Did you know… that in the USA approx. 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day?

Matt Hilton’s new action thriller, PAINTED SKINS, is published next month.  Set in Portland, Maine,  it sees Private investigator Tess Grey and her ex-con partner Po investigate the disappearance of a troubled young woman.  

Here Matt shares some facts he’s discovered on missing persons cases in America.

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Did you know that approximately 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day and that at any given time as many as 100,000 missing persons cases are active in the USA? This shocking figure includes both adults and children, but doesn’t include those who have gone missing abroad, those who have vanished and never been reported, or homeless people (including their children).

In many cases, missing persons receive low priority from overworked authorities already investigating serious crimes of homicide, robbery, assault, and rape. Often those reported missing suffer from mental illness, substance abuse and alcohol dependency so receive little sympathy from the authorities, the media or even the public. In only around 15% of cases does the missing person’s case get designated as ‘endangered or involuntary’ – the most serious classification – most of which are children under the age of 18.

The earliest missing persons case reported in America dates back all the way to 1587, when an entire colony of settlers – including Virginia Dare, the first colonist baby born in the New World – vanished without trace from Roanoke Island. The case of the missing colony still baffles investigators to this day, the only clue to their disappearance being the enigmatic word ‘Croatan’ carved on a post in the abandoned settlement.

(Information source: USA Today)

Matt Hilton worked for 22 years in private security and the police force in Cumbria. He is a 4th Dan blackbelt and coach in ju-jitsu. He is the author of ten novels in the Joe Hunter series, and one previous Tess Grey thriller.

Praise for Matt Hilton:

“Po and Tess make an appealing odd couple” Publishers Weekly on Blood Tracks

For further information on Matt Hilton, please visit our website here.

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Behind the Book – Assassins by Jim Eldridge

9781780290881For his new crime novel, Assassins, set at the time of the Talks for Irish independence in 1921, award-winning author and scriptwriter, Jim Eldridge, returns to his Irish roots.

Jim – whose grandmothers were both Irish – lived in Banteer in Co Cork from 1989 until 1998. During that time he produced the Banteer Drama Group, developing them from a group who did sketches to one of the most prestigious Drama Groups in Ireland, travelling all over Ireland and the UK with their productions of Irish classics and modern drama. Out of the Drama Group came the Glen Theatre in Banteer, created by Jim and his wife, Lynne, and now one of the foremost venues for drama and music in Munster. During his time in Ireland, Jim also wrote scripts for RTE, including being short-listed for the Golden Rose of Montreux for one of his episode for RTE’s TV sitcom “Upwardly Mobile”.

Now, Jim brings his own history from Banteer into his new novel. The grandmother of the novel’s hero, DCI Paul Stark, migrated from Banteer to England at the time of the famine. Stark is reminded of this fact by both the legendary Michael Collins and British Special Branch, as Stark works to solve the murder of a British aristocrat. Is the murder the work of Irish Republicans, as Special Branch claim? Or Bolsheviks? Which is the theory put forward by Winston Churchill – the Secretary of State for the Colonies – who is heavily involved in the talks with Collins, Robert Childers, Arthur Griffiths, Ned Broy and the rest of the Irish Delegation.

The prestigious American literary magazine, Kirkus has given Assassins a positive thumbs-up in its review:

“Against a backdrop of political unrest, a multiple murderer wreaks havoc in post-World War I Britain.October 1921. Shots are fired outside the residence of Lord Amersham’s home in Regent’s Park. When Scotland Yard DCI Paul Stark arrives with his sergeant, Robert Danvers, he’s confronted by a furious Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Three bullets found their mark, indicating that the killer was an experienced gunman. Amersham’s vocal opposition to both the British Communist Party and the fight for Irish independence made him the target of many. Suspicion naturally falls on charismatic Irish Republican Army leader Michael Collins, who at first bristles under Stark’s questions but ultimately offers his assistance. Besides providing interesting nuggets of history, Eldridge depicts his lead characters with complexity and compassion, auguring well for this series kickoff.”

Assassins can be ordered at any bookshop or from any online vendor.

The next title in this series, Shadows of the Dead, will be published in the UK in January 2017.

Visit our website for more historical mysteries. 

Did you know…that the terrible plagues of the sixteenth century brought about one of the early experiments with vaccination?

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Alys Clare’s forthcoming novel A Rustle of Silk is the first of an intriguing new forensic mystery series set in early seventeenth-century Devon, introducing physician-sleuth Dr Gabriel Taverner.

The book is set immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. When her people are still mourning her capricious, powerful, colourful, infuriating presence and have no idea what life under the new monarch, James I, will be like.

Clare noted how James I was morbidly afraid of being killed; hardly surprising given what had happened to his father (blown up) and his mother (beheaded). On arrival in his new capital, he insisted on several layers of thick padding under his outer garments to foil an assassin’s blade, swelling him up like a toad; this, given that he had long and rather spindly legs, gave him an unfortunately top-heavy look, as if a fat and a thin man had been cut in half and wrongly reassembled.

Here Alys Clare shares some facts about Stuart England:

It was the Tudor enthusiasm for education that led to the first grammar schools, for which so many people, myself included, are enduringly thankful.

The Barber Surgeons’ Hall in sixteenth century London was situated off Muggle Street.

The word ‘coroner’ was originally ‘crowner’, since the main function of the job was to investigate any aspect of life with possible relevance to the Crown. One task that appears strange to the modern mind was to investigate where death by suicide was suspected, since all the wealth and goods of a suicide were the property of the Crown (suicide being a sin).

The terrible plagues of the sixteenth century brought about one of the early experiments with vaccination: the ‘carbuncles’ or buboes (presumably but not necessarily taken off the dead) were to be dried in the sun, then ground to powder and mixed with half a teaspoon of bugloss and endive water, the mixture to be taken in the morning on an empty stomach and four hours before eating. (You’d think that, after drinking that, you’d never want to eat again… ) Sadly, like everything else, it didn’t work, and the only way of controlling the spread of the disease was to isolate the victims and wait for them to die.

Alys Clare lives in the English countryside, where her novels are set. She went to school in Tonbridge and later studied archaeology at the University of Kent. She is the author of the Aelf Fen and Hawkenlye series of medieval mysteries. Her most recent titles include The Winter King, Blood of the South, A Shadowed Evil and The Night Wanderer.

Praise for Alys Clare:

“Entertaining . . . Skillful pacing and a healthy dose of mysticism add to the appeal”
Publishers Weekly
on The Night Wanderer

“Magical, atmospheric, and beautifully plotted . . . Thoroughly entertaining fare for historical-mystery devotees”
Booklist
on A Shadowed Evil

“Historical fiction fans who enjoy such authors as Ellis Peters, Simon Beaufort, Susanna Gregory and Margaret Frazer will delight in exploring Clare’s medieval world”
Library Journal
on Blood of the South

A Rustle of Silk has just been published in hardback in the UK, and will be published in the USA in hardback, and be available in eBook, in January 2017.

Please see our website here  for further information about Alys Clare and her work.

Behind the book – Pyrophobia by Jack Lance

9780727884909.jpgJack Lance reveals why a tale from an estate agent had been an inspiration to him.

‘A curse rests on a house where someone hung himself.’

This is Dutch real estate agent Richard Zimnik’s strong belief – and for good reasons. ‘A few years ago I got a phone call from a man, living somewhere in the countryside,’ Richard says. ‘He asked me to view his house and buy it. So I went and had a look. Great scenery, a beautiful house, truly impressive. And his asking price was reasonable. No sooner did I get home after this visit, when the guy called me. Are you interested in my house? Do you want to buy it? I explained to him that I usually don’t buy houses, only intermediate between sellers and buyers. He said: doesn’t matter. I want to sell immediately. I’ll take any offer.

‘So I thought: well, okay, and offered him half his asking price, assuming I’d hear from him never again. But five minutes later he was back on the phone: you’ve got a deal. I raced to him, perplexed, and asked if he really meant that. And he said yes, definitely. He wanted to get rid of his house as soon as possible.’

‘We signed the purchase agreement and a week later I met him again, finally asking him why he had been so desperate to sell his house. And he told me: let me tell you about that. Ten years ago, a man hung himself, in my shed. Ever since, this fellow walks around in the garden. I even have an alarm installed, because of him.’

‘I don’t believe in ghosts, but I was shaken and defeated after hearing this. What to do now? How could I ever sell that house, if a dead guy was walking about all the time? My wife proposed to dissolve the purchase agreement. Legally, that’s possible. I’ve heard of at least one home buying agreement which was cancelled because the buyer had not been informed that the house was haunted.’

‘I contemplated about it and finally decided: well, bugger off, I’m not going to be scared away by ghosts. It took a while but in the end I did manage to sell the house, though with a poor profit. And I’ve never heard the new owners complain about ghosts.’

Richard Zimnik has sold all sorts of bad houses. Houses where, within its walls, a murder was committed; even the house of a murderer. Such blood-stained houses do get a reputation, especially in small village communities. But murder or suicide usually does little to decrease the selling price. ‘I once sold a villa in which the former owner had gassed himself. That didn’t make much of an impression on the buyers. The one exception is suicide by hanging. People are mortally afraid of that. When they go for a house viewing where such a thing has happened, you can see them thinking: God, that’s where he has been dangling. You have to lower your price if you want to sell a house like that.’

Jack Lance reveals that . . . this tale from the real estate agent has been an inspiration to me, because a hanging in a house is an important theme and twist in my novel, Pyrophobia. And a haunting, ghostly feeling is for sure present throughout Zone. But what I remember mostly about talking to Richard is his sheer enthusiasm: how he grabbed my attention and pulled me forwards in his story. That’s a quality I like to have in the stories I write. Now, this is a statement, right? Let me know what you think. If you’ve read any of my books, please use the comments section below and just give it to me – any opinion you may have. I’ll reply to whatever remarks thrown at me and won’t be scared away. Promise!

For more information on Jack Lance visit his website.

 

Behind the Book… Death Notes

death-notes-sarah-rayneDeath Notes is the first book in Sarah Rayne’s new series of chilling mysteries, which introduces professional researcher Phineas Fox.

Phin has mixed feelings when he’s asked to research the infamous, nineteenth-century violinist Roman Volf for a TV documentary. Volf was a notorious criminal and womaniser hanged for his part in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. On uncovering evidence suggesting Volf could not have been involved in the Tsar’s murder, Phin’s investigations lead him to the west coast of Ireland – and a series of intriguing, interlocking mysteries reaching from 1881 to the present day. Was Volf executed for something he didn’t do? And what is his connection with the reclusive Maxim Volf now living in County Galway?

While writing Death Notes, I was initially delighted to discover the existence of the Opera and Ballet Theatre in Odessa. It had burned down at the end of the nineteenth century, which I thought would fit beautifully into a plot involving flashbacks to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. The infamous, nineteenth-century violinist, Roman Volf, specially created for the plot, could wander through the theatre’s blackened ruins, possibly in company with a suitably alluring lady. Over a century later, the present-day music researcher, Phineas Fox, could visit the rebuilt theatre, in quest of the truth about the scandalous Roman and his part in the Tsar’s murder.

I wrote several chapters, making use of this theatre, then I discovered it had burned down eight years too soon for the plot. So, since the dates of assassinations can’t be shifted, any more than the burning of illustrious theatres can be put forward, I set about creating a fictional theatre. Then I hit the problem of what to call it.

I rummaged bookshelves, scoured encyclopediae and trawled the internet. Chapter 11 lay incomplete on the hard drive. Chapter 12 was still scrappy notes in Word, and Chapter 13 was a mere hope somewhere on the horizon, with no Word or, indeed, words to its name. The chapters with the inaccurate references to the Odessa Theatre, patiently awaited amendment. My agent and my editor patiently awaited a manuscript.

Then I discovered the Russian legend of the skomorokhi. The skomorokhi were nineth or tenth-century East Slavic harlequins – they could sing, dance, act and play musical instruments. Traces of their legend are sprinkled over the centuries and several authorities suggest that their name is linked to the Italian Scaramouch – the clown of commedia dell’arte. Harlequin and Columbine are known to most people, but that third character, Scaramouch, is perhaps not quite as familiar.

And yet Scaramouch is still around. In the 1906 fantasy play, Love in a Dutch Garden, a character says, ‘Scaramel, I am tempted…’ Scaramel’s reply is, ‘Always yield to temptation.’

And in Freddie Mercury’s mind-blowing Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen ask, ‘Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango…?

So even though I couldn’t pronounce it, there was the theatre’s name. And best of all, it could burn down in the right year for the plot of Death Notes.

Sarah Rayne is the author of many novels of psychological and supernatural suspense, including the Michael Flint and Nell West series. She lives in Staffordshire. Sarah’s most recent novels, available from Severn House, are The Whispering, Deadlight Hall and The Bell Tower . Please visit our website here for further information on Sarah Rayne and her work.

Praise for Sarah Rayne:

“A real corker, perfect for fans of horror novels that blend past and present and have an element of mystery to them” Booklist Starred Review of The Bell Tower

“Skilfully structured and packed with suspense” Kirkus Reviews on Deadlight Hall

“The horror is more of the M R James than the Stephen King variety (atmospheric creepiness rather than boogeymen), but that doesn’t reduce the sense of palpable danger”
Publishers Weekly on The Whispering

“Simmering suspense and chilling surprises” Kirkus Reviews on The Silence

 

 

 

Did you know this about… St. Francisville, Louisiana?

CS Harris, on the background to Goobackground-image-1d Time Coming, her forthcoming saga set during the American Civil War.

Did you know that St. Francisville, Louisiana, was the capital of an independent nation known as the Republic of West Florida in 1810? Located not in Florida but in the upper part of Louisiana’s “toe,” this area was not included in the Louisiana Purchase and was inhabited largely by Tories who’d fled the United States after the Revolution.

Not eager to become part of the US, they set up their own nation complete with an elected governor and legislature. The fledgling state lasted just three months before being conquered by American troops and forcefully annexed. Bubackground-image-4t the eight parishes involved – “parishes” are Louisiana’s name for the civil districts known elsewhere as “counties” -have ever since been known as “the Florida Parishes.” And fifty years after the Republic was overrun, its flag was hoisted again as the Confederacy’s “Bonny Blue Flag.”

Praise for C. S. Harris:

“Harris tells a powerful story of war’s destruction of property, people, hopes, and morals during the Civil War in Louisiana. This is top-notch historical fiction, thoroughly researched and vividly presented, revealing the Civil War in all its brutality. This is an excellent story, full of suspense and historical detail”
Publishers Weekly on Good Time Coming

Good Time Coming is out now in hardback in the UK, and will be published in the US beginning December in hardback and eBook.

For further information on CS Harris, please visit our website here.