Welcome to Sulmona met with Bluette Matthey, author of the new ‘Abruzzo Intrigue’ mystery novel set in Sulmona.
Bluette Matthey doesn’t exactly look like a crime writer… but then I guess neither did her quintessential favourite Agatha Christie. She’s thoughtful, polite and well, from North Carolina. Not exactly a hot bed of war lords or Mafia dens. Over a cup of tea in one of the local bars in Sulmona, we chatted about her newly published novel, her inspiration and how she managed to research in such incredible detail the story which she chose to set in a city that hitherto she had not ever visited.
We learnt that Bluette has been writing fiction since high school, and used to be an English teacher, but it wasn’t until a trip to London that she finally realised that what she really wanted to do was to write travel mysteries.
Her master plan is to work her way through the alphabet in search of suitable ‘off the beaten track’ locations to set her novels. Her other works (published, finished or in draft or planning stages) are set in the Black Forest of Germany, Corsica, the Dalmation Coast of Croatia and Engadine in Switzerland. So what exactly drew Bluette to Abruzzo and not, for example, Andalucia or Alsace? Bluette says she was initially looking at Puglia (Apulia) but was then side-tracked by the exciting discovery of the holy relic known as the Eucharistic Miracle located in Lanciano. This ‘jackpot’ was to be the focal point of the crime in the story which then set her off on the task of constructing a storyline around it.
The plot of ‘Abruzzo Intrigue’, centres around the main character of Hardy Durkin – a tour leader and rugged hero type – and his Canterbury Tales group of hikers who mostly have things other than hiking on their minds. The story includes a theft, an attempted murder, a bit of petty violence and some shady characters involved in drug smuggling and other such activities. Never having been to Sulmona or even to Abruzzo, Bluette describes a number of real-life locations in and around Sulmona with the kind of detail you would expect only a local to know.
“I started reading and researching about the region of Abruzzo and how unspoiled, green and wonderful it was. The history looked so rich, and it all just felt like a discovery to me – authentic Italy. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to go! It became a personal quest.”
When Bluette said “the more I read” we’re not talking a few random Google searches here. She has probably read every word every written about Abruzzo, certainly in English, and the book is meticulously researched, heavy on description and local colour.
Although the principal crime – the theft of said relic – takes place in Lanciano, the tour group are based in Sulmona, at a real B&B, and there are many particular local architectural and cultural details which are woven into the action.
A self-proclaimed ‘detective of information’, Bluette used a long list of resources including the Bradt Guide to Abruzzo and ‘Walking in Abruzzo’ by Stuart Haines. She also used every weapon in the Google arsenal and more besides.
We asked Bluette if she plans to return to Sulmona and Abruzzo and her answer was a resounding yes!
“I have fallen in love with Sulmona. It is a nice sized town, everybody is very friendly, the architecture is wonderful, and so is the shopping. It’s just got everything! It is also a great place to come back to at the end of the day after you have been to all those other local places or even to Rome.”
On her return to the US she wrote to us to say that she was organising her pictures from her trip and said: “I am hit by a sense of wonder when I ‘revisit’ the Hermitage of San Bartolomeo….I think it was the highpoint of my entire trip. The rich history of Abruzzo intertwined with its spiritual foundation, culture, and awesome, natural beauty is a dynamic combination and an experience to be savoured”.
Thanks to Bluette and her publisher Blue Shutter, we have 5 digital copies of the novel to give away to our readers. All we’d like you to do is write a comment at the end of the post with a list of you favourite 5 Abruzzo must-sees and we’ll draw the lucky winners out of a hat. Hurry up for a chance to grab your copy, deadline is February 13th!
EDIT – Congratulations to: F. Ricci, L. Collins, G. Di Loreto, M. Di Ruscio and A. Stuart-Head. All winners of our ‘Abruzzo Intrigue’ book give-away! All have been notified independently via email. If you missed out there’s still time to get a discounted copy of your own: go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/473696 and insert the code HH29W at checkout. This will give you a 30% discount on your copy but only until April 15th so HURRY, HURRY!