Tag Archives: mystery novels

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase
Eve Mallow Mystery Series
Bookouture (December 4, 2020)

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase is a cozy mystery pleasure read! I bought it for myself for over the holidays when I decided to take a few days break from publishing work and responsibilities and just immerse myself in something fun! This is book four, and I hadn’t read any of her other books, but when I saw the cover come through my twitter feed with the picture of the old mill on it, it piqued my interest! I love old mills, especially in overseas landscapes. And I love british mysteries. On a personal note as well, I found after buying, that though I live in America now, this takes place in “a sleepy Suffolk village” in England, and this is the area in which I was born and lived as a child. I rarely see books set here and it was so nice to be taken to this landscape of the healths and rivers and coasts.

The book starts at a holiday party, which I also found perfect for a holiday read, but yet not overly “christmas” or “holiday seasonal.” I was ready for a mystery and I thought it’d be the perfect palate cleanser from some of the other things I’d been reading. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Though I didn’t have much time to read in the end to finish it as quickly as I’d have liked (this would have otherwise been a two day read), I enjoyed looking forward to it when I could and finally finished it in mid-January.

I’ve been talking about series fiction some lately in my work. So it dawns on me to address that this book is a series and I started mid-series. I didn’t really notice it was book four at all – the mystery is stand alone – though I realized while reading mid-way through that some of the characters’ back stories would be enhanced if I went back and read former books – which I definitely will now! It made me curious about the life of the protagonist prior, but it didn’t hinder the story plot any for me. Honestly, I’d probably move on to book five first though, which I think also comes out this year, to continue on from this one to see the progression.

I didn’t even guess who the murderer was at all, and often I do; I didn’t know until the reveal in the final pages! She had so many good twists and turns in thought. It was well-written, and it flowed like the smoothest pot of tea. It didn’t lull or get bogged down in details or character ramblings or rabbit holes. It used the art of deflection without really taking us out of the story. It kept a quick pace and moved along well.

And yet, with the swiftness of the plot, the characters were so fully developed I felt as if I knew all of them! I look forward to getting to know some of them more, too. I really like the protagonist Eve, and the author’s method into making her an accidental “investigator” is priceless! An obituary writer who interviews friends and family is quite unlike something I’ve read, but a great segway into a classic “sleuth.” Definitely for fans who like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple but want a more modern mystery read with a slightly younger (middle-aged) protagonist.

As well, her descriptions are lush and vivid, but not overdrawn. We can visualize easily, simply, but with depth. That takes the skill of a very talented and seasoned writer. I enjoyed the imagery immensely.

The verdict is: loved it! 

Editorial notes: As a working editor, I usually have a lot of developmental notes, mental or otherwise, on books I read. I really have nothing faulty to say about this book from an editing perspective, whether developmental or otherwise. It’s about as good as they come.

Where received: I purchased this book for myself as a pleasure read. I kinda want the whole set in paperback.

I am falling in love with Bookoutre books!

Mystery at the Old Mill, About –

When the calm of Saxford St Peter is disrupted by a deadly fire at the Old Mill, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow finds herself investigating a most surprising mystery!

Everyone in Saxford St Peter is desperate to know more about Harry Tennant, the newcomer who owns the Old Mill. He usually keeps himself to himself, but he’s finally invited the villagers round for drinks, and Eve Mallow isn’t the only one looking forward to having some questions answered.

But two days before the party, a terrible fire sweeps through the mill, and Harry is found dead. When Eve passes the burned remains of his beautiful house, she can’t resist the call to investigate. Especially when it turns out quiet, charming Harry was living a double life as the famous advice writer Pippa Longford. Eve has to wonder what revelations were contained in the letters he received… and whether one of them was worth killing for.

Accompanied by her reliable dachshund sidekick Gus, Eve starts digging. She soon realises Harry was at the centre of a web of lives – and lies. There’s an uncle desperate to inherit, two women who thought they were his one and only, not to mention everyone who shared their darkest secrets with him. Was one of those strangers much closer to home than Harry knew? And can Eve untangle the truth before she finds herself face to face with a killer?

A completely charming page-turner, perfect for fans of Faith Martin, Agatha Christie and Betty Rowlands.

Clare Chase, Biography –

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

You can find Clare’s website and blog at http://www.clarechase.com

Purchase –

Eve Mallow Series on Amazon

Or request at your favorite local indie store in the UK or US. At the time of this post, I could find any of this series on bookshop.org, a great place to order books with proceeds going to indie bookstores.

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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!!

02_Trial on Mount Koya

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.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

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.











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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Review of Baudelaire’s Revenge, Winner of Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel

02_Baudelaire's Revenge


Before we get to my review of the award-winning Baudelaire’s Revenge, if you are interested in entering, you can click HERE for the Rafflecopter link. I have two copies, so there will be two winners. U.S. and Canada only.


Baudelaire’s Revenge is a book that was written in 2007 by Bob Van Laerhoven, yet it was published in Dutch. Now translated by Brian Doyle (who did an amazing job), this winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel is available in English!

I was thrilled to read it as I have a penchant for foreign writing, especially for books written from the Nordic countries, Belgium, or the Netherlands. These writers have a literary knack for descriptive and raw imagery, content, and structure that I embrace with a passion, so I knew that reading Bob’s novel would be exciting for me, especially since I have a love of studying literature and poetry.

Bob has been an intense writer for many years, a traveling writer and journalist, and has seen social harm in places and countries you wouldn’t believe until you read about them. Though I hope some of his novels (that I hear rain with his experiences and with social injustice warnings and content) will also be available in English soon, I enjoy a good historical mystery, this one taking place in 1870s Paris, during the time of the Franco-Prussian War and the Seige of Paris, when it was captured by the Prussians.

During this time of instability, when France was a hub for refugees from many surrounding Eastern European countries as well as Spain and Sephardic Jews, obviously there were many various infused cultures. Also due to the unrest, workers had a difficult time, people were hungry, and political unrest was everywhere. Many tried to alleviate their stress with absinthe and prostitutes and feed themselves by stealing and murdering.

Even the detective star of the book, Commissioner Lefevre, loved prostitutes as much as he loved his poetry.  The French have a long-standing legacy of supreme writing, poetry, and the arts of course, and Lefevre admired poets, such as Charles Baudelaire (who was very controversial at the time, but happened to later inspire various modern literature). So when a mystery evolves surrounding a poem written by the late Baudelaire that was left on a victim, Lefevre sets his eye on an investigation.

Bob’s sentences were so eloquent, each sentence full of life, dripping in details, succulent word choices, and amazing imagery. His writing flows so naturally, but his sentences are not ones that you can read as one whole sentence in one look. It is like you almost must savor each word in his sentences as none are filler, all are precisely planted. The characters were flawless in design, such as Lefevre, who in his imperfect life became the perfect detective, one of whom looks at every minute detail in slow motion, much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot. All good mysteries, the old-fashioned type, need a detective with an attributing personality. Bob’s characterization didn’t disappoint. Riddled with anxiety from trauma (much like PTSD today) during war, death and thoughts of death surrounded Lefevre. It seemed to propel him and I could feel his anguish as much as the down-trodden aura of the vice filled streets of France. I felt myself trying to solve the puzzle along with him as well as seething at the social climate and culture during this era of France!

You must know as a reader that there is explicit content in this book, in a strange cobblestone and street lamp sort of way.  Imagine modern hardcore sex but in an experimental and crude society. The book also dealt with much of the problem of STDs that were stealing so many bodies and especially minds during that period. It worked with the book especially given Baudelaire’s own writing content, as his writings controversially surrounded sex, death, fear of Satanism, and unmoral character.  It didn’t bother me to read (it bothered me it happened for real though).  It read like a foreign film, which generally are more uncensored.

The 19th Century of France was wrought with prostitution and Bob doesn’t leave anything for the mind to wander about, but offers phrasing and technique that about leaves you breathless. He treats the social norm of prostitution as they might have, showing how they rendered it as an art or science. Yet he also shows us the plight of human nature when miserable and looking for satisfaction that is hard to find during intense depressive times.  Behind the mask of passion, sometimes evil lies.  In human nature, abhorrent actions occur that reap multitudes of deception.

Historically very well-researched, Bob really captures the climate and culture of Paris with fervent abandon and authenticity as well as he accurately portrays the political scene.  With as much care, he also brought Baudelaire to life, showing how such talented people, yet reaped in poverty during their lifetimes, were wrought with turmoil.

This book is NOT for the light reader of romance or mysteries. It’s for a readers that like to savor a book of high intellect and intent, as well as enjoy intense reading. It’s not a book you’ll flip fast through because it is an event, not just entertainment for an evening. Bob’s book deals with common issues through the ages of human nature and interaction, poor vs. rich, political and societal issues, death and dying, and controversial and mad creative people. On top of all those layers, there is a very sophisticated detective story, with a superb plot and an ending I didn’t see coming but completely enjoyed. I appreciate Bob’s ability with his writing to tear off the shell of morality and show the dynamics that lay beneath.

Baudelaire’s Revenge, Synopsis~

02_Baudelaire's RevengePublication Date: April 15, 2014
Pegasus Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.

As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

Praise for Baudelaire’s Revenge~

“[An] intense historical crime thriller. The intricate plot, menacing atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Vigorous. A finely-tuned balancing act between style and content. Add to all this the extremely convincingly painted tragic characters and the multitude of mysterious figures, and what you get is a winner who gives added luster to this jubilee edition of the Hercule Poirot Prize.” (The jury of the Hercule Poirot Prize)

“Van Laerhoven packs much complexity into 256 pages, giving this historical mystery the heft of a far longer work ( …) The book’s main preoccupation is the conclusive demonstration that everyone is guilty of something—the only mystery is, to what degree? The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail…” (Kirkus Reviews)

“(A) decadent tale….Commissioner Lefèvre’s philosophical discussions with artists and poets and a creepy Belgian dwarf are fascinating….” (NY Times Book Review)

“Published for the first time in English, this roman policier isn’t so much a straight detective story (although there are two detectives in it) as an evocation of a mind-set that now seems extravagant: the 19th-century poet’s fascination with sex and death. It’s no wonder this title won the Hercule Poirot Prize: the author is Belgian, as is the prize, and the twisted plot is as complicated as Agatha Christie’s most convoluted mystery. Mystery aficionados will love this pastiche of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe.” (Library Journal)

“(A) gritty, detail-rich historical mystery novel involves the reader in a subtle narrative web. This complex mystery from an award-winning Belgian author joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale.” (Shelf Awareness Pro)

Watch the Book Trailer~

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NMz1poUVmUw

Buy the Book~

Barnes & Noble (Hardcover)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Author Bob Van Laerhoven, Biography~

Bob Van LaerhovenBob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991 and has written more than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.

During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.

All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author:  in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with his novel De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.

For more information please visit Bob Van Laerhoven’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/baudelairesrevengetour
Tour Hashtags: #BaudelairesRevengeBlogTour

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Delightful Interview with E.M. Powell, Author of Medieval Novel The Fifth Knight

Yesterday, I reviewed The Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell, which is a medieval mystery, thriller, and romance all wrapped in one! You can see that review by clicking on the HERE. Today, I have a fabulous interview with the author herself and I think it’s a great read if you’re interested in things medieval, a writer’s life, about Powell’s Irish heritage, and what’s in store for her next……

Read on, and don’t forget to enter into the giveaway at the end!

Hi, E.M.! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy you’ve stopped by today to share your love of historical and medieval fiction. How are things?

Hi Erin! I’m so pleased to be here too. And things are great- they’re extra great because I’ve read your amazing review of The Fifth Knight. So I’m guessing I’m going to be among friends here!

Absolutely! Let’s take a minute to get settled in and we’ll begin to learn about you. Here we go….

Q:  Your novel, The Fifth Knight, is a thriller featuring Sir Benedict Palmer during the time of King Henry II, in England. Where did you come up with this historical crime drama idea?

A: I’ve always loved medieval history. It’s so neglected in fiction compared to, say, the Tudors. But there are so many intriguing people and events from that time. The murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own cathedral in 1170 is one of the most infamous. History records four knights committed the murder. I added my fictional fifth, Sir Benedict Palmer and asked ‘What if…’

Erin Comments: I like many various types of historical literature, but current medieval (you know what I mean) seems to be what I’d love to read more of too. I’ve always loved that time period (on paper, wouldn’t want to live it) and really love King Arthur tales. There is quite a bit of lore that would make people some great novels. Glad you took on the murder of Becket….

Q: How do you explain the element of romance within your book?

A: It’s quite a strong one. Benedict’s relationship with Sister Theodosia Bertrand, the young nun who’s hidden in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral, who is abducted by the knights- it goes through quite a few challenges! Prior to publication, The Fifth Knight was a multi-contest winner and finalist in Romance Writers of America chapter contests. My proudest achievement was winning the Kiss Of Death Chapter ‘Daphne’ Contest in the Mainstream Category in 2011. Kiss of Death is the chapter that specializes in Mystery & Suspense and the Daphne is a hugely respected contest.

Q:  What kind of research, and how much research, did you need to do before or during your writing of this novel?

A: I studied Anglo Saxon and Middle English at University so I got to read fascinating tales in the original language. Anglo Saxon is very far removed from what we speak today but I loved Middle English. To me, it sounds like someone is speaking English but in the next room where you can’t quite catch what they are saying! Like this line from the epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poet describes Sir Gawain: ‘His surkot semed hym wel that soft was forred.’ It looks a bit ‘Eh?’ when you see it written down. But try reading it aloud and you’ll see what I mean. In case anyone is left wondering, the translation is ‘His softly furred surcoat suited him well.’

Erin Comments: Amazing, dialect is so intriguing!

I also read widely from many excellent historical reference books such as Henrietta Leyser’s Medieval Women. Living in the UK is an advantage too. My poor family has been dragged round more medieval castles and museums than they probably would like. Ditto with historical re-enactments. But walk into one of those and you get all the sounds and smells as well as the sights. They’re amazing.

Erin Comments: If I lived where you live, I’d say my family would be drug around too! I always thought I’d come back one day to England and be married in a fabulous castle…..every girl’s dream I guess. Nothing compares to that kind of history here in the U.S.

Q:  What was the most intriguing thing you came across when doing your research?

A: Probably the lifestyle of an anchoress when researching for my heroine, Sister Theodosia Bertrand. An anchoress was a cloistered nun and Theodosia is preparing to take her final vows.

When I first came across the concept, I was intrigued.  I visited a remote church in Lancashire, where I was shown an anchoress’s cell that had survived for hundreds of years. Hearing that a woman had voluntarily been locked in that tiny stone room, and all for the purposes of glorifying God and saving the souls of others, had my interest caught.

As I researched the role of an anchoress more, it became even more fascinating. The religious ceremony that took place when an anchoress took her final vows included singing of Psalms from the Office of the Dead. She was sprinkled with dust before entering her cell and the door was closed after her. Some cells were as little as eight feet square. With others, even the door was bricked up. There was a tiny window left through which the anchoress would hear the prayers of others. But she always had to be screened from view, as to be seen was considered a sin.

An anchoress could be enclosed for twenty years and there are records of fifty years of enclosure. A guide for anchoresses written at the turn of the twelfth century, the Ancrene Riwle, advises them to daily scrape up the earth from the floor of their cells, as a reminder that the earth will form their graves ‘in which they will rot.’ Eve, the sister of Aelred, twelfth century abbot of the abbey of Rievaulx, was brought up from the age of seven at the convent of Wilton before becoming an anchoress. And every day, these girls and woman spent hours in prayer, devotion and physical deprivation for the sake of the souls of others.

Erin Comments: This really renders me speechless…this life of an anchoress. I wasn’t even aware of them, or had forgotten, until I read your book. The thought of even surviving that way without going mad….strong women.

Q:  Who was your favorite character to write about in The Fifth Knight and why?

A: It would have to be my hero, Sir Benedict Palmer. In earlier drafts, he was already an established knight and rescued Theodosia because he was a noble, committed knight. That was too dull. By making him a knight-for-hire, with flawed motives, he became much more interesting. He’s a far rougher diamond than when he started off, but that’s what readers seem to really like.

Q:  What is your writing process like? Do you form an outline or write at will? Do you set writing goals?

A: Outline every time. My first novel was a write-at-will and it shows. It’s not structured enough and- Oh, goodness, I’m not going to try and dress it up. It’s 150,000 words of formless drivel. It will never see the light of day but I learned a lot about plotting because of it.

Q:  How long did it take you to complete your novel?

A: Two years. But that included a 30,000 word re-write (out of 100,000 words) when I realized Benedict’s character was wrong.

Q:  You have a day job and a family. How did you make the time for such as accomplishment as writing a novel? What tips do you have for other authors who need motivation?

A: I gave up sleep in 2002. Kidding! I love to write so I try and make time where I can. Having good critique partners can be a huge help. Every writer has days when they look at the screen and think: ‘Aaargh! I just can’t do this.’ But try. Lay down one word after another. The first couple of paragraphs will be dross, then you’ll be back in the flow, that marvelous flow where the story that’s in your head is coming to life before your very eyes.

Erin Comments: Yes, sleep is fleeting sometimes! I think we should add 8 hours to each day…that might work, right? GREAT ADVICE, I like what you say about just starting in and eventually it will flow.

Q:  What did you learn about yourself through the writing process and with the completion of your book?

A: That I really, really don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. I will keep going until I get a ‘Yes.’ And for any writer who wants to achieve publication through a traditional route, that is what has to happen.

Q:  How did you begin the process of publication?

A: I wouldn’t have got there without first getting my agent. And I have the nifty Query Tracker website for that. It’s ace.

Q:  What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional? How does either help and/or hinder the historical fiction genre?

A: Self-publishing is a revolution that is still happening. No-one has the benefit of hindsight to say how it will all pan out. It’s like any huge change: it’s working brilliantly for some people, others not at all. For me the most important thing is this: writers must make sure their work is the best it can be before taking it to any market. Readers deserve that because we ask them for their time and money.

Erin Comments: I agree. I sometimes wonder if some writers even edit their work. But that does a disservice not only to the reader, but to themselves, and their story,  as well.

Q:  What authors have inspired you? What are some of your favorite books, movies, or the like?

A: I love Robert Harris. For anyone who has not read his novel of 79 AD and the eruption at Pompeii, give yourself a huge treat. I love C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series set in Tudor England. And I love thrillers (surprise, surprise!). Tess Gerritsen is my all-time favourite. I love Michael Connelly too.


For movies, it has to be Raiders of the Lost Ark (historical thriller based on ‘What if? Hmm..) Spielberg is just the master of stories that grab you and won’t let go. Speaking of which, I ought to sue him for seeing Jaws when I was ten. I only ever go into the ocean now if I think someone more edible-looking than me is already splashing around.

Erin Comments: Love it!!

Q:  Who are your favorite women in history? Who would you want to write about in the future?

A: Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Suffragette movement. She led a tough, tough fight on the road to equality for women and didn’t give up until she won. And Rosa Parks, a middle-aged, ordinary woman who was brave enough to say ‘Enough’ to the unacceptable.

Erin Comments: I am total agreement with you pursuing that book(s).  Emmeline to British women is like Susan B. Anthony in America. I have long been interested in the history of all these women across the globe that fought for our women’s rights. I am hoping more authors take on writing about them. They were amazing trailblazers. And Rosa, yes….quite an inspiration. As we still fight the fight against racism today, she is always an example to look toward, remember that many small acts can combine into one large moment of change.

Q:  I read you are from Ireland, I think….or Irish descent. Have you thought of writing anything from your ancestor’s history? Why or why not?

A: Yes, I’m Irish and proud to be. I get described as British, which gets a particular set of hackles rising!  My grandfather’s uncle was Michael Collins, who was one of the key figures in fighting for independence from the British and who lost his life in the process. When I did my launch for The Fifth Knight, I was presented with a very unexpected and moving link to my past. You can read about it here. http://empowell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/these-irish-eyes-are-smiling.html

Michael Collins

Pictured: Michael Collins-I see the resemblance!

As regards writing about Collins’ history, I don’t think I’d ever take that on as it’s all a bit close to home. I’m primarily interested in medieval history. But I would never say never to any good idea for a novel, so maybe I need to leave this one as an open ‘Maybe.’

Erin Comments: Very interesting! Another example of someone standing up for what they believe in. Definitely always good to keep the notion of possibility open…

Q:  I also see that you like the medieval time period. What do you like best about it and are there plans to pen a novel with that theme? There seems to be few books but lots of interested readers.

A: I love the art, the distinctive colours of illuminated manuscripts. The architecture is wonderful- stone castles of that era are just amazing.

There’s also something that really resonates about a society where religion is woven into every aspect of daily life, where peoples’ lives are ruled by it. I grew up in Ireland when the control and influence of the Catholic church was still incredibly powerful. I was born in a hospital run by nuns, I was educated in a convent school. We went to Mass every week and every holy day. We learned how to baptize a baby in an emergency to save it going to Limbo. Contraception was against the law because the Church forbade it. The Constitution had been co-written by the Archbishop of Dublin in 1937. I could go on. And in so many ways, that is what the medievals experienced, except even more so. So the concept of a life ruled and dominated by religion feels very familiar.

And of course, with the medieval period, there’s chain mail. Everybody likes chain mail. Especially me.

Erin Comments: At our Cleveland Museum of Art here in Ohio, in the U.S., they have a fabulous medieval collection of chain mail, armor, helmets, swords, tapestries….that an opulent family had collected, then donated. There is a very large horse (not real of course) that is decked out in armor and a helmet. It’s my 5 year old daughter’s favorite part of the museum!

Q:  Do you have plans for a sequel and/or separate novels? If so, please share with us.

A: I’m working on the sequel, which is called The Blood of The Fifth Knight. King Henry has to call on Sir Benedict Palmer once again.

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

Website: www.empowell.com/

Blog: www.empowell.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/empowellauthor


Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583496.E_M_Powell

E-mail: elaine@empowell.com

Q:  Please let us know where your books are available for purchase?

A: It’s out worldwide on all Amazon sites-

To purchase the book via Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/The-Fifth-Knight-ebook/dp/B00A017O0I/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1352134191&sr=1-1#

Or on Amazon.co.uk http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Fifth-Knight-ebook/dp/B00A017O0I/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366708643&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fifth+knight

Erin:  Thank you so very much for joining us and sharing on our site today. We wish you the best of luck!

E.M.:  And many thanks to you as well, Erin. It’s been a real pleasure!


Enter to win one (1) paperback copy of The Fifth Knight by commenting below or emailing me at hookofabook@hotmail.com by 11:59 p.m. EST two weeks from the date of this post. Open internationally.

Get 1 extra entry for following this blog and two extra entries for liking my new Hook of a Book Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook.


Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Thomas & Mercer Publishing
Paperback; 390p
ISBN-10: 1611099331

To escape a lifetime of poverty, mercenary Sir Benedict Palmer agrees to one final, lucrative job: help King Henry II’s knights seize the traitor Archbishop Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. But what begins as a clandestine arrest ends in cold-blooded murder. And when Fitzurse, the knights’ ringleader, kidnaps Theodosia, a beautiful young nun who witnessed the crime, Palmer can sit silently by no longer. For not only is Theodosia’s virtue at stake, so too is the secret she unknowingly carries—a secret he knows Fitzurse will torture out of her. Now Palmer and Theodosia are on the run, strangers from different worlds forced to rely only on each other as they race to uncover the hidden motive behind Becket’s grisly murder—and the shocking truth that could destroy a kingdom.

Author E.M. Powell, Biography~

E. M. Powell was born and raised in Ireland, a descendant of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. At University College, Cork, she discovered a love of Anglo-Saxon and medieval English during her study of literature and geography. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Manchester Irish Writers, the Historical Novel Society, and International Thriller Writers. A reviewer for the Historical Novel Society, she lives today in Manchester, England, with her husband and daughter.

For more information, please visit E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thefifthknightvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #FifthKnightVirtualTour

The Fifth Knight Tour Banner FINAL


Filed under Q and A with Authors

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.


Filed under Q and A with Authors