Thursday, October 17, 2013

Murder in the Spa

I've just found the location for the opening scene of my third thriller. No, I'm not kidding.

Who opens a thriller with a scene at a spa? This girl, I suppose. And I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise, given that my last novel, through no conscious choice of my own, ended up opening on a nude beach. It's funny how settings (and characters, for that matter) just barge right in and novel-bomb one's latest piece of writing without even so much as an introductory handshake.

This time, it's the spa. Specifically, it's the Spa: The one around which the town of Spa, Belgium sprang up (pun fully intended.) The one from which all other spas take their universal nomenclature.
The word "spa" is thought to descend, as so many things do, from ancient Rome. These healing waters in the mountains of Belgium, once visited by the likes of Pliny the Elder, birthed the Latin phrase Sanus Per Aquam, meaning "health through water." How lovely. Follow the acronym and you get the word "SPA."

Other famous visitors to these therapeutic springs included Peter the Great, Charles II, and everyone's favorite head-hunter, Henry VIII. The natural elixir bursting forth from the underground here is rich in calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, and bicarbonate (a.k.a. baking soda.) So its healing properties are not a myth: we realize today that each of these minerals is essential.

Indeed, from their discovery in Roman times, to the development of the city of Spa in the 15th century, to today, these waters are where people go to detox and rejuvenate. They are recommended for anemia, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disorders, rheumatism, gynecological disorders, mental fatigue and stress. And they always have been.

Perhaps Henry VIII should have spent more time here.
So what does all of this have to do with a thriller? Well, I'm sure you can imagine all sorts of possibilities. Drowning in the mineral baths (duh). Strangulation during an overzealous deep tissue massage. Being thrown from the top of the mountain or a drop of arsenic in your mineral water. But you'd be dead wrong.

You see, the protagonist of this WIP is a healer. Having recently discovered The Vesuvius Isotope, Katrina Stone has now built a pharmaceutical empire around the therapeutic properties of natural elements. And so, in pursuit of science and medicine, she must visit the spa of Spa.

Ah, the hardships of field research.

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in the third Katrina Stone novel, in progress by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel, in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 

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