Saturday Salutations, my bookish peeps. Have you ever visited a place and the history tied to that particular spot just overwhelmed you? There have only been a few places I’ve seen that touched me emotionally. The first was Plimouth Plantation (now Plimouth Patuxet Museums) in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and learning of the freed Blacks that had settled there with many of the first non-Indigenous settlers. The second was Salem, Massachusetts, and the history linked to the Salem Witch Trials. The last place was Mecca, Saudi Arabia. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings brought on by thoughts of all the folks that had previously walked in the same areas I was covering. It probably sounds a bit sappy, but I often ponder who walked or lived in the areas I’m in as well as wondering what might have happened in that location 100 or 200+ years ago. Sadly, I don’t do the research required to obtain the answers to these questions, but I continue to wonder. Today, I’m pleased to welcome someone that wonders about the past, actually does the necessary research, and crafts intriguing stories afterward. Karen Odden is the author of several historical fiction books, including the recently released Under a Veiled Moon, book two in the Inspector Corravan series. Thank you, Ms. Odden, for joining us today and sharing your thoughts on the river Thames. Without further adieu, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
The Magic of the Thames
By Karen Odden
Until I started researching for Down a Dark River (Inspector Corravan #1) I had no idea that the Thames was tidal. Did you know this? Twice a day, the flow of the river changes from east to west and then west to east, with some areas rising and falling up to twenty-four feet, from the North Sea in the east to nearly 100 miles inland, well past even the outskirts of London. Think about that: twenty-four feet. The eco-sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor placed four horses in the Thames near Vauxhall, and the sculptures vanish and reappear with the tide, reminding people of our dependence upon water generally and the Thames specifically.
As a result of the changing currents, a mix of trash and treasure alike are thrown upon the banks daily. As a child, in 1850s London, my (fictional) inspector Michael Corravan would mudlark along the banks, scrounging for bits of coal, wood, and metal that might be usable or saleable – and nowadays for about $50 on Tripadvisor, you can book a mud larking tour, complete with high rubber boots and a pail and a stick, and retrace his steps.
Back in 1858, when Michael Corravan was ten years old, London experienced “the Great Stink.” Basically, the industrial waste from tanneries and manufacturing plants combined with approximately four million people’s household waste had turned the Thames into a sludgy, smelly mess.
When Parliament met in Westminster, on the north side of the Thames, the Members were in agony. From the windows, they hung sheets which they sprayed with lime to try to keep the stink and the “miasma” (thought to carry disease) out. It didn’t take long before they decided to hire Joseph Bazalgette, a civil engineer, to fix this problem. His solution was to send the waste ten miles downstream (east) to a processing plant. He built enormous pipes (much larger than people thought they needed because, after all, London couldn’t possibly grow any larger than it already was – !) and overlaid them with the Victorian Embankment, which you can still walk on today. The Thames was revitalized, making it possible to romanticize it, which painters including Monet, Grimshaw, Whistler, and Canaletto did.
(For a range of paintings of the Thames, see https://www.standard.co.uk/culture/london-art-nine-paintings-of-the-river-thames-you-have-to-see-a3900821.html)
The spectacular, fascinating thing about the Victorian Thames is it was both changeful and steady, old and modern, a disgusting sewer and the vital lifeblood of a city all at once. As such, it’s a wonderfully suggestive setting for my books, Down a Dark River and Under a Veiled Moon, because there are no neat divisions of good and evil. My protagonist and the important secondary characters are complex, driven by motives they may not even know, and acting in ways that bring about results they don’t necessarily intend. A man or woman can be both kind and cruel, clever and obtuse, frightened and courageous, depending on the tide of events at any given moment. (See what I did there? Tide?)
Frankly, I do not like books with flat secondary characters whose only purpose is to either enable or foil the protagonist. So I don’t want to write them. People are complicated. Their backstories are varied and unique and a messy composite of a variety of experiences. And I believe characters can and should surprise us. They can stretch our compassion and our powers of sympathy. They can make it possible for us to imagine what it is to be an Irish inspector at Scotland Yard in the 1870s, tasked with discovering the truth about the tragic Princess Alice steamship disaster, and caught between warring factions, impossible choices, and a past and present both wondrous and appalling. ♦
Under a Veiled Moon
by Karen Odden
January 2-27, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery.
September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule.
For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion, and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.
Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.
As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781639101191 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781639101207 (eBook)
ISBN: 9781666616354 (digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B09S3J7LRP (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0B622C43J (Audible Audiobook)
Series: Inspector Corravan, #2
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | eBooks.com | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads
Praise for Under a Veiled Moon:
“[An] exceptional sequel … Odden never strikes a false note, and she combines a sympathetic lead with a twisty plot grounded in the British politics of the day and peopled with fully fleshed-out characters. Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Victorian skulduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles.”
“Will keep readers curious and guessing to the end.”
Manhattan Book Review, 5-star review
“Damn fine historical crime fiction.”
“Rich in emotion and historical detail, Under a Veiled Moon is a brilliant tale of the dark, thorny places where the personal and the political intertwine.”
Mariah Fredericks, Edgar award-nominated author of the Jane Prescott series
Karen received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and subsequently taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has published numerous essays and articles on Victorian literature, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit have won awards for historical mystery and historical fiction. Her fourth mystery, Down a Dark River, introduced readers to Michael Corravan, a former thief and bare-knuckles boxer from Whitechapel who serves as an inspector at Scotland Yard in 1870s London. The sequel, Under a Veiled Moon, is available in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. A member of Mystery Writers of America and a national board member for Sisters in Crime, Karen lives in Arizona with her family.
Catch Up With Karen Odden:
BookBub – @KarenOdden
Instagram – @karen_m_odden
Twitter – @karen_odden
Facebook – @karen.odden
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