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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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The Harlot’s Tale by Sam Thomas Delves into a Mystery Surrounding a Social Issue of 17th Century York

If you like a great historical mystery set in the mid-1600s of York, then I highly recommend Sam Thomas’ midwife mystery series for its superb character development, intriguing mystery, and detailed social and emotional issues of 17th Century England!

The Harlot's TaleThe Harlot’s Tale is the second book in a series by Sam Thomas, with the first being The Midwife’s Tale, and though I recommend both, I’m reviewing The Harlot’s Tale today as it just published earlier this month!  Feel free to see my review of The Midwife’s Tale by clicking HERE.

As The Midwife’s Tale introduces widowed, wealthy, and independent midwife Bridget Hodgson to us, as well as her supporting characters of maid Martha and Hodgson’s nephew Will, we learn about how they all came to be in their respective situations in York, the state of the citizens, and takes us en route with them as they solve a murder mystery.

In The Harlot’s Tale, the novel picks right up in their ongoing lives, giving us a brief update, as well minor (but more than enough) details about who the characters are in case someone picks it up to read without reading The Midwife’s Tale. But it doesn’t at all make the book seem wordy or redundant for those who did read the first book, either. In my opinion, he does a nice job of setting the story and is fast getting to the plot of The Harlot’s Tale. I definitely think you could read this second book without even reading the first (though reading the whole series will certainly show a progression and give more depth to the series).

I LOVED The Harlot’s Tale even more than his first book. The writing seemed more carefree, as if he was more at ease with himself as fictional writer. He seemed more willing to be open about the social issues of the day, namely the inclusion of fundamentalist Christians who began giving roadside sermons and cracking down on sinners at this time. Isn’t this the main source of all angst in English cities of the past? Trying to rid the area of whores and pox by telling women they are sinners seems to be one of the most talked about issues in history. Maybe eventually it’s because of Jack the Ripper immortalizing the situation for everyone. Well, long before Jack came, Christians tried to rid the cities of whores by condemning them even further than their already lowly status.  Thomas does an excellent job within the story of allowing us to see the circumstances through the eyes of women who lived in poor conditions without a husband and had to sell their bodies in order to survive.  He allows his protagonist Bridget to be rather religiously impartial, even though her law enforcer brother-in-law is not. Thomas has her character weighing both sides of the coin, which I always think is a great way to get readers to think on important issues and break down judgemental barriers.

When a harlot is gruesomely murdered in a strange death scene in the novel, it’s as if the Old Testament of the Bible is being acted out to represent their sin. Bridget, Martha, and Will take to their detective work again, all the while uncovering heartfelt emotions for the reader (well, this reader) as to the plight of those women who were forced to work as prostitutes just to feed their children. Why were the men never taken to task for their abhorrent behavior? No demand, no supply right? That’s the way I see it. Many times these women had no other choice. Those Christian women with money who tried to preach a better way to them didn’t understand that most of them KNEW it was wrong, and why, and didn’t even like doing it themselves.  Who would? But as a line in the book said, words don’t feed children. I really like how Bridget always has compassion for them as she holds men accountable for having bastard children and then leaving them to starve. At any rate, I think Thomas handled this issue extremely well and I applaud him as a man for genuinely being able to channel a strong female character as a male author. He has a very uncanny knowledge of women’s emotions and desires and it all adds to his well-developed characters as well as to the social message of his books.

Thomas’ mystery novel was fast-moving, intelligent, emotional, gritty, and I didn’t want to put it down. It moved much faster and was written with more finesse even than his first. I am beyond excited to read the third in his series next year. Bridget is a perfectionist at everything she does, whether it be delivering babies or solving a murder, and as I reader I felt as if I was bustling around the city with her and Martha. She has her own fears and nightmares (and grief) behind the scenes which really softened her more in this novel and as I reader I could connect with her even further than before.

Thomas is a historian and his research on midwives is unparalleled. His intricate details of her work as a midwife in this series is captivating. Overall, he creates a world for us that makes it easy to join in as we read, even though we could never imagine what it might have been like to live in it.

I am eager to recommend The Harlot’s Tale to fans of English mysteries set in the mid -1600s. If you like Sherlock Holmes, switch up the protagonists and try your hand at reading about a female midwife who stumbles upon becoming a detective of sorts and finds she not only rather feels it a duty, but an intense desire within herself to help women in need. As she delivers babies in to the Old World with precision, she also pieces together puzzles of death and mayhem. It’s absolutely a series not to be missed!

The Harlot’s Tale, Synopsis~

The Harlot's TalePublication Date: January 7, 2014
Minotaur Books
Hardcover; 320p1250010780
ISBN-10: 1250010780

It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

Author
Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas has a PhD in history with a focus on Reformation England and in 2013 leaped from the tenure track into a teaching position at a secondary school near Cleveland, Ohio.  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. The Harlot’s Tale is the second book in his series, in which The Midwife’s Tale is the first.

Thomas lives in Ohio with his wife and two children.

For more information, please visit Sam Thomas’ website and blog.  You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out my interview with Sam Thomas by clicking HERE!

Link to Tour Schedule:  http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theharlotstaletour
Twitter Hashtag:  #HarlotsTaleTour

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The Shogun’s Daughter is Interesting Mystery Set in 18th Century Japan

The Shogun's DaughterThe Shogun’s Daughter is #17 in a historical mystery series taking place in ancient Japan. That’s right, #17! However, the good thing is that this particular novel can be read as a stand-alone as it has its own plot, so I am assuming the rest do as well.  They do have samurai detective Sano Ichiro in common, as well as some other characters. As I write this review, I think it’s important to point out that I have not read the other books in the series as I have just been made aware of Laura Joh Rowland’s work.

Detective Sano Ichiro doesn’t waste much time when interviewing or cutting the chase with anyone he is interviewing. This time, he takes on Yanagisawa, the shogun’s advisor who was also married to the shogun’s daughter. At the beginning of the book, this daughter passes away from smallpox (an unlikely disease for royalty, even at the time,which is why Sano is curious).  The adopted son of Yanagisawa, a seventeen year old named Yoshisato, is named the shogun’s heir after it is announced that he is the shogun’s long-lost son.

The book is an adventure into feudal Japan in 1704, yet the way that Rowland writes the mystery is seems more light-hearted even if the topic wasn’t or the people weren’t. The only way I can explain it is to say that it reminds of me of those older international Asian movies that were mysteries but seeped in something that just made you find it interesting to watch with all their quirks and idiosyncracies.

Sano takes on a dangerous mystery, but he isn’t your normal detective investigating the stereotypical players. These players are driven by politics, dictatorship, and family drama and this leads him down a road where even his family is not safe. Eventually, the tables are even turned this time.

Rowland has a niche with her historical mysteries as I haven’t seen too many Asian-oriented mysteries published in the U.S. I’d be interested in going back and reading some of her back list to find out how it all started. She’s been writing for many years and has created her own style that is authentic to Asian storytelling.  The detective is original and honest and brings something creative to a world seeped in mystery detectives. He’s memorable. With her other characters, she seems to have really captured the original oriental style and personalities, unlike other mainstream novelists who might write about another time and place.

Her character of Hirata, who Sano has had a longtime friendship with and I presume has been in other books, was a good sub-supporting choice. I liked how she incorporated the mystic martial arts (some of my fave movies have this theme) into the book and plot through him and his side pursuits.  I also enjoyed the relationship between nine-year-old Taeko and Masahiro, Sano’s 12-year-old son.  I hope to read more stories of those two in the future!  And without giving spoilers, the distress in the relationship between Yoshisato and Yanagisawa really tugged at my heart-strings. I felt so awful for Yoshisato and was again reminded, as I often am in books, why issues with people in life should always try to be resolved before something unthinkable happens and resolution is a fleeting moment of the past.  Yet the ending had a twist and I didn’t see it coming! She did a good job with the element of surprise as it sneaked up on me, even when I should have known better!

I had a few hiccups with her writing style that I want to point out, not to fault Rowland or her books, but just because I think they would be so obvious to readers that I must give some pre-notice to them even if I hate to do so. Her writing style can, in sections, be simplistic and narrow, without depth of details. Her writing isn’t lush and visual, but more clean and tight. Seeing how she was a scientist of all kinds for many years of her life, I can possibly understand where that comes from within her writing style. Not everyone writes the same and I can appreciate that, and I know she’s been published a long time, but I am not sure why there are some issues with getting present and past tense correct and consistent. Also, it seemed odd the way she constructed people’s thoughts from their head onto the page. Instead of us just hearing their private thoughts from their head, she announced they couldn’t say it out loud.  I did think that they seemed to be more ironed out by the second half of the book, though.  Her sentences are short, to the point, and sometimes there is too much repetition for my taste, even as a fast reader. Also, she is brash in her sentences due to the utilization of colons.

However, for those readers who like an entertaining mystery read who haven’t read any of Rowland’s books, this would be a great book to grab and spend a day reading! I did really get into the second half of the book and formed some emotional connections to the characters.

The Shogun’s Daughter was a unique mystery embroiled in drama and intrigue of feudal Japan, with an original and memorable samurai investigator and his cast of family and friends. I haven’t read many mysteries set in Asian culture or history, so it was an exciting new venture. It wasn’t a thriller with lots of decoding or fast-moving action, but it is a great detective mystery wrapped in the political intrigue and drama of past Japanese culture. I enjoyed how she took a true story from Japanese history and formed her own story based on a “what if” scenario. After reading the ending, I am sure there is another book coming featuring Hirata and his adventures.  I look forward to it!

Watch for my interview with Laura Joh Rowland coming to the blog on September 25!

THE SHOGUN’S DAUGHTER, Synopsis~

The Shogun's DaughterPublication Date: September 17, 2013
Minotaur Books
Hardcover; 336p
ISBN-10: 1250028612

Japan, 1704. In an elegant mansion a young woman named Tsuruhime lies on her deathbed, attended by her nurse. Smallpox pustules cover her face. Incense burns, to banish the evil spirits of disease. After Tsuruhime takes her last breath, the old woman watching from the doorway says, “Who’s going to tell the Shogun his daughter is dead?”

The death of the Shogun’s daughter has immediate consequences on his regime. There will be no grandchild to leave the kingdom. Faced with his own mortality and beset by troubles caused by the recent earthquake, he names as his heir Yoshisato, the seventeen-year-old son he only recently discovered was his. Until five months ago, Yoshisato was raised as the illegitimate son of Yanagisawa, the shogun’s favorite advisor. Yanagisawa is also the longtime enemy of Sano Ichiro.

Sano doubts that Yoshisato is really the Shogun’s son, believing it’s more likely a power-play by Yanagisawa. When Sano learns that Tsuruhime’s death may have been a murder, he sets off on a dangerous investigation that leads to more death and destruction as he struggles to keep his pregnant wife, Reiko, and his son safe. Instead, he and his family become the accused. And this time, they may not survive the day.

Laura Joh Rowland’s thrilling series set in Feudal Japan is as gripping and entertaining as ever.

Praise for Laura Joh Rowland~

Author of The Fire Kimono, “one of the five best historical mystery novels”—The Wall Street Journal

“Rowland has a painter’s eye for the minutiae of court life, as well as a politician’s ear for intrigue.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Sano may carry a sword and wear a kimono, but you’ll immediately recognize him as an ancestor of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade.”—The Denver Post

Author Laura Joh Rowland, Biography~

Laura Joh RowlandLaura Joh Rowland is the author of a mystery series set in medieval Japan, featuring samurai detective Sano Ichiro. The Shogun’s Daughter is the seventeenth book in the series.

Her work has been published in 13 foreign countries, nominated for the Anthony Award and the Hammett Prize, and won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery. Laura lives in New York City.

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

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Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theshogunsdaughtertour
Twitter Hashtag: #ShogunsDaughterTour

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A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is a Must Read 17th Century English Mystery

Murder at..This week, Susanna Calkins introduced A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, her 17th Century Murder Mystery. If you are reading only a few historical mysteries this year, I recommend please putting this one on your list! The cover will outright lure you in, but the tale itself will hold you in its grasp until the very last pages.

By the first 100 pages or so, in which she introduced her characters, set the scene, and gave us a murderer to ferret out, Calkins was able to already have me feeling connected to her characters, in tune to their personality quirks, captivated by their emotions, and feeling a friendship with Lucy, her protagonist who is a chambermaid in the house of a magistrate.

I loved Calkins use of creative participants such as the painter, gypsy fortune tellers, and other off-beat cast of characters who portrayed the more “seedy” dealings of society the common places, the dirty streets of London, and even in the homes of high society.  Most primarily I liked her use of the murderer leaving “a note” that was found with the body and the use of a legend of the lover’s park. Calkins brought to me, as a reader, fresh characters that many people don’t always use in their historical writings. Her story is original and her characters real.

I felt like I was reading Downtown Abbey mixed with the adventures of the London streets that comes with gossips, servants, drunks, and well….murder, reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. The mystery takes us on a thought-provoking adventure as we see how lives intersect, even between classes, and discover the mystery.  During this journey, we also can sense Lucy gathering an amazing amount of self-confidence and self-worth.

Lucy is quite the female–not overly aggressive, but yet independent. Emotional, yet rational. Analytical, yet compassionate. Virtuous and endearing. I love her!! I hope that Calkins does a series with Lucy, you know the type of character who is always trying to go around living life and saying she isn’t a detective, BUT murder just seems to fall in her lap and she can’t help solving it? (hint, hint)

I don’t want to give too much away, but the murderer probably won’t be who you thought either. She does a wonderful job of leading up to a fantastic finale! I like how Calkins used a smaller cast of characters in a condensed and not overly done setting, which reminded me of some of Agatha Christie’s earlier mysteries. Her character development is superb and her mystery plot exciting and entertaining. I enjoyed guessing the clues along with Lucy.

I am very pleased with Susanna Calkins debut mystery novel and I look forward to much more writing from her. The mystery had an endearing cast of characters, a quaint setting that allowed for a more proper character led plot, a mystery that kept me guessing, a fantastic use of historical details and life struggles, and some great writing that flowed smooth as a pen on paper.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate: A Mystery, Synopsis~

Murder at..Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press (April 23, 2013)

When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger–to save his life, before the true murderer turns on her…

Giveaway~

Enter to win one (1) copy of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by commenting below or by email to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com by 11:59 p.m. EST 2 weeks from this posting.

For 1 extra entry, follow this blog, for extra 2 entries, join my new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. U.S. only, please.

Author Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsSusanna Calkins is a historian and academic, currently working at Northwestern University. She’s had a morbid curiosity about murder in seventeenth-century England ever since she was in grad school, when she was first working on her Ph.D. in history. The ephemera from the archives—tantalizing true accounts of the fantastic and the strange—inspired her historical mysteries, including A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books). Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons.

See the wonderful interview Susanna and I did earlier this week by clicking HERE!!

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Interview with Susanna Calkins, Author of Historical Mystery A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

Hi Susie! I’m thrilled to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today to talk about your upcoming April 23 release, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press). As well, I hope you’ll be sharing a little more about yourself so everyone can get a glimpse into your world! How are things going for you?

Susanna:  I’m doing well, thanks for hosting me today! 

Erin:  Delighted to! Let’s have a steaming cup of tea and start our conversation!

Susanna:  Sounds good; you don’t mind if I’m drinking coffee, right? 🙂

Erin: Absolutely, actually it’s what I’m drinking too! I’ll feature the cover and synopsis first to tantalize readers….really beautiful cover.

Murder at..

Murder at Rosamund’s Gate: A Mystery, Synopsis~
Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press (April 23, 2013)
When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger–to save his life, before the true murderer turns on her…

Q:  I believe A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is your debut novel, correct? When did you start writing and how long did it take this novel to come to fruition?

A: Yes, ROSAMUND is my debut novel and is also the first novel that I finished. I got the idea years ago, when I was a graduate student in history, and then I began to work on different scenes in a very haphazard way for the next few weeks.  Finally around 2009, with about 150 pages written, I sat down and took it seriously, giving myself space and time to complete the first draft in 2010.

Q: Since I’ve not reviewed your book yet, tell us some about your book and the inspiration behind it….

A: My book was inspired by some 17th century murder ballads I’d come across in my research on domestic homicide for a paper I was writing in grad school.  They were often romanticized versions of “true accounts” detailing how murderers lured their victims to their deaths; very often, the corpse seems to have been found with a letter in her pocket, signed by her murderer.  I had so many questions, beginning with ‘why would the murderer have left a note?” and “Why weren’t the victims more suspicious?” My novel was an attempt to answer some of these questions.

Erin Comments: I love that! Notes seemed to be a common theme in that time period, for everything! I like the questions your posing, can’t wait to see how your novel answers them.

Q:  What are your personal favorite books in the mystery novel genre?

A: When I was younger, I loved Agatha Christie. Now, I love everything by Patricia Cornwell and Anne Perry, and other writers of historical mysteries, including Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspeare and Rhys Bowen.

Erin Comments: Me too, great list.

Q:  Is your book’s setting in Restoration England (or 17th Century) your favorite historical time period? If so why?

A:  I really enjoy this time period, especially in the mid 1660s.  The Plague, followed by the Great Fire of London, make for an exciting backdrop!

Q:  What are some of your other favorite historical time periods and why?

A: I have a fondness for the middle ages, especially with the emergence of the universities and guilds. I’m also fascinated by nineteenth century France.

Q: If you could write about a woman from history, who would it be? Why?

A:  Great question.  I’ve always focused on women’s and gender history, so I’ve always been interested in the everyday lives of ordinary women. I went through a phase when I was enamored of some of the great queens, like Elizabeth I of England and Queen Isabella of Spain, because I admired their strength of character and the liveliness of their minds.  I’ve written about many seventeenth century Quaker women, including one of the founders, Margaret Fell Fox.  I’ve also written about the nineteenth century Quaker reformer, Elizabeth Frye.  You can see I’m interested in Quakers! And they do feature in ROSAMUND!

Erin Comments: Sounds like a book featuring Fox or Frye and the Quakers would be a great one to read! Have you considered?

Q:  How much research is involved when writing a mystery that is thick with plot, but also takes place during an historical time period rich with detail? Can you explain your research or any interesting tidbits you collected along the way?

A:  Well, in some ways I did years of research before I started writing one word of ROSAMUND. In addition to reading a lot of scholarly works, I spent a lot of time reading the cheap print (ballads, chapbooks, pamphlets and other penny pieces) from the era, to get a feel for the language and customs of the time. I really enjoyed reading the work of Samuel Pepys, the great diarist of the time. 

Q: How do you develop your characters, both the leading and the supporting, to ensure not only their historical accuracy, but also emotionally in order for them to connect to the reader?

A: Even though Lucy was “just” a chambermaid—and an uneducated one at that—I wanted to believe that a servant could have had a lively inquiring mind and that, when push came to shove, she would do anything for her friends and family (Pursuing the murderer of one friend, and seeking to save someone else from being hanged). Even though households were structured somewhat differently back then, I believe that people who care about each other will still try to do what’s right, even if they end up defying some conventions of the time, like Lucy did.

Q:  Do you feel it’s important for women as writers to “schedule” writing time in order to complete and pursue their dreams? What advice do you have for other women writers about fitting it all in?

A: Oh my goodness! I get this question all the time, and I don’t know if I have an answer that will work for other people. I do have a lot of commitments (full time job, additional adjunct teaching, wife and mother of two young children), so I’m pretty busy. But I’m also fortunate to have a supportive spouse who takes on many of the family and childrearing responsibilities.  More importantly, I don’t try to write in luxurious three hour blocks, I always just think, ‘okay, I’ve got 20 or 30 minutes, what can I work on?” So maybe I write a scene. Or I look up a historical detail on the internet.   

I also don’t heed most of the writing advice I hear, especially those who insist that writers should ‘write first thing in the morning’ (I hate writing in the morning), or ‘Write every day.’ You know what, sometimes you can’t write everyday, and that’s okay.  But I do usually think about something related to writing every day, and at the very least, I lay in bed dreaming out a favorite scene. When I tell myself the scene enough, I’ts pretty easy to write down when I get a chance.

Erin Comments: I ask this one of most women authors to see the differences or advice, for myself as well as other aspiring women authors. This is one of the best answers by far and pretty much sums me up. I am not a morning person. 🙂 Thank you!

Q:  What has been the most challenging aspect for you in becoming a published author? What has been the most positive? 

A:  I think I have had to develop a thicker skin when it comes to what readers/reviewers will say about my book.  I’ve learned to say, ‘Well, my book wasn’t for that reader,” but mean comments can still hurt. On the flip side, I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet readers, librarians, reviewers, publishing people and other writers. I wrote so much in isolation, I do enjoy talking about reading and writing with other people.

Q:  What other things do you enjoy beyond writing and reading?

A: I enjoy playing games with my children (ages 9 and 6); I really like teaching (grading, not so much), and I love my full-time job, which is to help faculty improve their teaching.  I also love traveling, any new place is a great place to be!

Erin Comments: Two of my three children are 9 and 5 (6 in May)! We also play a lot of games too, especially in the winter.

Q:  What things do you have planned for your upcoming launch date?

A: Ha! I actually scheduled my students’ first paper assignment on my release date (April 23), so I know I’ll be doing some grading! But in relation to the actual book launch, I’ll be doing some talks at my local library in Highland Park, Illinois (April 25) and at the Barnes and Noble in Skokie, Illinois on April 26. Why don’t you come on by?

Erin Comments: I would love to! I’m in Ohio and Tim’s family is from Illinois, but it’s probably too far a drive for this week. 🙂 I hope any readers in the area will come by though. I know you also have a lot of stops on a book tour too, and readers can find those stops on your website (link below).

Q: Is there another novel in the works for you? What other writing are you doing or plan to do in the future?

A: Yes, the second Lucy Campion mystery (tentatively titled “From the Charred Remains”) will come out next April. I am also working on a Young Adult novel about a gang of teenage thieves living in late nineteenth century Paris.

Erin comments: All sounds wonderful!

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A:  Readers can check out my website at www.susannacalkins.com, email me at s.calkins.nu@gmail.com, or tweet to me @scalkins3. I’d love to hear from you!

Erin:  Thank you so much, Susie, for joining us today. I can’t wait to finish up your historical mystery! I wish you the best of luck with all your pursuits! Keep in touch!

Susanna:  Thank you so much! This was a lot of fun! I’ll stop back by to answer any questions!

And stay tuned readers for a review coming up next week of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate and a giveaway!

Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsSusanna Calkins is a historian and academic, currently working at Northwestern University. She’s had a morbid curiosity about murder in seventeenth-century England ever since she was in grad school, when she was first working on her Ph.D. in history. The ephemera from the archives—tantalizing true accounts of the fantastic and the strange—inspired her historical mysteries, including A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books). Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons.  See more at www.susannacalkins.com.

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The Midwife’s Tale an Outstanding Historical Mystery Debut by Sam Thomas!

The Midwife's Tale

The Midwife’s Tale was an exciting new mystery by first time novelist and historian, Sam Thomas.  The book, set during the mid-17th century during the time of unrest known as the English Civil Wars, takes us on a rousing adventure of a midwife turned detective.  Stephen Cooper, a man with political enemies, is killed and his wife is found guilty without a proper trial.  It’s up to her friend to save her or she’ll burn at the stake.

A woman with admirable girth, protagonist Bridget Hodgson is a midwife and widow of respectable status which allows her to move around the city and speak to men as most women of time are not. It also allows her to be privy to a wide range of gossip of news.  With her newly acquired maidservant, Martha, who has her own story to tell, Bridget sets out meeting around town and begins to make enemies of her own.

Based on a true midwife from the era who lived in York, Thomas does a remarkable job of spinning a tale utilizing her profession as a foundation for a fiction novel.  He is outstanding at casting suspicion on all the book’s supporting characters so we can’t quite figure out who might have poisoned Cooper or if his wife is innocent.  The only delay that Hodgson can bring to the wife’s death sentence is to point out that she is pregnant.  But is she really? Who is telling the truth and who is spinning lies?  How far would someone go to protect their secrets?

With all the political intrigue in the novel, rebels fighting against the King and everyone playing both sides to be in favor with whomever wins, it certainly is any man’s murder. But I bet you’ll be surprised who actually commits the crime.

Filled with life that’s brimming with horrible class distinction in the various area of York, Thomas’ historical knowledge of this time period adds to set all the scenes with great detail and visual. I could totally see this as a BBC show with a midwife detective. And might I add, that this man knows a lot about birthing a baby. The scenes portraying Bridget’s work as midwife–even through to the emotional upheaval that the career brought with it–were phenomenal. Though I love history, I honestly say I do not want to time travel back to this era and proceed in becoming pregnant. Life was hard for women of any class, but especially for servants and in the poorer of any city’s areas.

I can’t wait to read more mysteries from Thomas and hope he writes more!! I enjoyed my time reading it in no time flat.  If you’re a fan of history, sleuthing, and strong female protagonists, The Midwife’s Tale is certainly a must-have read.  The style of writing reminded me of C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Secret; however, Thomas winds a tale to us from the deepest part of the society up giving us a glimpse into a character that can move about between both poor, common, and aristocrat with same level of humanity and accountability for all.

GIVEAWAY~

Thomas is giving away one regular book copy to a winner in US or Canada!! You don’t want to miss leaving a comment to enter this giveaway either on the blog or on my FB link of this post. In the comment, please leave an email (or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com) so I can contact you if you win regarding your mailing address. No PO boxes please. 

Extra entry will be earned by following my blog: Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Please let me know you did so for the extra entry.

Giveway will run until February 6, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

About the Book~

Publication Date: January 8, 2013 | Minotaur Books | 320p

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s Tale.

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas is 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 just recently moved to Ohio from Alabama.  He has a wife and two children.

 

Find out more on Sam Thomas, as well as the real life Bridget Hodgson and midwives of this era at:  http://samthomasbooks.com/

 

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Book signings/Readings/Events~

For those of us who live in Ohio, so does the newly relocated Thomas, and we have an opportunity to see him at the following locations and times:

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fireside Bookshop, 29 N. Franklin St., Chagrin Falls.

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When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, part of the “Dead of Winter, A Celebration of Mystery Writing” event.

Where: Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland.

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When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Where: Bertram Woods Library, 20600 Fayette Road, Shaker Heights.

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Check out the Tour Schedule where you’ll find more reviews, interviews, giveaways, and guest posts at: http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/sam-thomas-on-tour-for-midwifes-tale.html

Twitter Hashtag: #MidwifesTaleVirtualTour

The Midwife's Tale Tour Banner FINAL

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