Swiss-American police officer Agnes Lüthi is on leave in Lausanne, Switzerland, recovering from injuries she sustained in her last case, when an old colleague invites her to the world’s premier watch and jewelry trade show at the grand Messe Basel Exhibition Hall. Little does Agnes know, another friend of hers, Julien Vallotton, is at the same trade show—and he’s looking for Agnes. Julien Vallotton was friends with Guy Chavanon, a master of one of Switzerland’s oldest arts: watchmaking. Chavanon died a week ago, and his daughter doesn’t believe his death was accidental. Shortly before he died, Chavanon boasted that he’d discovered a new technique that would revolutionize the watchmaking industry, and she believes he may have been killed for it. Reluctantly, Agnes agrees to investigate his death. But the world of Swiss watchmaking is guarded and secretive, and before she realizes it, Agnes may be walking straight into the path of a killer.
Author Tracee de Hahn spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, A WELL-TIMED MURDER:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Writing about Switzerland, I always hope that readers will be intrigued by the place, or re-live experiences there from their armchair. Specifically in this book I wanted to examine how perceived pressures can cause a person to do great harm, even if it is harm to someone they love.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I have always been a fan of series mysteries. Not simply mysteries by the same author (although I love these as well) but ones with continuing characters and plot lines. I like to think that I push the boundaries of these interconnected books, maintaining stories that reach from book to book while at the same time bringing the current work’s central crime to a satisfactory conclusion.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
The story of Switzerland is the story beneath the surface. During my research I came to a fuller understanding of the impact of the watch industry on the Swiss economy. Despite the devastation due to the invention of quartz technology in the 1970s and today’s threat by Apple watches, the industry has innovated, and for many years it has been one of the country’s most efficient industries. More than this, watchmaking isn’t simply a product, it truly embodies the Swiss. The precision and the use of technology coupled with the transformation of materials (in this case precious materials) into something even more luxurious is truly at the heart of what it means to be Swiss. Of course this means that there is great pressure to protect the commodity.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
A main theme is relationships – between friends and colleagues, but particularly between children and their parents, and also between children and their caregivers (in this case children at a Swiss boarding school). Regardless of age, we struggle to define ourselves against our elders and at the same time to follow them; it can be a difficult balance. In Switzerland, many families have lived in the same place, and perhaps worked in the same industry for generations. There is great pressure to maintain these traditions; and often great desire to break away.
Tracee de Hahn is the author of the Agnes Lüthi mysteries, which were inspired by her years living in Switzerland. Prior to writing full time she practiced architecture and was head of university alumni relations at a major West Coast university. Currently she and her husband live in southwest Virginia with their Jack Russell Terriers.
To learn more about Tracee, please visit her website.