THE GIRL IN THE WOODS: Five Facts about Patricia MacDonald

girl woods

Ever since her best friend Molly was murdered fifteen years before, Blair Butler has returned to her small hometown in the Pocono mountains as seldom as possible. Now she has been summoned home to see her terminally ill sister one last time – only for Celeste to make a shocking deathbed confession. Is it really true that the wrong man has spent fifteen years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit? Blair promised her dying sister that she would do her best to right the wrongs of the past, but is she prepared for the shocking truth . . .?

 

A deathbed confession has chilling consequences in this gripping novel of psychological suspense from Patricia MacDonald, and her five facts are just as intriguing! Who is her favourite author, and how did she end up sitting next to Prince Albert of Monaco at a glamorous dinner? Find out below. 

  1. I haven’t held a regular job for almost forty years. When I left the working world, I was the editor of three soap opera fan magazines, none of which still exist.  My boss at that time was the creator of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, who has, to say the least, kept busy in the years since.
  2. I used to be a member of the Mystery Writers of America and did, in fact, meet my husband at the Edgar Awards some thirty-six years ago. Neither one of us has kept up our membership in the last twenty years or so.
  3. I have a library in my house, full of books which I intend to always keep. I have loved books since my earliest days, when my father would read to me the poetry and short stories of Edgar Allen Poe. My father has been dead now for fifty years, but I would give anything to hear, just once again, his Scotch-Irish baritone, reciting the tale of Annabel Lee, and her tomb by the sounding sea.
  4. My favorite author is Henry James, and my favorite mystery author is Ruth Rendell. These days I am very partial to Tana French as well. As you can see, I prefer authors who live on the other side of the pond!
  5. The most exciting thing to happen in my career was that I was asked to be President of the Monaco International Film Festival, because a number of my books have been made into movies in France. It was every bit as glamorous as it sounds. At a formal dinner in Monte Carlo, I was seated next to Prince Albert of Monaco, and he  was both charming and incredibly easy to talk with. I will dine out on that encounter for as long as I am still able to dine out!

Find out more about Patricia MacDonald and her books here.

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Behind the Book: THE KILLING SITE by Caro Peacock

killing site

July, 1847. Now a happily married mother-of-two, Liberty Lane’s attendance at a London dinner party with her husband, Robert, ends in disaster when she is kidnapped from outside the smart London townhouse.

As Libby tries to formulate a plan of escape, her old friends, former street urchin Tabby and groom Amos Legge, desperately search for her. Convinced that somebody in the Maynard household, where the dinner party was held, knows something about Libby’s disappearance, Tabby keeps watch on the house – and makes a truly shocking discovery.

Can Liberty Lane escape from her kidnappers? This engrossing Victorian mystery has plenty of twists and turns. Set 170 years ago, when the current Houses of Parliament buildings were being constructed, the building site provides a fascinating backdrop to the mystery. Below, Caro explains how this inspired the story behind THE KILLING SITE.  

I used to work in the Houses of Parliament as a reporter, so the wonderful and ambitious work of the Victorian architect, Charles Barry, was the background to my daily life. Recently the buildings have attracted a lot of interest because they need serious repair. Work will go on for years and cost tens of millions. The Killing Site looks back 170 years to the time when the present parliament buildings were being constructed, amid as much controversy as now, with increasing delays and expense. After the old houses of Parliament burned down in 1834, it took more than twenty years to build the replacements, with complaints, rows and delays every step of the way. Charles Barry died before the work was completed. It struck me that the central character of my Victorian mystery novels, Liberty Lane, would have been familiar with the great building site by the Thames and the arguments swirling round it. From there, it was a short step to make it the centre of her next case.

Followers of Liberty will note that the present book leaps forward six years from her last case, Fool’s Gold, in which she’d just married Robert Carmichael. After the ups and downs of their courtship it seemed only fair to let them marry, but I did it with some regret, knowing that in the nineteenth century marriage was all too likely to end Liberty’s career as an independent investigator. In those six years they’ve had two children and, although she’s kept her skills sharpened with the occasional case, she’s been semi-retired. I needed something big to jolt her out of that, so I started the present book by having her kidnapped.

Want to read more about Caro and her titles? Click here.

March Editor’s Pick: THE RED HAND OF FURY by R. N. Morris

red hand of fury

 

This month’s Editor’s Pick is from Kate Lyall Grant, Publisher.

Set during the eve of the First World War, THE RED HAND OF FURY is the fourth intriguing historical mystery to feature maverick Scotland Yard detective Silas Quinn. The action kicks off when a young man climbs into the polar bear enclosure at London Zoo, to be brutally mauled to death. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from a notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths, one would suppose – and yet there are similarities. Following a third attempted suicide, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process?

Quirky, original, darkly playful, fiendishly clever and encompassing a wide range of complex themes, such as mental illness, socialism, pacifism, scientific progress, class prejudice, crime and punishment (to name but a few!), I never quite knew where this narrative was going to take me next. From the initial opening scenes involving the disturbingly deranged Silas Quinn’s admission to Colney Hatch mental asylum, the plot had me gripped throughout, with its plentiful array of twists and turns, and shock chapter endings. There’s an intriguing dynamic between the troubled, mercurial, unpredictable DI Silas Quinn and his stalwart sergeants, the solid, no-nonsense Cockney Inchball and the more bookish, imaginative Macadam; the three of them forming a loyal, mutually supportive team, despite their very different approaches to the investigation and occasional bickering. Quinn himself makes for thoroughly entertaining – if occasionally disturbing – company; only just managing to cling on to his sanity in this latest mystery as he faces up to his most formidable foe yet.

If you enjoy a fascinating, well-researched historical mystery with a decidedly subversive edge, THE RED HAND OF FURY is for you!

Find out more about R. N. Morris and his titles published by Severn House here.

From Suffering to Sleuthing: Caro Ramsay’s Acting Diary

suffering

A six-week-old baby is stolen from outside a village shop, and Detective Inspector Costello quickly surmises there’s more to this case than meets the eye. As she questions those involved, she uncovers evidence that this was no impulsive act as the police initially assumed, but something cold, logical, meticulously planned . . . Meanwhile, Colin Anderson is on the Cold Case Unit, reviewing the unsolved rape of a young mother back in 1996. Convinced this isn’t the attacker’s only crime, Anderson looks for a pattern. But when he does find a connection, it reaches back into his own past . . .

 

“Ramsay offers up a cracking plot, disturbing and unexpected twists, flawed yet compelling characters and an unsettling conclusion . . . A taut, shattering, mesmerizing page-turner”

Booklist Starred Review

Caro Ramsay’s latest thriller has been receiving wonderful praise from reviewers and readers alike, but when she’s not writing, our Booklist starred author showcases her performing skills as part of a fun-loving acting troupe. Fancy an insight into their ‘deliciously silly’ antics? Carry On! 

When I find myself making a comedy sporran by gluing tassels on to a hairy cushion in the garden at 3 a.m. (the glue is toxic indoors), I wonder why I speak to fellow crime writer Douglas Skelton. When I found myself on stage with a broken foot after it was crushed by Trump the Wonderhorse, I wonder why I speak to him at all.

They do say that comedy is dangerous.

So, at some point during a Scottish Writers’ Conference, I was given a script under a slice of lemon cheesecake. Two years later, four crime writers known as Crime Writers Amalgamated Productions (CWAP) have taken ‘Carry On Sleuthing’ to new depths of theatre with their Letitia Luvibod Head Scratchers, Death On the Ocean Wave – a mystery set aboard the ocean going liner The Knotty Knigel – and another play based on the murder of an underwear magnate, Death at the Knickerage. (It’s really bad. Total pants, in fact.)

It’s all good Carry On Fun. Letitia (Me) and her nephew Bunny Sprocket (Skelton) try to solve the murder before the audience. Dame Petunia Uppercrust, Colleen O’Blarney, Loxie McLovely and Phil McCavity (he’s a plasterer) all get caught up in the deadly scandal – more than the audience ever do. The minute Trump the Wonderhorse appears, he gets a standing ovation. That shows how bad the rest of us are.

The stage is set, the lights go up, the music starts, the audience is invited to guess who did what to whom and why.  There is a very clever mystery behind the madness. The audience never guess the culprit. They are usually too drunk. I get it wrong too and I have the script in front of me.

My character Letitia Luvibod is loosely based on Dame Celia Molestrangler, and if you don’t know who she is, you should.  I fashion my own mole from double-sided Sellotape, crushed cornflakes and a few hairs snipped from the cat. It’s impressive. During one performance somebody from the audience was heard to mutter, ‘You think she’d do something about that!’

Much tittering is gained from Michael J Malone who plays Tremble the butler. His accent trembles as well, all the way from Sheffield to Johannesburg. You don’t get that at the RSC.

It’s all deliciously silly. We are hopeless. We don’t care.

‘What you are about to see is a play performed by crime writers with no acting experience whatsoever. This will become evident very quickly,’ goes the introduction, just in case somebody wandered in expecting Benedict Cumberbatch.

The jokes are so old the audience revel in nostalgia.  As Ronnie Corbett once said, ‘We are pushing back the boundaries of comedy. Or, this play really is beyond a joke.’

It might look a chaotic mess but it’s all meticulously planned, honed to the last detail. Sometimes we rehearse for oh, all of five minutes before going to the bar.

Originally it was a bit of fun and we fundraised for charities close to our heart. But now we are being booked for proper theatres, with paying audiences, with props, orchestra pits and other things to fall into or off of.

Seriously, there is nothing in the world that warms your innards like making people laugh. Although a pantomime horse urinating down your leg comes a close second.

 

 

For more information on Caro and her titles, click here.

#BookExtract: SIGN OF THE CROSS by Glenn Cooper

sign of the cross

Introducing Harvard professor Cal Donovan in the first of an intriguing new series of religious conspiracy thrillers.

Responding to an urgent summons from the Vatican, Cal Donovan flies to Italy to interview a young priest who has developed the stigmata of the crucifixion, determined to uncover the cause of the mysterious wounds. When Giovanni is kidnapped, Cal comes to realize that the priest holds the key to an earth-shattering secret. Can Cal track him down before an apocalyptic catastrophe is unleashed?

 

Fast-paced, thrilling and bursting with intrigue at every turn, Glenn Cooper takes us on a heart-stopping trip to Italy we won’t forget! Wish you were there? Get ready for an exhilarating journey with this extract postcard from Italy.    

 

The young priest, Giovanni Berardino, awoke from his afternoon nap damp with sweat. The shutters were closed and his room was dark and uncomfortably warm despite the whirring table fan. Even the simple act of switching on his bedside lamp had become difficult. He had already taught himself how to get out of bed without using his hands by throwing his legs down with speed and using the momentum to stand. Once upright he hesitantly inspected his gauze-wrapped wrists. They were stained through with fresh blood. Choking back tears, he gingerly placed his palms together and bowed his head in prayer.

The painful bleeding had begun a month earlier. So far he had been able to hide it from his new parishioners in the medieval hill town of Monte Sulla but he feared he would be found out and compelled to see a physician. Already the nuns and a few parishioners had noticed that the jovial disposition he’d displayed on his arrival to the town had turned sour and tongues were wagging. Was he upset about something? Was he facing the self-doubts that plague many a young man in the early days of priesthood? Or was there something about his new brothers and sisters that displeased him?

The priest’s house was directly across the piazza from the ancient church of Santa Croce. His small room had an en suite bathroom and there, after donning his black trousers, he slowly unwrapped the gauze. He didn’t like to look at the wounds. They were deep and bloody, the diameter of a two-euro coin. He applied some ointment and rewrapped them with the last of his fresh gauze. He would have to get more at the pharmacy that afternoon. The pharmacist had made a light comment about his need for so many bandages – are you making a mummy, padre? He dreaded the scrutiny but what was he to do? He couldn’t ask Sister Theresa or Sister Vera to make the purchase for him.

Despite the heat he had been forced to eschew his short-sleeved black clerical shirts in favor of long-sleeved ones. He slipped one over his undershirt and began the slow, difficult task of buttoning it. When he was done he flinched as slid the plastic Roman collar into the tab on his shirt.

The vision began as suddenly and unexpectedly as always. Since the wounds had appeared, not a day had passed without at least one. This was his second since breakfast. He had come to welcome these interludes for so many reasons, one of which was the remission of pain that accompanied them. He closed his eyes tightly and let his arms fall to his side, letting the vision wash over him, through him.

His face softened and he spoke. “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

At the exact same time, Irene Berardino was shopping in the city center of Francavilla al Mare some ninety kilometers to the east of Monte Sulla on the Adriatic coast.

Lugging a heavy nylon shopping bag, she traded the air-conditioned supermarket for the steamy humidity of Viale Nettuno. She began heading toward the apartment she shared with her mother when she stopped dead in her tracks to stare at the man walking into a shop. At first she thought the abrupt temperature change was playing tricks on her mind but it took little time to conclude her eyes weren’t deceiving her.

No one else looked like her brother and this was his favorite gelato café.

He was easy to spot – over six-feet tall, roly-poly, short black hair with a widow’s peak, and long retro sideburns. Then there were his feet, so large he used to be teased for them. “What are those, shoes or rowboats?” the children used to cry. And of course, there was his clerical collar.

“Giovanni?” she shouted as the door closed behind him.

She rushed down the street and peered through the window of the shop. The owner was behind the counter scooping chocolate chip gelato into plastic cups for a mother and her two young children. She couldn’t see Giovanni.

She pushed the door open and went inside.

“Excuse me?” she asked. “Where did the priest go?”

“What priest?” the owner asked.

“The one who just came in.”

“I didn’t see any priest.”

“I’m sorry,” Irene said. “I just saw him go inside.”

The mother stared over her glasses at the young woman. “No one came in,” she said.

“That’s impossible,” Irene said. “Is there a toilet or a back door?”

“Only behind the counter,” the owner said, becoming irritated. “No one came in. Now, do you want a gelato or do you want to leave?”

 

Find out more about this title here.

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