Editor’s Pick – Trade Secrets

This month’s Editor’s Pick comes from Charlotte, who has chosen TRADE SECRETS by the hilarious and incredibly well-informed David Wishart.

She said:

9781780290805In TRADE SECRETS, David captures day-to-day live in the heart of the Ancient Roman Empire – slaves, sandals and honeyed wine – and combines it with the patter and attitude of a gumshoe private eye. Where else in an historical mystery could you find the sentence: “Make that Medusa with a grade-one hangover, an abscessed tooth, and an extra supply of snakes”?

In the latest in this excellent series, Rome has a new emperor, and its citizens are looking forward to an era of peace. Not so Marcus Corvinus however, who finds himself investigating two murders. 

From the first line, Wishart’s use of precise historical knowledge combines brilliantly with the undertakings of Corvinus, to make the modern reader feel right at home in the ancient world.

Visit the Severn House website for more information.


The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan

Historical...leaderboard 1

If you are a fan of historical mysteries, then chances are you have heard of Paul Doherty and his most famous creation, the 14th century sleuthing monk Brother Athelstan.

ISBN 9781780290799

ISBN 9781780290799

The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan (to give the series its full and proper title) tracks the social and political unrest leading up to the Peasants’ Revolt.

Throughout this gripping series, historian Doherty has woven the mishaps and mysteries encountered by Brother Athelstan into the fabric of historical events with a unique blend of light-handed storytelling and gritty realism.

Critics agree, with Booklist saying: “Doherty successfully resurrects medieval London in all its grime, grit, and glory.” 


Click to read an extract.

This series consistently receives starred reviews, with Publishers Weekly observing in their starred review of The Book of Fires that “only the cleverest readers will identify the Ignifer before Athelstan does.”

In the latest series entry, The Herald of Hell, it is May, 1381 and the Great Revolt draws ever nearer. The Upright Men openly roam the streets of London, waiting for the violence to begin. Their mysterious envoy, the Herald of Hell, appears at night all over the city, striking terror into the hearts of those who oppose them. But who is he?

When his chancery clerk is found hanged in a notorious Southwark brothel, the ruthless Thibault, John of Gaunt’s Master of Secrets, summons Brother Athelstan to investigate. Did Amaury Whitfield really kill himself following a visit from the terrifying Herald of Hell? Athelstan is unconvinced.

Doherty, Paul 2011

Paul Doherty

In the dead man’s possession was a manuscript containing a great secret which he had been striving to decipher. If he could only unlock the cipher and interpret the messages being carried to the so-called Herald of Hell, Athelstan would be one step closer to catching the killer. But can he crack the code before the Great Revolt begins?

You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out…

The Alex Duggins Cotswolds mystery series

Cameron, Stella

Stella Cameron

If you haven’t heard already, here’s the scoop: New York Times bestseller Stella Cameron, author of over forty romance novels, has come over to the dark side.

Stella now writes the Alex Duggins mystery series; and you’re going to love it.

Set in England’s beautiful Cotswolds, the books follow Alex as she returns to her picturesque hometown of Folly-on-Weir to start afresh after the breakdown of her marriage. But slipping back into the routine of rural life isn’t as simple as Alex hopes, and she soon finds out that the countryside has its own brand of murderous mayhem…

Available now. ISBN 9781780290713

Click to read an extract.

Series opener Folly received praise from all quarters, with fellow NYT bestseller Jayne Ann Krentz calling Folly “Fast-paced, edgy, and wonderfully atmospheric”, while Booklist had this to say:

A fearless, feisty heroine, a touch of romance, and an intriguing look at English village life, combined with taut suspense and unexpected twists, transform what starts out looking like a British village cozy into a mesmerizing, knuckle-whitening thriller. A top-notch blending of subgenres, much in the manner of Louise Penny” – Booklist on Folly


ISBN 9781780290782

Second in the series, Out Comes the Evil will be available in hardback and eBook from December 1. In this latest installment, a body is discovered in a disused well among the ruins of a 14th-century manor house, with the motive for the killing a baffling mystery. The victim was a widow who had lived quietly in Folly-on-Weir for the past ten years. Who on earth could want her dead, and by such brutal means?

As rumour and speculation engulf the town, another woman is attacked – and Alex discovers that behind a tranquil face lurks a cunning and vengeful mind. Despite warnings from the police to stop interfering, she finds herself in the sights of a ruthless killer who has decided she knows too much …

An engrossing series from a talented author, who has deftly combined murder most foul with one of the UK’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty.

Be warned – we may be in a village, but cozy this is not! 

To find out more, listen to an interview with Stella or read what publisher Kate had to say in her editorial on Out Comes the Evil.

Author feature – Jeri Westerson (Part II)

Welcome to Part II of our interview with new Severn House author Jeri Westerson. 

What drew you to the medieval period, and the reign of Richard II in particular? Why did you want to set Crispin there?

Take a pin and stick it into ANY part of the thousand year medieval period and it’s all interesting, full of intrigue and battles and all manner of fascinating history. But Richard’s troubled reign seemed a good backdrop for my fiction. I like that I can leave the court politics in the misty distance in some novels and in others I can bring it to the fore to get involved in my storylines.


ISBN 9780727885623 Published 30th October in the UK

But I came to my interest in all things medieval at an early age, from my parents’ love of the medieval period and English history in particular. Our shelves groaned from books of historical fiction as well as non-fiction and I took happily to what was on offer. Dinner table conversation often consisted of points of English history and one had to keep up! I could certainly name more English monarchs – in order – than I ever could American presidents. And I was probably the only five-year-old in any Los Angeles city school who could recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales…in Middle English! It’s a period full of colour and pomp, of dastardly deeds and great tales of valour. What’s not to like?

How did you go about researching the period?

The old-fashioned way, in libraries and archives. It’s wonderful to have the internet in order to reach the archives in the UK and email the archivists for the material I need. I find those folks to be extremely helpful and friendly. A lot of material these days is scanned and posted online, certainly making my life even easier. I utilize maps from the period to make my way around fourteenth century London and also technology like Google Earth to help me navigate and make sense of distances. The medieval London of Crispin’s day no longer exists, of course, but there are fragments; churches, other places that yield the feel of the era, and though I am unable to travel to England as much as I’d like, I can cull a great deal from pictures and some virtual tours off the internet.

But I find I still must go to university libraries for the majority of my studies. I get advice from the oldest online listserve made up of medieval scholars, historians, and professors of medieval history from all over the world. Mostly I ask for the best books on the subject, what to look for and what to steer clear of.

Don’t miss Jeri’s virtual book launch for The Silence of Stones on 30th October – click on the image for details:

Facebook Launch image

Author feature – Jeri Westerson (Part I)

We are delighted to welcome Jeri Westerson, California-born historical mystery author, to the Severn House club. For any of you unfamiliar with Jeri and her hero, disgraced knight Crispin Guest, we spent some time with Jeri to find out more about her and her writing.

Jeri_2015 (1)

Jeri Westerson. c Craig Westerson

Jeri Westerson was born and raised in Los Angeles, where she lives with her commercial photographer husband. As well as seven previous Crispin Guest medieval mysteries, she is the author of a paranormal urban fantasy series and several historical novels. Her books have been nominated for the ShamusMacavity and Agatha awards.

Tell us about Crispin Guest. How did you come to write about him? How did inspiration strike?

I had been writing historical fiction for some years about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It was the kind of thing I liked to write, the kind of world where I liked to spend my creative time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the kind of story editors wanted to publish. They preferred the doings of court – any court, but especially the Tudor court – and the rise and fall of all the familiar figures we’ve seen time and again. After struggling to get published for some ten years a former agent suggested, if I insisted on writing about the Middle Ages, that I turn my talents to “medieval mystery”. And I found when I looked into it, that the sort of thing I liked to write seemed to translate much better into the mystery genre.

I had read all the Brother Cadfael mysteries of course, and was familiarizing myself with some of the other series set in the time period, and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want a monk or nun protagonist. I was looking for a little more action and adventure, something the readers could sink their teeth into. And thinking outside the box, I began to really delve into the possibilities. One idea was to build a protagonist with all the tropes of a Sam Spade or a Phillip Marlowe. And the more I thought about it, the more I worked on the idea of a cross-pollination of the medieval with the hardboiled.

The hardboiled detective is hard drinking, hard fighting, tough-talking with a chip on his shoulder, and a sucker for a dame in trouble. Those elements would easily translate into the medieval setting. I also wanted my detective to have certain skills. To be able to read, certainly. A facility with languages would get him in and out of court. And also the ability to fight with weapons; so I wanted a knight or lord, someone who moved easily in court circles. But because I wanted the hardboiled tropes, he had to be brought low, and so all of his noble privilege had to be taken away from him. He needed a good reason to lose it all, to have the angst and dark backstory I so wanted with this character, and through the research of the era, I decided he would have been a knight raised in the household of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster.

When Richard II unexpectedly came to the throne when he was ten years old, the nobles thought his uncle Lancaster would seize the throne for himself. He had to swear that he would not overthrow his nephew and to dispel any plots. This to me seemed the perfe9780727885623ct opening to insert my detective Crispin Guest into a conspiracy to put his mentor and beloved father figure, the man who raised him, on the throne. The scheme was discovered and before Gaunt could save Crispin he was swept up with the other conspirators and imprisoned, tortured, and put on trial. But instead of the horrendous execution expected for a traitor, Gaunt begged for the life of this favoured knight. Richard did spare him, but took everything else away; his knighthood, his lands, his means of support, and everything that defined who he was, and set him loose in London with nothing but the clothes on his back, separated from all he had known and from everyone he had ever loved,

Crispin struggled, but eventuall
y found his way and reinvented himself as the “Tracker,” a man who finds things for a fee. Though he no longer holds a title, he has a good heart and a dry sense of humor. He’s surrounded himself with a motley crew of priests and peasants – like his servant and eventual apprentice, the lovable young thief, Jack Tucker. Trapped somewhere between his old life in the king’s court and his new life
as the Tracker, Crispin struggles to survive, but not at the cost of what he holds dearest: his honor.
I also added another little twist to the plot. There is always a religious relic or venerated object at the heart of the storylines. Sometimes they are vital to the plot, and sometimes they are merely what propels the plot forward.

To learn more about Jeri & Crispin, here’s the second part of this interview.

Did You Know…

Today’s #FactFriday comes from crime fiction author Graham Ison.

Before becoming a writer, Graham was in the army before joining the Metropolitan Police. During his career in Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, he was involved in several famous espionage cases and spent four years at 10 Downing Street as protection officer to the prime minister. He later guarded crowned heads and US presidents during their visits to Britain, and served as second-in-command of the Diplomatic Protection Group.

Graham writes both the Brock and Poole detective series, and the historical Hardcastle detective series, set in WWI. In today’s Did You Know…, Graham reveals some of the information he unearthed while researching his latest Hardcastle mystery, Hardcastle’s Collector:


ISBN 9780727885579. Available in the UK 30th October, in the US and eBook Feb 1 2016.

“In several of the stories in the Hardcastle series, I have mentioned the 1917 mining of the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge in Flanders during the First World War. During a research trip to Ypres, I called on a friend of mine in the Belgian Gendarmerie (as it was then called) in order to find out more about the mining. I already knew that of the 23 mines that were set by the British and Empire Armies, nineteen were detonated on 7th June 1917. It is said that the explosions were heard in England and even rattled the windows of 10 Downing Street. And in Switzerland, some five hundred miles from Messines, they were recorded as an earthquake.

The twentieth mine exploded on 17th July 1955 near Ploegsteert Wood, and was one of the four that either malfunctioned or were deliberately not detonated. It was thought to have been set off by lightning and left a crater some sixty feet deep and two hundred feet in diameter. The twenty-first and twenty-second mines subsequently exploded involuntarily or were defused. That left one dormant mine and my gendarmerie friend told me that no one knows where it is.” 

You have been warned…

Louise’s Chance by Sarah R. Shaber

Fresh from a glorious weekend as Bouchercon Local Guest of Honour in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, Sarah R. Shaber has a new book out.

ISBN 9780727885524.

ISBN 9780727885524.

Louise’s Chance, the fifth in the Louise Pearlie WWII historical mystery series, follows Louise, a young widow, who works in Washington DC as a clerk for the legendary Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. In this latest installment, Louise tackles a new and demanding task; recruiting German prisoners-of-war for a secret mission inside Nazi Germany. It’s a big chance for her, and Louise hopes she can finally escape her filing and typing duties.

From the start, her mission is beset by complications. Only one of the prisoners speaks English, the army officer in charge of the camp is an alcoholic and two prisoners disappeared on the ship bringing the Germans to the States. Were their deaths suicide? Officially, yes. But Louise can’t help but have her doubts . . .

Louise’s Chance is available now in the UK, and in the US and in ebook on January 1. Pre-order here.

DID YOU KNOW – Sarah carries a copy of the American Constitution in her purse.

The other titles in the Louise Pearlie series are all available in ebook. Click on the jacket below to read the opening chapters of first in the series, Louise’s War.


The first in the series – click to read an extract

Two for Thursday – The Puzzly

We are sending Big Thursday Thanks to the Puzzle Doctor, who has chosen The Herald of Hell by Paul Doherty as the winner of the Puzzly accolade for September.

ISBN 9781780290799

ISBN 9781780290799

Explaining his choice, he writes of The Herald of Hell: “Brother Athelstan is back in one of my absolutely favourite series from one of my absolutely favourite authors and it’s one of the finest books in the series.”

“It would have been very easy to turn the tale into an historical story about the Revolt, but Paul never forgets that the reader is looking for a clever mystery and that is exactly what he delivers. As usual. . .Needless to say, this is Highly Recommended, as is the rest of the series.”

Read the full review here.

ISBN 9780727885418

ISBN 9780727885418

We are particularly delighted, as August’s Puzzly was awarded to another Severn House book, The Chessman by Dolores Gordon-Smith.

Of The Chessman, he writes: “The Chessman is the latest from Severn House and it’s an absolute cracker – very reminiscent of the Golden Age while still feeling original.”

“It’s a clever game that the author plays here and I absolutely loved it.”

Read the full review here.