.And there are the cats. Twenty, to be precise. All colours and sizes, ages and conditions, and all with personalities that help propel the action along as they prowl the house and gardens, sniffing for mice, and observing the ghosts that haunt the place. Well, you would expect an almost three-hundred-year-old dwelling place to have ghosts, wouldn’t you? The present house was built around 1820 on the site of the original homestead, which dates to 1732, and which served as a trading post when the Ottawa River was the main route from Ontario north of Ottawa for fur and later lumber heading for Montréal and the St. Lawrence River. The original 18th century hearth, which features largely in the Maples Mysteries, is still there.In 1994, Greenwood’s last owner, Phoebe Nobbs Hyde, died, and left the house to be turned into a museum. Carson has visited the house many times as a member of the Greenwood Poets, a grassroots writing group, and has fond memories of sitting around the giant dining room table in fall and winter, and on the ivy-covered screened back porch in spring and summer, sipping tea and nibbling goodies, watching the river flow by. So, when she decided to write a cozy mystery, full of all the things necessary to life – cats, desserts, friends, gardens – Greenwood was an obvious choice for the setting.“I have great fun imagining waking up at Greenwood, having my meals there, writing in any of the rooms, or cooling off in the (now filled-in) swimming pool. Or gardening on the lovely grounds. And I’ve done all these things through Gerry Coneybear.“Sometimes, I drive slowly by, and, if no other cars are there, park for a moment and stare at the lake, or walk around the outside of the house, getting ideas and making notes. It’s a special place.”Carson, who grew up in Hudson, QC, near Greenwood, has certainly paid homage to her early surroundings in these five delightful cozies: The Cat Among Us, The Cat Vanishes, The Cat Between, The Cat Possessed and A Clutter of Cats (Signature Editions.) Fans of the genre will enjoy spending time there too.* * *
Born in Montréal and raised in Hudson, Québec, Louise Carson studied music in Montréal and Toronto, played jazz piano and sang in the chorus of the Canadian Opera Company. Carson has published thirteen books: Rope, a blend of poetry and prose; Mermaid Road, a lyrical novella; A Clearing, a collection of poetry; Executor, a mystery set in China and Toronto; books one, two and three of her trilogy The Chronicles of Deasil Widdy: In Which, Measured, and Third Circle, historical fiction set in 18th century Scotland; as well as her Maples Mysteries series: The Cat Among Us, The Cat Vanishes,The Cat Between, The Cat Possessed and A Clutter of Cats. Her second collection of poetry – Dog Poems – was published in 2020.Her poems appear in literary magazines, chapbooks and anthologies from coast to coast, including The Best Canadian Poetry 2013 and 2021. She’s been short-listed in FreeFall Magazine’s annual contest three times, and one poem won a Manitoba Magazine Award. Her novel In Which was shortlisted for a Québec Writers’ Federation and a ReLit award in 2019. She has presented her work in many public forums, including Hudson’s Storyfest 2015, as well as in Montréal, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, Saskatoon and New York City.She lives with her daughter and pets in St-Lazare, Québec, where she writes, shovels snow and gardens.