Kate Parker: Deadly Fashion Thursday, Jan 11 2018 


Please welcome Kate Parker, with her newest historical mystery, Deadly Fashion:

A Moment in Time – Deadly Fashion

Deadly Fashion, my newest mystery in the Deadly Series, takes place during a significant time in the lead up to World War II. September and October 1938 encompasses British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s declaration of “Peace in our time.”

This was a case of political wishful thinking seldom topped, since World War II broke out less than a year later.

How does this fit in with the murder mystery or the fashion in Deadly Fashion?

The French fashion designer Mimi Mareau was drawn loosely from the life of Coco Chanel. In the early 1930’s, she was the lover of a British duke who was pro-Nazi. She was a conservative and she designed costumes for Hollywood movies. I kept the duke, but I added the opening of a London fashion house and costuming for a West End play.

On September 22, 1938, four London fashion houses, including Norman Hartnell, presented their fall and winter designs. This must have felt like a relief to see something normal after days of Hitler demanding the German speaking areas of Czechoslovakia be turned over to Germany or face the threat of war. Their shows received little press coverage since shortly thereafter, Hitler gave his ultimatum. Part of Czechoslovakia would be his by October first, or there would be war.

Olivia Denis, my sleuth and society page reporter, writes up a story on the fashion shows, including Mimi Mareau’s, only to see it cut to the bone and replaced by political news. She also knows any hope of finding the murderer of the dead man discovered in Mimi Mareau’s basement shrinks as the country goes on wartime footing. All London seems to hold its breath for the next week, waiting for the madman in Berlin to act.

And then on September 30, 1938, Chamberlain returned from Munich and his meeting with Hitler, waving the document Hitler signed and declaring “Peace in our time.” Everyone around Olivia is relieved. It had only been twenty years since the end of the Great War where millions of Britain’s young men had been mowed down in France. The country wasn’t ready for another war, and the populace didn’t want to lose another generation of men.

Olivia is relieved for another reason, too. Now she can spend time in the fashion salon surrounded by beautiful clothes while she has freedom to hunt for a killer unimpeded by wartime restrictions.

Deadly Fashion, third in the Deadly Series, is available starting today in ebook and paperback at online retailers. Kate Parker is also the author of the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries.

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Carol Western: Karma and the Singing Frogs AND Stranger and Angels Sunday, Dec 10 2017 


Publishing two new books in two months has been challenging to say the least. I had planned to bring out one book in August and the other in October, in an orderly and sensible fashion. Then my book designer and colleague suffered a bereavement and everything got pushed out of schedule. It may have been wiser to postpone publishing the second book, my first Victorian Murder Mystery, until next year but it is set in December and that would have meant putting it back eight months. Mentally and emotionally I was committed to publishing both of them this year, so I did. Sensible has never really been my major quality but determination – some call it stubborn – always has been.

Karma and the Singing Frogs is a contemporary crime novel featuring archaeologist turned CSI Mia Trent. Strangers and Angels is set in 1850 in the naval town of Gosport and features two determined young women, lady’s maid, Molly Bowman and her mistress, Lady Adelaide.

The two books have a lot in common. Both are set on the south coast of England in mid-December and both have female investigators as the viewpoint character. The major difference is the 157 years that separate them.

Mia is an independent career woman who lives alone. She has friends but also that touch of aloofness that is essential for people who have to separate their professional emotions from their personal life in order to deal with the death and suffering they witness every day.

Molly and Adelaide have no political or economic power and they and those around them would find it unthinkable that they should witness the sort of violence that Mia deals with every day.

I think the hardest task when writing Strangers and Angels was to get into the mind-set of strong, intelligent women who accepted that this limited subservience was their role in life. Adelaide, as the disgraced widow of a brutal man who lost everything through gambling and then committed suicide, is in a far worse position than Molly, the only child of a cooper (barrel-maker). Molly’s father wishes her to marry to ensure her safety if he dies but has promised not to force her into marriage. Adelaide accepts that her aristocratic father will arrange another marriage for her, whether she wishes it or not.

My contemporary crime novels are set in fictional settings, mainly because my son is a CSI and I didn’t wish to embarrass him, partly because cut-backs in UK policing mean that police stations and investigative facilities are disappearing quicker than I can write the books.

The Victorian novel is set in a real place and specific time, which involved a lot of research. The two training ships from the Ottoman Empire were really based in Gosport from late 1850 to early 1851 although there are few documents about this event and I have no evidence whether the majority of residents were hostile to the Turkish sailors or not. Some years after the action in this book, a Turkish graveyard was incorporated into the Clayhall graveyard, the only one in England. The memorial inscription reads, in Turkish and English: “They set sail for eternity met their creator and here they are laid to rest.”

In Karma and the Singing Frogs the victim is a young man who moved from Social Service Care to prostitution and the initial suspects are those who have also been in Care. In Strangers and Angels the immediate and convenient suspect is a young Turkish sailor, a stranger without friends in a foreign land.

For me, the main thing the two books have in common is the ageless theme of justice and how it is too often only for the powerful and privileged.

Carol Westron lives near the south coast of England and it is here that her fiction is set. She writes both contemporary and historical crime fiction, as well as non-fiction articles on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She also reviews books and interviews authors for Mystery People. A passionate believer in empowerment through creativity, she teaches creative writing to community classes and writes children’s picture books about a child who is different and ‘sees the secrets behind the darkness,’ which are illustrated by her severely autistic grandson.

Nicola Upson: Nine Lessons Saturday, Nov 25 2017 


The seventh entry in Upson’s remarkable series featuring Josephing Tey as a character is Nine Lessons, and if you haven’t found this series yet, now’s the time to pick up this one and then find your way to the previous six. All are intricately plotted, have researched settings of the period between the World Wars that brings that era to life, and perhaps most importantly, honest depictions of the characters who live within the pages, with all the foibles of humanity we recognize.

The focus this time revovles around Tey’s goood friend, DCI Archie Penrose and a case that seems almost unsolvable. He’s called to a churchyard where the corpse of the organist is found in an opened cryp. The man has died a horrific death; a photo of a manor house and a brief note as found with his body.

At the same time, Josephine is in Cambridge, helping to sort out a new house, when a series of attacks against women set the ancient city on edge.

When Archie’s next body is found near King’s College Chapel, it brings him to Josephine to help with old research on this case, as he’s discovered a connection between the two murders that has its genesis in the storied town when both victims were students. What could have happened twenty-five years ago that is making a murderer take his revenge now?

As if solving a complicated murder and finding a serial rapist were not enough, Upson continues the thread of Archie’s personal life and its own secrets in such a way that the final horrific twist in that story will have ramifications for years to come.

This is a complex and compelling story, encompassing what historical crime fiction should, blending true history with the fictional lives of these stunning characters into a whole book that moves the reader as it solves the crimes. Highly recommended.

Jay Kristoff: Godsgrave Sunday, Nov 5 2017 

Jay Kristoff returns with assassin Mia Corvere in her quest for revenge in Godsgrave in a series that has made his name among teen readers.

This fantasy series uses a mix of ancient and horrific to mesmerize readers, often brutal, sometimes sensual.

Mia is with the Red Church ministry, going about her brutal business, but she still yearns to avenge her family and murder her enemies.

One of the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, she finds her nemeses, Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo will be at the conclusion of the games in Godsgrave. She will sell herself to a for the chance to end them.

But she will find amongst new friends and rival that there are conspiracies she never expected. As the body’s mount, Mia will discover a secret that changes everything.

This is Book Two of Kristoff’s Nevernight Chronicle, a spine-chilling series with touches of magic interwoven with the fantastic elements that make it an epic tale.

Michelle Birkby: The House at Baker Street Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 

Former library assistant Michelle Birkby has long been a fan of the Conan Doyle stories and especially of his female characters, so it’s no surprise her debut, The House at Baker Street, concentrates on the giving those women their own stories to tell.

Shortlisted for Best Historical Crime Novel by the CWA, her story takes two beloved women, Mary Watson and Mrs. Hudson, and given them full-depth characterizations. Her fresh take on Mrs. Hudson, always so much more than just his housekeeper, pushed the action. After working with Sherlock Holmes and observing him at work, when he turns down a case, she and Mary Watson decide they will take it on themselves.

Laura Shirley is a society woman who is being blackmailed, but the two sleuths quickly discover she’s just one of a long list of women trying to preserve their reputations when women’s rights meant something entirely different that that phrase conjurs up now, and when a whiff of any impropriety, justified or not, could ruin a woman. Despite not demanding money, the blackmailer is ruining lives, and Mrs. Hudson, who’s voice is grand in this, determines she cannot abide the practice and sets out to stop him. When the women realize the depth of the tragic ends some of the women come to, their resolve deepens.

This feminist take on the classic detective investigation will see the two women using the Baker Street irregulars and even Irene Adler to follow clues to bring the perpretrator to justice. There are appearances by Holmes and Watson, and references to the Canon, but the story belongs to the women.

Original and entertaining, with a second book already set for next year.

Will Thomas: Old Scores Sunday, Oct 8 2017 

Will Thomas’ historical series featuring private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his right-hand assistant, Thomas Llewelyn returns with an intricately-plotted mystery, Old Scores.

It’s 1890 and things are becoming modernized when a Japanese delegation, in England to form a new embassy, arrive to visit Barker’s own Japanese garden along with the new ambassador. The team he arrives with are varied, and Llewelyn fancies that Barker recognizes one of the men.

When the ambassador is shot that same evening, Barker is found across the street and immediately arrested, although that doesn’t last long. Despite the Foreign Branch subjecting him to a more than necessary interrogation, his lawyer manages to procure his release. At the behest of the new ambassador, Barker and Llewelyn undertake an investigation to find the real murderer.

This time readers learn more of Barker’s past and his time in Japan, as well as the cultural overtones of the political situation of the era. There are personal details that come with personal revelations. Authentic period details spring off the page and speak to Thomas’ research. Llewelyn’s own situation comes into play, as does the ward Barker keeps an eye on, now married.

It’s a complex unraveling they must undertake, chock full of sly humor and a bit of suspense in a most atmospheric London.

Juliana Grey: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit & A Strange Scottish Shore Tuesday, Oct 3 2017 

Juliana Gray debuted her series last year with A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, featuring Emmeline Truelove, private secretary to the Duke of Olympia, a position her father held before her.

After an intriguing prologue set in contemporary times, the book goes back to Edwardian times. It’s 1906 when the Duke dies in a fishing accident, and Truelove suddenly finds herself, against her better judgement and that of the ghost of the Queen who advises against it, on her way to find the Duke’s heir.

Only the heir is missing from Crete, where he’s been uncovering archeological treasures, and Truelove is sent packing off that same night as the funeral to travel by the Duke’s private yacht. Her travel companion, friend of the missing Arthur Maximillian Haywood, is none other than the cad Lord Silverton, who had the temerity to introduce himself to Truelove earlier as Freddie.

This young woman is a paragon of virtue for several reasons, and is Freddie’s attentions as the trip progresses to Crete. Once there, they will face ransacked rooms, murders and more following Max’s trail to a surprising conclusion, one that includes facets of the paranormal. It will end with Truelove’s new position and some hanging details that carry over.

After the novella, The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, Gray returns with this year’s entry in the series, A Strange Scottish Shore. The new Duke and Truelove travel to the Orkney Islands, a remote destination off Scotland’s coast, to investigate a strange find in an ancient castle.

The artifact is supposed to be the the skin of a selkie, a being who rose from the sea and supposedly married the castle’s first laird. Silverton makes his appearance in a most unusual way, as does a stalker for Truelove. It’s a complex plot of time travel and fighting foes, and with Max’s special talent coming into play. The banter from Silverton and Truelove continues and deepens.

The series, with its mix of historical mystery, fantasy, time travel and romance will interest many readers for that very reason. This one highlights the time travel. Perfect for Outlander fans.

Ashley Weaver: The Essence of Malice Saturday, Sep 30 2017 

Ashley Weaver’s series set in the time of Nick and Nora Charles returns with the 4th entry, The Essence of Malice, that starts with Amory receiving the gift of a new perfume, Shazadi, a heady gardenia and sensual scent, and scents will overlay the entire story.

Readers have become engaged with Amory Ames and her somewhat rakish husband Milo. The upper classes shine brightly, filled with glamour, as Amory finds out more than she ever wanted to know about the world of perfumers. Of course, her maid, Winnelda, and Milo’s valet, Parks, are on hand to smooth their travels.

After Milo receives a letter from his childhood nanny, he convinces Amory to travel from the lovely Lake Como in Italy with him to Paris to see Madame Nanette. Her wealthy employer, a premiere parfumier, has died just as his newest perfume is to be released, and the nanny feels that Helio Belanger’s death, after a plane accident the day before that he walked away from, apparently unhurt, was not natural. Belanger was a beau of Nanette 30 years before and she had consented to be a nanny to his young child with his second wife.

Amory and Milo become wrapped up in the unhappy family and the perfume industry as they investigate what really happened to Belanger, which has a heavy share of rivals, as well as family members who want to control the empire he built. Amory learns about creating new perfumes, layering scents, and that Belanger has three grown children as well as that new wife, all of whom live together, all suspsects vying for control of his business.

This is chock-full of snappy dialgue, romantic tension, lies and secret, all wrapped up in a darn good mystery. Add in the world of perfumers and you’ll learn while you deduct.

My favorite in the series to date, with a surprising ending.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express Friday, Sep 15 2017 

“All my life I had wanted to go on the Orient Express. When I had travelled to France or Spain or Italy, the Orient Express had often been standing at Calais, and I had longed to climb up into it.” Agatha Christie: An Autobiography.

Today is the 127th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie, the author whose works are outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible. She’s also the most translated author, with more than 2 billion books published in over 100 languages.

In honor of Twentieth Century Fox’s new version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, premiering this fall, HarperColliins/William Morrow is offering the book in every form from hardcover and paperback to E-book and Digital Audio. There’s even a large print version. In the movie, Poirot will be played by a dashing Kenneth Branagh, with Judi Dench, Derek Jacopi, Olivia Coleman, Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Leslie Odom, Jr. among the talented cast.

Auntie M thought her readers might be interested in some background on this long-time favorite, starring Christie’s beloved Hercule Poirot. If you haven’t read this classic, she hopes this will whet your appetite to read the original before the movie premieres. Here’s Branagh as Poirot, different from David Suchet, who to Auntie M was always the embodiment of Poirot, but dashing in his own way. Branagh directs the film:

Agatha’s wish to travel on the famed train came true a year after the end of her first marriage, the same year her mother died. She visited Iraq on what would be the first trip of many with second husband, Max Mallowan, an archeologist with yearly digs in Iraq and Syria. A snippet from Mallowan’s Memoirs describes how Agatha almost didn’t get to write the book:

It was luck that she lived to write the book, for not long before penning it while standing on the railway station at Calais, she slipped on the icy platform and fell underneath the train. Luckily, a porter was at hand to fish her up before the Orient Express started moving.

This is Agatha with Max:

The book had its genesis when Agatha was travelling alone on the OE and it was stopped after being stuck due to heavy rains. As the passengers talked, she heard stories of snow storms that had stranded the train for days at a time. Her story was also greatly influenced by the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby during this period. Agatha is thought to have written the book during 1931, and it was first published in September of 1933 as a series in the American magazine The Saturday Evening Post under the title Murder in the Calais Coach. It was published at the same time in the UK as Murder on the Orient Express and is dedicated to M.E.L.M: Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.

In a letter to Max, Agatha describes the rain and several other travellers on that train trip which clearly influenced her future mystery. She noted details such as cabin layouts, and the placement of door handles and light switches, which would all serve her in good stead when she decided to have Poirot solve the case she develops.

Agatha wrote her first mystery on a bet with her sister at the age of 26 (1916), and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Hercule Poirot, was published four year later. Many readers know that her play, The Mousetrap, is the longest running play in the world after its debut in 1952, and visitors to London can see it at The St Martin’s Theatre.

If you haven’t read Murder on the Orient Express, now’s the time to pick up a copy of the story, which revolves around Poirot on the Orient Express when it gets stuck in a snowbank. There will be a murder, concealed identities, and the incomparable Belgian sleuth figuring it all out, with a twist at the end.

Happy Birthday, Dame Agatha!

Frances Brody: Death at the Seaside Thursday, Sep 14 2017 

In Death at the Seaside, the 8th Kate Shackleton Mystery, the private eye is taking a little vacation at the seaside–or so she plans, in 1920s England. Driving to the Northumbriann coast of Whitby, she plans to visit her old school friend, Alma, and Kate’s god-daughter Felicity.

But nothing goes as planned when Kate arrives to find Alma is now working as a fortune teller, and shortly after, she stumbles over the body of the local jeweler, Jack Phillips.

It turns out that Alma thought that she and Jack were something of an item. And Felicity, instead of stickng around to see her godmother has disappeared with her boyfriend on her own important journey.

It’s a rocky investigation for Kate, as the local police seem to think she might be responsible for killing Jack, a man she’s never met, or a the very least, be involved in smuggling! It will take an old Scotland Yard friend to set them straight on that score.

But Kate will have to call on Mrs. Sugden and her capable sidekick, Jim Sykes, both vacationing nearby, to temporaily join her. Even Jim’s wife gets pressed into service to find a killer.

One of the hallmarks of Brody’s series is the historical detail and settings she details just right. Readers will feel they’ve been to Whitby. If you adore Golden Age mysteries, look no further than this entertaining and always compelling series.

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