Did You Know – the origin of the phrase ‘to eat humble pie’?

This week’s interesting fact appears in the Glossary of THE NOBLE OUTLAW by Bernard Knight; Book 11 in the medieval mystery series featuring Crowner (Coroner) John.

The umbles were the less desirable parts of venison, such as the offal. Especially at Christmas they were given by a lord to the poorer people to make ‘umble pie’ from which the expression ‘to eat humble pie’ arose as an indicator of subservient status.

Books 1-12 in the Crowner John series are available in eBook from Severn House. More information here.



Behind the Book – Murder Take Three by Eric Brown

1956. Langham’s client is movie star Suzie Reynard and her lover has been receiving threats. Langham finds the film set awash with resentment and a body is found in the director’s trailer. Someone confesses to the murder – but Langham is not convinced. He delves into the past and another murder that took place more than twenty years before. Here author Eric Brown talks about the inspiration and research behind his series…

Murder TMurder Take Three book jacketake Three, and the other books in the Langham and Dupré mystery series, came from my fascination with the 1950s. It was an interesting period socially, culturally, and politically, with Britain regaining its feet after the privations of the Second Word War, and slowly gaining some measure of prosperity: change was on the way on every front, and the radicalism of the Sixties was just around the corner. I wanted to write a series of books that would be murder mysteries but also, as it were, documents of the time. Many things were changing: the certainties and values of the thirties and forties were crumbling; many people feared another war, with the Cold War between Russia and the West ramping up and the threat of nuclear annihilation being a constant concern.

One of my recurrent characters in the series is the literary agent, Charles Elder, a homosexual when that practice was outlawed and ridiculed. The books examine social attitudes towards homosexuality – with Charles Elder being threatened by a blackmailer in the first book of the series, Murder by the Book.

When writing the series, I found that the best way to research the period – as well as reading non-fiction books on various aspects of the time – was to read novels set in the fifties. In fact I found these a better source of the ‘feel’ of the time than many factual books. Novels from the likes of Graham Greene, C.P. Snow, Robin Maugham, Rupert Croft-Cooke and many others gave me a sense of the prevalent social mores, were a great insight into cultural and personal attitudes, and showed intimately how people thought at the time. People spoke very differently then, and the novels of the fifties are a treasure trove of fascinating modes of dialogue.

Above all, however, with the series I want to provide the reader with thrilling mysteries, interesting characters, and intriguing puzzles.

MURDER TAKE THREE was published in hardback by Severn House on 28 April (UK) and 1 August (US).  For further information, please visit our website here.

Praise for Eric Brown’s previous book, MURDER AT THE LOCH

“This promises to be a fine series, if future installments are as good as the first three have been”  Booklist 

“Suspenseful outing” Publishers Weekly

“This charming book, which follows Murder at the Chase, brings to the page well-defined characters and a classic locked-room structure. Recommend for anyone who loves English country house murders”  Library Journal 

#AuthorTrivia – Hilary Bonner

I am thBonner Hilary - Coloure reigning  British Media Backgammon Champion!

Unfortunately, I must admit that there has only ever been just the one media championship competition – and that was 30 years ago. It was staged by Victor Lownes, the man behind those hedonistic Playboy clubs, in his rather different Chelsea club, Stocks.

I was then Showbusiness Editor of the Mail on Sunday. I beat a number of doyens of the British press, including the famous columnist and equally famous backgammon player Nigel Dempster, on my way to victory. My prize was entry to the Backgammon Championship of Great Britain – which I did not win!

I do, however, still play backgammon regularly.

As does my series detective DI David Vogel. He also compiles crosswords. And is very, very clever. I am quite confident that if I were able play Vogel at backgammon, I would lose horribly.

DI David Vogel features in Hilary’s forthcoming psychological thriller DEADLY DANCE, available 31 August in the UK and 1 December in the USA. Visit our website for more information.


Behind the book – Spring Break by Gerald Elias

9780727887122The titles of the first four novels in the Daniel Jacobus mystery series were the names of classical music compositions dealing with death: “Devil’s Trill,” “Danse Macabre,” “Death and the Maiden,” and “Death and Transfiguration.” Books five and six are the first two instalment of a second “quartet.” The inspiration for these books, however, have come from a different source: The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, highly evocative concertos for violin and string orchestra that he composed from sonnets of his own authorship. The Four Seasons are perhaps the most beloved collection of concertos in the entire Baroque literature.

9780727886149My stories are based upon these concertos in several ways. First of all, they take place in the season depicted in the concertos: “Playing with Fire” in Winter, and “Spring Break” in Spring. They also draw upon the text of the sonnets, sometimes reverently, other times ironically. Finally, the music itself becomes part and parcel of the plot. In “Spring Break,” for example, a student’s error-filled performance at a master class is what leads Daniel Jacobus — the blind, curmudgeonly, violin pedagogue and super sleuth — to believe that something is more amiss than the student’s skill.

Each book in this second “quartet” of stories centres around a venue very specific to the music profession and real life issues encountered in them. In “Playing with Fire” it was a violin shop and the forgery of violins and their authentication. In “Spring Break” the setting is a music conservatory with an ingrained culture of sexual harassment. Vivaldi may write, “Stirred by the festive tones of rustic pipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the verdant canopy of spring,” but those feelings aren’t necessarily unanimous.  

Visit our website for more information on  Gerald Elias.

Praise for Spring Break:

“Readers will enjoy spending time in the company of the curmudgeonly Jacobus, and many will welcome the absence of fisticuffs, car chases, and Glocks. Jacobus’s blindness adds an interesting angle, with suspects and witnesses classified and identified by the cadence and timbre of their voices.”

Publishers Weekly 

Editor’s Pick – Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner

9780727887344_FC.jpgWe are delighted to welcome the long-established, highly-regarded crime writer Hilary Bonner to Severn House with DEADLY DANCE, a tense and twisting psychological thriller featuring crossword-solving Bristol detective, David Vogel.
The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears.  14-year-old Melanie Cooke had told her mother she was going to meet a school friend. Who was she really going to meet – and why?  Vogel is drawn towards three very different suspects, each of whom grows increasingly chilling.  But are they what they seem – and is any one of them capable of murder?

A cunningly crafted, sexually charged and wholly original read, DEADLY DANCE kept me intrigued throughout, as I was drawn into each of the three suspects’ stories and kept guessing right to the end as to which of them – if any – is the killer.  Bonner skilfully keeps the questions coming and the tension going strong, ensuring that the murderer’s true identity, when finally revealed, comes as a genuine shock.  The clues of course were there all the time, but so cunningly planted that even the most eagle-eyed reader will be hard-pressed to spot them.

The geeky, vegetarian, teetotal, mild-mannered, happily married Vogel makes a refreshing change from all those embittered, divorced, hard-drinking detectives out there: his decidedly uncool crossword-compiling hobby eventually proving key to cracking the case.  I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of this particular detective inspector in mysteries to come.

Visit our website for more information on this title.


#BookExtract – A Study in Gold by Annie Dalton

A Study in Gold book jacketA Second World War-themed murder mystery weekend ends in murder for real in A STUDY IN GOLD, the third title in Annie Dalton’s Oxford Dogwalker series, set in Oxford.  

At a World War II-themed murder mystery party which they’d attended to make up the numbers, reluctant party goers Anna Hopkins and her fellow dogwalkers find they are enjoying themselves more than they’d expected.  That is, until a real body is discovered floating in the ornamental pond. Who was the mysterious woman who attended the event without a ticket?

As Anna and her friends delve further, they find themselves caught up in an intrigue that leads to a lost painting and a wartime secret that involves Anna’s own family. Was her late father really guilty of a monstrous crime…?  Here’s a taster from the book…

Back in their room they packed their bags at lightning speed. Not wanting to wait for the lift, or worse, risk getting into the lift with someone who might drag them off to an Austrian jail, they stole down the back stairs.

Even before they reached reception they could hear the woman berating her teenage grandson for his permanent state of gloom. ‘Dein missmutiges Gesicht erschrickt die Gaeste,’ she scolded. (‘Your miserable face is enough to frighten the guests.’)

Under cover of this family quarrel, Tansy and Anna slipped out into the street, and began to power-walk in the direction of the train station.

 ‘Damn,’ Anna said abruptly. ‘I’ve still got our key.’

‘We can post it back later.’

‘It won’t take a moment.’ Anna made to turn back.

‘Are you crazy?’ Tansy protested. ‘They’ll have spares.’

A police car pulled up with a squeal of brakes. Two police officers, Anna wasn’t sure if they were the same two, and the man in the leather jacket, jumped out and disappeared inside the hotel.

She dropped the key in the street and they ran.

‘People do run for trains,’ Tansy panted. ‘It’s not suspicious in the least.’ Anna was past caring. She just wanted to get the hell out of Innsbruck, before their unknown pursuer caught up with them.

They ran, occasionally shifting down to speed-walking, all the way to the station. ‘Do you mind getting the tickets?’ Anna was gasping for breath now. ‘I’ll call Jake. If something does go horribly wrong, we might need someone to be our advocate.’

‘You swear they’ll speak English.’ Tansy looked anxious.

‘Yes, I swear.’ Anna had already pulled up Jake’s number.

Tansy hovered. ‘So, um, I’m getting us tickets for the next train to Vienna?’

‘No! the next train out of Austria!’

‘Jesus, this is scary,’ Tansy said, and sprinted towards the ticket office.

 A STUDY OF GOLD is available in the UK now, and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 September.  Visit our website for more information on this series. 

Previous titles in the series


Did You Know . . . this about Vivaldi?

9780727887122This week’s interesting fact was supplied by Gerald Elias, author of the Daniel Jacobus mystery series. The latest title is this series, Spring Break, is due for release in hardcover and ebook on 1 August in the US. 

* * * * * * * * * * *

Did you know that Antonio Vivaldi, the great Italian Baroque composer of the 17th and 18th centuries, was employed by a convent in Venice for almost forty years?

The Ospedale della Pietà was a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice, almost exclusively for figlie, girls. Not all the students were orphans, nor even poor for that matter. Initially, and through the seventeenth century, the ospedali—there were four—provided training in sacred music. As the excellence of the Pietà’s training grew, so did its reputation. It attracted the attention of the nobility, who sometimes enrolled their infants, legitimate or otherwise. Many of the concerts were arranged especially for important, wealthy visitors.

 But unlike concerts these days, the young ladies, because of mores of modesty, were constrained to perform behind an iron grille lattice, like a wall. Even though they comprised the finest orchestra in Venice, they were never seen!

La Pietà hired the best faculty in the city and promoted its high quality concerts. None other than the great Antonio Vivaldi was appointed a violin teacher in 1703 and served in various roles on and off until 1740. Much of his greatest music was written for performance at the Pietà.

One would not imagine that life in an orphanage had much to offer, so it might seem surprising that for the young ladies the status that came with being successful figlie was much coveted, and created incentive for excellence. Though most remained at the ospedale their entire lives, some were lavished with gifts from admirers, a few were permitted to marry and were even provided dowries, and many were offered vacations in villas on the Italian mainland.

 The ospedali’s activities provided countless commissions for local violin and other instrument makers, liuter del loco, not only for the manufacture of good instruments but also for the constant maintenance and repair of such instruments, adding significantly to Venice’s economy as well as its culture.

Visit our website for more information on the Daniel Jacobus series.


#BookExtract – Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner

Season of Sacrifice book jacketSEASON OF SACRIFICE by Bharti Kirchner is the first in a new Seattle-based mystery series introducing feisty PI Maya Mallick…

During a morning stroll, Maya sees two women set themselves ablaze in front of the temporary residence of the visiting Chinese foreign minister.  She’s even more shocked to recognize one of them: Sylvie Burton, a brilliant Tibetan-American scientist, who is the adopted sister of Maya’s best friend. An onlooker says that the two women are martyrs, protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Yet, with so much to live for, why would Sylvie end her life in this horrific way?

Here’s an extract from the first chapter…

The chanting continued, the chorus ascending and then dramatically descending, sounding cruel and evil. A second woman came forward, pivoted and faced the assembly. Taller than the first, she was also dressed in a white shroud, with a similar garland around her neck. Maya saw only the woman’s bright eyes above her veil, eyes that looked familiar. They reminded her of Sylvie, a dedicated malaria research scientist and the sister of Maya’s best friend. Sylvie had been adopted from a Tibetan refugee camp in Darjeeling, India, when she was still a baby. Her bloodline could be traced to a Tibetan royal family. But Sylvie, who didn’t have a political bone, wouldn’t come to a street rally. She’d rather be cooped up in her research lab for a twelve-hour day.

And yet, Maya’s chest tightened. She called out, ‘Sylvie?’

The chanting stopped for an anxious moment.

With a sweep of his hand, Sunglasses Man gave the second woman the go-ahead. She took a few shuffling, mechanical steps, unsteadily assumed her place beside her companion and gazed up at the mansion.

With his thumbnail, Sunglasses Man ignited a pair of red-tipped wooden matches and handed one to each woman. After uttering a few instructions, he backed away to a safe distance. The women accepted the tiny, playful sparks as if in a trance.

‘Don’t!’ Maya screamed.

SEASON OF SACRIFICE is out now in the UK and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 September.  For further information, please visit our website here.