Why would I set a counterfeiting romantic suspense story in rural Indiana? As usual, research is the answer.


I discovered an article from 1883 describing the successful arrest of the Honchins (or Houchins, depending on the resource) gang by a joint effort of the Secret Service and US Marshals. The gang was responsible for not only counterfeiting, but killing stock, stealing, and terrorizing the citizens with threats, insults, and violence. Even the local police were afraid to stand up against them. Stendal was the original town I was going to use, but I ended up creating a sister town next to Stendal so that I could set up the building locations and population to better suit my needs. While the original undercover Secret Service operatives spent months covering three or more counties, I needed to focus my area a little more confined for the sake of plotting. Below you can find information on several real locations from the story, including pictures of my visit to the real Stendal. 

Stendal owes its beginnings to the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church which was formed in 1861. Services were held in members’ homes until 1864, when a church was built. In 1867, Reverend William G.C. Bauermeister became the first resident pastor. Land was donated to form the town, and he named it Stendal after his birthplace in Saxony.

As is usually the case with rural locations, modern-day Stendal is a shadow of the town it once was. While it was always small compared to other areas, it was once a booming little town. This was largely due to Stendal being many miles from any railroad or waterway with nearly impassible roads and trails, making it necessary to be a self-contained town.

From: A History of Lockhart Township by McKinley Hagemeyer

“Stendal at one time had a tobacco barn, a cooper’s shop, cobbler’s shop, two furniture and casket factories, two blacksmith shops, a millinery, a wagon works, a brickyard, a livery stable, a gristmill, a sawmill, a creamery, a flour mill, a canning factory, three churches, three doctors, an undertaker, a barber shop, a saddle and harness shop, and, of course, few towns would be self-contained without a saloon and hotel. Stendal had those too. The same causes which brought these industries drove them away: bad roads, poor transportation, plus another, automation. When the need for them passed, they too surrendered to progress.”
Photos of my trip to Stendal and photos of Stendal’s glory days.

One of my favorite parts of the Boonville setting was visiting the Boonville Jail. Well, visit it in fiction. I never had the pleasure of visiting it in real life. I know there was a big push to have the building restored in 2019, but there have been no more posts from the group pushing for it since then.

The Boonville Jail

The Warrick County Jail was built in 1876 and was state-of-the-art for its time. I had running water for sinks, toilets, and showers. The cells were made of straight and corrugated iron bars. The building had a large yard surrounding it and large windows with glazed glass. The jail was built in two sections. The main level of the front part held a food pantry, kitchen, parlor, and main hall. The upstairs was used as living quarters for the sheriff and his family and space to hold female prisoners. From my understanding, the kitchen had a steel door barrier to the prisoners, and it was the responsibility of the sheriff and his family to cook and serve meals to the prisoners. Meals were cooked for the prisoners and delivered to their cells.

The back half was one and a half stories tall with 12 prison cells. It had high arched ceilings for airflow and to prevent escape attempts. In each lighted and ventilated cell, there were two bunks, a sink, and a toilet. The walls were 22 inches thick and plated on the inside with boiler iron.  Below are a few pictures of the jail.

Here are some pictures of Boonville back in the 19th century.


  • Landkreis is a made-up town inspired by the real Stendal, Indiana. Back in the day, Stendal was where many of the family-owned coal miners went to do business. It was a bustling small town, but now is a sleepy little town with a mostly abandoned “downtown.
  • The inspiration came from a real case where a gang of counterfeiters had taken over the hills of Pike, Dubois, Warrick, and Crawford counties in Indiana. It took months for the Secret Service and U.S. Marshals to infiltrate and arrest the dangerous gang. One of the Secret Service operatives sold a home remedy to locals that actually healed some minor ailments as his way to gain the trust of the counterfeiters and community.
  • The inspiration for Walt being poisoned by poison berry pie came from a giant weed growing in Crystal’s backyard with beautiful, plump berries. After researching the plant, she was determined to use it in a story one day.
  • Not long after writing the scene where Oscar suffered poisoning from the berries, Crystal was caring for her mother-in-law after a knee replacement. When her mother-in-law asked for a fried egg sandwich, Crystal decided to use one of the eggs that had come from a family member’s farm . . . and ended up giving her food poisoning. She didn’t know how it happened until she went to make brownies and tasted the batter. They joked that Crystal had intentionally poisoned her for research purposes, but Crystal swears she did not. The jury’s still out on whether or not the family really believes her.
  • The Booneville jail really did serve as the Sheriff’s residence at the time. In fact, the building still stands and there was a push for a while to have it protected and reopened for tours. The front portion of the house was the residence, and the entrance to the prisoner cells was through the kitchen. The Sheriff and his family were responsible for caring for the prisoners.
  • The City of Kansas (now Kansas City) Chief of Police, Thomas M. Speers was a real man who served an unheard-of 21-year term as Chief after having already spent four years elected as Town Marshall. Speers created a “rogues gallery” system of tracking known criminals and preventing them from committing crimes in his town. He knew the face, name, and record of every miscreant listed and they knew him, too, causing them to usually avoid Kansas City at all cost. If their business demanded their presence in the city, they would inform the Chief, be taken in front of the officers at roll call and told if any crimes of their renown were committed, they would be the first one held accountable. In addition to this, Chief Speers often scolded, but did not press charges, against younger promising citizens caught running afoul of the law. It was this that led to the inspiration of Andrew Darlington’s being given a second chance.

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