Bermuda at the centre of cruise ship murder mystery
Kevin Chapman chose a cruise ship bound for Bermuda as the scene of the crime in his latest novel, Lethal Voyage.
It was a journey the author was familiar with, having taken it often since he and his wife Sharon honeymooned here 37 years ago.
“We’re such huge Bermuda fans that it was a no-brainer to make the island our destination for this fictional cruise aboard the Colossus of the Ocean,” said Mr Chapman. “During two-and-a-half days on the island, my characters swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest, have a Frog Grog at the Frog & Onion, visit Horseshoe Bay Beach and admire the island mural in the [National Museum of Bermuda]. It’s wonderful to be able to write about cruising and trips to Bermuda during this awful year.”
The book is the third in a series of five crime thrillers featuring Mike Stoneman, a homicide detective with the New York Police Department. Both Righteous Assassin and Deadly Enterprise hit number one on Amazon’s bestseller list and were named among the top 20 mystery/thrillers of the year by the Kindle Book Review.
“At the end of [Deadly Enterprise] the protagonist Mike and his partner Jason had been involved in a very controversial shoot-out in a Brooklyn hotel,” Mr Chapman said. “So the storyline is that the Commissioner of Police and their captain tell them that they need to disappear for a little while. They need to take a vacation, get away from the prying questions of the New York press.”
He felt it provided the perfect set-up for a cruise; considering his love affair with Bermuda the island was the obvious destination.
“We love cruising. We’ve cruised to Bermuda a bunch of times and I always wanted to set a story on board a ship because it’s such a fun, condensed environment,” he said. “You’ve got a little bit of time on the ship, then you get to the island and spend a couple of days on the island, then you get back on the ship and come home. So the whole story is set in a six-day period of time. You’ve got time to have a crisis and solve the crime before you get back to New York.”
Mr Chapman started writing fiction while in college. In recent years he has had to find time despite the demands of his full-time job as a labour and employment lawyer with The Wall Street Journal.
“The work that I do is a lot of writing. I write stories. The stories are all facts, they’re all about real events, but they’re still stories. I’m writing about things like sexual harassment and employment discrimination. Why an employee got fired from their job. It’s still a story – you just have to tell it well.”
He wrote two novels before he started the Mike Stoneman series. The most recent, A Legacy of One, took roughly a decade to complete and discussed “politics and personal responsibility and morality”.
“It was my attempt to write the Great American Novel and it took me about ten years to really get that all out of my system,” he said. “It’s a terrific book that nobody wants to read. It’s really wonderful but the subject matter is something you just cannot really get people to be excited about. And so it will be there for posterity. When I’m dead people will discover this book and say, ‘Oh this is a wonderful piece of literary fiction that tells us a lot of things about ourselves and our country and our politics.’
“When I finished [it] I decided I really wanted to do something fun, something more saleable.”
In 2012 he entered a competition that asked writers to enter short stories with crime or law as their focus. Mr Chapman’s entry Fool Me Twice, was where Mike Stoneman was born.
“He was the protagonist in the short story and I really liked him and I liked the concept of writing a crime mystery/murder mystery. So when I finished with the Legacy of One I said let me go back to that character and come up with a full-blown novel in that universe. And that became Righteous Assassin which was the first book in this series.”
Not only was it “tremendous fun to write” but he got “a lot of good feedback” Mr Chapman said.
“My wife and I came up with this whole story arc for Mike and his girlfriend Michelle McNeill, who’s also the county medical examiner, and his partner and his now new love interest who are all on the cruise ship together. We’ve got the whole five book story arc all planned out. Now I’ve just got to get it written.”
Mrs Chapman fell in love with Bermuda on a cruise with her parents as a teenager and insisted on a trip after their marriage. The couple honeymooned at Elbow Beach Hotel.
“We’ve been back probably between 20 and 25 times since then,” said Mr Chapman who makes his home in central New Jersey. “We love the beach; we love the weather although we come in the winter a lot so it’s not necessarily beach time. For us it’s such an easy getaway. You get on the plane, you’re there in two hours. You just forget about everything that’s going on back home and enjoy the different things of being away.”
Bermuda’s road races are a lure for his wife, a runner who is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Club.
“At least once or twice a year for the last five or six years we’ve been coming back for races. We were there in February for the Zooma 10K. That was the last thing we did before Covid,” Mr Chapman said.
The pandemic has opened up lots of writing time for the author.
“Because we’re not travelling, we’re not doing anything. We’re not going out to movies or concerts or even visiting friends. We’re just staying at home. I’d already started the story before Covid hit so I knew the story was going to be set on a cruise ship. It was really fun to be able to recreate some of my favourite places on the island. We didn’t get them everywhere. We didn’t get them into Hamilton.
“I love the idea of letting the people in Bermuda know we’re still thinking about them. I love the concept of putting portions of the book on the island. It’s so much fun.”
The Chapmans are booked on a cruise to Bermuda in May but should that not go ahead they will be here “as soon as things are open”.
“That’s our only travel goal at this point – to get ourselves back to the island one way or another. We miss it.”
Look for Lethal Voyage on Amazon.com