Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:
Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances—most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.
Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.
Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.
As they interact with various literary figures of the time—Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others—these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.
I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.
Warmest regards, Natalie
Read an excerpt:
The Tyrant was Alec McDonough, a bachelor in his early thirties who ran the New Books, Fiction & Art Department on the ground floor of Bloomsbury Books. He had read literature and fine art at the University of Bristol and been planning on a career in something big—Vivien accused him of wanting to run a small colony—when the war had intervened. Following his honourable discharge in 1945, Alec had joined the shop on the exact same day as Vivien. “By an hour ahead. Like a dominant twin,” she would quip whenever Alec was rewarded with anything first.
From the start Alec and Vivien were rivals, and not just for increasing control of the fiction floor. Every editor that wandered in, every literary guest speaker, was a chance for them to have access to the powers that be in the publishing industry. As two secretly aspiring writers, they had each come to London and taken the position at Bloomsbury Books for this reason. But they were also both savvy enough to know that the men in charge—from the rigid Mr. Dutton and then-head-of-fiction Graham Kingsley, to the restless Frank Allen and crusty Master Mariner Scott—were whom they first needed to please. Alec had a clear and distinct advantage when it came to that. Between the tales of wartime service, shared grammar schools, and past cricket-match victories, Vivien grew quickly dismayed at her own possibility for promotion.
Sure enough, within weeks Alec had quickly entrenched himself with both the long-standing general manager, Herbert Dutton, and his right-hand man, Frank Allen. By 1948, upon the retirement of Graham Kingsley, Alec had ascended to the post of head of fiction, and within the year had added new books and art to his oversight—an achievement which Vivien still referred to as the Annexation.
She had been first to call him the Tyrant; he called her nothing at all. Vivien’s issues with Alec ranged from the titles they stocked on the shelves, to his preference for booking events exclusively with male authors who had served in war. With her own degree in literature from Durham (Cambridge, her dream university, still refusing in 1941 to graduate women), Vivien had rigorously informed views on the types of books the fiction department should carry. Not surprisingly, Alec disputed these views.
“But he doesn’t even read women,” Vivien would bemoan to Grace, who would nod back in sympathy while trying to remember her grocery list before the bus journey home. “I mean, what—one Jane Austen on the shelves? No Katherine Mansfield. No Porter. I mean, I read that Salinger story in The New Yorker he keeps going on about: shell-shocked soldiers and children all over the place, and I don’t see what’s so masculine about that.”
Unlike Vivien, Grace did not have much time for personal reading, an irony her husband often pointed out. But Grace did not work at the shop for the books. She worked there because the bus journey into Bloomsbury took only twenty minutes, she could drop the children off at school on the way, and she could take the shop newspapers home at the end of the day. Grace had been the one to suggest that they also carry import magazines, in particular The New Yorker. Being so close to the British Museum and the theatre district, Bloomsbury Books received its share of wealthy American tourists. Grace was convinced that such touches from home would increase their time spent browsing, along with jazz music on the wireless by the front cash, one of many ideas that Mr. Dutton was still managing to resist.
Vivien and Alec had manned the ground floor of the shop together for over four years, circling each other within the front cash counter like wary lions inside a very small coliseum. The square, enclosed counter had been placed in the centre of the fiction department in an effort to contain an old electrical outlet box protruding from the floor. Mr. Dutton could not look at this eyesore without seeing a customer lawsuit for damages caused by accidental tripping. Upon his promotion to general manager in the 1930s, Dutton had immediately ordained that the front cash area be relocated and built around the box.
This configuration had turned out to be of great benefit to the staff. One could always spot a customer coming from any direction, prepare the appropriate response to expressions ranging from confused to hostile, and even catch the surreptitious slip of an unpurchased book into a handbag. Other bookshops had taken note of Bloomsbury Books’ ground-floor design and started refurbishing their own. The entire neighbourhood was, in this way, full of spies. Grace and Vivien were not the only two bookstore employees out and about, checking on other stores’ window displays. London was starting to boom again, after five long years of postwar rationing and recovery, and new bookshops were popping up all over. Bloomsbury was home to the British Museum, the University of London, and many famous authors past and present, including the prewar circle of Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey. This made the district a particularly ideal location for readers, authors, and customers alike.
And so, it was here, on a lightly snowing day on the second of January, 1950, that a young Evie Stone arrived, Mr. Allen’s trading card in one pocket, and a one-way train ticket to London in the other.
Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.
Hello, book people. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, I enjoy reading stories set in small towns but prefer living with big-city energy. I moved back to the capital city and largest city in my home state, and the population is less than 50,000. (I miss living in large cities such as Atlanta and Boston almost every day.) Although I’m a big-city girl at heart, I’m fascinated by the way authors captivate the feel of small-town life in their stories. I’m pleased to welcome Tina deBellegarde, author of Dead Man’s Leap, today. Ms. deBellegarde will be discussing with us the importance of crafting believable small-town dynamics in her writings. Thank you, Ms. deBellegarde for taking the time away from your writing, gardening, beehives, and traveling to join us today. The blog is now all yours.
Small Town Dynamics: Writing a Village Mystery By Tina deBellegarde
One of the great joys of writing the Batavia-on-Hudson series is that I get to immerse myself in the small-town dynamics.
Ever since I was a little girl watching black and white episodes of Mayberry, all I ever wanted was to live in a town as cozy and connected as the one Opie, Aunt Bee and Sheriff Andy Taylor lived in. I savored the way the villagers all knew each other, how they celebrated and mourned together. I loved that despite their differences they treated each other as family. Mayberry was full of quirky characters but also full of realistic and idealistic characters. I luxuriated in the personal connections of all the villagers and how they cared for each other. Most of all, I took great satisfaction in the way the sheriff meted out justice through the spirit of the law above the letter of the law. I wanted to live in a town where everyone knows everyone, where I would always be an integral member.
Then ten years ago I moved to my own Mayberry. Catskill, New York is a small intimate place, where nearly everybody knows your name, where we celebrate and mourn together. We are a bunch of quirky neighbors and we accept each other as we are. Every time we open the newspaper, the good, the bad, the happy and the sad stories are about people we know.
I am both an insider and an outsider. New to town, I am naturally a member of the transplant community, a group that has grown exponentially of late. But with some effort on my part along with a job in the tiny public library, I have been accepted by the larger community of locals. My connection to the neighborhood has been such a blessing.
So, it’s no surprise that at the beginning of my writing journey, Batavia-on-Hudson materialized. I created a map of a fictitious village based on all my favorite places. Then I populated it with characters I would love to spend time with. Some are based loosely on people I know, many are purely fictitious. Then I wound them up and set them free to behave in ways that make sense for their role in the community, their personalities, their backstories.
All of my characters have extensive backstories. In many cases, only I know what they are, but I needed those backstories so that I could get to know them better. We all have extensive histories in real life, it is how we become who we are. We are the sum of all our experiences. So are the residents of Batavia-on-Hudson.
The murder or the puzzle in my books is a device that I use to drive my story forward so we can get to know the villagers, their motivations, their fears, aspirations, and flaws. We learn through the investigation that things are not what they appear, that more lies beneath the surface. These secrets may not be related to the crime being investigated, but they are eventually revealed and another layer of complexity in that particular character becomes apparent. It’s like peeling an onion.
I have come to know these villagers so well that when I think of them and speak of them, I often forget that they are fictional. They have become so real to me. Their circumstances touch me, worry me. I often find myself tearing up over an exchange between my characters. These people’s struggles matter to me. And when the story ends, and the villagers have their celebration, my heart sings. I am celebrating with them.
I have my Mayberry, it’s called Batavia-on-Hudson, and I am blessed to be a part of it. ♦
Dead Man’s Leap
by Tina deBellegarde
May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
DEAD MAN’S LEAP revisits Bianca St. Denis in Batavia-on-Hudson, New York
Rushing waters…dead bodies…secrets…
As Bianca St. Denis and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Leonard Marshall’s historic inn hosts the sale each year, but it is his basement that houses the key to his past. When an enigmatic antiques dealer arrives in town, he upends Leonard’s carefully reconstructed life with an impossible choice that harkens back to the past.
Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers of Batavia-on-Hudson to seek shelter, the river rises and so do tempers. Close quarters fuel simmering disputes, and Sheriff Mike Riley has his work cut out for him. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. Are they investigating an accidental drowning or something more nefarious?
Dead Man’s Leap explores the burden of secrets, the relief of renunciation, and the danger of believing we can outpace our past.
Tina deBellegarde has been called “the Louise Penny of the Catskills.” Winter Witness, the first book in her Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, a Silver Falchion Award, and a Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Award. Her story “Tokyo Stranger” which appears in the Mystery Writers of America anthology When a Stranger Comes to Town edited by Michael Koryta has been nominated for a Derringer Award. Tina’s short fiction also appears in The Best New England Crime Stories anthologies. She is the vice-president of the Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and Writers in Kyoto. She lives in Catskill, New York, with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby where they tend to their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She winters in Florida and travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro.
Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and got some reading time in. Before I started this blog, I had the notion that all authors sat down at their neat desks, checked their outlines for what should be happening in the story, turned on their computers, and simply picked up where they left off the day before. I didn’t know the difference between “plotters” and “pantsers” in the writing world. I didn’t know that some authors may struggle to put down 1500 words for the day or even the week, no matter what the goal might be. Hey, life happens for authors as well, with its constant interruptions, emergencies, etc. I’m pleased to welcome, Kerry L. Peresta, author of The Rising, to the blog today. Ms. Peresta will be taking us through a not-so-very-good writing day. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to share and add The Rising to your TBR list. Thank you, Ms. Peresta for joining us today, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
The Most Irritating Writing Day Ever Kerry Peresta
I tend to be an orderly, systematic, person. When my notes, research, and plotlines coalesce in symphonic symmetry, I want to jump out of my chair and celebrate. When this doesn’t happen, however—which is probably 60% of the time—I sink into an inertia that is wildly unpredictable.
Those days are hard. Let’s examine some of my main creativity-killers and outright dumb irritations that I (and perhaps some of you) experience:
1) At the top of the list is a work-at-home husband on the brink of retirement. Is there ANYthing more irritating than having a man in the home on an intense Zoom meeting, unable to temper his uber-loud and energetic tone of voice? Plus, the guy trots in at least three times during my peak writing hours to give me a ‘status update’. It is endearing that he feels he must share with his wife every jot and tittle of his daily progress, but my zone is interrupted, my irritation quotient is off the charts, and my plotline is toast by the time he finishes updating me. The only thing that prevents mass interruptions while I’m writing is listening to music or white noise in my earbuds at damaging decibel levels. Apparently, this is something I must accept until he’s fully retired and I can shoo him away to go fishing or ride his bicycle or do random man-stuff. For hours, hopefully.
2) A phone call from one of my four grown kids. Now, I adore my kids. Three are married and one is single. All have decent jobs and pay their own bills and enjoy sweet families. If something major happens, I don’t care what time they call, I’m there for them. However, when I’m in my writing bubble, I’m not sure they understand my need to reschedule our conversation. I understand (and am delighted) that they still need mommy occasionally, but could they put their issues on hold until early afternoon? Just saying. Interrupt my morning writing time and boom, spurt of creativity takes major hit.
3) Cat on computer. Cat behind computer. Cat underneath chair. Cat in windowsill. Cat meowing for food. Cat jumping in lap. I bet I am virtually listening to a big, bunch of resounding high fives out there. Writers love their cats. I love my ginger, Felix; and my tuxedo, Agnes. They irritate me to no end while I labor at my Wayfair, L-shaped, pressed-wood desk, but would I want to live without them? Impossible. Besides, eventually they settle into little, furry, doughnuts of contentment on the couch in my office.
4) It is so darn irritating when I’m pecking away at my laptop and the weather is perfect. Sunny, a light breeze flitting through the leaves, the birds at their feeders, flowers at peak bloom, temps climbing to a perfect 78 degrees. It’s too inviting and I cannot resist enjoying the outdoors. Unless I have to turn in something within hours, it is useless to try to focus on my laptop screen.
Unless I have to.
Which is equally irritating.
5) Too many sneak peeks at Amazon stats to see how well my latest book is doing. I am so exhilarated when the ranking stats drop below 5,000 in a category or maybe even below 1,000 that I can write all day. If the stats soar—in that same category— to over 20,000…I’m pretty much guaranteed to be in a bad mood for a while, which derails my zone.
I should quit doing that. Really.
6) The lawn guys show up. They mow, and then they’re blowing off everything in sight with their high-powered gas blowers and they are RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. I turn up the white noise in my earbuds. I try to ignore their friendly smiles. I try to focus on my fingers on the keyboard. Finally, I slump in my chair and wait it out. If they’re super-duper fast it’ll only take five minutes. On a bad day, ten. Yes, I could write somewhere else when they come, but I love my desk.
And my monitor. And my desk chair.
So I endure the lawn guys. It’s a minor irritation.
7) Lunchtime happens. I am probably the biggest non-foodie on the planet. I eat because my body won’t let me get by with not eating, and that’s the truth. I consider food a fuel, like gas in a car. If there was a pill, I’d take it and keep writing. So when noon or one rolls around, and my stomach starts to grumble…with a big sigh, I leave my keyboard and go pull out stuff from the fridge, throw it together, think about something else that will make the meal ‘balanced’ or whatever. It’s a huge irritation because I don’t like to take the time to fix a meal, and then…there’s clean-up.
I am chuckling as I type this post, realizing afresh how much I love to sit and write my heart out and plot and delight in the twists that happen under my fingers. It is magic, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to write in an environment with no distractions! Yes.
But mostly, I grit my teeth and stay in my chair until 1500 words is done, and try to push away the various irritants that swirl around me like flies. Sometimes I make it to 2,500 words in a day. Even 5,000.
But if the irritants align and all the above-referenced situations happen in one day? One morning? One hour?
No one wants to be around me then. ♦
by Kerry L Peresta
May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
After an assault that landed her in a hospital as a Jane Doe two years earlier, Olivia Callahan has regained her speech, movement, and much of the memory she lost due to a traumatic brain injury. The media hype about the incident has faded away, and Olivia is ready to rebuild her life, but her therapist insists she must continue to look back in order to move forward. The only person that can help her recall specifics is her abusive ex-husband, Monty, who is in prison for murder. The thought of talking to Monty makes her skin crawl, but for her daughters’ sake and her own sanity, she must learn more about who she was before the attack.
Just as the pieces of her life start falling into place, she stumbles across the still-warm body of an old friend who has been gruesomely murdered. Her dream of pursuing a peaceful existence is shattered when she learns the killer left evidence behind to implicate her in the murder. The only person that would want to sabotage her is Monty—but he’s in prison! Something sinister is going on, and Olivia is desperate to uncover the truth before another senseless murder is committed.
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Suspense, Mystery Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: March 29, 2022 Number of Pages: 300 ISBN: 168512092X (paperback) ISBN13: 9781685120924 (paperback) ASIN: B09WDXLM72 (Kindle edition) Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, Book 2 Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop.org | Goodreads
Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011), and magazine articles in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of three published novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, The Deadening, Book One of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series, and The Rising, Book Two. Book Three in this series releases in 2023 by Level Best Books. She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, editor, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island, SC, in 2015. She is the mother of four adult children and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who remind her what life is all about.
Welcome to the start of another bookish week, my bookish divas and divos. I hope you had the opportunity to shop at your favorite indie bookstore this past Saturday during Independent Bookstore Day and grab a few good books. Sadly, rainy weather and seasonal allergy-induced migraine headaches kept me indoors for much of the weekend. Of all the things I can call myself, book diva is perhaps one of my favorites. We all have several labels we don throughout our lives: child, sibling, graduate, spouse, parent, etc. But there are many others that we may not give much thought to such as advocate, feminists, or ally. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Chiuba E. Obele, author of The Orientation of Dylan Woodger, who’ll be discussing the permissibility of some labels. Thank you, Mr. Obele, for joining us today and sharing your thoughts on this subject, the blog is now all yours.
Is it right for male authors to call ourselves “feminists?” by Chiuba E Obele
As a man, I’ve always had an interest in feminism. In fact, learning more about feminism was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing The Orientation of Dylan Woodger. That writing took me on a journey. To prepare myself for this novel, I studied feminist texts and listened to survivors talk about their struggles with sexual assault. This learning not only guided my writing; it also transformed me. Now more than ever, I feel compassion for women, and as an author, I want to do my part to support them. They deserve to be treated as equals, given equal opportunities, and have rights over their own bodies. But in recent days, I’ve had to ask myself a difficult question: Is it right for male authors (like myself) who support the views of feminists and want to use our work to raise awareness, to label ourselves as feminists?
In the book, Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression,” while the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality.” Feminist literature, as the name suggests, is based on the principles of feminism, and refers to any literary work that centers on the struggle for gender equality. But can only women be feminists? Or are males considered? And what about feminist novels? Can a man a write a feminist novel? Not according to author Paraic O’Donnell. He writes:
“Accepting the principles of feminism is a matter of simple justice…Still, no matter what a man believes, it’s my view that he has no business calling himself a feminist, since to do so is to claim for himself a lived experience he has never known and a struggle in which he has had no part. In the same way, a man cannot claim to have written a feminist novel[.]”
According to O’Donnell, feminism must always be led by women, just as the fight for racial equality must be led by those who are most affected by racism. But is it really as straightforward as this? Should pro-feminist men be restricted to the sidelines as allies in the struggle for gender equality, but disqualified from full membership by virtue of their privileged position? Or can any man who supports the idea of women’s liberation call himself a feminist?
Today, there’s an ongoing debate over men and their entitlement to call themselves feminists, with some arguing that since feminism is a movement founded by women for the advancement of women, men have no right to lay claim to the label. Similarly in the art context, there are some who believe feminist literature can only be written by women. But I disagree. As I see it, one does not have to be born with a particular gender or identify as a particular gender, to be an advocate for feminism. Feminism isn’t a female-only club. From Frederick Douglass and John Stuart Mill to today’s scholars, there are plenty of men who, despite their flaws, have sought to advance women’s liberation. As Noah Berlatsky of The Atlantic writes, “Male feminists are neither new nor perfect, but they make important contributions to the advancement of women.”
Similarly, I believe that men are capable of writing feminist literature. Restricting feminist literature to only female authors means that we are excluding men from the conversation around gender equality. Gender should be no barrier to active participation in feminist literature. If we believe that feminist literature is about confronting the assumptions that hold women back within our society and presenting stories that defend not only their abilities, but also their equality, then anyone can write literature from a feminist viewpoint. In fact, it is crucial that more men do so.
Having said all that, I understand why some women have misgivings about men’s involvement in feminism. Many men have tried to take over women’s spaces, claiming to be better feminists than women, and failing to recognize or challenge their own sexist behavior. And this raises an important point: if you’re a man and you want to call yourself a feminist, always remember that it’s a label you must earn. Earning that label isn’t even half of the work; what really matters is how you act. In feminist spaces, it’s best for men to take the backseat and actively listen to women’s concerns while thinking of meaningful ways to challenge their own privilege and lend support. As Noah Berlatsky points out, pro-feminist men are not perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we should give up trying to do better. The same is true for male authors like myself.♦
The Orientation of Dylan Woodger
by Chiuba E Obele
April 18 – May 13, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Solving mysteries is never easy. Dealing with an infuriated mob boss and acute amnesia only makes it worse.
Dylan Woodger is a college student who is captured and tortured by the mafia. After amnesia obscures the last three years of his life, Dylan learns that he has stolen three million dollars from a ruthless mafia boss. When, how, and why – he doesn’t remember. But someone betrayed him and gave him a drug that erased his memory. He was then given over to be tortured.
Determined to recover his memory, Dylan begins delving into the events of the past. As he struggles to put the pieces of his past back together, Dylan finds himself wrapped up in a path of vengeance made even more perilous by the presence of assassins, gangsters, and detectives. But as each new piece of the puzzle falls into place, Dylan realizes that no one is who they seem, especially himself. He now has links to rapists, white supremacists, and murders. People who claim to be his friends are hiding secrets from him. And his girlfriend is beautiful, but that’s all he knows about her. Who are these people? And who is Dylan? Even he doesn’t know!
The Orientation of Dylan Woodger is the story of a young man who is torn between his capacity to do evil and his desire to do what’s right. This book explores racism and feminism, and addresses controversial topics such as male rape, hate crimes, and misogyny toward women. The characters are disturbing, but the book aspires to be hopeful, as these characters ultimately succeed in finding some measure of humanity.
There are so many unanswered questions . . . But first, Dylan must survive the torture.
Genre: Mystery Published by: Fischer House Publications Publication Date: April 19, 2022 Number of Pages: 377 ISBN: 9798985146400 Purchase Links:Amazon | Goodreads
CHIUBA EUGENE OBELE is a poet, writer, and author of The Orientation of Dylan Woodger: A Central New York Crime Story. He can usually be found reading a book, and that book will more likely than not be a crime fiction novel. Chiuba lives and works out of his home in Boston, Massachusetts. When not absorbed in the latest page-turner, Chiuba enjoys spending his summers vacationing with his parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray ISBN: 9780593313817 (trade paperback) ISBN: 9780593313824 (ebook) ISBN: 9780593592342 (digital audiobook) ASIN: B09JMN3MQQ (Kindle edition) ASIN: B09L5DFNFZ (Audible audiobook) Release Date: May 3, 2022 Publisher:Vintage Books Genre: Historical Fiction | Historical Mystery | Cozy Mystery | Austenesque
A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.
The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.
Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.
“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the book she would have written. Devotees of Austen’s timeless novels will get the greatest possible pleasure from this wonderful book. Immense fun and beautifully observed. Delicious!” —Alexander McCall Smith
“What a splendid conceit! . . . Gray provides plenty of backstory and enough depth to her characters that even those who mix up their Pride and Prejudice with their Sense and Sensibility will delight in the Agatha Christie–style mystery. . . . There’s so much fun to be had in this reimagined Austen world—and the mystery is so strong—that one can only hope, dear reader, that more books will follow.” —Ilene Cooper, Booklist (starred review)
“[An] enchanting mystery. . . . Gray perfectly captures the personalities of Austen’s beloved characters. This is a real treat for Austenites.” —Publishers Weekly
“Who would NOT want to read a book in which one of literature’s most notorious rakes meets his final demise? . . . A delightful Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen romp.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
Read an excerpt:
Three times now, Fitzwilliam Darcy had believed himself permanently rid of the odious presence of George Wickham. Three times, he’d been wrong. The division eight months ago had seemed as though it had to be final, but no. Fate could be pernicious.
“Ah,” Wickham said, strolling forward. “I see my timing is inopportune. In the city, you see, the fashion is for later dinners.”
Knightley stood, pale and drawn. He looked as though he loathed Wickham as much as Darcy did. “You would not have been invited at any hour.”
Wickham’s smile widened. Somehow, in the heart of a confrontation, the man managed to seem even more at ease. “If I waited for an invitation to receive that which is mine in right of law—yes, Mr. Knightley, I imagine my wait would be very long.”
Knightley’s lips pressed together. Emma’s face had flushed with ill-repressed anger. Nor were they the only persons agitated at the table: Wentworth’s expression was dark, and his wife had tensed, as though she expected to have to fly from her chair to hold him back. Worst of all was dear Elizabeth, frozen like ice in her seat; her fingers were wrapped tightly around the hilt of her dinner knife. Jonathan’s distrust of his uncle clearly warred with his concern for his mother.
As for the Brandons, the Bertrams, and the young Miss Tilney: they each appeared deeply confused by the sudden, severe deviation from common civility. Therefore, none of them had ever met George Wickham before. Darcy envied them the privilege.
A loud clap of thunder rumbled through the air, the house, the ground itself. In the next instant, raindrops began to pelt the windows and ground, striking the windowpanes until they rattled.
Darcy could’ve cursed aloud. To judge by the hoofbeats he’d heard outside earlier, Wickham had arrived on horseback rather than by carriage, and not even the most odious company would be thrown out in such weather. Particularly in such hilly country as this corner of Surrey—to attempt to ride in a severe thunderstorm risked the health and nerves of one’s horse, and even one’s life.
Wickham raised an eyebrow, as aware as anyone of the etiquette that imprisoned his hosts. “It seems I shall be staying for a while.”
“I fear we cannot accommodate you at the table, Mr. Wickham.” Mrs. Knightley pushed her chair back as abruptly as an ill-mannered child. Jonathan would’ve been scolded for less, as a boy. She said, “Allow me to get you settled, and the servants will bring something up to you for dinner.” With that she strode out of the room. After a moment, Wickham inclined his head to the table—an ironical half bow—then followed her.
Had she done the right thing? The normal rules could not apply to such a situation as this. Jonathan would’ve resolved to ask his parents later had they not appeared so stricken. No, he would be left to interpret this for himself.
A silence followed, empty of words and yet suffocatingly heavy. Finally, Knightley cleared his throat. “My dear guests, I must beg your pardon. The gentleman who has arrived is . . . no friend to this household. Yet there are matters between us that must be resolved.”
“He seemed insolent in the extreme,” said Mrs. Brandon, astonishingly forthright. “What a disagreeable person.”
In any other circumstances, Jonathan might’ve found such a pronouncement rude; tonight, people seemed freed to speak their thoughts—and to the whole table, at that. Understandable, perhaps, but in his opinion it set a dangerous precedent.
“George Wickham is indeed disagreeable,” Knightley agreed, “however skilled he is at pretending otherwise.”
Brandon spoke for the first time at dinner. “Did you say—Mr. George Wickham?”
Knightley nodded. “A former army officer, who now fancies himself an arranger of investments. Bah! Investments that work to his own gain and everyone else’s loss.”
“Certainly to ours,” Wentworth said, his voice hollow.
Jonathan saw Mrs. Wentworth wince.
But she rallied swiftly, turning to Darcy and asking very civilly, “How are you acquainted with Mr. Wickham, sir?”
“We grew up together in Derbyshire,” Darcy said. Brandon’s fork clattered against the dinner plate. Jonathan wondered—How could anyone continue eating at such a time? “He was the son of my late father’s steward. As adults, our ways parted for many years.”
To his surprise, it was Mother who spoke next. “Then Mr. Wickham married my sister Lydia.”
And Lydia and George Wickham had had a daughter.
For a moment, Jonathan remembered Susannah so vividly that she might’ve been sitting at his side, giggling as she so often did, dark curls framing her round, smiling face. To him, she had been more sister than cousin. To his parents, Susannah had been more daughter than niece. He knew himself and his brothers to be dearly loved, but he knew also that for many years his mother and father had longed for a little girl that never came.
Then, eight years ago, Susannah had been born—the belated first and only child of his aunt and uncle. Neither Aunt Lydia nor Uncle George had possessed much interest in the daily tedium of child-rearing; as soon as Susannah had left her wet nurse, she had been packed off to Pemberley for lengthy visits. Indeed, Susannah had spent far more of her short life in his home than she ever had with her parents. This suited everyone: Mother and Father, who doted on the child; Jonathan and his brothers, who were old enough to find her odd little ways amusing rather than irritating; Aunt Lydia and Uncle George, who showed no evidence of ever missing their daughter; and Susannah herself, who wept piteously before each of her journeys home and always ran back into Pemberley as fast as her small legs would bear her.
Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost Stars and Bloodline. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and assorted small dogs.
Good day, my bookish peeps. Can you imagine not ever knowing anything about the American Civil War, the Regency period, the Dark Ages, WWII, etc.? With the advent of the printing press and the talents of so many gifted authors (fiction and nonfiction), we can travel to these time periods and learn about and from them. Readers are, in essence, armchair travelers. We are fortunate to travel the globe and beyond with the wonder of the printed word. I’m very pleased to welcome today’s guest, Julie Bates, author of the historical fiction read, Cry of the Innocent. Ms. Bates will be talking about time travel with us this morning. Sit back, relax with your favorite beverage, and let’s see what she has to say on this subject. Thank you, Ms. Bates, for joining us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
You Can Travel Any Time You Like by Julie Bates
When people ask me why I write historical fiction, I have to say that its one way I can travel time. The written word allows us to be in whatever time period and whatever place we desire. I’ve always had an active imagination peopled with unicorns, faeries, classic cars and interesting characters. I still have a few of my teen age notebooks filled with half written stories of wild adventures and exotic places. They run the gamut from westerns to Tolkienish fantasy to hippy-like Miss Marples. I read through them whenever I feel my ego needs resizing. They make me laugh (they’re really awful). But they also remind me that the travels of the imagination know no bounds.
My current series, of which Cry of the Innocent is book 1, takes place during the American Revolution. I was drawn to this time for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that when I looked I could find strong women who overcame the prejudices of the period to have moderately successful lives. As I have read journals and letters from the period, these women became very real to me. They were women I could identify with and could feel comfortable talking too. I realized that the challenges of balancing work and a family have been around for centuries. Laws and customs may change but the need to survive, find fulfillment and care and protect ones family is a universal theme.
Digging into a time fascinates me. I have to know what people wore, what they ate, and what they did to occupy themselves. It can lead to a dizzying amount of rabbit holes that eventually I must drag myself out of, but I regret none of it. It’s the details that make one feel they have transcended time and feel like they have entered another time and place.
Rather than aggrandize historical figures, I strike to make them human. Seeing George Washington on a dollar bill makes him an icon. Discovering how much he loved dogs and how he rescued General Howe’s dog at the Battle of Germantown and returned it unharmed to the British Officer makes him more human. So does hearing some of the names he gave his dogs such as Tipsy and Sweet Lips.
Reading the letters of John and Abigail Adams reveals how deeply they loved and trusted each other. Her admonishment to “Remember the ladies,” as well as her comment during their courtship that “There is a tye more binding than humanity and stronger than friendship.” Their love shines through the over 1000 letters of theirs that survive.
Although my imagination is pretty good, I like to immerse myself in facts so that I can see my characters at home, doing tasks that were every day to them but novel to a modern world. I’ve never cooked dinner over a fire place but my main character, Faith does it every day. I have no idea what herbs to grow for medicine for my family but colonial ladies had to know these things and past their wisdom on to their daughters, much as my mother used to teach me how to identify trees by their leaves.
Armchair travel allows one to explore other places from the comfort of their home. It requires no passport, and you don’t have to worry about maxing out your credit card. It also allows you to draw on the things you do know and that has been shared with you by friends and family.
One day I intend to write about women’s experiences on the home front of World War II, because this was part of my mother story. She worked In Oak Ridge among other places and told me about all the things she and her twin sister did during those years. She told me about being dreadfully homesick at Christmas and getting to experience the novelty of restaurants and indoor plumbing which were not commonly available in rural Kentucky at that time.
I love reading historical mysteries. My Kindle is loaded with stories about Regency England, the Roaring 20’s, India under British Rule and medieval Japan among others. While I read just about anything, my joy lies in sharing the American Experience. It’s a unique culture not often represented in historic fiction. Although I take guilty pleasure in Julie Mulhern’s Country Club series set in the 1970’s, I don’t see a lot featuring American history so I endeavor to fill that gap. I have had great fun learning things I never did in school and finding ways to share what is fun and interesting and mysterious about America.
So you can travel all sort of places by reading a good book. Maybe one day I will meet you in person, all in good time. ♦
Cry of the Innocent
by Julie Bates
April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
April 1774 – Within the colonial capital of Virginia, Faith Clarke awakes in the middle of the night to discover a man savagely murdered in her tavern. Phineas Bullard was no stranger. Faith’s late husband had borrowed heavily from the man and left Faith to struggle to pay the debt.
With unrest growing in the American Colonies, the British are eager for a quick resolution at the end of a noose, regardless of guilt. Under suspicion for the crime, she must use every resource at her disposal to prove her innocence and protect those she loves. Her allies are Olivia and Titus, slaves left to her by her late husband’s family, individuals she must find a way to free, even as she finds they also have motives for murder.
Faith seeks to uncover the dead man’s secrets even as they draw close to home. Determined to find the truth, she continues headlong into a web of secrets that hides Tories, Patriots, and killers, not stopping even though she fears no one will hear the cry of the innocent.
Praise for Cry of the Innocent:
“An absorbing, fast-paced, and contemplative whodunit.” Kirkus Reviews
Julie Bates grew up reading little bit of everything, but when she discovered Agatha Christie, she knew she what she wanted to write. Along the way, she has written a weekly column for the Asheboro Courier Tribune (her local newspaper) for two years and published a few articles in magazines such as Spin Off and Carolina Country. She has blogged for Killer Nashville and the educational website Read.Learn.Write. She currently works as a public school teacher for special needs students. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Southeastern Writers of America (SEMWA) and her local writing group, Piedmont Authors Network (PAN). When not busy plotting her next story, she enjoys doing crafts and spending time with her husband and son, as well as a number of dogs and cats who have shown up on her doorstep and never left.
Good day, book people. I’m a curious reader. I often wonder how publishing companies or authors come up with book covers. Who decided that illustrated (or as I like to call them, cartoon covers) were the way to go with some genres? How does the author choose the perfect name for each character? Who comes up with the title and what’s that process like? See, told you…curious! Fortunately, most authors will explain the inner workings of their minds and writing processes. Today, we’re fortunate enough to have Charles Salzberg, author of Canary in the Coal Mine return for a visit and he’ll be sharing his process for titling his books. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say, add Canary in the Coal Mine to your never-ending TBR list, and follow the tour to learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Mr. Salzberg, for taking the time to come back and share your insights into titling a book, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
Not so fast. For me, titles are particularly difficult. On occasion, they come easy. But that occasion is very rare. Sometimes, I’m lucky and it comes to me before I start writing a book. Other times, it doesn’t come till I’m halfway into it. And still others, even when the book is finished, I’m not satisfied with the title.
Titles are a tricky thing because in many instances the title is essential because it’s what first appeals (or doesn’t) to prospective readers.
Years ago, I got an opportunity to meet one of my writing heroes, Bruce Jay Friedman. I first found Friedman’s work when I read what I consider his comic masterpiece, Stern, which came out about the same time as another favorite of mine, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. Friedman eventually made it out to Hollywood where he wrote screenplays like Splash. I got a chance to chat with him about writing and the subject of titles came up, and he told me this story.
In the 1950s and early ’60s, many writers who came to New York, found themselves working at the so-called men’s magazines—don’t think Esquire, think much lower-brow than that. Friedman wound up editing one of those magazines and one of his writers was a fellow named Mario Puzo. At the time, Puzo was working on a novel about the Mafia. When he finished, he went to his friend (and boss) Friedman and asked him what he thought of the title of his new work: The Godfather. Friedman thought a moment, then shook his head and said, “No. I don’t think so. Too domestic.”
Obviously, Puzo ignored his advice.
Several years ago, I had a student Joel, who was writing a memoir about his experience in Israel. He grew up in Chicago, and for some reason, he idolized the Israeli army—it was probably because of the rescue they pulled off in Entebbe. Anyway, he eventually moved to New York City to make it as a comedian and he acquired an Israeli girlfriend. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but he decided to move to Israel. Once there, he tried to join the Israeli army. At first, he was turned down, because although he was Jewish, his mother had converted to the Jewish faith. Once it was established that she was converted by an orthodox rabbi, he was allowed to join. Alas, the Israeli army he idolized as a kid wasn’t the army he was experiencing. He was 25-years old, but most of his fellow soldiers were 18 or 19 and, think Keystone Kops, didn’t know their right from their left.
Ultimately, he made it through basic training and he was assigned to a tank parked on the Lebanese border. Their job was to look for Hezbollah, their arch enemies. There were three people in the tank. He was the spotter, there was a driver, and then there was the fellow who actually fired their artillery. One night, wearing night goggles, Joel spotted something moving in the distance. He yelled out, “Hezbollah!” and the fellow manning the artillery cranked it up. But before he could fire, Joel saw the figure sit down and start scratching itself. It wasn’t a Hezbollah, but a dog! “Stop! It’s a dog,” he screamed, but it was too late. The tank fired and I’m assuming that poor dog was obliterated.
Fast forward years later and Joel finished his memoir of those years and called it, The Unluckiest Dog in Lebanon, which I think was a great title. He got a publishing contract and one day in class he said to me, “they’re changing the title.” “Why,” I asked. “Because they say people will think it’s a book about dogs.” “You should only be so lucky, Joel,” I said. “Because dog books sell very well.” The title they changed it to was The 188th Crybaby Brigade, which I think is nowhere near as good.
My own history with titles is spotty. Sometimes, they come easily, sometimes not. Several years ago, I was working on a novel based on a true crime. A man murdered his wife, three kids, mother, and the family dog and then disappeared into thin air. I was having trouble finding a title but finally settled on Skin Deep. It was a title I was never happy with because it sounded to me like a bad porn film title. The book was finished and I was walking down the street, listening to my iPod when a Tom Waits song called Keep the “Devil in the Hole.” I stopped in my tracks. That’s how Devil in the Hole was born, which I think is a far better title.
Once my first novel, Swann’s Last Song, came out and I decided to make it into a series, I knew that all I had to do was somehow come up with something that had Swann in the title. Hence, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, Swann’s Down, and Swann’s Way Out. After five in the series, I ran out of catchy titles using the word Swann, and so I shut down the series.
The title of my novel, Second Story Man, about a master burglar, came pretty easily. I liked it because not only is that what burglars are often called, but also because the book is told by three different characters, including the thief, thereby alluding to the “story” in the title.
My latest novel is Canary in the Coal Mine and unlike others, this one came pretty easily, because on the first page the protagonist, Pete Fortunato, wakes up with a bad taste in his mouth. This usually portends something bad which for me immediately translated into “canary in the coal mine” (miners used to send a canary into the mine shafts to make sure there were no poisonous gases. If the canary died, they knew not to go down there until it was cleaned up.)
On the other hand, I’m almost 20,000 words into my next novel and I still don’t have a title I’m happy with. ♦
Canary In the Coal Mine
by Charles Salzberg
April 18 – May 13, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
PI Pete Fortunato, half-Italian, half-Jewish, who suffers from anger management issues and insomnia, wakes up one morning with a bad taste in his mouth. This is never a good sign. Working out of a friend’s downtown real estate office, Fortunato, who spent a mysteriously short, forgettable stint as a cop in a small upstate New York town, lives from paycheck to paycheck. So, when a beautiful woman wants to hire him to find her husband, he doesn’t hesitate to say yes. Within a day, Fortunato finds the husband in the apartment of his client’s young, stud lover. He’s been shot once in the head. Case closed. But when his client’s check bounces, and a couple of Albanian gangsters show up outside his building and kidnap him, hoping he’ll lead them to a large sum of money supposedly stolen by the dead man, he begins to realize there’s a good chance he’s been set up to take the fall for the murder and the theft of the money.
In an attempt to get himself out of a jam, Fortunato winds up on a wild ride that takes him down to Texas where he searches for his client’s lover who he suspects has the money and holds the key to solving the murder.
Praise for Canary In the Coal Mine:
“Salzberg has hit it out of the park. Love the writing style, and the story really draws you in. As with Salzberg’s prior works, he has a knack for making his heroes real, which makes their jeopardy real, too. So, say hello to Pete Fortunato, a modern PI who thinks on his feet and has moves that read like the noir version of Midnight Run.” —Tom Straw, author of the Richard Castle series (from the ABC show) and Buzz Killer
“Salzberg writes hardboiled prose from a gritty stream of conscious. Peter Fortunato is an old school PI to be reckoned with.” —Sam Wiebe, award-winning author of Invisible Dead and Never Going Back
“Charles Salzberg’s Canary in the Coal Mine is everything a reader wants in a great crime novel, and then some. The rat-a-tat cadence of the noir masters, seamlessly blended with the contemporary sensibilities of an author thoroughly in control of his craft. I liked this book so much I read it twice. No kidding. It’s that good.” —Baron R. Birtcher, multi-award winning and Los Angeles Times bestselling author
“Charles Salzberg has created a fantastic literary PI: Pete Fortunato. Rash, blunt and prone to violence, you can’t help but turn the page to see what Fortunato will do next. Canary in the Coal Mine is great!” —James O. Born, New York Times bestselling author
Charles Salzberg is a former magazine journalist and nonfiction book writer. His novels Swann’s Last Song (the first of the five Henry Swann novels) and Second Story Man were nominated for Shamus Awards and the latter was the winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award. Devil in the Hole was named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. His work has also appeared in several anthologies as well as Mystery Tribune. He is a former professor of magazine at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing in New York City. He is one of the Founding Members of New York Writers Workshop, and is a member of the Board of PrisonWrites and formerly a board member for MWA-NY.
Good day, book people. Do you enjoy reading series? I have quite a few series that I read and, surprise, these series aren’t restricted to any one genre. Seriously, some of my favorites are in the historical fiction genre, others are romance or romantic suspense, a few are classified as inspirational, and quite a few are mystery or suspense. One of the many things I find pleasurable about reading a series with more than two or three books is the ongoing development of the characters and their relationships, not to mention the world-building. I’m incredibly honored to welcome back an author that has excelled at the character development and world-building, as well as providing intriguing encounters found in the Will Rees Mysteries, Eleanor Kuhns. Ms. Kuhns is here today celebrating the release of the eleventh book in this series, Murder, Sweet Murder and will be discussing building relationships in her writings. Thank you, Ms. Kuhns, for joining us once again at The Book Diva’s Reads, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
Although I usually describe the Will Rees Mysteries as historicals, they are also family stories. In every book, I show the relationships between Rees, his wife Lydia, his children, and the wider world.
In Murder, Sweet Murder, I send Rees and Lydia and two children to Boston. Why Boston? Lydia hails from Boston and readers had asked me several times for more about her and her family. But what could I use as a reason for a journey to Boston, especially in January? Lydia has been estranged from her family for years. As a young woman, she’d fled to the District of Maine and joined the Shakers. (See A Simple Murder.) I already had the character of her father in my mind. And, after writing Death in the Great Dismal and Murder on Principle, both concerning different aspects of slavery, I decided to cast Marcus Farrell as a dealer in enslaved peoples as well as the most likely suspect.
So, Lydia receives a letter from her sister Cordelia begging her to come to Boston. Marcus Ferrell has been accused of murder. Lydia is reluctant but her sister’s pleas, the desire to show off the new baby, and the importance of finding a school for Jerusha, persuade her to make the journey. And, of course, Marcus Farrell is still her father, despite the estrangement.
For the first time, Will meets his wife’s family. Since he has grown up on a poor farm in the District of Maine and makes his living as a weaver, he is thrown by the wealth of the Farrell family, and the upper-class customs. Sharon, the baby, is consigned to the nursery, something neither Will nor Lydia are happy about. Jerusha, a quiet studious girl who wishes to become a teacher, is put in the same room as Lydia’s sister. And Cordelia is a social butterfly whose main preoccupation, besides parties and clothes, is making a good marriage.
Rees is eager to leave almost as soon as he arrives.
Then a second murder occurs, that of Lydia’s uncle Julian who runs the family rum distillery. Before his death, however, he gives Rees and Lydia a lead to her brother James. A sea captain, he too is estranged from his father. Farrell accuses his son of weakness because he refuses to captain any of the ships for his father and be in any way associated with the importation of enslaved peoples; ‘that filthy trade’, in his words. Conditions on the ships were horrific (and research in contemporary accounts would make your hair curl.)
Another murder occurs, one seemingly unrelated to the others, in a family-owned tavern. But Rees is sure there is a connection.
At the same time, Rees and Lydia are dealing with Cordelia’s reckless sneaking out at night to meet the young man she is interested in, as well as visiting a possible school for Jerusha.
Like I said, families. Always complicated. ♦
Murder, Sweet Murder
by Eleanor Kuhns
April 11 – May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Will Rees accompanies his wife to Boston to help clear her estranged father’s name in this gripping mystery set in the early nineteenth century.
January, 1801. When Lydia’s estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he’s innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.
As Will and Lydia investigate, Marcus’s brother, Julian, is shot and killed. This time, all fingers point towards James Farrell, Lydia’s brother. Is someone targeting the family? Were the family quarreling over the family businesses and someone lashed out? What’s Marcus hiding and why won’t he accept help?
With the Farrell family falling apart and their reputation in tatters, Will and Lydia must solve the murders soon. But will they succeed before the murderer strikes again?
Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur first mystery novel. Murder, Sweet Murder is the eleventh mystery following the adventures of Rees and his wife. She transitioned to full time writing last year after a successful career spent in library service. Eleanor lives in upstate New York with her husband and dog.
Good day, my bookish divas and divos. I have vivid childhood memories of spending every Saturday morning in the children’s department at my local library, choosing the six or seven books I wanted to read for the upcoming week. I’m forever grateful to my mother for instilling the love of reading in me, as well as one of my aunts for bringing me boxes of books to read during the school year. (My aunt worked for the state board of education and they often received print review copies and, even as a child, I got to experience books prior to their release.) Although I grew up loving to read, I’m somewhat of an anomaly amongst my siblings. My eldest brother was definitely a reader (I still miss being able to discuss books with him), but my younger brothers only have moments when they’re willing to grab a book and read (not an issue for me because they both have incredibly hectic jobs and lives). Today’s guest, TG Wolff, author of Razing Stakes, will be sharing her experiences on becoming a reader. Thank you for joining us and sharing this story, Ms. Wolff. The blog is all yours.
On Becoming a Reader by TG Wolff
Hello Book Diva’s Readers. I am TG Wolff, mystery diva, here to entertain you. Why? Because that’s what books are to me, the happy place I go to catch a break from real life. This is true for both reading books and about 15 years ago, I discovered the same was true for writing them.
Confession: I wasn’t a reader as a child.
I HATED reading. It was all so boring. I don’t think I ever finished an assigned book in school (I was lucky that I was smart enough to still pass the tests.) As an adult, I realized I hated reading because every book assigned was BORING or worse. Go ahead, English teachers, light me up (Tina@tgwolff.com). I have had this conversation several times with my English major, literature teaching husband. I am standing on solid ground!
Teachers (or at least those who set curriculums) feel that the books used in schools must first and foremost teach lessons. And that is where they fail to cultivate readers. The ONLY genre I can remember reading from was literature. No mystery. No suspense. No humor (God forbid we laugh while we read). No sports. No science fiction. No – well, you get the point.
In short, I hated reading…until Nero Wolfe.
My grandfather loved cowboy stories and Nero Wolfe mysteries. I reluctantly borrowed one from his bookshelf and didn’t stop until I had finished his small collection. Here, to my delighted surprise, were puzzles wrapped in a book. Who knew such a thing existed?
Fast forward twenty years. I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, working as a Civil Engineer, and had a client in Northern Kentucky. The five-hour drive between the two was mind-numbingly boring. Long before the age of podcasts, there was little to keep me attentive. And so, I began imagining. Little vignettes entertained me as the miles passed. Then at the hotel that night, I would write the final version. After several months of driving and imagining, I had a book.
Last year, I re-read that first story and it was pretty bad. I didn’t know the rules. Heck, I didn’t know there were rules and maybe that was why it was fun. When I submitted the first of my De La Cruz series to Down & Out Books for consideration, I had over a dozen books fully written, never intending to publish any of them. I wrote them to entertain myself, to play in someone else’s sandbox, to make myself laugh.
Consider giving Detective Jesus De La Cruz and me a try. I hope you laugh and wonder and beat him to the solution.
Happy Hunting, Detective. ♦
by TG Wolff
April 1-30, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
The first day of summer is the last day of a young accountant’s life. Colin McHenry is out for his regular run when an SUV crosses into his path, crushing him. Within hours of the hit-skip, Cleveland Homicide Detective Jesus De La Cruz finds the vehicle in the owner’s garage, who’s on vacation three time zones away. The setup is obvious, but not the hand behind it. The suspects read like a list out of a textbook: the jilted fiancée, the jealous coworker, the overlooked subordinate, the dirty client.
His plate already full, Cruz is assigned to a “special project,” a case needing to be solved quickly and quietly. Cleveland Water technicians are the targets of focused attacks. The crimes range from intimidation to assault. The locations swing between the east, west, and south sides of the city. This is definitely madness, but there is a method behind it.
The two cases are different and yet the same. Motives, opportunities, and alibis don’t point in a single direction. In these mysteries, Cruz has to think laterally, yanking down the curtain to expose the masterminding of the strings.
Genre: Mystery Published by: Down & Out Books Publication Date: February 14, 2022 Number of Pages: 294 ISBN: 978-1-64396-245-0 Series: The De La Cruz Case Files, 3rd in series Purchase Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Down & Out Books
TG Wolff writes thrillers and mysteries that play within the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong. Cause and effect drive the stories, drawing from 20+ years’ experience in Civil Engineering, where “cause” is more often a symptom of a bigger, more challenging problem. Diverse characters mirror the complexities of real life and real people, balanced with a healthy dose of entertainment. TG Wolff holds a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Good day, book people. I’ve never really given much thought to the structure of the stories I read other than they should have an enticing beginning, good middle, and wrap everything up by the ending in a way that makes sense. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading fantasy, romance, science fiction, horror, mystery, or suspense, any story I read generally follows that rule to a certain extent. Today’s guest is the author of Mouse Trap, Matt Cost, and he’ll be providing us with some food for thought with his thoughts on the writing process. Thank you, Mr. Cost, for joining us today and sharing your insights. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
THE THREE ACTS OF A NOVEL Thoughts by Matt Cost on the writing process
In doing a radio interview yesterday for The House of Mystery, I realized that writers and readers might be interested in the particular model that I’ve adopted and tweaked for my own writing.
I further break up the three acts of a novel into eight parts. Much like if I were to try to run a mile (yes, just one), I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t break it down into smaller parts, the same is true in writing a book. It’s a massive undertaking and can be daunting if you think of the blood, sweat, tears, failure, success, and ultimately, critique, that you will face on this journey. It’s enough to keep one scrolling through Facebook instead of writing.
Therefore, I break my books into eight equal parts. I’ve decided after much research that the length of a mystery novel would best be 88,000. Some would say shorter, some would say longer. This works for me.
I’m also a sprinter regarding writing. I like momentum. Because of this, I have to go back and flesh out characters and scenes when the first draft is complete. In my WIP, at the midpoint of the book Mainely Wicked, I just realized who the antagonist is. This means that I’ll have to go back and build their character with subtle references and tweak the plot line.
Thus, my model suggests that I’m going to write 80,000 words, and then add 8,000 words with the edits. I’m hoping this isn’t too much math for the readers and writers out there. Don’t worry, this actually simplifies things. This means that I have eight equal parts of 10,000 words each. Every eighth of the book, every 12.5%, every 10,000 words, something must happen.
This breaks my novel into eight short stories in effect. While I generally start with an idea, I usually have no idea where I’m going until I get there. Sometimes I have a general destination in mind, but no idea of how I’m going to get there. Occasionally, I just have no idea. So, I try to come up with the action that drives the book every eighth of the way through. Take the first checkpoint, the inciting event. What is it? I establish that, and then I work toward it.
Let’s look at those eight pieces of pizza equally cut and what each has on it for a topping.
12.5%—or 10,000-words Now, I don’t fish, but even I know that if you don’t throw a hook in the water, you’re not going to catch anything. At the beginning of every book, I throw a hook in the water, just to get the attention of the reader (sorry for comparing you to a fish). I will then propel the story toward the first checkpoint, the one/eighth- or 10,000-word mark. This is the inciting event that really gets the novel rolling, the point where I hope to have hooked the reader into not being able to put my book down.
25%—or 20,000-words This is what the story is about, even if the main character has not yet grasped all of the intricacies of what is going on, the dye is now cast. At this point in the story, the life of the protagonist is completely changed. This is also the transfer point from the end of the first act and into the second act of the book, or the point of rising tension.
37.5%—or 30,000-words This is known as the first pinch point. It is here that the antagonist flexes their muscles and makes a statement. The protagonist begins to get an inkling of the truth of the nature of the conflict in which they have become embroiled. For the first time, the reader is aware of the stakes, and that this might not be all nice and pretty. The game is on.
50%—or 40,000-words The midpoint of the mystery is the moment when the protagonist stops taking punches and starts fighting back. Up until this point, they have been on the defensive, but here, something happens to put them on the offensive. They are no longer being reactive but become proactive.
62.5%—or 50,000-words Okay, the antagonist must flex their muscles again, and show that this is no gravy train. Just as the protagonist starts to get a handle of the nature of the conflict, they get a slap to the face, a punch to the gut—a rude awakening that this is going to be a dogfight.
75%—or 60,000-words It all falls apart. The antagonist gains the upper hand, and the protagonist is up a tree, with the bears circling below and no help in sight. Things are not looking good. The fish has slipped the hook. This propels us into the third act of the book and hurtling toward climax.
87.5%—or 70,000-words This is when the protagonist regroups and begins to make plans to turn the tables and reach a successful conclusion. The cards are now all on the table, the stakes are set, and the final confrontation looms.
98%—or 78,400-words Okay, I tweak things a bit here to leave a little room at the end for the summary. A little pillow time to recap the events and outcomes of the book. But at this mark, climax occurs, and the protagonist (or the antagonist) wins the day in a spectacular fireworks fashion that leaves the reader gasping at what just happened.
Do I follow this model to a T? Of course not. There are blemishes, hiccups, and detours along the way. But, as Robin William’s says in Good Will Hunting, those imperfections are the good things. I hope I’ve inspired some, given insight to others, and welcome any feedback, or pillow talk, on what I’ve set forth here today. ♦
by Matt L Cost
April 4-29, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
When Clay Wolfe is hired to find out who tried to steal a mouse, he thought it was akin to a fireman getting a cat out of a tree. It wasn’t.
“Sometimes bad genes need to be stamped out and good ones need to be fostered,” Bridget Engel said. “There’s really no difference between mice and human beings when it comes to genes.” She wore a gray suit, and her blonde hair was cut short in the style that Hillary Clinton had made popular.
When Clay Wolfe rekindles an old romance, the summer is looking bright. It wasn’t.
He woke in the middle of the night, gathered his things, and slipped away. After Clay left, Victoria rose from the bed and went into the bathroom, carefully removed the condom from the Kleenex it was wrapped in, and put it in a plastic baggie.
Who is the mysterious man who clubs Westy with a hammer and threatens the lives of everybody Clay Wolfe holds dear?
Now, Clive Miller was a fixer. He took care of problems that arose. Once given a task, his hands weren’t tied, and he was well-paid for his troubles. There were two simple rules. Eliminate the problem. Don’t draw attention.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC Publication Date: April 13, 2022 Number of Pages: 312 ISBN: 1645993299 (ISBN13: 9781645993292) Series: A Clay Wolfe / Port Essex Mystery Book 3 Purchase Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Matt Cost is the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of the Mainely Mystery series. The first book, Mainely Power, was selected as the Maine Humanities Council Read ME fiction book of 2020. This was followed by Mainely Fear, Mainely Money, and Mainely Angst. I Am Cuba: Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution was his first traditionally published novel. He had another historical released in August of 2021, Love in a Time of Hate. Wolfe Trap and Mind Trap were the first two in the Clay Wolfe Port Essex Trap series. Mouse Trap is the third in this series. Cost was a history major at Trinity College. He owned a mystery bookstore, a video store, and a gym, before serving a ten-year sentence as a junior high school teacher. In 2014 he was released and began writing. And that’s what he does. He writes histories and mysteries. Cost now lives in Brunswick, Maine, with his wife, Harper. There are four grown children: Brittany, Pearson, Miranda, and Ryan. A chocolate Lab and a basset hound round out the mix. He now spends his days at the computer, writing.