I need motivation. Not motivation for why a regular person resorts to murder, but motivation for why ordinary citizens would involve themselves in the investigation. I'm hoping that writing about the issue will help me devise a motive for Gwyn in the third Blossom Valley book.
While readers already know the protagonist will look for clues and solve the crime when they start reading a murder mystery, they still need a solid reason for why someone, especially an amateur sleuth, would become involved in a random death and potentially put their own life at risk. That's why so many books have the police suspect the main character or a family member/loved one. What better motive to solve the case than to save a loved one from a potential jail sentence? But that only works for one book. Having another family member on the hook for murder in the next book would be too repetitive.
And if the coworker/brother/best friend isn't the prime suspect in a book, then the amateur sleuth usually has some type of relationship with the murder victim, whether it be romantic or merely friend-based. A personal connection propels the protagonist to seek justice for their dead friend. Years ago, I watched Jake and the Fatman regularly and remember this particular plot device cropped up frequently. When the two detectives moved from LA to Hawaii, every week would see the death of yet another friend or acquaintance of one of the guys, leading me to wonder how they could possibly know so many people who eventually wound up dead. What are the odds? Wouldn't the police start to suspect them? If I was their friend, I'd pack up and move.
I must confess, when I'm reading a book, I generally pay no attention to why the main character is investigating. I just want to get to the dead guy and see if I can figure out who did it. That's probably why I'm stumped when trying to find a good motive for Gwyn in the third book. Back when Gwyn was a newspaper reporter, career progression while outdoing her coworker seemed like a valid reason for Gwyn to investigate a murder. Plus, covering the story would be part of her normal job responsibilities. But now she works at a spa. As the marketing representative. Not much motivation there. And taking time to interview suspects will keep her from her regular work, thus endangering her job, or at the very least, gaining her a reprimand from her boss.
I've already plotted out most of the book. Gwyn attends a Green Living festival and the woman in the adjoining booth is murdered. Gwyn had a run-in with the police in the first book, so I'm hesitant to have the police suspect her in this one. Her other motive for solving that case was to help the spa owner save her business when the guests fled. So endangering the spa business in the third book wouldn't work. And Ashlee is the prime suspect and reason Gwyn gets involved in the second book. To make it even more difficult, the murder victim in this third book is a total stranger, thus Gwyn would not feel compelled to investigate due to a personal connection.
Which leaves me fresh out of ideas for a motive. So if you think of anything, feel free to share.