Behind the Book – Murder in Disguise by Mary Miley

9780727887146Why did I set my mystery series in the Roaring Twenties? Simple—no other decade offers more chaos and crime than the 1920s. This was the era when prohibition laws turned ordinary citizens into criminals and brought about organized crime, skyrocketing violence, and the corruption of police departments, courts, and government throughout America. A perfect setting for a crime writer!

The star of my mystery series is Jessie, a savvy young vaudeville performer who occasionally finds herself on the wrong side of the law. MURDER IN DISGUISE, the fourth in my Roaring Twenties series, begins in the fall of 1925 when a projectionist is gunned down in the theatre booth. The killer flees to the balcony and vanishes. His widow, who works at the movie studio with Jessie, asks her to investigate. Her vaudeville skills and connections help her succeed where the police fail.

I can’t help packing my stories with details that bring the Twenties to life and highlight the progress society has made in the hundred years since. And no one is more surprised than I to find my own views about certain current controversies changing because of my immersion in this era. For example, a deeper understanding of the disastrous failure of liquor prohibition has flipped me from anti- to pro-legalisation of marijuana, and my greater awareness of criminal behaviour has sent me to jail—literally—where I teach a writing class to inmates.

Praise for Renting Silence 

“A little sparkle, a hint of sex, some wily Prohibition-era shenanigans, and one smart cookie in the lead make this a great read that’s similar to Renee Patrick’s Design for Dying” Booklist 

 “All the details of her journey not only advance the story but are fascinating in themselves” Publishers Weekly 

 “With a well-developed and surprising plot twist, an appealing, resourceful amateur detective, and fascinating period details, this entertaining historical will delight fans of Old Hollywood and those who like the 1920s-set mysteries of Suzanne Arruda and George Baxt” Library Journal 

Visit our website for more information on The Roaring Twenties series

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#BookExtract – I Wish You Missed Me by Bonnie Hearn Hill

9780727886798The traffic was as aggressive as usual for a Friday. As she pulled off the freeway, dusk gave way to night and Sacramento became a blaze of headlights. A vehicle behind her came up too fast. Kit touched her brake and adjusted her rear-view mirror, but she couldn’t see anything except a dark van, its windshield reflecting back the light.

So pass me.

She slowed down more so that the van could go by.

Instead, it slowed.

OK, don’t pass me.

Lots of vans in Sacramento. No reason to worry. But she did have to wonder why this one seemed to be following her, though now keeping its distance. Kit turned off at the intersection, glad to be free of the glare. She let the cool breeze blow back the hair from her face. Fifteen more minutes and she would be home.

At the stoplight on Broadway, she glanced in her mirror again and saw a van merge into the lane behind her. Same one? Maybe it was heading to the fast-food place in the brick-front shopping center to her right. She squinted to see better but the streetlights reflected off the van’s windshield and distorted her view of the driver.

Only one way to figure this out. Kit steered into the next lane and took a sharp left. Probably a paranoid move on her part but she already felt her heartrate slow down.

A yellow glow cut across her vision from behind. Any vehicle. It could be any vehicle, she thought. She slowed; so did the van. She sped up. So did it.

As she shot through the red light, Kit remembered everything that had happened to bring her to this moment and knew she had to just drive, just run, get away as far and as fast as she could.

John Paul didn’t live far from here. She could call him. But first, another stoplight. Kit grabbed her phone, dropped it and realized she was shaking. Carefully she picked up the phone again and sent a text to John Paul.

Need help. Just passed Stockton and Broadway. I think there’s a van following me.

His reply popped up immediately. Come here. My place.

OK.

Come now.

She no longer knew exactly where she was. Sweat soaked her shirt and her slick hands could barely hold onto the wheel.

Not sure how. Find me. I’ll go around the block back to Jack In The Box on Broadway.

Headlights sneaked up behind her again. They looked the same and she took an illegal left turn.

Her phone buzzed and Kit looked down. John Paul. She took the call, pressed speaker and slammed the phone down in the seat beside her.

‘I can’t talk, John Paul. It’s a van, and it’s . . .’

Headlights washed over her again.

‘. . . right behind me.’

The van nudged closer but she still couldn’t make out the person inside it. She pulled over to the curb and waited. The van paused, then backed up and went right. Kit began to tremble. Tears filled her eyes.

‘It’s OK,’ she said to herself. ‘It’s just a driver who made a wrong turn. Weird coincidence. That’s all. It’s OK.’

Visit our website fore more information on the Kit Doyle Mysteries.

Did You Know . . . this about stalkers?

Today’s ‘Did You Know’ is courtesy of Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of I Wish You Missed Me, third in the series featuring Sacramento, California crime blogger Kit Doyle.

Did you know that one in six women and one in nineteen men in the United States have experienced stalking during their lifetimes? Have you ever noticed a vehicle following you too closely and then made a sharp turn only to find the vehicle still behind you?

This is what happens to Kit Doyle, and because of a previous traumatic experience, all of her own debilitating fears and anxieties return. Yet Kit doesn’t have time to take care of herself. She must force herself to drive to Northern California in search of her best friend and onetime radio co-host, Farley Black, who has disappeared without a trace.

The Kit Doyle Mysteries

Behind the Book – I Wish You Missed Me by Bonnie Hearn Hill

9780727886798As true crime blogger Kit Doyle tries to find her missing friend in I Wish You Missed Me, she encounters an off-the-grid community in Northern California. Why would anyone choose to live that way today?

Here are some facts that influenced the writing of this fiction.

  • When an Oregon woman’s car caught fire at a gas station, onlookers filmed it, and the nineteen-year-old who rescued her was hailed as a hero while insisting he just did what people are supposed to do.
  • After an Ohio teen was killed in an auto accident, a man videotaped his death and put it on social media. (He was ultimately arrested when officers traced him via his post).
  • A California woman was driving her two children home from a doctor’s appointment when she attempted to avoid a big-rig truck that veered into her lane, and her van flipped over into the path of oncoming traffic. When she regained her bearings and tried to get her children out of the van, a Good Samaritan who had spotted her jumped over the median, and with the help of two other men rescued the family. As the men pulled the mother from her mangled vehicle, someone else who had been watching the scene shoved a cellphone in her face to record what had nearly robbed her and her children of their lives.

Who is the enemy here? What is the enemy? Social media? The callousness that develops from witnessing countless acts of violence from an electronic distance?

These are the questions that led novelist Bonnie Hearn Hill to research off-the-grid communities whose members have given up what many consider modern conveniences. Yes, there’s a price to pay for living anonymously and free of technology. I Wish You Missed Me explores those who are drawn to such a life, some in search of healing and others desperate to hide from the past.

I WISH YOU MISSED ME is the third title in the Kit Doyle mystery series. Visit our website for information on all three titles.

Behind the Book – The Devil’s Cup by Alys Clare

97807278871081216. England has been invaded. The country is divided. Some support Prince Louis of France; others remain loyal to the king. King John summons Sir Josse d’Acquin to support him, but can Josse save the king from himself? Meanwhile, Meggie attends a sick patient, who tasks her with retrieving a cursed treasure…

Here, author Alys Clare gives the background to her latest work.

One of the real-life characters I’ve most enjoyed depicting, over the course of the seventeen Hawkenlye books, is King John, who has flipped in and out of several of them. I’ve long felt that the handle Bad King John was a little unfair: bad compared with whom? I once had an interesting discussion with my son’s history teacher, who suggested changing the epithet to Could Do Better King John, which certainly seems fairer.

But even a loyal fan of King John would have to raise an eyebrow concerning his behaviour over his second wife, Isabella of Angouleme. Contemporary commentators cattily pointed out that she was very young – some daringly and scandalously said as young as nine or ten – when John first set eyes on her and decided he had to have her. It should be remembered, however, that virtually every contemporary commentator loathed King John and never passed up an opportunity to stick the knife in. Isabella was almost certainly precocious; this was an age where girls of the nobility were married off young and she was already betrothed to someone else. And, had anyone wanted to speak in John’s defence, they might have pointed out that there were sound political reasons for an alliance with the lords of Angouleme. Also, medieval monarchs were well aware of the facts of life and didn’t bed their young wives until they were fertile (Isabella’s first child wasn’t born until some seven years after the marriage).

A king who dies unremarkably of old age, in non-suspicious circumstances, doesn’t offer a novelist very much. The days around John’s death, by contrast, provide rich areas for speculation. First, there’s the old mystery of the treasure lost in the Wash: I came across an unattributed painting of a dejected John, soaking wet, riding a bright chestnut horse. Both the man’s and horse’s heads were bowed in misery as the rain pelted down and it served to make me wonder how the king felt about this catastrophe. Did he feel that the very land had turned against him? Did his dislike of the treacherous Fens turn to loathing and fear?  Did he sense death was at his heels? Then there’s the question of what exactly killed him: dysentery was a catch-all term for all manner of gastro-intestinal illnesses, from straightforward diarrhoea caused by over-ripe fruits to the ingestion of poison. The facts concerning John’s demise are scant, so really you can take your pick. He had made many enemies and he’d recently been the guest of monks, the experts of the age when it came to secret, herbal preparations…

THE DEVIL’S CUP by Alys Clare is published by Severn House in hardback on 28 April (UK) and 1 August (US).  For further information, please visit our website here.

  Praise for Alys Clare’s previous book, A RUSTLE OF SILK

“As always, Clare has carefully researched the period she is writing about and offers authentic, engaging historical detail, but her real gift is as a superb storyteller whose clever, twisty plots; believable characters; and skillful writing will engross the reader from first page to last”  Booklist Starred Review

“Clare vividly evokes 17th-century Devon. Characters who are complex individuals complement the well-paced and pleasantly twisty plot” Publishers Weekly

 

 

Did You Know. . . this about Dover Castle?

Our latest ‘Did You Know’ article was submitted by Alys Clare, author of the Aelf Fen and Hawkenlye medieval mystery series.

Dover Castle, which King John’s loyal followers defended for so long against Prince Louis’s siege, was built on a spectacular site on top of the White Cliffs, overlooking the Channel. There was probably an Iron Age hill fort here, and the Romans weren’t slow to see its merits, constructing a lighthouse soon after the invasion of AD43.

TheDover Castle.jpg castle has been called ‘The Lock and Key of England’, and its strategic position has ensured its importance in two world wars: it was the first place to be bombed in World War I (on Christmas Eve 1914) and, a quarter of a century later, the evacuation of Dunkirk – Operation Dynamo – was organised from the secret tunnels beneath the fortifications.

Also controlled from Dover Castle was the lesser-known Operation Fortitude, the decoy ‘invasion’ sent across the Channel on 5th June 1944 consisting of motor launches, balloons and reflectors and designed to divert attention and German military muscle from the real invasion – Operation Overlord – about to happen further west on the Normandy beaches.

The latest Hawkenlye mystery, The Devil’s Cup is available to order now and will be released in eBook on 1 August. Visit our website for more information.

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Behind the Book – Beyond Absolution by Cora Harrison

Ireland. 1925. The body of the priest is found wedged in a confessional cubicle. Loved by all, Father Dominic had lent a listening ear to sinners of all kinds, but who inserted a deadly weapon into that listening ear?  The Reverend Mother Aquinas can do nothing more for Father Dominic, but find out who killed him, and why.  Here, author Cora Harrison tells us  more about the setting for her work…

Beyond Absolution book jacket.jpgI haven’t lived in the city of Cork for over sixty years, but oddly, as I write these books, I seldom hesitate. Streets, shops, houses, turns of phrase, names, scenes: all are there on the fingertips of memory. And the water, of course. The two channels of the river Lee that ran through the centre of the town, the flooded streets when high tide, spurred on by a south easterly wind, raised the river to overflow into the quays, and up through every drain. And the rain, of course; rain and fog. Dripping windows, wet streets, umbrellas, galoshes: I had forgotten about galoshes until one day my fingers wrote the word on the screen ahead of me.

And then the bright side of Cork. The shops, most dating back to the beginning of the century and even older: Queen’s Old Castle where the customers’ money and the customers’ change whizzed sixty feet high above our heads; the Munster Arcade, Cash’s. Egan’s Jewellery, its name engraved on the box where my mother’s engagement ring reposed, had its origin back in the beginning of the 19th century. And the markets: roasting chickens, potatoes, marrows, orange carrots, golden buttered eggs, chestnut-coloured hoops of drisheen resting on top of the cream-coloured honeycombs of tripe.

And the churches, of course. Forty, fifty of them. They seemed to be everywhere. Bells sounded through the day, quick signings of the cross hardly interrupting the sing-song speech of the inhabitants. I can still picture their interiors so readily: the glowing candles; the sacred pictures, the carved figures of the Stations of the Cross, the gold embroidered robes; the Italianate marble statues and altars. The dark carved confessionals, mysterious and frightening. Kneeling there in the dark, glimpsing through the iron screen the outline of a listening ear.

And that is where BEYOND ABSOLUTION is set: in that dark space of a confessional where a deadly weapon is pushed into the brain of a most beloved priest.

BEYOND ABSOLUTION by Cora Harrison is published by Severn House on 28 April (UK) and 1 August 2017 (US).  For further information about Cora Harrison and her work, please visit here.

Praise for Cora Harrison’s previous book, A SHOCKING ASSASSINATION

“Period ambience, an intriguing look at a desperate time in Irish history, an absorbing plot, and a wise and intrepid amateur sleuth in the form of the Reverend Mother make this an engaging historical mystery” Booklist

“Well-drawn characters, including a lead capable of sustaining a long series, complement the clever plot” Publishers Weekly Starred Review

 

#BookExtract – Murder in Disguise by Mary Miley

9780727887146.jpgA projectionist is shot dead and his grieving widow asks Jessie (script girl for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks) if she can find out who killed him, but who shot Joe Petrovitch? And how did the murderer leave the movie theatre without being seen? Jessie must go into the dead man’s past and uncover dark secrets from another continent and another era…

EXTRACT

Death visited Hollywood about as often as it did the rest of the country. Children were carried off by polio; grandparents gave way to old age; and the influenza came shopping for victims with sad predictability. But murder? Murder dropped by a little more frequently here than it did other places.

Joe Petrovitch was murdered on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early October during the ninth reel of Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush, gunned down in the projection booth of the theatre where he worked. His young assistant witnessed the crime close up, although shock muddled the story he gave the cops afterward. I had never met Joe Petrovitch, but I attended his funeral on Wednesday at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery because his wife Barbara worked as a hairdresser at Pickford-Fairbanks Studio where I’ve been an assistant Script Girl for nearly a year.

“I don’t know Barbara very well,” I whispered to Mildred Young, my friend in Makeup who was standing beside me in the shade of an oak tree as we waited for mourners to gather at the gravesite. I scanned the crowd. “Does she have any kids?”

Mildred had been hired at the studio just a few months ago, but Makeup and Hair Styling worked hand in glove, so she knew Barbara Petrovitch better than I did. She shook her head. “No children, but she has a few relatives who will help her through this. That’s her sister, over there, in the dark purple suit and sunglasses. And that bruiser on her left is her brother.”

I studied both siblings, looking for family resemblances. The two sisters had the same sturdy build and thick ankles. Their brother was broad-shouldered and muscular, and carried himself with the self-confidence that comes from being bigger and stronger than everyone else. As Barbara soaked her handkerchief, her siblings maintained dry eyes and tight lips. The sister clutched a black handbag in one hand and a single white rose in the other. The brother looked over their heads toward the casket with hard, narrowed eyes that lacked any pretence of grief. Suddenly, as if he sensed my thoughts, he turned his head and met my gaze with hostile eyes. Embarrassed to be caught staring, I looked away.

“Did Joe have any family?” I murmured.

“I don’t think so,” said Mildred. “None that Barbara ever mentioned anyway. They’d only been married a few years. A late marriage for both, I believe.”

Near us stood our employers, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the greatest stars in motion pictures. Not only were they, along with Charlie Chaplin, the best-loved actors in the whole film world, they were the only three with the business savvy and gumption to start up their own studio when everyone said it couldn’t be done. A gust of warm wind lifted Miss Pickford’s black veil, revealing a glimpse of her famous flawless skin, but even with her face obscured, just about anyone would have recognized “America’s Sweetheart” from her honey-gold ringlets and diminutive size. She was several years older than I, but we were so close in height and weight that she’d asked me to stand in for her on more than one occasion. From the back, with my own coppery bob covered by a wig from Barbara Petrovitch’s cupboards, audiences could not tell us apart. Miss Pickford’s husband, the handsome “King of Hollywood” and my boss, turned toward Mildred and me, removed his sunglasses, and flashed us one of his famous grins.

“It was kind of them to give us the time off,” remarked Mildred.

**********

RENTING SILENCE, Book 3 in this series, is also available from Severn House.

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PRAISE FOR RENTING SILENCE

“A little sparkle, a hint of sex, some wily Prohibition-era shenanigans, and one smart cookie in the lead make this a great read that’s similar to Renee Patrick’s Design for Dying”  Booklist  

“All the details of her journey not only advance the story but are fascinating in themselves”  Publishers Weekly

“With a well-developed and surprising plot twist, an appealing, resourceful amateur detective, and fascinating period details, this entertaining historical will delight fans of Old Hollywood and those who like the 1920s-set mysteries of Suzanne Arruda and George Baxt”  Library Journal 

 

 

Behind the book – A Little Death by A.J. Cross

9780727887009I don’t actively seek out the research for a plot, because I know a lot of what is relevant from my two decades as a forensic psychologist, although I do check it to ensure that it is as relevant as I think – or hope! Knowing a fair bit about a subject has its benefits, but also its drawbacks: you need to be careful not to dump a lot of unnecessary information on the reader, yet at the same time the inner forensic psychologist is thinking ‘Hey, all of this is relevant!’ So there’s inevitably a compromise between including just enough information to be accurate or ‘real’ and whittling away a lot and hoping that other professionals in my line of work will realize that that’s what I’m doing.

As a forensic psychologist I’ve met with a lot of people who are in trouble and who have told me about themselves, their lives and the things they’ve done: much of it sad, a lot of it very bad. Of course, I can’t use any of that information in my writing because it is highly confidential yet its value for me as a writer is that it kick-starts my imagination and my thinking.  Without it, I would need to work even harder than I do to construct plots and dialogue.  Not being a deviant person (any more than the next crime fiction author!), I think I would find it really difficult to invent deviance which comes off the page as both chilling and real. I see what I’ve learned from my professional work as gold dust in terms of my writing.

“A gripping, suspenseful, cleverly plotted story with plenty of unusual twists and a smart, independent heroine” Booklist

“Those who love to shuffle the pieces of a puzzle, eagerly anticipating that aha moment when the solution is revealed, will relish British author Cross’s third mystery featuring forensic psychologist Dr. Kate Hanson” Publishers Weekly

Available now in hardcover or to pre-order in eBook.

Editor’s Pick – Murder Take Three by Eric Brown

9780727887092MURDER TAKE THREE is the fourth traditional 1950s-set mystery featuring crime-writer-turned-private-investigator Donald Langham and his delectable literary agent fiancée, Maria Dupre who, in this latest outing  are hired by American movie star Suzie Reynard to discover who has been sending death threats to her film director lover.  On arriving at Marling Hall in Norfolk, where Suzie is shooting a murder mystery movie, Langham and Maria find the film set awash with clashing egos, petty jealousies, ill-advised love affairs – and, of course, cold-blooded murder.

Guaranteed to appeal to anyone who enjoys classic Golden Age mysteries, MURDER TAKE THREE features an atmospheric and oh-so-civilized country house setting, a delightfully waspish and understated sense of humour, and an eclectic cast of memorably colourful characters.  The rigid class and cultural divisions of the time, together with the inevitable social tensions such differences produced, add a delicious frisson to the proceedings: I particularly relished the occasional culture clashes between the British hosts and their baffled American guests.

Encompassing plentiful red herrings, credible suspects and plausible motives, the well-crafted mystery plot reaches back into the 1930s and 40s, highlighting the fact that the terrible events of World War II were still very fresh in people’s minds at this time; their characters moulded and shaped by their often horrific wartime experiences.  The identity of the killer and the motive for the murder – when finally revealed in the traditional climactic library showdown scene – came as a genuine surprise.

Elegant, ingeniously-plotted and full of period flavour, I would recommend MURDER TAKE THREE to anyone who loves the novels of those doyennes of traditional British crime writing, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

Visit our website for more information on MURDER TAKE THREE and earlier titles in this series.

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