Tag Archives: historical mysteries

Review: Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann – Historical Mystery

Review – Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann

02_Trial on Mount KoyaSeveral months ago I was fortunate enough to read Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann, which is the sixth book in her Shinobi Mystery series. Anyone follows my reviews must know by now how much I love this series, so I was highly anticipating this new one. The fifth book last summer, Betrayal at Iga, I had felt was her best yet, but I didn’t have much doubt that she’d still excel with this one as well. It released July 3, but I held my review until now as part of a larger scheduled publicity tour.

Once I found out that her childhood, and I suppose her adulthood, love of Agatha Christie inspired her to give a nod to And Then There Were None, my personal favorite Christie novel, I was instantly sold anyway. Couple that with ancient Japan, the same amazing characters in master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo, and Spann’s elegant writing, and I couldn’t wait to tear open the cover.

Publisher’s Weekly gave it a stellar review: “Cleverly riffs on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None… Spann has never been better at balancing mystery with the politics of the era.”

As I tell readers in my reviews with all these books, they can be read as stand-alone novels as far as each plot goes. But as with most mystery series in which same characters reside, you certainly get more out of the characters, their lives, and their development if you read the entire series, but it doesn’t matter much which one you start with, so if you choose this one, going back later to the first book and trending through would be pleasurable reading too.

In this adventure, Hiro is asked to go to Myo-In, a Buddist Temple on Mount Koya, to deliver a secret message to an Iga spy posing as a priest. Of course, in proverbial mystery style, a snowstorm arrives locking everyone in, and so does a killer, taking them out one-by-one.

First, it’s probably the best place to reiterate just how much Spann has been able to grow Hattori and Mateo throughout the series. Her character development leaves us as long-time series fans feeling as if we know these two in real life. That said, in each of her books, never more true than with this sixth book, her surrounding cast of characters are also very dimensionally developed even if they aren’t featured in more than one book. I love how her writing can be so descriptive and deep as to make us immediately be able to view these characters and their surroundings in our minds like we’re watching a movie. With Trial on Mount Koya specifically, the two main protagonists are in an enclosed setting, making it increasingly harder one would think to nurture a character outward, but Spann intricately, through dialogue and pace, shows us just how strong these men are when faced with such pressure. As always, one of the best parts of reading her books is the humor between the two gentleman, and from page one, it was right there, drawing me in feeling as if I was back traveling with friends (oh, and a cat!).

In talking about setting then, with the severe storm, they all are in enclosed and in tight circumstances, which makes this novel atmospheric and claustrophobic, just as a real classic Christie novel might or a good film. This plays well with Spann’s descriptive writing and her amazing handle on dialogue, leaving us as the reader on edge ourselves.

Spann’s writing is highlighted in this novel by her ability to challenge herself with each book, her adept use of cinematic prose, and her talent for suspense, this time psychological thrills. I felt on the edge of the movie theatre seat of mind for the entire read.

Not only was this a blast to read, and a much needed one for some reading stress relief, but it was also so interesting to learn more not only of Japan in past books, but of Buddhism and its history and meanings. Spann also, in lieu of the other political themes from 16th century Japan in her other books, shows us various cultures and personalities of priests and characters adorning the plot of this novel and how they intersect (or don’t) with each other, which was very interesting as well. As always, Spann is a wealth of knowledge, but you almost forget you’re learning as you’re wrapped up in her succinct and engaging plot.

Spann is currently climbing 100 summits in Japan and spent release day on Mount Koya. I can’t imagine a more spectacular way to celebrate another novel. If you only read one book a summer, I’d with great pleasure suggest reading Spann’s Shinobi Mysteries. Trial on Mount Koya beats out Betrayal at Iga for best of the series, and also is my favorite read of 2018 so far. Not many books for pleasure reading are capturing my attention at the moment, and as a book editor, many are making me halt and want to get out my red pen, but Trial on Mount Koya was like taking a grand vacation! This is what good reading is all about, fellow bibliophiles.

Trial on Mount Koya is a mystery full of suspense, chilling atmospheric tension, and unique characters that will keep you guessing till the last page when you’ll scream at your cat laying next to you, “I should have known!!” Spann fools me EVERY time. If you want a historical mystery full of substance, beautiful imagery, comedic dialogue, and serious killers pitted against a stubborn ninja, then Trial at Mount Koya is for you. Spann brings Agatha Christie to feudal Japan and takes mystery writing to the next level.

I can’t wait for the seventh book!!

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Trial on Mount Koya
by Susan Spann

Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Seventh Street Books
Paperback & eBook; 256 Pages

Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Hiro Hattori, Book #6

 

 

Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo head up to Mount Koya, only to find themselves embroiled in yet another mystery, this time in a Shingon Buddhist temple atop one of Japan’s most sacred peaks.

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.

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Praise for Trial on Mount Koya

“A page-turning and atmospheric historical mystery that beautifully melds fascinating Japanese history with a cleverly constructed mystery reminiscent of And Then There Were None—if the famous Agatha Christie mystery had been set in medieval Japan on a sacred mountaintop during a snowstorm.” —Gigi Pandian, USA Today–bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries

“Susan Spann is up front in saying that Trial on Mount Koya is an homage to Agatha Christie. Believe me, she does the great Dame Agatha proud. This excellent entry in Spann’s series of Hiro Hattori mysteries offers plenty of esoteric clues and red herrings that are fun to chase. Along the way, she even does Christie one better, giving readers a fascinating glimpse of life and religion in feudal Japan. This is a book sure to please Spann’s growing legion of fans as well as anyone who loves the work of Agatha Christie.” —William Kent Krueger, Edgar® Award–winning author of Sulfur Springs

Author Susan Spann

Susan Spann is the award-winning author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo.

Susan began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.

Susan is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year, a former president of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (National and Sacramento chapters), the Historical Novel Society, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is represented by literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency.

When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, photography, and hiking. She recently packed-up her home in Sacramento and moved to Japan with her husband.

For more information, please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can find Susan on Facebook and Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded the #PubLaw hashtag to provide legal and business information for writers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway!

As part of Historical Fiction Historical Book Tours, there is a giveaway of five (5) copies of Trial on Mount Koya! To enter, please click this title Trial on Mount Koya, which takes you to the Gleam link.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on August 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Interview with Historical Author Susanna Calkins about her 17th Century London Mystery Series

Today, I have an interview with historical mystery author Susanna Calkins, after previously publishing a review of her third novel earlier today! To read my review of The Masque of the Murderer, which releases mid-April 2015, read HERE.

Enjoy!

Hi Susie, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Always a pleasure to have you here with us! This time, you’ve recently had your second historical mystery book, From the Charred Remains, publish in paperback (3/17/15) and your third book, The Masque of the Murderer,  is about to release! You’ve come a long way fast since we first featured the first book in your Lucy Campion Mystery Series! How does it feel to have a third book coming out?

Susanna: Thank you so much for having me! These last few years have been such a blur, but it feels wonderful to see my third Lucy Campion mystery out and about in the world.

Erin: Yes, you are a very busy woman! We are fairly close in proximity, with you in Illinois and I in Ohio (though I know you are native Pennsylvanian!) so I thank you for blowing in from the land of the Windy City and into chilly Ohio. Let’s put on a pot of tea, let’s do something English? I might have some English Breakfast tea today. What would care for? Sugar and cream?

Susanna: Delightful! I’ll take mine with a little honey, if you have any.

Erin: Wonderful! I’ll pour right after I bring in some fresh baked mini-almond cakes! And now, we’ll have a seat and chat for awhile together. Let’s get started!

Susanna: Alright!

Q: You debuted as an historical mystery author in 2013 with A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, first in the Lucy Campion Mystery Series set in 17th Century London.  How does that first launch (in terms of nerves and know-how), and that first book (in terms of writing), compare with your third year of publishing and the upcoming third novel/writing the fourth?

Murder at..

A: That is a great question. I wrote my first novel in a little cocoon for years and years (well, let’s be honest, essentially a decade) just as my own personal pleasure.  So it was extremely nerve-wracking when I put my book out into the world.  Even my second novel, From the Charred Remains, was written in a little bubble, because I completed it before anyone had read the first. This third novel, The Masque of a Murderer, was the first one I wrote while actively promoting the first two. So some things are easier now, because I understand the process, and some things are more challenging, in terms of timing.

Q: What has been the best thing, or most useful thing, that you’ve discovered over these last several years of experience in writing a mystery series?

A: This probably seems obvious, but I never understood until From the Charred Remains came out that I am always promoting my first book.  And that makes complete sense—most people wish to read a book from the beginning of my series. Although I did write each book so that it could be read separately, I can see why people like to see how Lucy’s story began, and how she has grown over the first three books.

Q: When you first wrote A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, were you planning to create this series with Lucy at the helm? Can you explain, either way, about the process?

A: No, I didn’t even really understand the concept of “series potential,” because I was so new to publishing. So I did write the first book as a standalone, but I was quite sad when I finished because I wanted Lucy’s story to continue.  What happens after the Great Fire anyway…?

Q: In the second book, From the Charred Remains, I particularly liked the apprenticeship/assistant job that you created for Lucy, primarily since I love journalism and print publishing so much. I have a penchant for the history of print news and books. How did you research this particular business of the time, from the intricacies of the printing press to its role in society? What did you learn that intrigued you the most?

Charred Remains

A: When I was a graduate student in history, and later as a historian, I spent a lot of time reading through the cheap print of the 17th century—the strange and odd things that people wrote (“Strange News from Kent!” “A True Account of a Most Cruel Murder!”; “The Monster from York,” etc).  Additionally, I was intrigued by the print-making and bookselling trades—which actually were two separate trades, which I collapsed into one. When I started to read about how printing presses actually worked, I was fascinated by the way printers actually regarded the presses, almost as their wayward children or servants. They “bled” ink, they sometimes stopped working like recalcitrant servants etc.  So I found that pretty interesting.

Q: I’m assuming it would be terribly hard to find a way for a woman of the 17th century to not only be allowed to roam around single, but also to be privy to enough news to investigate anything more easily! In Sam Thomas’s books, he used a midwife, you’ve chosen to my delight to make Lucy a printer’s apprentice, allowing her to know all the latest news as well as be able to move around the streets on writing missions or selling of books. Do you feel it was important for a female to be featured as the lead amateur detective in your novel, why or why not?

A:Well, as a historian of women’s history, I’ve long been astounded by how women were so easily written out of history. Even if found a way to transcend the constraints around them, their accomplishments were often dismissed as unimportant. So, yes, to me, I wanted my lead to be female. And women who were servants or in trade actually had more freedom than gentlewomen and noblewomen.

Q: I think your characterization of Lucy was so well-done. I feel so connected to Lucy and am excited to read more of her adventures. She seems authentic and inquisitive. How did you construct her character? What personality traits did you intended for her to have as you wrote her onto the page?

A: I wanted Lucy to be curious about the world, and inquisitive in nature.  I also wanted her to be someone who sought to improve herself, by learning to read and write, which then opened her mind to bigger questions about bigger issues in the world. Throughout time and across the globe, there have always been people who managed to overcome humble beginnings, and I thought Lucy could be one of those people. I had to give her enough agency as well that if a murder happened and someone she knows is accused of the crime that she wouldn’t just say, “Alas, that’s a shame. But there’s nothing I can do.” It wouldn’t make for a very fun sleuth! 😉

Q: Is she destined to be single, or is romance coming within book three or four? Why or why not?

A:I have struggled with this a bit. Lucy does have two potential love interests—Adam Hargrave, the son of the magistrate, and someone whom I introduced more fully in book two, Constable Duncan.  Adam—her first love—is a bit above her station, which she clearly understands, while Duncan is a bit more at her level.  However, despite popular perceptions to the contrary, people in the laboring class and those of the “middling sort” actually did not get married until they were closer to age 25, because they needed time to establish themselves.  Only people of the upper class married when they were younger. So it is actually not that strange that Lucy would wish to hold off. She also knows that if she married Adam, she is likely to have to give up her occupation as a printer, which gives her pause as well.

Q: The 17th Century, and Restoration England/London, was a time and place dealing with much social, political, and religious upheaval. How did this play into your novel? Were there any lessons you hoped readers would pick up on in regards to social injustices, or did you just intended it to be more of an overall education of the time period intermixed with your mystery plot? These questions pertain to all or any of your books.

A: Another great question! I did deliberately bring in these larger social-cultural themes because I have always been interested in how those forces play out in the everyday lives of real people. Even though I am an educator, I did not mean the books to be textbooks, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised when readers say they have learned from reading my book.

Q: By the third book, The Masque of a Murderer, does Lucy decide that she enjoys figuring out these crimes or does she still feel like they keep falling into her lap? How or why?

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A: Lucy has been characterized as a “reluctant sleuth” by others, and I think that is an accurate depiction. She’s not hanging out the proverbial shingle as a detective; I’ve tried to design the mysteries that come her way as personal—she needs to become involved because someone she loves might be injured or blamed for a crime.

Q: How does The Masque of a Murderer differ from From the Charred Remains? This could be in historical foundation, characters, plot, etc.

A: The Masque of a Murderer is set a few months after From the Charred Remains leaves off. I set this one in the midst of a Quaker community, so I may have emphasized the ongoing religious tensions even more in this book. All of my books seem to bring in the idea of identity theft—because the communal ties were so disrupted by the plague and the Great Fire, that people could say they were someone else, and their neighbors are no longer around to deny or confirm their claims.

Q: I know there is a fourth novel on the way. What kind of historical research, if more, will you be doing for this novel in the series? What will be happening in London during the plot of book four?

A: I am currently writing A Death along the River Fleet. It is going to deal with madness and witchcraft. Yes, I always do a lot of research, reading books, and reading primary sources to support the fictional parts.

Q: Will there be more books in the Lucy Campion Mystery Series beyond book four that you are presently writing? Will you take on the 18th Century in London?

A: Fun question! I’ve decided that each book will only cover a few months of Lucy’s life at a time now. At this point I’m not contracted for books beyond A Death along the River Fleet, but I have a number of ideas that get me through the 1670s.  I’m not sure I can bring Lucy up to the 18th century or not…

Erin: Of course she may not, but you never know when a family member might come along and continue the legacy!

Q: Do you hope to write anything beyond this mystery series? What other times and places, or types of books, do you think about writing on? Pirates, maybe? 😉

A: I had actually thought about pirates, since I was a pirate in 16th century London. (well, I served aboard a replica of the 16th century Golden Hinde, which is currently dry-docked in the Thames. We were tour guides during the week, and pirates on the weekends. Not a bad gig. But I digress). I was interested in real pirate Mary Reed. However, I did write two other books, temporarily in the drawer, one set in 1930s Chicago, the other set in the sewers of Paris, set in late 19th century.

Q: Who is one of your favorite women, or role models, in history? Why or why not?

A: While I admire women like Queen Elizabeth and Eleanore Roosevelt, I really just admire lesser-known women who managed to write books even when people said they shouldn’t.  Like most of the Quaker women I studied in graduate schools.

Q: If you could travel this summer, where would you go and what kind of food would you beat the pavement to enjoy?

A: While I always enjoy travelling in England, Ireland and Scotland (and there are many places I’ve never been, like Wales, which I’d like to go), I have to admit everywhere I go after trying the local cuisine, I usually seek out an Indian restaurant, as that is my favorite cuisine. One day I am hoping to travel to India as well.

Q: I know you’ve been shortlisted for several awards for your books, which must feel tremendous! What an achievement! What do you feel is another success story for you?

A: Thank you. It has been such an honor to be nominated for a few historical mystery awards.  I guess as an author with a traditional press, I will view another contract as a huge success. I would, at some point, love to see the other books I’ve mentioned published as well.

Q: I’m glad to see historical mysteries of the rise. Do have any classic favorite mystery writers? Any current ones? What do you love the most about writing mysteries?

A: I grew up on Agatha Christie, so she is a personal favorite. But Anne Perry, Rhys Bowen, Charles Todd, Tasha Alexander, and Charles Finch all inspired me to write historical mysteries. And I have to say, its been such an honor and privilege to have met them all.  As for writing mysteries, I just love the puzzle of it all. Writing itself is a bit of a puzzle, and thinking through a mystery in particular, is my favorite type of puzzle.

Erin: Susie, thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself, your work, and your time with me! It’s always a joy to have you stop by. I wish you much success with entire series! 🙂

Susanna: You’re wonderful! Thanks for all you do for readers and authors alike.

Erin:  My pleasure!

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The Masque of the Murderer, Synopsis~

Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 323

Series: Book Three, Lucy Campion Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads

In Susanna Calkins’ next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her—that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.

Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate’s son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.

In The Masque of a Murderer, Susanna Calkins has once again combined finely wrought characters, a richly detailed historical atmosphere, and a tightly-plotted mystery into a compelling read.

Lucy Campion Mystery Series Titles

Book One: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate
Macavity Award Finalist Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (2014)
Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Selection (“Mystery Pick” and “Featured New Arrival”)
Chicago Book Review – Best Books of 2013

Book Two: From the Charred Remains (Paperback release on March 17, 2015)
Short-listed for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (2015)

Book Three: The Masque of a Murderer (coming April 2015!)

Praise for the Lucy Campion Mystery Series~

“…the high-quality writing augurs well for future outings.” -Publisher’s Weekly

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

“Calkins’ debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail.” -Kirkus

“A historical mystery with originality and great attention to detail. Readers are transported to 17th century England, a time when social classes were just beginning to change. The characters are multi-dimensional–including the smart, adventurous Lucy Campion–and the mystery will keep readers turning the pages, and they’ll eagerly await the next book in the series.” RT Book Reviews (4 Stars)

“…an intricate tale of fraud and blackmail, leavened by a touch of romance. Calkins, who holds a doctorate in British history, puts her knowledge to sparkling use in this intriguing mystery, which combines a gripping plot with rich historical detail and one of the most admirable protagonists in the genre.” -The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Calkins is able to seamlessly weave this romance into the story without making it the main plot line, and keeping the mystery the main focus of the story….The puzzles, anagrams, and many secrets combine to make intertwining plot twists that keep the pages turning. FROM THE CHARRED REMAINS is an exciting, secret filled, historical mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end.” –Fresh Fiction (Reviewer’s Pick)

“A good yarn and a fascinating look at life in England in a time when things began to change…social classes, positions, servants’ rights…all because of plague and fire.” -Book Babe Blog

“For me, this book was more than a mystery. It was an eye-opening look at what London was like in the mid-1660s, including the plague and fire that ravaged London, class struggle, the plight of women, and the laws of the time. The author’s engaging writing style made it easy to slip back into the past and experience these things with Lucy.” -Book of Secrets

“A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is Susanna Calkins’ absorbing debut novel. Just a warning that time WILL easily slip away as you become engrossed in this historical fiction mystery.” -1776 Books: A Philadelphian’s Literary Journey

Pre-Order the Book~

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Author Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsBorn and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, where she is an educator at Northwestern University.

With a PhD in history, her historical mysteries feature Lucy Campion, a 17th century chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, was a finalist for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity).

The second in this series, From the Charred Remains, is currently a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, The Masque of a Murderer, will be released in April 2015.

For more information and to subscribe to Susanna Calkins’ newsletter please visit her website. You can also follow her blog, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/themasqueofamurdererblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheMasqueofaMurdererBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #History #SusannaCalkins

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @scalkins3 @MinotaurBooks

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The Masque of a Murderer is Further Proof that Susanna Calkins Knows How to Write Historical Mysteries

It’s probably no big surprise to anyone that I am a Susanna Calkins fan. Her historical mystery novels set in 17th century England are some of my favorites in this genre, including her third Lucy Campion Mystery, The Masque of a Murderer, that I’ve recently pre-read prior to its April 14 hardback and e-book debut.

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If you’ve not read any books by Susanna, you can take a quick read of my review of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate HERE, an interview from 2013 HERE, and a review of the second novel, From the Charred Remains, HERE. That might give you more background of what I like about each novel, her writing style, and the characterization of main character Lucy, so that I don’t have to repeat myself too much.

Each mystery novel is written to be read standalone (that’s not just an opinion, it’s true, no matter what else you read), because each mystery is happened upon and solved within each book. The reason why it’s a series, and why you might want to read them all in order, is based on your own affinity for if you’d like to get to know more in-depth the background and set-up of the characters. I know that I’ve read all three in order and I can view Lucy’s progression as a woman with much more clarity and appreciation. However, even if you start with the third, or have missed the second, Calkins does a nice job of letting readers know, or reminding consistent readers, who each person is and how they align in Lucy’s life or within the plot. Removing myself and taking an overview look, I feel that you can follow Lucy’s progression, or just read Lucy for who she is in book three, and neither will make you feel as if anything is missing.

So all that disclaimer about the series aside, and delving into a review of The Masque of a Murderer, I feel that Calkins once again sets up 17th century London society in a way that is easily visualized to readers, whether it makes us cringe or not! The stench, freezing weather (and Thames), death, religious and political upheaval, crime, and ruins of the city and people’s homes does not seem very romantic. This isn’t the breezy countryside adorned with spring flowers. You’ll want to like dark mysteries that take on real history and societal truths if you delve into these.

Where the second book deals with the Great Fire and its economic and societal issues stemming from such a disaster, the third book leads in right after the fire and people’s displacement, about six months later, where bodies are carted away in mass and buried in group graves. Times are bleak. People seek out amusement in whatever gossip and stories they can find. This atmosphere is a great set-up to plot a mystery series, as not only is it very historically educational, but it is a perfect backdrop for a murder. With so much chaos and death, murderers could most likely get away with anything and bodies could be fairy well-hidden. Plus, when times are hard and people want change, all sorts of things can happen.

Lucy became a bookseller and a printer’s apprentice in the second book, and I think Susanna aligns the two trades seamlessly in books two and three. Though women would most likely not have such a job, Lucy is perfect at it and this allows her to be privvy to the news and gossip and roam the city in a much more easier way that any normal woman of the time. Her curiosity bug, and her need to help others, inadvertently materializes her into an amateur detective. At first she is leery of this, but by this third book, she seems to embrace it.

In The Masque of a Murderer, she is taking down the last words of a dying Quaker man, something that was common practice then. She attends the home of a Quaker gentleman, who only has hours to live after being run over by a cart and horse, alongside the distraught magistrate’s daughter who is also her former employer, Sarah.  Sarah herself had become a Quaker and feels its her duty to go and console the wife, while Lucy takes down the last words. During Lucy’s recording with him, the man reveals that someone has killed him due to a secret.

Lucy, now fairly more sure it’s her duty to keep others safe around her by solving the mystery, proceeds on the case through the cobbled and dark streets of London. Susanna once again creates an authentic world for us through her detailed descriptions, vivid and flowing sentences, dialogue, and use of words to peak our senses. Historically, she also lets us see through her writing lens to the ways of the Quakers. It was interesting to me, as though I’d read about Quakers in our early North America, I hadn’t really studied much about them from a London setting.

With plenty of further twists, turns, and revelations, Susanna’s The Masque of a Murderer shows how much her writing and plot weaving has improved further, leading us down a resounding path of gas street lamps, heavy dark cloaks, and people pretending to be who they are not. Lucy is entranced by intrigue and is a such a likable character, one in which I am truly connected. She almost seems so real to me, I forget she’s just imaginary. She’s courageous, intelligent, compassionate, and independent, which are all traits I admire in fellow women.

I’ve said it before, but in my opinion, Susanna is becoming one of the best historical mystery writers on the market. The Masque of a Murderer is a resounding winner. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

As far as comparisons, if you like Sam Thomas’ 17th century Midwife Mystery series or David Morrell’s Thomas De Quincey series in Victorian London, you’re sure to like Susanna Calkins’ Lucy Campion Mysteries.

The Masque of a Murderer, Synopsis~

02_The Masque of a Murderer_CoverPublication Date: April 14, 2015
Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 323

Series: Book Three, Lucy Campion Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads

In Susanna Calkins’ next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her—that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.

Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate’s son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.

In The Masque of a Murderer, Susanna Calkins has once again combined finely wrought characters, a richly detailed historical atmosphere, and a tightly-plotted mystery into a compelling read.

Lucy Campion Mystery Series Titles

Murder at..

Book One: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate
Macavity Award Finalist Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (2014)
Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Selection (“Mystery Pick” and “Featured New Arrival”)
Chicago Book Review – Best Books of 2013

Charred Remains

Book Two: From the Charred Remains (Paperback release on March 17, 2015)
Short-listed for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (2015)

02_The Masque of a Murderer_Cover

Book Three: The Masque of a Murderer (coming April 2015!)

Praise for the Lucy Campion Mystery Series~

“…the high-quality writing augurs well for future outings.” -Publisher’s Weekly

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

“Calkins’ debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail.” -Kirkus

“A historical mystery with originality and great attention to detail. Readers are transported to 17th century England, a time when social classes were just beginning to change. The characters are multi-dimensional–including the smart, adventurous Lucy Campion–and the mystery will keep readers turning the pages, and they’ll eagerly await the next book in the series.” RT Book Reviews (4 Stars)

“…an intricate tale of fraud and blackmail, leavened by a touch of romance. Calkins, who holds a doctorate in British history, puts her knowledge to sparkling use in this intriguing mystery, which combines a gripping plot with rich historical detail and one of the most admirable protagonists in the genre.” -The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Calkins is able to seamlessly weave this romance into the story without making it the main plot line, and keeping the mystery the main focus of the story….The puzzles, anagrams, and many secrets combine to make intertwining plot twists that keep the pages turning. FROM THE CHARRED REMAINS is an exciting, secret filled, historical mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end.” –Fresh Fiction (Reviewer’s Pick)

“A good yarn and a fascinating look at life in England in a time when things began to change…social classes, positions, servants’ rights…all because of plague and fire.” -Book Babe Blog

“For me, this book was more than a mystery. It was an eye-opening look at what London was like in the mid-1660s, including the plague and fire that ravaged London, class struggle, the plight of women, and the laws of the time. The author’s engaging writing style made it easy to slip back into the past and experience these things with Lucy.” -Book of Secrets

“A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is Susanna Calkins’ absorbing debut novel. Just a warning that time WILL easily slip away as you become engrossed in this historical fiction mystery.” -1776 Books: A Philadelphian’s Literary Journey

Pre-Order the Book~

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository
iTunes

Author Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsBorn and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, where she is an educator at Northwestern University.

With a PhD in history, her historical mysteries feature Lucy Campion, a 17th century chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, was a finalist for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity).

The second in this series, From the Charred Remains, is currently a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, The Masque of a Murderer, will be released in April 2015.

For more information and to subscribe to Susanna Calkins’ newsletter please visit her website. You can also follow her blog, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

04_The Masque of a Murderer_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/themasqueofamurdererblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheMasqueofaMurdererBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #History #SusannaCalkins

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @scalkins3 @MinotaurBooks

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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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Sam Thomas Delivers Stellar Third 17th Century Mystery Novel: The Witch Hunter’s Tale

Sam Thomas has recently published The Witch Hunter’s Tale, the third novel in his Midwife Mysteries! I have all the information below, plus my review of this stellar third mystery featuring midwife detective Bridget Hodgson.

witch hunter's tale_MECH_01.inddPublication date:
January 6, 2015

St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 320

Series: Book Three, The Midwife Mysteries Series
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.”

Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.

Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?

Review~

I love the midwife historical mysteries by Sam Thomas! He had me hooked from the first one, which was called A Midwife’s Tale and introduced us to the kind, hard-working, no nonsense midwife Bridget. I am not overly into midwifery by any means, but Sam takes his historical research experience of the 17th midwife life and couples it with period details and societal, religious, and political intrigue to plot out fabulous murder mysteries, which of course, Bridget inadvertently becomes involved in solving. He does also highlight the profession of delivering babies as well, which I’ve found has become quite interesting in its technique and manner. As a mom, it makes me cringe thinking what women went through back then in regards to childbirth.

Based on the idea that a midwife with a good name and some wealth can move just about anywhere in the street without the need of a man or husband, Sam can put his lead character Bridget in a good place to really search out clues that might not be an option for many other women in that era. Plus, she’s privy to all kinds of information that would be hard for anyone else to collect as she listens to her female clients’ gossips and understands the nature of all families in the area, whether wealthy or poor. The times are quite heated between people due to the English Civil War, which creates an air of fear and violence.

I have to say that this third mystery, A Witch Hunter’s Tale, has been my favorite of all so far. It could be because I am really interested in the history of witch hunts as well as witches, magic, and alchemy in history. The fact that the book’s mystery delved around the frantic time of the witch hunts being performed in South England, and religious fanaticism taking its hold northward where the series is set, truly had my attention the entire time. I do believe, however, that it’s also Sam’s finest novel to date due to his underlying tones of the persecution of women, and the double standards the laws created against women, as well as his portrayal of the religious fanaticism of the time and how it effected the country’s people and political structures.

I had just recently mentioned to another 17th century British mystery novelist, after reading a post on this site from Cat Cavendish about the infamous 17th century witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, that he’d be great to include in a mystery novel! Then I opened Sam’s book and saw his name mentioned! He wasn’t a character in Sam’s book, but there was some threatening of bringing him in to the area to pull out all the witches. However, the political leaders of the area, including Bridget’s uptight nephew, Joseph, and her nemesis, Rebecca, a former midwife, want all the power for themselves. They start hunting for witches and collecting them in the “gaols,” which Sam writes about with utterly horrid details that allow you, unfortunately, to smell and visualize the surroundings in a way that makes you never want to be transported to that time and place. However, his vivid descriptions are one of the amazing things about this book and they truly allow the reader to feel the plight of these suspected women.

So how does a midwife become involved in witch hunting? Since a midwife is concerned in birthing, she also serves to care for a woman’s body, therefore, she would be able to verify if a woman were a witch by finding a teat or witch’s mark on the body. Due to this, Bridget is quietly worried they will ask her to perform this exam, for if they are determined to hang someone as a witch, and have other proof, but as a midwife she finds the examination clear, she could be called a witch herself! Luckily, she has enough family prestige to not have a finger pointed at her, but some people will go to any means (even lying or killing) as a Searcher to torture and hang women, putting the fear of God into all the area.

Once the murder has occurred in the novel, Bridget becomes wholly invested in finding the truth, as her other nephew Will, of whom she treats like a son, is accused and thrown into jail by his own brother. Martha, Bridget’s trusty deputy midwife (and deputy amateur detective alongside her), are on the case to redeem Will’s name and save his life.

Other themes explored within this novel are Bridget’s inner emotions over losing her two children when they were young, as well as her husband. This happened in her life before even the first novel, and as a midwife she finds joy in delivering babies and had seemed to put it mostly out of her mind. But in this third novel, the author really examines her feelings of their deaths and how it effects her spirituality, her take on life and God’s role in it, her connections with those she has now come to love, and with the addition of little Elizabeth (an orphan) coming to live with Bridget, I saw more of her nurturing side in a way that really endeared me more towards the midwife. His character development of Bridget, as well as the other supporting characters in this novel, became more dimensional and deep. Plus, I just love how this sleuth and sidekick (Bridget and Martha) are female leads, with the men in supporting roles!

In The Witch Hunter’s Tale, Sam writes with great historical details, sensational description, deep and heartfelt emotion, and a formidable plot that kept me guessing and turning the pages right up to the end. I’d highly recommend this book, both in the series and as a stand alone, to anyone who loves mysteries or 17th century English life. He truly connects the reader to this era in northern England, which is ripe with strife, confusion, religiosity, and fear, and shows us how one woman can care for an entire town, and her hodgepodge of a family, just by opening her heart.

witch hunter's tale_MECH_01.inddPraise for the Midwife Mysteries Series~

“Sam Thomas has created one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction—a crime-solving, wealthy, widowed midwife in embattled 17th-century York, England. . . . Bridget is as fascinating, fun and fierce as ever.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Harlot’s Tale”Besides making his heroine a plausible sleuth, Thomas conveys the challenges of midwifery without clumsy exposition.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Harlot’s Tale

“As pleasurable as his mystery is, the true thrill here is Thomas’s lively portrait of 1644 York and his unique heroine.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on The Midwife’s Tale

“A briskly plotted historical mystery starring a pair of brave, tenacious, intelligent women who take no prisoners and make no apologies.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of Gods of Gotham

“Thomas is a historian by profession and it shows in the wealth of detail with which he recreates the city of York amid the turmoil of the English civil war.” —Rhys Bowen, author of the bestselling Royal Spyness series

“A heart-stopping page-turner coupled with a gritty and realistic portrayal of two strong and contrasting woman characters vividly depicted against the backdrop of the besieged city of York.” —Cora Harrison, author of I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

“The gripping story, fascinating characters, and intriguing era make Thomas’s debut mystery a reader’s delight.” —Priscilla Royal, author of The Killing Season

“Thomas’s fiction debut is packed with fascinating information about a midwife’s skills and life during the English civil war. The ingenious, fast-paced mystery is a bonus.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Midwife’s Tale

“Everything rings true in historian Thomas’s superb first mystery. . . Authentic details of life in 17th-century York complement the whodunit’s intelligently concealed clues.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Midwife’s Tale

Buy the Book~

Amazon (Hardcover)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
IndieBound
Powell’s

Author Sam Thomas, Biography~03_Sam Thomas

Sam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and recently leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio. Formerly, he was an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information please visit Sam Thomas’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Witch Hunter’s Tale Blog Tour Schedule~

Monday, February 9
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Spotlight at What Is that Book About

Tuesday, February 10
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, February 11
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, February 13
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, February 16
Review at Book Babe
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, February 17
Review & Interview at The Emerald City Book Review
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Wednesday, February 18
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, February 19
Interview at Back Porchervations

Friday, February 20
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, February 23
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, February 24
Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, February 25
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, February 26
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Spotlight at Brooke Blogs

Friday, February 27
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

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The Blood of the Fifth Knight is Destined to be One of Top Historical Mysteries/Thrillers of 2015

Powell_Knight_Cover_Template_UK.inddI’ve recently read The Blood of the Fifth Knight, which is the sequel to The Fifth Knight, a historical mystery thriller set in the times of Henry II and written by E.M. Powell. If you missed my review last year of The Fifth Knight, you can check it out by clicking on the title. Though the sleuth is the same in both books, you can be assured that you can read the sequel as a stand alone as well, though the first book was quite excellent and would provide further background information you might enjoy.

As for The Blood of the Fifth Knight, I absolutely loved reading this novel. I do love a good mystery, but in all fairness I must disclose that sometimes it takes me a few times to get “into” some mysteries, even if I liked them by the end. With Powell’s sequel, this wasn’t so at all. I was grabbed by the first few pages and read fervently as she entertained and thrilled me page by page. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t have distracted syndrome.

Why? I think it’s her sentence structure, her formation, her details….but beyond that, I think it’s her characters. They are so dimensional and crafted with an exquisite hand. I love Powell’s touches of humor, which always come lightly and just at the right time, and she’s one of few that makes action sequences exciting. She uses a whole cast of characters with different attributes that come to life off the page, making them easy to visualize within my head.

She did an extreme amount of research for this novel and it shows, as well as her vivid imagination for the time period. I love her glorious descriptive details, rich and full of life and zest. Her writing is never brooding, but fun and uplifting even in some situations that would be given a heavy air by others. Her historical basis was authentic and plausible and she wound her plot intricately and with care, weaving her characters and their motivations together like she had seen it all right before her eyes.

I love her choice of Sir Benedict Palmer as her sleuth, even if most everyone does not know that Henry II has called him in as an investigator, not a gardener. He seems very observant, but does get himself into some precarious situations which are quite humorous for many reasons. That added a flair to the story. Also, with her juxtaposing back to Palmer’s own wife, Theodosia, and his children, who were left behind in the home, it really gave the story depth and showed us societal levels and nuances of the time period which added to the plot. In regards to this, I especially enjoyed the character she introduced in Joan, Palmer’s long-lost sister. I liked her attitude and her strength, and her ingenuity, which set up an alternate mirror in regards to Theodosia’s moral compass.

I really liked Powell’s portrayal of Henry’s mistress, Rosamund Clifford, for whom Palmer was secretly called in to snuff out the assassin who tried to kill her. She didn’t regurgitate any historical story here just for legend sake, but instead she played upon their known affair in order to create a suspenseful mystery that was full of intrigue and drama. Talk about a damsel in distress! Surrounding this entanglement was, of course, Henry II’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, of whom he wished to divorce, and her lover, who had his eyes on the crown. Where Rosamund seems ignorant and in need of attention, Eleanor seems to know what she wants and won’t give up her place easily.

My FAVORITE part though was how Powell integrated the “zoo” into the novel, the grouping of animals that were secured or given as gifts to the crown which were kept at the Tower (later to be the London Zoo). The description of the animals, from the lion to the leopard, were amazing. The sequences with the animals made me wonder if Powell had ever been a zookeeper! I was enthralled by their use in the plot and felt that it was very original in comparison to almost anything else I’ve read in the historical medieval thriller genre.

I’ll be hard pressed to find many other mystery novels that I’ll love as much this year as The Blood of the Fifth Knight. Whether you have a flair for the medieval period or not, this mystery is for any reader who loves a thriller that sends them on a visual chase, as it treated me to an evening of escape and entertainment, and had me turning pages faster than I truly wanted to….I didn’t want to leave the characters behind!

Highly recommend as one of the top mysteries of 2015!

EXCERPT!!!!

Chapter 1

Canterbury, Kent, England, 12 July 1174

A king’s flesh tore like any man’s. Sir Benedict Palmer knew it would, but still it shocked him to see it.

He stood among the many hundreds of pilgrims and gawkers that crammed the winding streets of Canterbury, watching the penitent King Henry make his tortured way towards the cathedral. The shouting crowds stood ten deep, twenty in places, pushing for a better view.

‘Can you see him?’ came the close whisper from Palmer’s wife, Theodosia.

He met her fear-filled grey eyes. ‘He’s nearly here.’ Though Palmer could see with ease over the crowd, his small-boned Theodosia could not. Not yet, but very soon. And the sight would horrify her.

The broiling sun overhead lit the red that remained in Henry’s greying hair, and he wore the blackened ash mask of the sinner. The sweat on his face carried dark streaks of ash and a different red down his naked upper body. Blood stained the royal flesh, flesh white and soft as a turnip root. A line of sweating, black-robed monks followed him, scourges in hand, delivering this brutal public penance for the murder of the cathedral’s Archbishop, Thomas Becket.

Theodosia’s hand tightened on Palmer’s arm. He knew she had longed desperately for this day. Longed for it as much as she dreaded it.

Another crack echoed above the noisy mob, and the black coils of a scourge striped Henry’s bare chest and shoulders again. Folk gasped, women screamed. A group of white-robed monks raised their voices in a noisy hymn.

Theodosia gripped harder.

‘Confiteor Deoomnipotenti, istisSanctis et omnibus Sanctis.’ Henry continued to recite his penance, his thin voice cutting through the horde’s buzz.

‘Beg for forgiveness!’ yelled an unseen man. ‘Saint Thomas Becket is all forgiving!’

A new din of yells, whistles, and cries broke out.

‘By the glorious Queen of Heaven and the angels, repent!’ A hatchet-faced man flung up his hands.

‘Beg for the mercy of the Almighty!’ wailed a pockmarked priest.

‘Repent!’ A woman held tight to the cloak of her witless, drooling son, a cross shorn into his hair. ‘Repent now!’

All in this mob blamed Henry—blamed him as surely as if he had held the sword that had smashed Archbishop Thomas Becket’s skull on that freezing December night three and a half years ago. The night that Palmer and Theodosia had both witnessed, that had near cost them their lives too. The night that the cathedral had become Becket’s tomb, where his lifeblood had been splashed across its stone floor.

But today, the huge grey cathedral towers stood against a searing sun in a blue sky, marking Becket’s triumph from Henry’s martyr to a holy saint. Today, Henry the sinner stumbled low on the hot, brutal streets of Canterbury, begging for forgiveness from the man he’d had cut down, his own flesh shredded and torn. Already he looked as if he might fall.

‘A godly dead man is worth more than a living knave!’

Another rage-filled scream.

Palmer licked the salt of sweat from his top lip and held his reactions in check. The King was no knave, yet the world had to think so.

Palmer glanced down at his silent wife, fearing her collapse more than the King’s. The high buildings trapped the stink from the near-solid run-offs from the privies, as well as the noise and heat. He hadn’t wanted to come to witness this ugly spectacle, but she’d insisted.

They’d travelled for weeks from their distant village of Cloughbrook in Staffordshire. Weeks without much food, as they walked in a praying, singing throng of every kind of pilgrim, which grew with each day they neared Canterbury. Now they stood here as the sun climbed, fiercer by the hour, without the relief of shade or water. Fiercer still, the mood of those watching Henry’s agony. The fierceness of the righteous. Palmer knew it well.

And Theodosia stood beside him, with her stomach big, the baby she carried expected by autumn. But he needn’t worry about her fainting. Despite her heat-cracked lips and freckled skin, he saw the clamp of her jaw, the firm set of her gaze. She wouldn’t yield: she waited for her King. Yet her gaze flicked to their small red-haired son, edging forward through the knot of legs and skirts, curious to gape too.

‘Tom.’ Her quick order brought him back to Palmer’s side.

Palmer laid a hand on the lad’s slender shoulder. ‘Stay with us, eh? Can’t have you getting lost.’ Not much chance of that. Becket himself could come down from the clouds, and Theodosia would still have an eye on the boy.

There was a crack as another scourge met the royal flesh. The crowd let out a fresh roar, drowning Henry’s cry of anguish.

Hands, fists and staves pressed at Palmer’s back, tried to force past him to gape closer. He swung his son off his feet and plunked him on his shoulders as he held Theodosia to him with his other arm.

He turned to those behind him. ‘Stop your shoving, you hear me?’

A fat pilgrim with an even fatter wife glared at him. ‘You ignorant farmer.’ With his breath a blast of tooth rot, the man’s face shone with rage and heat. ‘I can’t see past you and your—’ He caught the full force of Palmer’s look.

And shut his noise.

‘Benedict.’ Theodosia pulled at his arm. ‘Not here. We are on a holy pilgrimage.’

Palmer gave the silenced man a final glare and turned back to see the King’s approach along the street. ‘You ignorant farmer.’ Yes, he resembled one in his worn, patched clothes. He had to. If the pilgrim knew—knew who he really was, what he, Sir Benedict Palmer, had done: half those here would run screaming from him; the other half would tear him to pieces. No matter that King Henry knew the truth, that Henry would say Palmer’s actions had been justified. Henry himself was so close to losing his kingdom, losing his crown. Many said the King did this penance to make amends with God, before he lost power to Queen Eleanor and her ferocious sons, rising in rebellion against him. And all Palmer and Theodosia had been through would have been for nothing.

‘Make way for his Grace. Make way!’ Canterbury’s guards forced the watchers back with drawn swords.

Shoved aside too, Palmer took a half step to steady his stance.

Tom’s small hands clutched tightly at Palmer’s hair.

‘Alright, son?’

‘Yeh.’

His son’s high voice hardened his resolve. Forget knighthood, kingdoms, battles. The murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the murder that Henry now did penance for. The murder that he, Sir Benedict Palmer, had been present at. What mattered now was to keep his family safe.

But if a king could fall, if a king could be swept aside, then where did that leave him?

The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Synopsis~

Powell_Knight_Cover_Template_UK.inddPublication Date: January 1, 2015
Thomas & Mercer
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 368p

Genre: Historical Thriller

A triumphant sequel to Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight. A desperate king trusts a lone knight to unravel a web of murder.

England, 1176. King Henry II has imprisoned his rebellious Queen for her failed attempt to overthrow him. But with her conspirators still at large and a failed assassination attempt on his beautiful mistress, Rosamund Clifford, the King must take action to preserve his reign.

Desperate, Henry turns to the only man he trusts: a man whose skills have saved him once before. Sir Benedict Palmer answers the call, mistakenly believing that his family will remain safe while he attends to his King.

As Palmer races to secure his King’s throne, neither man senses the hand of a brilliant schemer, a mystery figure loyal to Henry’s traitorous Queen who will stop at nothing to see the King defeated.

The Blood of the Fifth Knight is an intricate medieval murder mystery and worthy sequel to E.M. Powell’s acclaimed historical thriller The Fifth Knight.

Review Praise for The Fifth Knight

“Powell does a masterful job. Highly recommended.” Historical Novels Review

Author E.M. Powell, Biography~

????????????????????????????E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller THE FIFTH KNIGHT which was a #1 Amazon Bestseller.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) she now lives in the north-west of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She is a reviewer of fiction and non-fiction for the HNS.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/heirtoaprophecyblogtour

Hashtags: #TheBloodoftheFifthKnight #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt

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Interview with Marie Savage About Debut Oracles of Delphi: Research, Mythology, Mysteries

Today I welcome Marie Savage/Kristi Blank Makansi to the site! If you missed my review of her debut novel, Oracles of Delphi, which is a mystery of ancient Greece, you can read it here! Enjoy the interview!

Hi, Marie, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! You’ve been working with books for years, but how does it feel to have published your debut mystery?

Marie: SCARY! I always tell the authors I work with to put out the best book possible and then not to obsess over reviews, but … and when my daughters and I published the first books in our Seeds Trilogy (a YA/sci-fi) series, I could rejoice or lament with them as reviews came in, but having my own book out in the world makes me feel like I’m parading around the town square with no clothes on.

Erin: It’s chilly I think where both of us are, would like to join me for a cup of hot tea? I can put on a pot of hot chai, or whatever your pleasure is, just let me know? Cream or sugar or lemon?

Marie: I’d love some tea with a bit of lemon.

Erin: I’ll pour. Here have a seat in my library, over there in the comfortable chairs by the window. I think you’ll enjoy my ancient world décor. I’ll be right back to bring out some gingerbread scones, fresh from the oven.

Marie: This is all so delightfully cozy.

Erin: With tea and treat in hand, let’s get started on your questions!

9780989207935-Perfect.indd

Q: When did you first decide to write Oracles of Delphi? How long did it take you to write it?

A: I was inspired by a comment first suggested by my sister as we were visiting Delphi. As we stood up by the stadion looking out across the valley, she said something like: “Imagine you’re a young woman who has the skills to solve a murder, but no one will listen to you.” For the rest of the trip, we brainstormed storylines and obviously, the much has changed since then, but that was the genesis. That trip was in 2008. After we returned home, I worked on the book on and off, hired several editors to help, got it historically fact-checked by a friend who happens to be both Greek and a professor of Classics, and then let it sit for another year or two before I went back in and reworked it. Finally, I decided it was time to unleash Althaia and her friends on the world.

Q: Have you always fostered a love of ancient cultures? Why or why not?

A: I’ve always been a night owl and was one of those kids who enjoyed a good chapter or two in the encyclopedia as well as an exciting novel. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read about the discoveries at Mycenae and Schliemann and Troy, but I’ve been captivated by the ancient Greek world ever since.

Q: Did the intriguing aspect that most ancient cultures seem to carry give you the nudge to make your book a mystery as opposed to just a regular historical fiction?

A: I love mysteries, so I guess the answer is yes…from that moment in Delphi, it was always a mystery and there was always a girl who had some special knowledge that the men around her didn’t have. As a woman with two daughters, I wanted to write a strong, independent female protagonist, but I also wanted to make sure that the real-world social limits of the time could not simply be contravened by magic or the gods.  I wanted the challenges involved in solving the mystery to be grounded in the real world, however they characters themselves might want to interpret them. That said, the question of whether there are indeed gods and oracles is left as a bit of a deeper mystery.

Q: You have many complex characters in your novel. How did your devise and construct them? Are they based on any real people you know?

A: No one character is based on a single person, but rather aspects of people I’ve known or people I’d love to know–real or imagined. My biggest concern (besides all the other normal worries writers fret over) was that my characters were true to their times and personal histories. For instance, one of my favorite characters is Theron, Althaia’s tutor. His back story came to me in one chunk and isessentially the same as the first time I wrote it. His life affected me and I wanted to be true to him and honor his reasons for being so obsessed with finding “truth” and why he has turned his back on the gods. Similarly, all the characters, I wanted to try my best make them as fully formed as possible so that no one felt like a cardboard cutout. Like a movie with an “ensemble” cast, I tried to approach each character as someone so valuable to the story that they could stand alone. Whether or not I’ve accomplished anything near that is for the reader to decide.

Q: How did you create your plot? Did you use an outline or do you write as pantser? Either way you answer, how did that work in writing something as intricate as a mystery?

A: I outlined and then ignored it and wrote like a pantser and then reworked the outline based on what was on the page and then threw that out again. So I guess I’m a hybrid…a bit of a pantser and a bit of a planner. I like to have the general direction in mind before I start, but then the story takes over. For instance, in the first draft(s), Nikos was a much darker character and – SPOILER ALERT – Kleomon was the killer. But I came to love Kleomon with all his bombastic vices and decided he may be a lot of things, but he wasn’t a murderer. So, if he didn’t do it, who did? I had to figure out who was the really bad bad guy as I went along.

Q: What common elements of mysteries did you employ? What, if anything, did you do differently or did you try anything original?

A: At one time, I played with the idea of unfolding the story as a three-act play since so much of plot revolves around the theater of Delphi. One of the editors I worked with LOVED this idea and encouraged me to rework the whole novel. But as I went, it started to seem contrived, so I dropped it. One of the other editors I worked with helped me work on the voices and selecting which characters to give POV chapters to, and his assistance was invaluable. Alternative POVs allowed me to get inside the skin and bones of different characters and, I hope, made the story richer. And, of course, I tried to build suspense along the way by writing scenes/chapters and chapter endings that would, hopefully, compel the reader to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Q:  Oracles of Delphi featured many cultural, religious, and historical details. How did you conduct all the research of this ancient time? How did you come up with your beautiful descriptions?

A: As for the research, I’ve read fairly extensively about Ancient Greece and have shelves full of books—historical fiction and academic—to turn to. A big challenge, one many historical fiction authors face, is getting so excited about the research that they don’t know when to quit or when to shut up.  Deciding what to put in/leave in to move the story forward and what to take out because it slows the story down is nigh impossible sometimes, which is why a good editor is essential.

As for the “beautiful descriptions” (and THANK you for that!), I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Greece several times and have walked everywhere my characters walked. The landscape and history is so rich that I simply tried to put into words the feelings I had when I was “on site.” The scenes in the Korycian Cave, in particular, were important for me to get right. My sister-in-law, an archaeologist, and I went to the cave and it is amazing. I have photos from my trips on my website: www.kristinamakansi.com, but here is one from the cave:

marie capture

Photo from Marie Savage

Q: You really intertwine the spiritual essence of the time and place in your book. Do you feel there is an importance of sharing these ancient religions and thoughts? Share how you so vividly represented the spiritual aspect of Delphi.

A: Religion and belief in the supernatural is a fascinating topic for me. When my mother warned that a good guest never discusses religion or politics, I thought who the hell wants to be a good guest, then? These are my two favorite subjects! Belief – or absence of belief – fundamentally affects one’s world view and shapes how communities cohere, or not, and how laws and customs come to be and are enforced. This was true in ancient times and it is true today—witness what is going on in politics here in the US and in the Middle East. If today we believe that ancient religious beliefs from thousands of years ago were nothing more than misplaced belief in “myth” and that now we know better because we know the “truth,” then I wonder what people will think of our own beliefs thousands of years from now?

In dealing with the oracular prophecies, I wanted to have the characters grapple with the passage of “old” ways and the portent of “new” ways on several levels. First we have Apollo “replacing” Gaia, and then we have the prophecy at the end where a new resurrected god will claim the site from Apollo. When you visit Delphi and imagine the grandeur and power of the Sacred Precinct in classical Greece and how people came from all over to seek answers to their questions—from the political to the mundane—and then look around the modern town and see the lovely churches with their beautiful icons, it, at least to me, demonstrates the power of people’s enduring quest to get those same political and mundane questions answered—should we go to war, should I marry, why is my child sick?  Ultimately, I guess, the characters in Oracles of Delphigrapple with how we answer those questions. Do we turn to the gods or do we turn to science? Or do we have to choose?

Q: For those who don’t know of the history of Delphi, can you explain about the Gaia worshippers and the Oracle of Delphi , before it eventually fell to the spread of Christianity?

A: I took great liberties with the idea that there was competition or rivalry between the worshippers of Gaia and those of Apollo. There’s actually no evidence to suggest this is the case, although I’ve read quite a bit about the idea that male gods/male priests did supplant female/earth-mother goddesses/priestesses about the same time as the rise of the Apollo cult in Delphi. The earliest archeological finds date to the Neolithic period, around 4,000 BCE, and have been found in and around the Korycian Cave. The earliest mythological traditions associate the site with Mother Earth, Gaia, and say the area, including a sacred spring, was guarded by a great serpent that lived in the Korycian Cave and that was later killed by Apollo who claimed the sacred site as his own. In Oracles, I’ve named a popular inn The Dolphin’s Cove, because Apollo was said to have taken on the shape of a dolphin to lead a ship full of Cretan sailors to Delphi’s port so they could become his priests.

Once Apollo and his priests took over, the fame of the oracle and the Pythia spread throughout the ancient Greek world and did not diminish until the rise of the rationalists, the movement Theron represents. Throughout antiquity, the Oracle of Delphi was thought to be the most reliable of all the oracles and kings, princes, tyrants, as well as common people, went to Delphi seeking answers. Delphi was also famous because it was considered the omphalos—or navel—of the earth. It was over Delphi that the two eagles that Zeus had unleashed at opposite ends of the world crossed paths signifying the center of all things. Even in the Hellenic era and into the early Christian era, the traditions of the oracle continued. It wasn’t until 394 AD that Theodosius, the Byzantine emperor, shut the oracle down and turned Delphi into a Christian stronghold.

Q:  Do you hope to make your novel a mystery series with your lead character Althaia as the sleuth? If so, where might further adventures take her?

A: Yes, I do. Our next installment has Althaia back in Athens awaiting Nikos’s arrival while her husband Lycon gets into trouble that endangers everything Althaia cares about. The whole crew is in place—Theron, Praxis, and Nephthys—and it is set against the political background about the debate over whether to make peace with Philip of Macedon or not.

Q: I know you have edited many books, but is this the first novel that you’ve ever written? If not, what else have your written or will be writing?

A: This is the first solo novel that I’ve written that has seen the light of day. Earlier efforts were pretty awful and mostly never finished. I’ve got several projects in process including the outline and first four chapters of the sequel to Oracles. I’ve been slowly doing the research and taking notes on a novel featuring Olympias, and my daughters and I are hard at work on the third book in our Seeds Trilogy. Also, I’ve started a time travel thriller/romance that is based on an artifact and legend from my very extended and very old family history. That’s one I’m particularly excited about.

Q: Are there mystery authors that you like to read yourself? Favorite mysteries of all time?

A: I love Ruth Downie’s mysteries set in the Roman Empire—they’ve got a lot of intrigue, historical detail, and humor! I also love Lindsey Davis, of course, and have enjoyed Gary Corby’s series set in Classical Greece. I also enjoyed Bruce Macbain’s Roman-era mysteries featuring Pliny the Younger as the amateur sleuth, and I’m particularly excited about his books because I’m publishing the first of his Viking saga next spring—Odin’s Child, Book One of the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga. (It’s excellent, but Book Two in the series is even better!) It’s impossible to name a favorite because it depends on my mood.

Q: Are there other types of writing, genres, authors, or particular books that you enjoy?

A: I’m “genre blind” and will read anything if it’s a great story with a great voice—and if there’s nothing handy, I’ll read the nutrition facts on the back of the cereal box.  One of my recent favorites—and this was from a year or two ago, but still stands out in my mind—is Alex Shakar’s novel LUMINARIUM about how technology affects our understanding of reality. 

Q: If you could go back in time to any ancient place, with any ancient person, where and with whom would you go? Why?

A: GAH! This is such a hard question, but perhaps it would be Olympias, Alexander’s mother, who I am, slowly but surely, writing about. Her relationship with Philip and Alexander surely impacted the outcome of Western history and, by all accounts, she was a schemer first class. I guess I’d love to hang with her for a while and watch her political machinations. I’d also love to participate in a salon/symposia led by Aspasia, Pericles’s lover.

Q: Where can people connect with you?

A: I’m available through my www.kristinamakansi.com website as well as through www.blankslatepress.com. I’m on twitter at @readwritenow and @blankslatepress and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/blankslatepress?ref=bookmarks and for those who like Scifi and YA, you can find me at www.theseedstrilogy.com and https://www.facebook.com/TheSeedsTrilogy.

Erin: Thank you so much for stopping by to talk about your book and your writing! It was a pleasure to have you here, as I know our busy writing and editing schedules leave us both eating many midnight snacks. Lol! I wish you lots of success with your own novel and hope for more mysteries in the future from Marie!

Marie: This has been wonderful, and I thank you so much for such thoughtful questions!

9780989207935-Perfect.inddOracles of Delphi, Synopsis~

Publication Date: October 15, 2014
Blank Slate Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 324

Series: Althaia of Athens Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

READ AN EXCERPT.

All Althaia wants on her trip to Delphi is to fulfill her father’s last wish. Finding the body of a woman in the Sacred Precinct is not in her plans. Neither is getting involved in the search for the killer, falling for the son of a famous priestess, or getting pulled into the ancient struggle for control of the two most powerful oracles in the world. But that’s what happens when Theron, Althaia’s tutor and a man with a reputation for finding the truth, is asked to investigate. When a priest hints that Theron himself may be involved, Althaia is certain the old man is crazy — until Nikos, son of a famous priestess, arrives with an urgent message. Theron’s past, greedy priests, paranoid priestesses, prophecies, and stolen treasures complicate the investigation, and as Althaia falls for Nikos, whose dangerous secrets hold the key to the young woman’s death, she discovers that love often comes at a high price and that the true meaning of family is more than a bond of blood.

Praise for Oracles of Delphi

“Mysticism, murder and mystery in ancient Delphi: Marie Savage weaves intrigue and suspense into wonderfully researched historical fiction while introducing the reader to Althaia, a spirited Athenian woman with a flair for forensic detection.” (Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice)

“Oracles of Delphi is an original and compelling mystery. Savage’s complex characters and deft writing shine as she pulls readers into the fascinating world of fourth century B.C. Greece. A wonderful debut!” (Sarah Wisseman, author of the forthcoming Burnt Siena Flora Garibaldi art conservation mystery and the Lisa Donahue archaeological mystery series)

“It is hard to make a female character both strong and vulnerable, but Marie Savage has done just that with Althaia of Athens. Well done!” (Cynthia Graham, author of the forthcoming Beneath Still Waters)

Buy the Book

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Author Marie Savage, Bio~

02_Marie Savage_Author PhotoMarie Savage is the pen name of Kristina Marie Blank Makansi who always wanted to be a Savage (her grandmother’s maiden name) rather than a Blank.

She is co-founder and publisher of Blank Slate Press, an award-winning small press in St. Louis, and founder of Treehouse Author Services. Books she has published and/or edited have been recognized by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), the Beverly Hills Book Awards, the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction, the British Kitchie awards, and others.

She serves on the board of the Missouri Center for the Book and the Missouri Writers Guild. Along with her two daughters, she has authored The Sowing and The Reaping (Oct. 2014), the first two books of a young adult, science fiction trilogy.

Oracles of Delphi, is her first solo novel. For more information visit Kristina Makansi’s website and the Blank Slate Press website. You can also follow Krisina Makansi and Blank Slate Press on Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/oraclesofdelphiblogtour/

Hashtags: #OraclesofDelphiBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #AlthaiaofAthensMystery

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @ReadWriteNow @BlankSlatePress

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Laura Joh Rowland Publishes Her 18th and Final Historical Mystery of Feudal Japan: Highly Recommended

02_The Iris Fan CoverReview~

Laura Joh Rowland has brought us exciting mysteries from feudal Japan for something like 20 years! That seems unheard of in today’s publishing market, but alas, as The Iris Fan is the Sano Ichiro #18, it looks like this will be the last of the series. I don’t blame Laura for wanting to concentrate on writing new things, but with such longevity, Sano certainly now seems like a household name we can call on in time of need (even if we have to call by opening our time travel doors back to the 17th century).

Of course, we can expect nothing less than Laura putting Sano in all sorts of predicaments, and as he works his way through his ordeals, but soon returns to the limelight to solve an intriguing mystery. I mean, Laura had me at “the shogun is stabbed by a fan made of painted silk….”….ooooo….how could that not suck me right in. I needed to see if Sano could find a solution to the crime so he didn’t incur the wrath of the shogun or his heir.

Her character of Sano is again on point and well-polished. We know him so well already. Her supporting and surrounding cast of characters are always used to full effect. I think Laura likes to catch her readers off guard with her character’s personalities, creating twists, turns, and an element of surprise that keep the pages turning. I like that Reiko is such a force as a character in the book as well, sometimes solving pieces of the mystery herself. Her dimensional character brings real emotion to the novel (and her other novels) as Laura incorporates the life of Reiko and Sano into the mystery. Reiko stands by her man, but she is not always pleased with his choices.Yes, they are always more strong together, even if they don’t realize it, and in this novel, they come back to being even stronger than ever. I was so happy to see that.

The back storyline of Taeko and Masahiro in the novel, which wrapped into completing the villain’s story. It was a love story, with some emotional and drastic times, and helped the ending of the novel come at me full-force with amazing action. I was shocked by the crescendo of the plot! However, following she tied it all up leaving me a happy reader and comforted by where the characters all were at the moment their time in the limelight had ended. It just left me ready for the pursuits of the next generation, so I can’t imagine never being able to revisit this family again….

I love the feelings that Laura creates in me as a reader when I read her book, as her descriptions allow me to be present in their world. I love the type of mystery that uses old school detective work and ancient instincts to solve crime rather than rely on modern day technology. She uses the time and place very well to create interesting concepts and intrigue. Her writing creates atmosphere and suspense, which ultimately, makes her a superb mystery writer.

She does her finest in The Iris Fan, giving us a historical mystery to devour, but then I read too quickly and was sad at the end, especially since we must say goodbye to Sano and his family. I highly recommend The Iris Fan, since it’s one of the few historical mysteries of feudal Japan written with such skill, but if you want to read it, I encourage you to read at least several prior to this one too. I imagine you’ll want to read the whole series! Thanks, Laura, for sharing your mysteries with us, they’ve been great friends!

02_The Iris Fan CoverThe Iris Fan, Synopsis~

Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Sano Ichiro Mystery Series (Book 18)
Genre: Historical Mystery

Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichirō has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano’s onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano’s dedication to the Way of the Warrior—the samurai code of honor—is undiminished.

Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun’s heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun’s permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself.

Riveting and richly imagined, with a magnificent sense of time and place, The Iris Fan is the triumphant conclusion to Laura Joh Rowland’s brilliant series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.

The Sano Ichiro Mystery Series Titles

Shinjū
Bundori
The Way of the Traitor
The Concubine’s Tattoo
The Samurai’s Wife
Black Lotus
The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria
The Dragon King’s Palace
The Perfumed Sleeve
The Assassin’s Touch
The Red Chrysanthemum
The Snow Empress
The Fire Kimono
The Cloud Pavilion
The Ronin’s Mistress
The Incense Game
The Shogun’s Daughter
The Iris Fan

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
IndieBound

Author Laura Joh Rowland, Biography~

03_Laura Joh RowlandGranddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

She is the author of seventeen previous Sano Ichiro thrillers set in feudal Japan. The Fire Kimono was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “Five Best Historical Mystery Novels”; and The Snow Empress and The Cloud Pavilion were among Publishers Weekly’s Best Mysteries of the Year.

She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector, and quality engineer.

For more information please visit Laura’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theirisfanblogtourandbookblast/

Hashtags: #TheIrisFanBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #SanIchiroMysterySeries

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @MinotaurBooks

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Discussing Writing Mysteries with S.K. Rizzolo and Who She’d Love to Solve One With

Today, I have a lovely and interesting interview with Regency mystery writer, S.K. Rizzolo! If you missed my review of Die I Will Not, the third book in her mystery series, you can read it here.

Hi S.K.! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I usually invite my guest over for a chat and tea, but it’s freezing here in Ohio with snow, so usually when that happens I instead invite myself over to the interviewee’s home. I’ll be crashing, but if you lead me to your kitchen, I’ll make the drinks. What is your drinking pleasure for afternoon chats? If I was home, I’d be putting on the tea kettle for some Earl Grey, but if it’s warm weather, iced tea sounds good too. You?

S.K.: Hi Erin. Thank you for visiting my home in L.A., where it is currently 80 degrees and windy. No matter the weather, I too am a big tea drinker. I like Earl Grey and also enjoy a spicy Chai.

Erin: Wonderful, I also enjoy spicy Chai! Let’s splurge and have two pots. I’ve managed to pack some of my scones. I generally prefer blueberry but we had picked apples and have so many left, I’ve opted for apple cinnamon, just point me to the plates….there now, we are all ready for a proper chat.

S.K.: I’m not much of a cook—but at this time of year, I’ll add to our feast by making you some pumpkin spice scones from Sticky Fingers mix. Yes, let’s get started.

Erin: Well, you don’t have to do that, but those sound delightful too. You’ve just published Die I Will Not, your third book in your mystery series. Does it get easier each time you do it, or do the same emotions appear with each launch?

S.K.: I took a long break between book #2 and this new novel. At the time I was teaching and raising my daughter, and I just wasn’t in a place to continue the series. In that decade the publishing landscape has changed almost beyond recognition. I’ve had to start over with my career and relearn the business, accustoming myself to social media and online promotion. Since I’m a rather quiet, private person, this has not always been easy for me, though I’m finding my way now.

Erin: Oh, wow! To me, it’s amazing how much has changed in 10 years! I’m glad you picked back up your series. I’m anxious to ask you some more questions about your writing, life, and books, so let’s get started!

Q: Die I Will Not, as I mentioned, is the third book in the series. Since I haven’t had you on my site before, and readers might not be familiar, would you mind talking about your first two books, the premise for your mystery series, and how it all leads into Die I Will Not?

01_Die I Will Not Cover

A: Set in Regency England, my mystery series follows the exploits of a Bow Street Runner (a sort of forerunner to the Scotland Yard detective), an unconventional lady, and a melancholic lawyer. My characters do not belong to the Polite World, and they face financial struggles as well as professional and romantic challenges. The first novel in the series, The Rose in the Wheel, introduces Penelope Wolfe, a young, unhappily married mother, whose husband Jeremy is always leaving her in the lurch. When Jeremy becomes a suspect in the murder of a lady philanthropist, Penelope works with Runner John Chase and Edward Buckler to solve the crime. Blood for Blood reunites my protagonists, as they uncover the killer of a footman. This book deals with millenarian religion and festering family secrets.

Die I Will Not finds Penelope striving to clear her father’s name. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of political letters penned by the firebrand Collatinus. Twenty years before, Penelope’s father also used the alias Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder. This time Chase and Buckler put their careers at risk to stand behind her as she faces notoriety in the press and continuing marital turmoil. Recently, I’m having fun with the developing romance between Buckler and Penelope, with John Chase serving as an amused, envious, and somewhat disapproving bystander.

Q: I love mysteries, from all time periods, but I haven’t read as many from the Regency period. Can you define what it means to call them Regency mysteries and how they might differ or be similar to other mysteries people might like?

A: Some readers come to Regency novels with a bit of background knowledge about the genre and the period so that I don’t need to explain who the Prince Regent is, for example, or why my heroine is worried about preserving her reputation.

But because of Georgette Heyer, who might be said to have invented the modern Regency novel, readers sometimes have fairly defined expectations. They may expect an ordered world of darkly handsome and devil-may-care dukes, ballroom scenes, society scandals—a sort of comedy of manners, which, by the way, I do love as a reader. But I long ago decided that I didn’t want to write along those lines.

So my books deliberately avoid that world. My heroine is part of the gentry—but her imprudent marriage has forced her to the fringes of Society. Her father is a radical, expatriate philosopher. Her husband is a spendthrift artist. Her true love Buckler has the spirit of chivalry in his heart but isn’t particularly dashing or self-assured himself. I like exploring some of the off-the-beaten-track aspects of life in Regency England, such as radical politics, the growth of celebrity culture, and nascent feminism.

Q: Many times mysteries are defined by one phrase under the title, “A (Name) Mystery,” with the name being the detective or key problem solver. Not often do two people grace the limelight. On your books, you state “The Penelope Wolfe/John Chase Regency Mysteries.” What was your thinking behind giving them both center stage? Do you use them both as main protagonist or is one the side-kick, like in Sherlock and Holmes?

A: I think I originally assumed that I needed to make the professional detective the main character, but from the start Penelope and Chase have shared the stage (with Buckler as an almost equal participant). It’s surprisingly difficult to weave the experiences of three separate human beings around a complex mystery plot. The trouble is that I love all three of them as if they were my dear friends and don’t want to ignore one for very long. I try to focus on the interplay between them and nurture the character growth in that way.

Q: I, too, am fascinated with all things British. I was even born there when my parents were living overseas. A) What drew you to the tales of the wives of Henry VIII in your younger years? B) What is a close second in terms of historical interest?

A: It’s difficult to say. As a child, I read voraciously, and my sister, who was a children’s librarian, used to provide much of my reading material. She was the one who cultivated my interest in British literature, history, and culture by introducing me to the work of E. Nesbit, Penelope Lively, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken, and Leon Garfield. Of course, my interest includes the films of Masterpiece Theatre—I think I’ve seen most of the period British miniseries!

I don’t know that I have a close second, though I do appreciate historical fiction set in America and other places too.

Q: We have a lot in common as I was also an English major in college. However, I chose to major in Journalism and History also thinking to create some sort of way to NOT have to get up early and stand in front of others teaching all day. What was I thinking? So, my question is, what did/do you like most about teaching English? Are you glad you chose that route or is hindsight 20/20?

A: I definitely understand what you mean about the getting up early part. But I find it strange that I stumbled into precisely the right profession for me. For me, teaching is about helping students learn to think critically and express themselves clearly. And I want them to appreciate that literature does indeed have relevance in the 21st-century—that our reading is not boring, musty old stuff written by long-dead graybeards who maybe only wrote the stuff to torture endless generations of students. I’d like the students to see that reading books of all kinds helps us answer, or at least ask, the bigger questions in life.

Q: What encouraged you to take the plunge to start writing fiction novels? Did your career in English help you to write better books or is it strictly talent and the avid reading you do that helped you?

A: I always meant to write one day but had thought I would end up writing for children. I’ve been teaching writing for 25 years. That must have helped. But mostly I’ve learned through being a lifelong reader because novelists are readers, first and foremost.

Q: Speaking of being an avid reader, what types of mysteries or authors have you liked best? Who is a mentor in the craft of writing for your and also, who do you read for enjoyment?

A: I like traditional English mysteries that delve into character motivation and psychology. I dislike excessively grim stories that dramatize graphic violence toward women or that spend much of the narrative inside the minds of twisted serial killers. I’m too squeamish and tenderhearted. As far as mentors, I would choose P.D. James, Elizabeth George, or Deborah Crombie—all fabulous mystery writers. As far as historical mysteries, I greatly enjoy the work of Stephanie Barron, author of an outstanding mystery series with Jane Austen as the sleuth.

Q: Back to your own novels, how did you decide the time period to set them in and why did you choose to utilize commoners as the lead(s)? And beyond that, why did you choose particular careers for them?

A: I grew up reading Austen, the Brontes, Trollope, Gaskell, and many other authors from the Regency and Victorian eras. My family often tells me that I was born in the wrong century, and it’s true that I regularly retreat to the past to hang out, as my character Buckler once said, among congenial ghosts.

To answer your second question: it made sense for me to have one protagonist in the police and a second in the law. My female protagonist has no choice but to be an amateur sleuth. Still, she has ambitions to be a professional writer.

Q: How did you construct your believable and unique characters?

A: I stared at the wall for a very long time and wrote page after page of notes until the characters started to come to life. I continue to stumble upon research tidbits that flesh them out, and that’s always exciting.

Q: What is the hardest thing about mapping a plot in writing a mystery? How do you keep it all straight without accidentally giving things away as well as create momentum, twists, and turns? (I’ve always thought the hardest book to write would be a mystery!)

A: An outline can be a slippery thing. If only events would unfold as expected in the story, but that almost never happens. Creating a mystery is like grappling with one giant logic problem: as soon as one variable fits smoothly into its proper position, another one wiggles free. I find that my plots can suddenly get in a knot when a question about modus operandi pops up, and I realize I have no idea how to answer it. I’ve made my peace with the constant rethinking and frantic plugging up of unforeseen plot holes.

Q: How much factual history do you use in your novels? If you do, what? Have you had to do much research?

A: I could, and often do, spend days and months researching just one of the topics in a novel. Creating atmosphere depends upon getting the details right and layering them into a scene with a light hand. And that in turn requires lots and lots of research before one word ever gets written. It’s a little like being a magpie. I find one bit of treasure here, one nugget there—and hoard it until it fits perfectly in a particular scene. Research is especially crucial in a historical mystery. A historical novelist asks readers to believe that her characters inhabit a world that is long gone and may seem foreign.

Q: If you could solve a mystery with one person from history by your side, who would that be and why?

A: Jane Austen. Her ironic wit and sharp intelligence would be immensely useful in any investigation. I’d also welcome help from the Victorian novelist Wilkie Collins. A man able to craft a tight, suspenseful plot the way he can would be more than a match for any criminal.

Q: I read you were raised in the Middle East. Do you think you’ll ever use the sights and sounds of that area or their historic cultures in any of your novels? (And if you have, feel free to share)

A: Who knows? I anticipate that Penelope Wolfe will one day travel to Sicily, her childhood home, and Sicily is not too far from where I lived in Tripoli, Libya. I am fascinated by the Barbary pirates who infested the seas around North Africa in the early 19th-century (I think you’ve just given me an idea!).

Q: What is next for you with your writing? Will you continue to write mysteries? Also, do you hope to write other books besides mysteries?

A: I plan to write book #4 in my series. Having left Penelope Wolfe in a precarious position at the end of Die I Will Not, I must figure out how she will cope with her family problems while she helps solve a new mystery. I have some ideas for this story, which will revolve around a disputed inheritance.

Yes, I would love to attempt a historical epic one day: one of those fat, engrossing novels in the vein of Anya Seton’s Katherine or Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth.

Q: You seem to be living a full and exciting life as an author, lived cool places and now in L.A., with a husband who works on the biggest comedy on TV, so what adventures or marks of success are on your bucket list?

A: I wouldn’t call my life exciting! Mostly, I travel in my imagination these days, spending my time reading, writing, or grading papers. But I am ambitious to keep growing and improving as a writer. I’d also like to take a walking tour in England with a girlfriend. That seems like a better way to see a country.

Q: And a fun question, if you were solving a mystery, what would be the best dinner you’d have on a train (because I always imagine people solving mysteries while on a train) and where would you be traveling?

A: Caviar, champagne, and a soufflé on the Orient Express. Since I never eat such things, they sound suitably exotic. I would be traveling between Paris and Istanbul, a city I visited as a child and have always wished to see again.

Q: Where can readers connect with you, when you aren’t solving mysteries?

A: I encourage readers to email me at skrizzolo.gmail.com. I do check my Facebook page, but I hang out more frequently on Goodreads.

Erin: Thank you so much for taking time out to do a fun interview with me! It’s been a great time, and I thank you for letting me crash your home and kitchen! It’s was warm and lovely. I look forward to reading more of your books in the future. Best wishes with your writing!

S.K.: Thank you, Erin, for spending time with me. I so much appreciate your kindness and friendliness.

Erin: Welcome back, anytime. You can crash my home next time.

Die I Will Not, Synopsis~

01_Die I Will Not CoverPublication Date: November 4, 2014
Poisoned Pen Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback

Series: John Chase Mystery Series
Genre: Historical Mystery/Regency

Unhappy wife and young mother Penelope Wolfe fears scandal for her family and worse. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of letters penned by a firebrand calling himself Collatinus. Twenty years before, her father, the radical Eustace Sandford, wrote as Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder. A mysterious beauty closely connected to Sandford and known only as N.D. had been brutally slain, her killer never punished. The seditious new Collatinus letters that attack the Prince Regent in the press also seek to avenge N.D.’s death and unmask her murderer. What did the journalist know that provoked his death?

Her artist husband Jeremy is no reliable ally, so Penelope turns anew to lawyer Edward Buckler and Bow Street Runner John Chase. As she battles public notoriety, Buckler and Chase put their careers at risk to stand behind her while pursuing various lines of inquiry aimed at N.D.’s murderer, a missing memoir, Royal scandal, and the dead editor’s missing wife. As they navigate the dark underbelly of Regency London among a cast driven by dirty politics and dark passions, as well as by decency and a desire for justice, past secrets and present criminals are exposed, upending Penelope’s life and the lives of others.

John Chase Mystery Series

Book One: The Rose in the Wheel
Book Two: Blood for Blood
Book Three: Die I Will Not

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Author S.K. Rizzolo, Biography~

02_SK Rizzolo AuthorS.K. Rizzolo is a longtime Anglophile and history enthusiast. Set in Regency England, The Rose in the Wheel and Blood for Blood are the first two novels in her series about a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. Die I Will Not is third in the series.

An English teacher, Rizzolo has earned an M.A. in literature and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

For more information please visit S.K. Rizzolo’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

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Murder by Misrule is an Exciting Elizabethan Mystery with a Full Cast of Characters

02_Murder by Misrule CoverElizabethan life and times certainly make for all kinds of outstanding books as there seems to be a never-ending supply of ideas, intrigues, and mysteries from which to write historical novels or imaginate (yes, I made up a word) stories.  I particularly like many of the mystery novels springing up based in this time period and Murder by Misrule, a book in Anna Castle’s Francis Bacon Mystery Series, is certainly one that can take a front row shelf.

Castle debuts her writing with this first mystery in an at least three-part series. Set in the mid-1500s, Sir Francis Bacon is keen on climbing the social ladder and regaining favor he had lost from the Queen (Queen Elizabeth I, of course). When a murder occurs, he senses this to be an opportunity to increase his value, but as someone who likes to remain home due to his backward personality (and since he needs time to read), he sends his law pupils out to solve the mystery, namely Tom Clarady, the son of a privateer.  However, everyone it seems has their own agenda, every characters that Castle introduces their own intricate web they are weaving in order to get what they want, or cover up what they don’t want found.  Everything and anything seems to have fallen asunder, especially since it is the time of misrule, when things are turned upside on purpose (you can read about “misrule” HERE).

I enjoyed Castle’s book, read it quickly during a nightly bout of non-sleeping, and was so entertained that I didn’t wish to fall asleep. Her writing is quick-witted and each character has a special quality and very precise personality that blends with the others to create a whole. Tom is at the center of it all, doing all the work for Francis. I suppose Tom’s even the protagonist in my mind. It’s like Holmes to Sherlock, I suppose, but reminds me more of if Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot had stayed in and sent out a side kick. I’ve enjoyed these types of English mysteries since I first read Agatha Christie as a teenager, then moved on to Sherlock Holmes, but Castle was able to create a novel that resembled this type of mystery while changing up the plot and structure so that it was also totally unique.

Castle wove authentic historical people and facts into a historical mystery novel, creating a mystery with even more depth. She was able to cover the paranoia and social turmoil of this era as well within her plot so that she created a well-rounded, well-researched, well-plotted, and well-detailed novel that takes your mind back in time to decipher a puzzle for which she created twists, turns, and surprises. When I thought I’d have it figured out, then I wouldn’t. She did a great job with her element of surprise.

I loved Castle’s humor and suspenseful writing. I highly recommend this book to any historical mystery reader or fans of the Elizabethan era of intrigue. If you like mysteries, you’ll love this one. I’m looking forward to the next book in her series.

Murder by Misrule, Synopsis~

02_Murder by Misrule CoverPublication Date: June 8, 2014
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

A Kirkus Indie Books of the Month Selection for July.

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray’s Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon’s powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge.

Rival barristers contend for the murdered man’s legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

The Francis Bacon Mystery Series~

This series of historical mysteries features the philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon as a sleuth and spymaster. Since Francis prefers the comfort of his own chambers, like his spiritual descendent Nero Wolfe, he sends his pupil, the handsome young Thomas Clarady, out to gather information. Tom loves the work, not least because he meets so many interesting people, like Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe. Murder by Misrule is the first book in the series.

Praise for Murder by Misrule~

“Though the plot keeps the pages turning, the characters, major and minor, and the well-wrought historical details will make readers want to linger in the 16th century. A laugh-out-loud mystery that will delight fans of the genre.” – Kirkus Starred Review

“Murder by Misrule is a delightful debut with characters that leap off the page, especially the brilliant if unwilling detective Francis Bacon and his street smart man Tom Clarady. Elizabeth Tudor rules, but Anna Castle triumphs.” – Karen Harper, author of Mistress Shakespeare

“Well-researched… Murder by Misrule is also enormously entertaining; a mystery shot through with a series of misadventures, misunderstandings,
and mendacity worthy of a Shakespearean comedy.” – M. Louisa Locke, author of Bloody Lessons

“Historical mystery readers take note: Murder by Misrule is a wonderful example of Elizabethan times brought to life.” — D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.

Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords

Author Anna Castle~

03_Anna CastleAnna Castle has been a waitress, software engineer, documentary linguist, college professor, and digital archivist. Historical fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning.

She physically resides in Austin, Texas, and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.

For more information please visit Anna Castle’s website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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