The strange and fascinating world of THE ALMANACK by Martine Bailey

How did an eBay purchase inspire the dazzling new historical mystery THE ALMANACK? Martine Bailey considers the strange world of the almanack.

The Almanack

1752, Midsummer. Following a summons from her mother, Tabitha Hart departs the pleasures of London for her home village only to discover that Widow Hart has allegedly drowned. Determined to uncover the truth, Tabitha consults her mother’s almanack, which reveals cryptic notes describing her terror of someone she names only as ‘D’. With time running out, can Tabitha solve the almanack’s riddles and bring her mother’s killer to justice?

When I splashed out twenty pounds on a 200-year old Moore’s Almanack on eBay I had no idea how fascinating it would prove. I carefully unwrapped a tatty pocket-sized booklet combining a calendar, astronomical observations, saints’ days, general knowledge and predictions.  For a year I consulted my almanack, following the moon and stars, feasts and festivals.

But it was Old Moore’s sensational predictions that inspired the twisting plot of my novel. What if an almanack seemed to predict a series of murders around the traditional year of an English village?  And what if Tabitha, cut off by the snow in Netherlea, realises the secrets she’s vowed to keep may bring her downfall . . .

THE ALMANACK  is available  from 31 January in the UK and 1 May in the US.  Find out more here.

Get yourself a copy here!

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Get to know Graham Ison, author of the Hardcastle and Marriott historical mysteries

9780727888556Has Captain Guy Stoner been murdered? His uncle, the Reverend Percy Stoner, is convinced he has. He recently received a letter, supposedly from Guy, claiming that there had been a fire at his farm in Ditton, Surrey, and asking for money. Hardcastle and Detective Sergeant Charles Marriott are assigned the case, and make a shocking discovery . . .

 


HARDCASTLE’S QUANDARY is the fifteenth entry in the popular detective series featuring DDI Hardcastle and DS Marriott. Author Graham Ison expands on his thirty-year career in Scotland Yard’s Special Branch where he still finds his inspiration . . .

When I was fifteen years of age, I called in at a London police station and enquired about careers in the Metropolitan Police.  I was told to come back when I was old enough!  I did, and thirty years later commanded the division in which that same police station was situated.

The film that really inspired me to become a police officer was, I suppose, The Blue Lamp, starring Jack Warner (who was resuscitated to appear in the long-running Dixon of Dock Green TV series) and Jimmy Hanley.  By a strange coincidence, the late Dinah Sheridan, an actress and Jimmy Hanley’s widow, later married an Aubrey Ison of Texas, but as far as I know we were not related.

I still possess two books with which I will never part.  Covenant With Death by John Harris is in my view one of the best fictional works about the Great War.  The other book is the ninth edition of Moriarty’s Police Law, published in 1948, the year in which I purchased it, and which is still a valuable research tool.

HARDCASTLE’S QUANDARY is available now in the UK and from 1 April in the US. Learn more here.

Behind the book: DEVIL’S FJORD by David Hewson

9781780291123_fcNew District Sheriff Tristan Haraldsen is looking forward to a peaceful semi-retirement in the beautiful yet isolated Faroe Islands. But when the suspicious disappearance of two boys leads to the discovery of a series of dark secrets, Haraldsen comes to realize that this may not be the rural paradise he imagined…

 

 

David Hewson, author of three novel adaptations of The Killing series, explains how detective Sara Lund’s jumper inspired his new standalone novel set on the Faroe Islands… 

This story began with Sara Lund’s jumper. Lund, you recall, was the detective in The Killing TV series which I adapted for three novels. Her trademark jumper came from the Faroes. At one point we were discussing a new, standalone Lund novel. It never happened but I’d already decided it would take place in the Faroes and explain why Lund had such an attachment to the jumper.

When the project stumbled I had lots of research and ideas on my hands, with a story that started with a mysterious event during a pilot whale hunt. It seemed too good to lose so I set about turning it into an entirely different story that became Devil’s Fjord.

I’m known for meticulous research – moving to Italy to learn the language for the Costa books for example. But just this once I wanted to go back to the way writers used to work – entirely from the imagination. Jules Verne had hardly set foot outside France when he wrote Around The World in 80 Days.  Similarly… I haven’t actually been to the Faroes (though I hope to one day). This isn’t the real place: it’s an imaginary Faroes built up from story, from reading and from what I felt the place in the story should be like.

So apologies to the Faroese from the outset. This is all pure fiction. I’m sure the real place is far too placid and well-behaved to countenance any of the darkness that permeates the remote fishing village of Djevulsfjord here, and comes to wrap an unsuspecting couple, Tristan and Elsebeth Haraldsen, who start the story with Tristan innocently mowing the grass roof of his cottage at the edge of the village.

DEVIL’S FJORD is available from 31 January in the UK and from 1 April 2019 in the US. Read more here.

Behind the book: NIGHT WATCH by David C. Taylor

9780727888679_fcNew York, 1956. Two bizarre deaths occur under suspicious circumstances. But before Detective Michael Cassidy can begin investigating these cases he is threatened by an unknown man, for reasons which are unclear. Are all three incidents connected? If so, will Cassidy live long enough to find out before his would-be assassin claims his life?

 


NIGHT WATCH is the third thriller to feature detective Michael Cassidy. Author David C. Taylor discusses the first two novels in the series…

Michael Cassidy is a New York City cop with an unusual background and upbringing. There are three Michael Cassidy novels, Night Life, Night Work, and now Night Watch. All three are noir thrillers set in New York in the 1950’s, and all are intersections of fact and fiction. Night Life takes place in 1954 during the Senator Joe McCarthy witch-hunts for Communists in the U.S. Government, the growing rivalry between the FBI and the CIA, and Soviet Intelligence operations in New York. Night Work starts in Havana, Cuba in the Christmas season of 1958 when Fidel Castro’s rebels overthrow the dictator Batista. It moves to New York in the winter of 1959 when Castro first visits the city as the new leader of Cuba. Cassidy is assigned to Castro’s security detail to protect him against an assassination plot put into motion by an alliance of U.S. businessmen and the Mafia who see Castro as a threat to their business and gambling interests in Cuba.

At the end of World War Two, a covert operation originally dubbed Overcast brought roughly sixteen hundred German scientists to the United States to work for America during the Cold War. The goal was to harness German science to help develop America’s arsenal of rockets, biological and chemical weapons. President Truman sanctioned the operation but forbade the recruiting of any Nazis suspected of war crimes. Officials within the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, feeling the scientists’ knowledge was crucial to the country’s Cold War efforts, often ignored this directive by eliminating incriminating evidence of war crimes from the scientists’ records.

A number of Nazi scientists were assigned to develop mind-controlling drugs for possible espionage and military uses in response to Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean use of mind-control techniques on U.S. prisoners of war in Korea. In Night Watch, the latest Michael Cassidy novel, Cassidy stumbles into this shadow world with deadly results.

NIGHT WATCH is available from 31 January in the UK and from 1 April 2019 in the US. Read more here.

Behind the book: SILENT FOOTSTEPS by Jo Bannister

9780727888648_fc When does a secret admirer become a stalker? When people start dying? For Constable Hazel Best, the pivot point is the attack on her friend Gabriel Ash. That’s when she focuses all her ingenuity on finding her sinister new admirer. In the end, though, Hazel must deal with the stalker alone. And more than her own life will depend on the outcome . . .

 


SILENT FOOTSTEPS is the sixth mystery to feature Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash, and their close friendship is one of the best aspects of the series. However, author Jo Bannister reveals that for some readers, this is not enough . . .

There’s a book reviewer in the States who’s getting really annoyed that I haven’t got Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash into bed before now. Will they, won’t they? – should they, shouldn’t they? – he can’t seem to focus on who’s died and why for wondering why their friendship hasn’t yet turned to romance.

It’s the old Harry & Sally thing, isn’t it? Can a man and a woman really just be friends, or will the biology always get in the way?

I’ll let you into a secret: I don’t know whether Hazel and Ash will ever get it together in that way, and I invented them. Every time one of them seems ready to move up a gear, the other gets distracted. Life was ever thus.

Anyway, isn’t it a slightly old-fashioned thing to be worrying about? There was a time when the main role for female characters was as an addendum to one of the primary (i.e. male) characters – as wife, mother, daughter, lover – but surely those times are past. Looking around, we see real women at the pinnacle of every profession – police chiefs, business leaders, legal authorities, journalists, scientists, politicians. Do we really expect female characters to go on being defined by their relationship to a man?

The other role that was widely reserved for female characters, of course, was that of victim. Ignoring the fact that young men are the victims of crime more than any other demographic, writers and film-makers seemed to get a positively unhealthy kick out of brutalising helpless (preferably young and pretty) women in ever more inventive ways.

Hazel Best is no one’s idea of a victim. She’s strong, she’s smart and she’s kind; she’s tough when she has to be, and resilient; and she has an important job that doesn’t leave a lot of time for curling her eyelashes. She’s also no nun – but she expects to be an equal partner in any relationship.

All this being so, why assume that her friendship with Gabriel Ash, important to both of them as it is, must eventually be consummated so they can be filed away in the pigeon-hole marked COUPLES? Isn’t it the essence of that friendship that they are not bound to one another in any legal or societal fashion, that either of them is free to walk away if they get a better offer – and yet they don’t? Lovers come and go, but the friendship endures. Perhaps the open-ended nature of the commitment is its greatest strength.

Still, I’m not blind to the possibility. Maybe one day the pair of them will step back from salving the world’s ills for long enough to realise that this is what they want. If that’s what they tell me to write, I’ll write it.

If only to make a book reviewer in the States a happy man.

SILENT FOOTSTEPS is available from 31 January in the UK and from 1 April 2019 in the US. Read more here.

Happy New Year! New books and authors to watch out for in 2019…

New year

Happy New Year! We’re super excited to welcome 2019 and this cracking bunch of new authors and titles, coming soon! From astronomy and riddles to eerie graveyards, political storm clouds and 1950s New York, prepare to be puzzled, thrilled and unable to tear your eyes away from these tense and twisty new reads! Follow the links below for more details.

CURTAIN CALL by Graham Hurley

Actress Enora Andresson has a brain tumour that could kill her, she’s struggling with the wreckage of her marriage and has a strained relationship with her son. When investigative journalist Mitch Culligan appears on her doorstep, asking for her help, she is thrown into danger . . . and must confront her past while facing an uncertain future.

Read more here.

Find out more about Graham.

THE ALMANACK by Martine Bailey

Following a summons from her mother, Tabitha departs London for her home village only to discover that her mother has drowned. Determined to uncover the truth of her death, Tabitha consults her almanack which reveals her mother’s terror of someone she names only as ‘D’. With time running out, will Tabitha bring her mother’s killer to justice?

Read more here.

Find out more about Martine.

THE MAUSOLEUM by David Mark

1967. Grieving the loss of her son, Cordelia Hemlock seeks out the company of the dead, taking comfort in the local churchyard. During a storm, she sees a corpse that doesn’t belong among the crumbling bones. Cordelia begins to investigate, but there are those who believe the village’s secrets should remain buried . . . whatever the cost.

Read more here.

Find out more about David.

NIGHT WATCH by David C. Taylor

New York, 1956. Two bizarre deaths occur under suspicious circumstances. But before Detective Michael Cassidy can begin investigating these cases he is threatened by an unknown man, for reasons which are unclear. Are all three incidents connected? If so, will Cassidy live long enough to find out before his would-be assassin claims his life?

Read more here.

Find out more about David.

 

Beware the prime rib! Behind the book with Amy Patricia Meade for COOKIN’ THE BOOKS

Cookin' the Books

Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon fights to save her reputation and catch a killer when a murder occurs during a fundraising dinner for the local library.

Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon has just moved to Hobson Glen and opened a new restaurant and catering business, Cookin’ the Books Cafe. So when her new landlord, Schulyer Thompson, recommends her to Binnie Broderick, the executive director of the local library, Tish is delighted. Binnie needs a last-minute caterer to create a literary inspired three-course dinner for the library’s annual fundraiser, one of the highlights of Hobson Glen’s social season. But there’s a problem: Binnie Broderick is a notoriously difficult woman to please. And when she chokes to death from arsenic poisoning after dousing her main course in hot sauce, Tish suddenly finds herself fighting to save her business – and her reputation. It seems that very few of Hobson Glen’s residents escaped Binnie’s disapproval. But who would want her dead, and why?

We’ve been gluttonous over the festive period, devouring this darkly delicious new mystery from Amy Patricia Meade! Find out how Amy’s passion for cooking led to this tantalising first in a brand-new culinary cozy series.

Strangely enough, COOKIN’ THE BOOKS began, not as a culinary mystery, but as an answer to a call for a mystery featuring animals and a small town veterinary office.

My sample pages for the veterinary mystery were ultimately rejected, but my agent and I so loved the central characters of Julian Jefferson Davis, Mary Jo Okensholt, Celestine Rufus, and veterinarian Philippa Reed, that we determined they needed their own series. During a flurry of pre-Christmas emails exchanged while I was visiting in Vermont, my agent finally asked: “Aside from writing, what are you passionate about?”

The answer was clear to anyone who’s even glanced at my social media accounts. Cooking.

After a few more emails, we decided to set the series at a literary café and catering business and to include more than a few terrible puns on the menu. Recharged and with tongue fully in cheek, I set to work on a synopsis and the sample pages immediately after Christmas.

First, I needed a new, non-equine name for my protagonist, so the dark haired Philippa Reed became the blonde cook, Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon. (As cooks seldom waste ingredients, ‘Reed’ would be recycled as ‘Reade’, the surname of COOKIN’s local sheriff).

As I was returning to traditional publishing after a lengthy hiatus, I decided that Tish should be starting her catering/café business after a failed marriage and a twenty-year stint in the finance sector. And, as I had recently moved from Vermont to Virginia, I thought there was no better place to set Tish’s new business than in a small town outside Richmond, the crossroads of southern charm and northern sensibilities, of artistic and hippy culture and national military operations.

From that point, I built the town of Hobson Glen. Langhorne, the conure featured prominently on the book’s cover, was inspired by a green parrot I encountered riding his owner’s shoulder on Richmond’s Cary Street on New Year’s Day. The rest of the town’s residents are collages of personality traits of people I’ve either known or observed.

I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit with Tish and the citizens of Hobson Glen as much as I’ve enjoyed creating them. Just a quick word of caution, though: if you decide to attend the library fundraiser during your visit, you might want to stay away from the Prime Rib.

COOKIN’ THE BOOKS is out now in the UK and from 1 March in the US. Find more details here.

Read our Editor’s Pick for COOKIN’ THE BOOKS here.

Brrr! Our favourite books to snuggle up with on a cold night

Winter

It’s cold outside, but we’re embracing roaring log fires, mulled wine, cozy jumpers, cherry bakewell mince pies (a revelation!) and this wonderful selection of chilly reads.

From an incredibly tense Christmas Eve to extraordinary voyages, Russia vs USA (in Alaska), picturesque English villages and Christie-inspired mysteries, check out our list of books to snuggle up with on an icy cold night.

WHIRLWIND by Hilary Norman

Liza Plain, a Boston-based journalist hoping for her big break, is dreading spending Christmas in Rhode Island, with her difficult grandfather – until news of the disappearance of a retired local priest triggers her realization that this could be linked to a series of unsolved, church-linked missing persons cases.

More details here.

MURDER SERVED COLD by Eric Brown

Shortly after Lord Elsmere re-insures his favourite painting for a hefty price, it is stolen and with no sign of a break-in. Elsmere is known to be struggling financially, so is it a staged theft or has one of his guests taken it? Seething animosities, jealousy, secrets and deception are all found once PIs Langham and Ralph Ryland take on the case.

More details here.

THE ICE MAIDEN by Sara Sheridan

1842. Karina, disguised as a cabin boy, stows away on a British ship, but she is in for a nasty shock. As conditions worsen onboard, Karina and the crew tested to their limits. Then something extraordinary happens and Karina’s story becomes intertwined with some of the 20th century’s bravest Polar explorers.

More details here.

FOLLY by Stella Cameron

Following the breakdown of her marriage, Alex Duggins has returned to her picturesque home town in the Cotswolds in order to start afresh. But you can’t outrun the past, as Alex discovers, when she stumbles across a frosted corpse buried in the snow. The subsequent murder investigation threatens to unearth old secrets – including Alex’s own.

More details here.

CYANIDE WITH CHRISTIE by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Having finished transforming Windy Corner, the grand Victorian mansion she inherited from her great aunt, into a writers’ retreat, widowed literature professor Emily Cavanaugh is ready to receive her first set of guests. But her careful planning is thrown into disarray by the unexpected arrival of outrageous true-crime writer, Cruella Crime, whose unpardonably rude behaviour is causing great offence. As a ferocious ice storm rages outside, the guests entertain one another with a game of charades. But their revelries are brought to a sudden halt by the discovery of a body in one of the guest bedrooms. When it transpires the victim was poisoned, Emily decides to take a leaf out of the book of her favourite detective writer, Agatha Christie, and investigate. But as she pursues her enquiries, it becomes chillingly clear that she herself may have been the intended victim.

More details here.

MAN ON ICE by Humphrey Hawksley

Captain Rake Ozenna of the elite Eskimo Scouts unit and his fiancée, trauma surgeon Carrie Walker, are at his remote home island in the Bering Strait when Russian helicopters swarm in. As news breaks of a possible invasion, Ozenna realizes that the only way to save his Alaskan island community is to undertake a perilous mission across the ice.

More details here.

 

 

 

#BookExtract: FALSE ACCOUNT by Veronica Heley

false account

Wealthy Marcia Tredgold and her daughter, Charlotte, want Bea Abbot to find them new staff to replace those who have left under a cloud. Bea discovers that all those dismissed were close to Marcia Tredgold, and senses that something is not right. Were they framed, and if so by whom – and why?

The hugely entertaining new Bea Abbot mystery has landed, and the surprises are coming thick and fast for Bea! In this book extract from the early pages, Bea thinks Marcia Tredgold wants her help to find new domestic staff, but a tête-à-tête in her garden reveals a shocking and unexpected twist . . .

Click!

Bea started up from her chair. The French windows had swung to but Mrs Tredgold had disappeared!

Had she fallen down the outside stairs into the garden?

Bea wrenched the doors open, and looked out.

One storey below and at the far end of the garden, Mrs Tredgold was sitting in the sun on the cast iron garden bench, communing with Bea’s long-haired black cat, Winston. They were sizing one another up, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Bea hurried down the staircase, holding onto the rail.

Mrs Tredgold looked up as Bea approached. ‘Such a pretty garden. Do forgive me, my dear. I wanted to speak to you without my daughter hearing. Bad things have been happening. Charlotte will tell you all about the cooks and cleaners who have come and gone. They all had glowing testimonials, but all left under a cloud. I want to talk to you about something else.’

For a moment Mrs Tredgold’s expression of determined – if not forced – geniality was missing. What seemed like panic looked out of her eyes . . . and then it was gone.

Bea was concerned. Was the woman putting on an act? And if so, why? Bea thought that Mrs Tredgold was something of an enigma. Was she just a delightful but semi-dotty old woman who had flashes of intelligence? Had she really engineered this tête-à-tête in the garden? And if so, how much notice should be taken of her ramblings . . . if they were indeed ramblings, and not acute judgements on her family and household?

Bea sensed trouble would accompany anything to do with the Tredgold’s and was disinclined to continued this conversation. She made a show of looking at her watch.

‘Well, if that’s all, I’d better go back up to speak to your daughter.’

‘Don’t be obtuse, young woman. I haven’t yet told you what I want you to do.’

Bea hadn’t been called a ‘young woman’ for many years. She blinked.

‘When I’m ready, I will leave you with my daughter who will instruct you as to finding replacements for the staff which have been found to be less than honest. I want you to find out who killed Mitzi and Poppy.’

Bea gaped. Who were Mitzi and Poppy? Mrs Tredgold’s daughters-in-law? Or possibly, grandchildren? ‘What happened to them? Weren’t the police involved?’

‘Don’t be stupid. Why would the police be involved in the death of my cats? Now, give me your arm and take me back upstairs. I’m not as young as I used to be, and I need my afternoon nap before I go to the dentist’s this afternoon.’

FALSE ACCOUNT is out now in the UK and is available from 1 April in the US. Read more here.

#BookExtract: HARDCASTLE’S QUANDARY by Graham Ison

9780727888556

Has Captain Guy Stoner been murdered? His uncle, the Reverend Percy Stoner, is convinced he has. He recently received a letter, supposedly from Guy, claiming that there had been a fire at his farm in Ditton, Surrey, and asking for money. Hardcastle and Detective Sergeant Charles Marriott are assigned the case, and make a shocking discovery . . .

The fifteenth entry in the Hardcastle and Marriott historical mystery series is as much of a delight as the previous novels – Divisional Detective Inspector Ernie Hardcastle is still at the top of his game and has lost none of his sparkle, though could that danger word, ‘retirement’ be creeping into his thinking . . .? As Ernie’s latest investigation gathers pace, one of his team, Henry Catto, comes face to face with an earl and his wife, the irrepressible and charismatic Lady Wilmslow, as described in the extract below. 

Catto was on the point of taking his leave when the door of the drawing room opened, and a woman entered – he guessed she was about thirty-five years of age – elegantly attired in a green dress that just covered her knees.  She wore a long string of beads, and her hair was bobbed in what was known as an Eton crop.

‘Hello, love,’ she said, addressing the earl in coarse tones.  ‘Thought I ’eard voices.’

‘Ah, Catto, this is my wife,’ said the earl.

Catto stood up and took the woman’s proffered hand. ‘How d’you do, Lady Wilmslow?’

‘I’m doin’ all right, thanks, love, but do call me Dolly. Everyone does.’ She held on to Catto’s hand for a little longer than necessary, before turning to the earl. ‘Where did you find this ’andsome young blade, Monty?’

‘He’s a police officer, Dolly,’ said Wilmslow, smiling. ‘He’s here making enquiries about Lavinia.’  It was apparent that Wilmslow felt he owed Catto an explanation. ‘The countess is my second wife, Catto.  She was in a revue at the Chiswick Empire when I found her a year ago.  She gave a very good rendition of “I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate,” didn’t you, Dolly?’

‘Yeah,’ said the countess, and laughed loudly.  ‘I ain’t bad when I get goin’, even though I says it meself.’

Catto was aware that in the enlightened nineteen twenties, members of the aristocracy were known occasionally to marry actresses and others in ‘the profession’, something that had been going in since before the turn of the century.  But the new Lady Wilmslow, although possessed of a good figure, needed to work on her elocution.  There again, he thought, perhaps it was one of the characteristics that had attracted the earl in the first place.

‘I’ll make some enquiries about Lady Lavinia, sir,’ said Catto, ‘and inform you of any developments. I understand that you’re not connected to the telephone.’

‘Certainly not. Wouldn’t have one of the damned things in the house.’  Wilmslow stood up and shook hands. ‘Thank you, Catto, and I look forward to hearing from you. By the way, how did you get here?’

‘Train from London, sir, and cab from Winchester station.’

Wilmslow tugged at the bell-pull, and when Patterson appeared, he said, ‘Get Tuppen to take Mr Catto to Winchester station, Patterson.’

‘Very good, My Lord.’

‘Cheerio, love,’ exclaimed Lady Wilmslow.  ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,’ she added, and emitted a ribald laugh. ‘That ought to give you plenty of leeway.’

HARDCASTLE’S QUANDARY is available now in the UK and from 1 April in the US. Learn more here.