I attended two panels at Bouchercon 2015 on the importance of setting to your novel, especially your mystery. Donna Andrews moderated "Crime Beyond the White Picket Fence" with her panel, Tom Franklin (who tells the funniest stories about armadillos), Maya Corrigan, LynDee Walker, and Judy Penz Sheluck. Katrina N. Holm's moderated, "Danger and Death in Suburbia,' with Greg Hemen, Mary Sutton, and Lori Roy. Both groups emphasized the importance of where you locate your story. They also focused on smaller communities, rather than large urban areas.
Crime set in small towns are more personal than those committed in the bigger cities. And here's why...
1. In small towns, everyone knows everyone else.
2. Small towns are surrounded by swamps, forests, and farms, all great places to hide a body.
3. Small police forces often don't have quick turn-arounds on forensic investigations. The body often has to be sent to a larger city, and that gives the amateur sleuth some time to figure out the crime before the expert.
4. Murder in a small community is more frightening. Crime destroys the trust of a close-knit group.
5. Suburbia used to be the ultimate goal of the American dream. This changed with the economic downturn, and it's led to the rise of crime outside of the urban areas.
6. The suburbs are often the femme fatal that lure people with the promise of the perfect life.
7. Small towns and suburbs are where the families and the secrets live.
And secrets are always key to a good mystery.