Literary Locations: West Baden Murders Series

I’ve told this story too many times to count, but I discovered the works of Patrick J. O’Brian by happenstance while perusing the gift shop at West Baden Springs Resort & Hotel.  He had written a murder mystery trilogy (at the time) set in the historic location.  I was fascinated by the idea of reading a mystery featuring the location where I was staying so I gave it a shot.  When I realized we lived in the same area, I fanboyed out a little bit and may have resorted to a small amount of internet stalking.  I don’t really like to use words like “stalking,” but that’s what the police called it, so…anyway.  It all worked out for the best and the rest is history.

That trilogy, aptly named The West Baden Murders Series has since turned into a series of six books with more possibly on the way.  Recently, I found myself holed up in the resort for a work conference.  (Darn the bad luck, huh?? That place is nothing short of amazing!)  Once the daily sessions ended for the conference, I couldn’t resist the urge to venture around the grounds and snap some pictures of locations from the series.  Yes, I’m a nerd, and I’m totally fine with that.  So let’s check out some of the sights then, shall we?

The arched entrance to the hotel. This landmark doesn’t serve much of a role in the series, other than getting a mention or two upon characters arriving at the resort. What better way to kick off a virtual photo tour than at the beginning of the property?

The red capped dome in the picture covers an expansive atrium inside the heart of the resort.  When it was constructed in 1902, it was the biggest free-standing dome in the world, giving it the proper nickname as the eighth wonder of the world.  Pictures of the famed hotel are nothing short of gorgeous, but they can never quite capture the true awesomeness of the building that you get from seeing it in person.

 

As mentioned, the grand atrium lends itself to taking spectacular photos, which are even better at night when the dome is lit up.  This picture above makes it clear why this setting is so fitting to have a killer lurking in the shadows.  Think of all the horrific things that could be done with the overhead trellises, and all the rooms that would serve as ideal hiding places.  Is that a cloaked figure on the balcony across the way??  This hotel, and the atrium in particular is described in great detail throughout the entire series.

When dead bodies start popping up, typically the police get called in to investigate.  That’s exactly what happens in Reaper, the first book of the series.  As an Indiana State Trooper approaches the entrance to the main lobby, he instantly gets cut down by a psychopath wielding a scythe.  The crest in the photo above is likely the last thing the officer saw as he approached the doors.

The end of Reaper comes down to a face-off, as most fictional stories often do.  The protagonist, Paul Clouse, stares down his enemy and a scuffle ensues in a tower around the outer edge of the hotel.  I don’t want to ruin anything, but the tower pictured above is where that fateful showdown takes place.  I’ll leave out the part about who the antagonist is, and how the struggle concludes (although since there are 5 subsequent books, it’s pretty safe to assume that the main character makes it out okay).  The towers don’t seem to have public access, so I probably wouldn’t recommend trying to climb them…although, I can only imagine the sights from up there would be fantastic!

Next on our tour is the sunken garden, which is located directly adjacent to the historic hotel. The building at the back of the garden in the picture once housed a bowling alley. Unfortunately, due to poor planning, it was constructed in a flood plane and the interior of the structure was ruined from water damage. The series will teach you about that and add a little more flair to this location through the fictional happenings in the stories.

Not pictured: there’s a small cemetery along a hill next to the resort. From the vantage point of the picture above, the cemetery lies directly to the right of the garden. Unfortunately, the brick driveway was under construction during my visit and I wasn’t able to gain access to that area. Womp womp. Luckily for the books, construction never stopped the action from spilling into the small graveyard.

Before I left town, I just had to check out the Pete Dye Golf Course. Not because I like the sport (I don’t), but because the clubhouse served as the inspiration for the entire setting of book 4, Snowbound.  The whole story takes place during a blizzard, and the characters are stranded in the Taggart Mansion, which holds a whole host of supernatural surprises. The place is beautiful, as you can see, and there’s no wonder why O’Brian was interested in using this location in his story.

And there we have it – a few of the breath-taking sights as described in the West Baden Murders Series.  I can’t recommend a weekend getaway at these amazing properties enough, and if you haven’t already started reading these books, then what are you waiting for??

Thank you, that is all.

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