The Next Chapter

Murdoch Mysteries author Maureen Jennings just can't do without iced lattes

The bestselling author answers The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire.
Maureen Jennings is best known as the author of the Detective Murdoch series — a collection of novels that follow Toronto detective William Murdoch, as he attempts to solve the city's most gruesome crimes. (Scarlet Page)

This interview originally aired on March 21, 2020.

Maureen Jennings has always been fascinated by the Victorian era — and that prompted the British-born, Toronto-based author to write her first mystery series about a detective named Murdoch who investigates crimes in the turn of the century of Toronto.

Murdoch Mysteries subsequently became a bestselling series and television drama on CBC, which Jennings has also written scripts for. The latest instalment in the series, Let Darkness Bury the Dead, traces what happens when the detective's son returns home from war injured and carrying dangerous secrets. 

Jennings is also the author of Heat Wave, the first book in a new crime series. Set in 1930s Toronto, the novel stars private detective Charlotte Frayne.

Jennings stopped by The Next Chapter to answer its version of the Proust Questionnaire.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

"I would like to be less timid in certain situations. In some situations, my deep early training to always be extremely polite and never rock the boat takes over from me saying, 'What!' I am working on changing it, but certainly that is something I'd like to eradicate completely." 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

"Cold. I hate cold weather. Slogging around in the dog park — which you need to do if you have a dog — can be the depth of misery. The wind's taking the skin off your face and so on. Yeah, that's the depth of misery." 

The quality you most admire in a man?

"Courage. It's related to me not being very brave, I suppose. I grew up in England during the war and post-war periods, where there was so much fear and sorrow. To have some person, and it seems particularly a man, to come forward and to take care of that, I admire that a lot. I admire women too, for sure. But this question is about a man — and I definitely admire that integrity. They go together, courage and integrity, as far as I'm concerned."

I've been rather ridiculous about driving around trying to find a place where I can have an iced latte. That is definitely my biggest extravagance...- Maureen Jennings

Where would you like to live?

"Other than living here, where my roots are, I absolutely would love to live in Ludlow, Shropshire, England, which is where we go every year. It's a little old woolen town which goes right back to the 1200s. It's beautiful. I love it. That's a definite: if the weather was better, I definitely would live there if possible."

What is your greatest extravagance? 

"I really like iced lattes. One a day. I've been rather ridiculous about driving around trying to find a place where I can have an iced latte. That is definitely my biggest extravagance, that and going into a pet store and spending $100 on dog treats, which our dog will devour in ten minutes. That's extravagant."

What's your greatest regret?

"I wish that I hadn't gone through an alienation phase with my mother. We ended up completely resolving that — and I was very happy that, in the last few years of her life, we were quite close. But there was a time where I was rebellious and rather nasty. And I regret that."

What's your greatest achievement?

"It's probably now: the books that I've been able to write and the television show. Certainly Murdoch Mysteries is touching a lot of people. That is amazing to me; I'm proud of that. I certainly didn't do that alone, by any means, but I'd say that's probably my greatest achievement."

The CBC television adaptation Murdoch Mysteries stars Yannick Bisson as Detective William Murdoch who uses innovative investigative techniques to solve murders in early 20th century Toronto. (CBC)

Maureen Jennings' comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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