Tag Archives: 17th century mysteries

From the Charred Remains Historical Mystery by Susanna Calkins: Available in Paperback + Review

charred remains 2

Review~

From the Charred Remains, the second book by Susanna Calkins in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series, comes out March 17, 2015 in paperback, after publishing last year in hardcover and e-book format. I’m celebrating with a review today, as I read it last year and inadvertently left it in my drafts section! That was remiss of  me, because I really liked this book and I’d been excited to tell you about it.

I read the first book in her historical mystery series, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, when it came out in 2013, you can see that review HERE and an interview about her debut HERE. If you haven’t read either, I suggest both. In reading them all, you’ll get to know Lucy better; however, these can also be read stand alone as Susanna does a wonderful job of including enough information that you won’t be missing too much. And coming in April 2015, is her third book in the series, The Masque of a Murderer.

Lucy is a chambermaid, a former chambermaid as we read this book two of the series, and I was thrilled to see that she was taking on a different job, working at the print shop in publishing and selling! Right there, that part of book peaked my interest. I loved the early description of how the printing press worked, the intricate block system. I felt myself as if I were Lucy, experiencing it all. Lucy as a quality about her that makes her seem very authentic. As a journalist and lover of books, like many other inquisitive minds, I knew that Lucy becoming an apprentice in this world would only serve her well with her curiosity (and if she happened upon any other murders, of course).

In the 1600s in England, printing was a busy profession and one that set the pulse of the area lived, as people read their news and opinions through the written word on paper and in book form that were sold amid the streets daily. Many time political, religious, and social outrage graced the pages, as well as propaganda. However, working in this field allowed Lucy, as a single woman, some freedom of movement that other women might not be allowed.

I loved Susanna’s characterization of Lucy in A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, but I enjoyed even more her growth in this second book. I really appreciated her determination and confidence in creating a life for herself. She’s a very detailed and analytical person and that’s someone with whom I can relate. Plus, it’s perfect for solving murders, of which Lucy just can’t seem to get away from, even if she isn’t sure that something she truly wants to continue to do in her life! But aren’t the greatest sleuths like that…they are rather unlikely and kind of just fall into the role. That allows us, as readers, I think to see a more authentic view, almost as if we are able to solve the murder ourselves too.

I thought the book was so interesting historically as Susanna set it during the time of the Great London Fire of 1666, which overtook much of the central part of London destroying about 80,000 homes in the process and many churches. The fallout from that was economic and social issues as many were without homes, work, or their goods. Rebellion simmered at an already volatile time. Susanna sets up the murder in her book in a way that utilizes this turning point in Restoration London history by having a body be found, one charred during the fire, when all is extinguished, and laying with a knife in its chest. Was this person murdered before the flames ignited? What are the strange items found by the body? Lucy gets right to exploring this question with Constable Duncan, putting her intelligence and wit to the test.

All of the historical detail, Lucy’s personality, and the mysterious plot all made this reader turn the pages with lightening speed. Sometimes historical detail can bog down a mystery, as well as the writing style, but Susanna’s books don’t do either. The historical description is just enough to make a reader feel as if they’ve entered the time and place, while her sentences are well-constructed and flow with ease. There are a myriad of twists to keep you on your toes and engaged.

Susanna is one of the best historical mystery writers on the market today! From the Charred Remains enticed me, educated me, and most of all entertained me, and I am looking with eager anticipation to the next books in her series. Susanna is very original and stands on her own well in the 17th Century historical fiction mystery genre. In this era of historical mysteries, there aren’t many others who write and research with as much captivating quality.

Charred RemainsFrom the Charred Remains, Synopsis

Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)

Paperback, 352 pages; Also available hardback or e-book
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 17, 2015-Paperback; 2014 Debut Hardback)

It’s 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady’s maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact–the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.

Searching for a purpose now that there’s no lady in the magistrate’s household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can’t help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself.

With From the Charred Remains, Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.

Praise for Susanna Calkins~

“Susanna Calkins makes Restoration England come alive in her terrific debut, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate. Murder, romance, and flawless social history combine into a beautifully crafted mystery that captivates until the very last page.” —Stefanie Pintoff

“Calkins’s debut brings London on the eve of the Great Plague to vivid life . . . the high quality writing augurs well for future outings.” —Publishers Weekly

“Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the [killer] entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax . . . This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London.” —Booklist

“Calkin’s debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail. Even mystery mavens who winkle out the killer may well enjoy the story anyway.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[An] excellently written, well-researched and engaging debut.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

Purchase Links~

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Susanna Calkins Biography~

calkinsSUSANNA CALKINS became fascinated with seventeenth-century England while pursuing her doctorate in British history. A former pirate, she once served on the Golden Hinde–a museum replica of Sir Frances Drake’s ship–now dry docked in the Thames. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons.

The Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (2013), featuring Lucy Campion, is her first novel and was shortlisted for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). Her second novel is From the Charred Remains (2104) and was shortlisted for a Lovey and recently nominated for LCC Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third mystery in the Lucy series is set to come out in April 2015, called The Masque of a Murderer.

You can contact Susanna Calkins at s.calkins.nu@gmail.com or like her author page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorSusannaCalkins or on Twitter @scalkins3.

Find her on the web at: www.susannacalkins.com

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Townsfolk Caught in 17th Century Strife and Crafting a Proper Mystery: Interview with D.W. Bradbridge

I’m excited for this interview today with D.W. Bradbridge! His book, The Winter Siege, is a well-told 17th Century mystery with the background of local history during a very tumultuous time. You can see my review from yesterday, HERE. He was a pleasure to talk with and he’s given us some very inside knowledge of his research, his book, his writing, and much more. Enjoy!

Hi D.W.! Thanks for coming by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I have been looking forward to talking with you! The Winter Siege has been the perfect read for me right now, as in Ohio we are covered in snow! How are you faring overseas?

D.W.: Thanks for inviting me, Erin. I appreciate it. I think the weather in the UK has been a lot milder than you’ve had it in the US. Nevertheless, we had our annual battle re-enactment celebration in Nantwich on Saturday and we were hit with thunder, lightning and a huge hailstorm. I think I prefer, the snow, to be honest.

Erin: I’d prefer snow to that too!! And I don’t mind a soft snow much, but we’ve been having temps in the -40 degrees with wind chill and my kids are working on the fourth day missed of school! Yes! I’d love to have a sit down in your favorite bookstore, with a cup of steaming tea and discuss some fabulous topics…history, books, writing…and certainly YOUR book!

D.W.: You’re very welcome, my local bookstore in Nantwich is very friendly and makes a great cup of tea!

Erin:  Wonderful. I’d love an English Breakfast Tea. Let’s get started!

The Winter Siege

Q:  I know you have a long-standing love of genealogy and local history!  How did that inspire you to write your book and are either one of those two things involved in your storyline in The Winter Siege?

A: I was brought up in Bolton, which is about 60 miles from Nantwich, but my mother always used to tell me about her Cheshire ancestors. When I moved to Nantwich 14 years ago, I started to research our local history and it was then that I realized that the English Civil War battle that took place in these parts provided a fascinating story that needed to be told. Genealogy itself does not play a role in the story, although I do have a Cheswis in my family tree.

Q:  Why do you think it is important to share and tell the ‘lost stories’ of people in history? As many as have been told, there are still so many to draw upon. What can their stories teach the next generation?

A: I think the character of a town can be moulded by the inhabitants’ collective experience over time. The events that took place in Nantwich during the winter of 1643-44 must have been incredibly traumatic for the people who lived there, and it’s worth pointing out that, had things turned out differently for local populace, Nantwich would probably be a very different place today. What I got most out of discovering this story was tremendous respect for the fortitude of the townsfolk of Nantwich during the siege. I think it’s worthwhile thinking about the contribution previous generations have made from time to time.

Q:  How much research went into The Winter Siege?  What interesting tidbit did you come across that surprised you?

A: Historical accuracy was important to me, so I read just about every contemporary account of the battle, as well as carrying out other research such as looking into the role of the village constable in the 17th century, the structure of the salt trade in Cheshire and the history of Cheshire cheese. I think the aspect of the English Civil War that will surprise most people is the fact that support for King or Parliament was never black and white. Although Nantwich was largely parliamentarian in its sympathies, there were still plenty of royalists about.

Erin: Did you say Cheshire cheese??! Yum! And yes, that is true and I see your point. It seems many took the side that best ensured their survival. All lines were muddy.

Q:  Is your book fairly historically accurate or does it run more as a fictional crime drama set during a point in history?

A: What I’ve tried to do is to create a very accurate and detailed historical framework to the novel and then weave a fictional murder plot around the real events. History offers only a partial snapshot of what happened at any given point in time, and is often seen through eyes that are biased in some way. So what I’ve tried to do is to create a “what-if” scenario. Many of the episodes in the book – even some of the minor ones, actually happened, but it’s for the reader to decide what is real and what is fiction.

Q:  In reality, how did the people within Nantwich fare during this ‘lockdown’ period of their life, where they were caught between two intense factions vying for power?

A: The siege itself must have been a pretty miserable experience, especially towards the end of the siege when food began to run out. But at least they had roofs over their heads. The besieging royalists would have largely camped out in the open air in freezing temperatures. I won’t spoil the story by revealing what happens, but I think, in retrospect and given different circumstances, things could have been much worse for the people of Nantwich than they actually were.

Q:  How long was your process to complete your novel? What were some of your challenges and some milestones or success you had in working on it?

A: It took about two years from start to finish. For my day job I run a small publishing company producing business magazines for the tire industry, so my biggest challenge was seeing whether I could transpose the skills I had learned as a journalist into a completely different kind of writing. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether I’ve been successful .

Erin:  It seems you have! I struggle with that myself quite a bit actually. I have an issue getting into my creative writing due to my structured journalist style. I am also curious to hear how others make the transformation.

Q:  How did you create your lead protagonist and his characteristics? Was he based on someone from history, a person you know, did he just appear to you….?

A: It was important to me to create a lead character who the reader would care about and, indeed, who I would care about, but he had to be a real character with flaws – so Daniel is somewhat reserved, wants to please too many people at times and has some obsessive-compulsive traits. He also compromises himself professionally out of misguided loyalty to one of his friends. To be honest, the basis of his character was formed at the start of the creative process, but he developed naturally as the book went on.

Q:  What do you feel worked for you well in terms of preparing and completing your historical novel? How did you keep the historical aspect and the plotted mystery all straight in your mind and on paper?

A: All writers are different in how they prepare their work. I spent the weekend with two other writers who told me they don’t prepare a structure to their novels at all – they just let the plot flow. I’m a planner though, so I prepared a template of the plot split into chapters, then filled in the historical details in note form before sitting down and writing the story. This helped me with the convoluted plot line as well as with the pacing of the novel. For me it was like filling in a tapestry.

Q:  What other time periods or situations in history do you favor?  Have you thought about writing on any of them?

A: I have plans to write a novel set in Mauritius during the Napoleonic Wars but that’s a long way off. My plans for the next few years are to follow the fortunes of Daniel Cheswis and his friend s and family as they negotiate the rest of the English Civil War. The sequel to The Winter Siege will be called A Soldier of Substance and will hopefully be published towards the end of the year.

Erin: I like the sounds of both of those!

Q:  You seem like you’ve been having a great time publicizing and promoting your book at bookstores and so forth. Very creative! How does it feel to have completed a goal or fulfilled a dream?

A: Fantastic! It’s a real sense of achievement, especially talking to people who’ve read the book. But the job is only half done. Being a self-published author, I now have to take on the task of marketing the book properly.

Q:  Where can readers or fellow writers connect with you?

A: Via my website http://dwbradbridge.com or via e-mail at dw@dwbradbridge.com. I’m always happy to connect with readers or fellow writers.

Q:  Where can you books be bought in the US, UK, and internationally?

A: In the US via Amazon and Smashwords. The book is also available through a number of independent bookstores in the UK and those are listed on my website.

Erin:  Thank you so much, D.W., for sharing a bit of your world with me and my readers! And I love the cover of your novel too, by the way! Very attention grabbing! I wish you best of luck in future writing endeavors. Stay in touch!

D.W.: Thank you. I certainly will. It’s been great talking to you.

The Winter Siege, Synopsis~

The Winter SiegePublication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.

While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.

When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.

He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.

With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.

When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Buy Links

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

The Winter Siege_Tour Banner _FINAL

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A Superb Mystery in British Historical Fashion: The Winter Siege by D.W. Bradbridge

I love this cover!!

I love this cover!!

The Winter Siege, by D.W. Bradbridge, was a terrific winterized read for me living here in the polar vortex for the last week or two. It’s so cold I could almost feel the pain of the villagers of Nantwich, who had to endure such freezing weather elements while also living in fear and turmoil that was all around them. The village, which was a hot pocket for the 17th century feud between King Charles I and Parliament, is ripe with tension. It’s not surprising that someone gets murdered.

And that’s the key to what the novel is really all about–the murder mystery. Though Bradbridge has certainly done an immense amount of local research on the Nantwich subject, as well as the strife between the Crown and Parliament, the book doesn’t have a heavy read to it. It’s only used to build a foundation in which he creates a “what if” and “whodunnit” scenario that engages and intrigues the reader. I was pleasantly surprised how much his mystery lured me in. He creates a sleuth protagonist in Constable Cheswis, who seems already overburdened by the happenings of his own life and preparing for civil war around him, yet he finds a way to widdle away at the possible reason why his townsfolk are being killed and marked as traitors. Bradbridge creates a believable and authentic character who I found myself urging on in his pursuit, while also trying to figure out the clues myself almost like I was his deputy.

These 17th century mysteries, especially those surrounding a military occurrence such as this siege, can be hard to focus as sometimes historical detail can overburden the mystery.  However, Bradbridge does a phenomenal job of holding back just enough so that we can’t guess right out and yet also enough so that we aren’t bored. He never lets his historical education of the time period overpower his plot. The historical background was interesting though as well and his plot thick, well-done, and engaging. I was turning the pages very fast and ending up reading more in several sittings than I had really meant to as I wanted to find out what was happening next!! By the end, I was surprised and satisfied how he had wrapped it up!

I like how he uses the tight quarter fit of this volatile situation and turns it into an intense novel. As we can feel tempers flare, political unrest heighten, and people changing sides to save themselves, we begin to understand how things can easily get out of hand and no one can be trusted in Nantwich.

I’ve been enjoying many historical mystery novels of the 17th century lately and this one lines high up on the list. I certainly enjoyed my corner of the couch with blanket and comfy socks as I was captivated by The Winter Siege. I would highly recommend this book for any reader who wants a historical mystery that holds much more content and weight than most, especially since he utilizes a true historical event as the foundation. I can’t wait to read more mysteries with Daniel Cheswis at the helm!

The Winter Siege, Synopsis~

The Winter SiegePublication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.

While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.

When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.

He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.

With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.

When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Buy Links

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

The Winter Siege_Tour Banner _FINAL

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