Mystery author Cynthia Riggs
stands in the front hall of her ancestral home in West
Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Stephen Wesley.
Mystery on Martha's Vineyard
By Stephen Wesley for The Quill, monthly newsletter
She has been called a cutthroat,
killer, massacrer, executioner, slaughterer, and a slayer
of islanders. With this in mind you can understand why the
rumors surrounding mystery author Cynthia Riggs are wide and
varied. After spending some time in her ancestral home Cleaveland
House which was built by her ancestor James Athearn,
a judge during the Revolutionary War, I was able to separate
the fun facts from the fiction.
In regard to the rumor that she has skeletal remains in her
home...the answer is yes. Underneath the portrait of her grandfather,
whaling Captain James Cleaveland, there lies a whale bone
caught by his crew. Above the portrait is the family Japanese
ceremonial spear inlaid with mother of pearl. A gift to the
Captain on an excursion to Japan.
When asked about the rumor of her raising poisonous mushrooms
Ms. Riggs responded, Well, Ill be swashbuckled,
Ive never heard that one before. Her father Dr.
Sydney Riggs had attempted to grow edible mushrooms in the
basement of Cleaveland House. The idea of poisonous mushrooms,
or amanitas, being grown by Cynthia Riggs could stem from
two places. First, she is a an avid gardener and self sustainer
raising everything from grapes and raspberries to Swiss chard
and butternut squash, as well as tomatoes from the deadly
nightshade family. Also, poisonous mushrooms are used as the
modus operandi for the murderer in her fifth novel
Jack in the Pulpit.
Finally yes, she was given a key to the city of Butler, Alabama
but has unable to find the lock. She does raise bees, but
they are not killer bees. The honey is combined with that
of other farms on Marthas Vineyard under the label of
Katama Honey; a great way to sweeten a cup of hot tea while
reading about the exploits of 92 year old sleuth Victoria
- Mushrooms and Mystery on Martha's Vineyard
first appeared in the December 2009 edition of The Quill.
It is reprinted here with permission from the author Stephen
Wesley and The