Editor’s Pick September UK & January US: TROUBLE IN MIND by Michael Wiley

trouble in mind

Our Editor’s Pick this month is Michael Wiley’s TROUBLE IN MIND.

TROUBLE IN MIND, the first in a hardhitting new crime noir series featuring maverick Chicago PI Sam Kelson, marks an intriguing new direction for acclaimed author Michael Wiley, whose previous series have been set amidst the humid swamplands of northern Florida.

In Sam Kelson, Wiley has created a private investigator quite unlike any other I’ve come across before. As a consequence of being shot in the head while working undercover in his former career as a cop, Kelson suffers from disinhibition: in other words, his brain injury means that he cannot keep silent or tell lies when questioned. But truth be told – and Kelson always tells the truth – he still feels compelled to investigate and, despite the odds, he’s good at his job.

Hired by Trina Felbanks – a true femme fatale if ever there was one! – to investigate her pharmacist brother, whom she suspects is dealing drugs, Kelson arrives at Felbanks’ home to make a shocking discovery. Arrested on suspicion of murder (I don’t want to give too much away here!), he makes an even more startling discovery concerning his client’s identity. Kelson would appear to have been set up . . . but by whom, and why?

As events spiral out of control and the body count rises, Kelson realizes he’s made a dangerously powerful enemy.  Will he survive long enough to discover who has targeted him – and what it is they want?

While the freezing streets of Chicago create a very different backdrop to the sweltering swamplands of Jacksonville, the setting for Wiley’s previous Daniel Turner and Franky Dast thrillers, what hasn’t changed is the quality of his writing.  Underpinned by the author’s trademark droll, bone-dry sense of humour, and with a memorably unusual not-so-private investigator at its core, TROUBLE IN MIND is an atmospheric, tautly-plotted and highly engaging thriller, whose string of startling revelations keeps the reader racing through the pages.  The frontal cortex injury which ensures that Sam Kelson is compelled to say all the wrong things at all the wrong times, endangering his own life and the lives of others, sends the plot careering in all sorts of unexpected directions and lands the hapless detective  in numerous painfully awkward situations.

I would recommend TROUBLE IN MIND to anyone who enjoys a well-plotted mystery full of unexpected twists and propelled by a particularly black sense of humour.  Fans of Michael Connelly and John Sandford should particularly enjoy.

Sam Kelson is set to return for his second outing in the summer of 2020 with LUCKY BONES.  I for one can’t wait to see what the maverick investigator gets up to next!

TROUBLE IN MIND is available from 30 September in the UK and 7 January in the US. Find out more here.

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Happy Yorkshire Day!

1 August is Yorkshire Day! Yorkshire puddings, famous authors and beautiful countryside . . .  what’s not to love about the White Rose county? We’ve handpicked some of our favourite historical mysteries set in Yorkshire, from medieval York to Victorian Leeds.

 

Conspiracy of

 

When a prominent citizen is murdered, former Captain of the Guard Owen Archer is persuaded out of retirement to investigate in this gripping medieval mystery.

York, 1374. When a prominent citizen is found dead in the woods, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded out of retirement to investigate, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.

Read more here.

 

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Despatched to Whitby Abbey to barter for a Holy Relic, Hildegard of Meaux is plunged into a baffling murder investigation in this gripping medieval mystery.

December, 1389. Arriving at Whitby Abbey in order to bid to purchase a priceless Holy Relic, Hildegard of Meaux finds it a decidedly unwelcoming place. But before the bidding war can begin, a body is discovered in the monastery’s apple store shed. Something is rotten in the heart of Whitby Abbey . . . and it’s up to Hildegard to discover the truth.

Read more here.

 

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When Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife stands as a Poor Law Guardian,  it seems some people aren’t happy at the idea of women standing for election, with devastating consequences . . .

Standing for election as a Poor Law Guardian, Tom Harper’s wife Annabelle and the other female candidates have been receiving anonymous, threatening letters. The threats turn deadly with carefully targeted explosions. The only clue Harper has is a scrap of paper containing a fragment from an old folk song. But what is its significance?

Read more here.

Spotlight on . . . Mary Ellis, author of ISLAND OF LAST RESORTS

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Kate Weller’s boss, Nate Price, has some exciting news: Julian Frazier, a friend of one of the agency’s wealthy clients, has invited the Nate Price Investigations team and their partners on a trip of a lifetime to his home on Elysian Island, an exclusive retreat off the Georgian coast. But there’s a catch. Frazier has written his own murder mystery script, and the PIs must work out whodunnit. As they’re about to discover, though, the murder Frazier wants them to solve is a real cold case, and there’s a killer twist that isn’t in the script . . . Unable to reach Elysian Island and her co-workers, Kate is sure that someone wants her to stay away. Can she stop a ruthless killer and uncover the truth behind a deadly game?

A dream escape to an idyllic island turns into a living nightmare for the Nate Price Investigations team in the twisty new Marked for Retribution mystery featuring Kate Weller. We find out more about author Mary Ellis below.

Books you’ll always keep . . .

The five authors that have most inspired me are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte.

Five books/albums/movies that changed your life, and why . . .

I have two books, two movies, and one album that changed my life.

The books: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I read this book (abridged) first as a child, then again as a teenager, and twice more as an adult. Each time the edition was longer and the story more complex. Alcott inspired me to become a writer. The book which inspired me to write mysteries? Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie was a master at creating characters, dropping in clues (along with red herrings), and weaving stories you won’t soon forget. The movie which changed my life was Titanic because it showed me that the driving force of every memorable story is love, even a disaster film. And the album? I adore the soundtrack to the movie, Last of the Mohicans. I wore out several tapes and CDs playing it for background music while writing.

Favourite hobby…

Snorkelling in the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. I don’t do it often anymore, but I remember being in twenty feet of water, surrounded by thousands of fish. Many swam up to my face mask to study me. I had never felt so attune with nature.

ISLAND OF LAST RESORTS is available now in the UK and 1 November in the US. Find out more here.

#BookExtract: THE DEAD DON’T WAIT by Michael Jecks

9781780291208_FCApril, 1555. A priest has been stabbed to death in the village of St Botolph, his body left to rot by the roadside – and Jack Blackjack stands accused of his murder. As well as clearing his name, Jack has his own reasons for wanting to find out who really killed the priest – but this is an investigation where nothing is as it seems.

Meet Jack Blackjack. In this book extract, his day is not off to the best start…

April 1555
London

There are times in a man’s life when he has to accept that he might have made an error.

This was one of those times.

If you have ever found yourself staring down the barrel of a pistol, you will know that the thing looks big enough to dive into. This one was enormous – seriously, it looked as though my thumb would slip in without touching the sides, and I was appalled to think what a slug of lead that size might do to me. I had only recently been forced to work with a gun like this, a wheel-lock. Truth be told, I had taken to carrying it around with me – a fellow in my line of work cannot afford to be without a means of protection, after all – and I knew what damage such a gun can do to a man. I was highly unwilling to be exposed to this one.

At that moment, the main thing that took my interest was the gun itself. Everything else around me took second place as far as I was concerned, and when the woman sharing my bed clutched at my arm, I yelped in surprise. I had forgotten she was there. I confess that my first thought, on being reminded, was that I might swing her before me and protect myself – but, slim as she was, she was heavier than I could manage while lying in the bed. It was nothing to do with morals or politeness; I simply didn’t think I could wrestle her into the bullet’s path from my recumbent  position.

Yes, I was in bed. Not my own, I should say. I was in a pleasant chamber in a house in Pope’s Lane, having enjoyed a thoroughly pleasant time with this lusty wench in a tavern near St Paul’s, which led to her suggesting that we repair to her rooms to complete our evening to mutual satisfaction with a saucy entanglement. I was very content to agree.

‘Who the hell are you?’ I demanded, trying to feign righteous anger. It made me  sound like an adolescent with a broken voice.

‘I am her husband, and you are in my bed!’ he snarled.

THE DEAD DON’T WAIT is available from 31 July in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Read more here.

 

#BookExtract: BALL PARK by John Farrow

9780727888891_FCQuinn Tanner is a thief who finds her getaway driver dead after her latest heist. Detective Émile Cinq-Mars’s first assignment after switching from the Night Patrol to the day shift is the scene of Quinn’s latest crime. With their paths set to cross and others hunting for her, she goes underground. Can Cinq-Mars find her before it’s too late?

In this extract from the start of the book, thief Quinn Tanner gets a nasty surprise after breaking into a house…

Getting inside had been routine. The stress came in getting out.

She had a near-encounter with a nude man who carried a pistol. Hiding from him was like having her nerve endings scraped raw by a hand file.

Nerves were nine-tenths the battle. Hers were shot for the night.

She had to remain dead silent. The woman in the house could return at any second. Quinn crept halfway up the staircase toward the lady’s bedroom then slipped out the open side window. The one she’d entered. Propped her bag on the ledge and lowered
herself down from the sill. Then she clutched her bag of loot in one hand and held on With the other. Dangled off the side of the house in the moonlight. Fingers slipping. She looked down to locate her landing in the dark before shoving herself outward and dropping from a height above ten feet.

Quinn remembered to flex when she hit the ground. She’d trained herself well. She toppled over – Nerves! – yet landed quietly on the grass.

Checked herself out. She wasn’t hurt.

Whenever a plan worked, a special joy thrummed inside her.

The young woman spotted her boyfriend’s car. Her accomplice. Excellent. She walked a little faster than usual despite an effort to keep her pace casual. God! That guy had a gun! He was starkers! She had a story to tell. Deets, you won’t believe it! In a nick, Quinn slid onto the front passenger seat. Slammed the door shut.

‘OK, Trucker boy, let’s fly!’

Deets failed to start up on her command. She looked at him. Suddenly her nerves, those nerves, flared across her chest and snared her throat in a vise. Deets didn’t budge. In the light of a streetlamp a mysterious dark patch across his chest pooled below his belly and fell off his right hip.

That was blood. All over him. Blood.

She caught on. She got this.

Deets was dead.

He was sitting there dead. He was crazy dead.

Deets.

Her getaway driver would not be getting away.

Or getting her away. Not from this.

BALL PARK is available from 31 July in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Read more here.

#BookExtract: THE SHOWSTONE by Glenn Cooper

9780727888938_FCIraq, 1989. During an archaeological excavation Hiram Donovan uncovers a piece of meticulously knapped obsidian. Instinct tells him to hide it, so he sends it back to his wife in America, but days later Hiram is murdered. Decades later, his son Cal Donovan finds the parcel still unopened and sets out to discover the truth behind the mystical stone…

In this extract from the start of the book, Hiram makes a fascinating discovery while excavating at the Rabban Hurmizd Monastery…

With his back to his servant, Hiram Donovan opened the canvas field bag at his feet and rummaged for the washcloth he had furtively stuffed at the bottom. Few archeologists of his age and status did their own digging but Donovan enjoyed spending an hour or two at first light before the summer heat got too oppressive doing light spading and troweling. Relaxing stuff, beats Valium, he told his grad students. Only hours earlier, he had climbed down a ladder into the deep cutting at the southeast sector of the monastery, where in antiquity a fire had wrecked a scriptorium. There, during his third season on the plateau, Donovan had found organic materials that radiocarbon-dated to the eleventh century. That morning, as the sun crept higher into the pale sky, Donovan, a bear of a man, was alone and on his knees, scraping at the packed earth at the cutting floor when he heard a high-pitched noise the moment the tip of his trowel struck something hard just below the surface.

The musical clink confused him. Steel on stone, pottery, or even bronze made a thudding sound. This sounded like steel on glass and he was certain no glass objects had ever been found at the monastery. He opened the pouch on his field bag that held specimen brushes and chose one with firm bristles. He began whisking at the soil in a miniaturization of Najib’s sand duties until something shiny and black showed itself from the matrix of dark-brown dirt. More and more of a black surface saw the light of day until he had exposed a curved edge. Then he used the tip of his trowel to carefully probe under the edge and with a gentle upward rotation of his wrist the artifact was freed to be held in a warm hand for the first time in nearly a millennium. It was obsidian. The pure-black volcanic glass had been a precious commodity in the Near East from Neolithic times well into the historic period, highly valuable, avidly traded. Obsidian cleaved razor-sharp and could be fashioned into excellent arrow heads, scrapers, and knives. But this was not a weapon. It was a perfectly flat, round disk, about ten centimeters in diameter and a centimeter thick with a clean, smooth circumferential edge. Whoever had knapped the disk from a large nodule of obsidian had been a master. Long flakes had been expertly knapped away from both sides to create an object of exquisite symmetry and once the knapper had been satisfied with the size and shape, both surfaces had been ground and polished into perfect mirrored faces. When Donovan was inspecting the disk in his palm, it caught the sun and reflected a beam into his eye. He clamped his lids and yelped but when the sunspot and the pain dissipated, he continued to admire it, albeit more carefully.

What was that?

Had he heard something? A faraway voice?

What are you?

THE SHOWSTONE is available from 31 July in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Read more here.

#BookExtract: THE MISSING DIAMOND MURDER by Diane Janes

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1930. Frances Black is worried . . . divorce proceedings are under way and her solicitor has learnt of a spiteful letter sent to the court claiming that there is more to her friendship with her sleuthing partner, Tom Dod, than meets the eye. Fran takes Tom’s advice to get away, travelling down to Devon to help the Edgertons with their family mystery. After meeting the charismatic Eddie Edgerton and arriving at their residence, Sunnyside House, Fran soon learns that Eddie’s grandfather, Frederick Edgerton, died in mysterious circumstances when his wheelchair went off a cliff. Was it really an accident? And what happened to Frederick’s precious diamond which went missing at the time of his death? As Fran investigates, she uncovers family scandal, skulduggery and revenge, but can she solve the mystery of the missing diamond?

Desperate to leave her domestic worries behind, Frances Black travels to Devon to solve a family mystery featuring a suspicious death and a missing diamond. In this book extract, Fran meets  the irresistible Eddie Edgerton for the first time as he drives her to Sunnyside House.

Fran could not help but like Eddie Edgerton, who had a winning smile and the kind of direct manner which appealed to her. She judged him to be somewhat younger than herself: in his middle twenties probably. His fair hair was rather longer than the fashionable norm and his face was tanned. He looked like someone who enjoyed plenty of fresh air and exercise in a warm climate.

‘You were telling me about your family,’ she said.

‘Yes, righty-ho. I suppose the family starts off with my grandfather – the one who died last year. He was Frederick Edgerton. My father was also Frederick, but everyone called him Frank, so as not to confuse him with my grandfather. Father has been dead for several years so Roly was Grandfather’s immediate heir. Roly is actually Frederick Roland, named after Father and Grandfather . . . well, not the Roland part. I think Mother just liked that name. Anyway, he’s always been called Roly.’

‘In order to distinguish him from your father and grandfather,’ Fran prompted.

‘That’s right. Roly is Mother and Father’s eldest.’

‘What about your mother? Is she dead too?’

‘Good Lord, no. She’s still very much with us; you’ll meet her this evening. You’ll like Mother. Everyone does. Where was I? Ah, yes. After Roly they had Henrietta, known to everyone as Hen. Then finally they had me – the runt of the litter.’

‘What happened to your father and your grandfather?’

The question seemed to delight Eddie, who lifted his hands clear off the steering wheel and brought them down again with a slap which caused them to swerve briefly towards a solid-looking oak tree. ‘By George, you are a sharp one! You knew at once, didn’t you, that all this has something to do with Grandfather’s death?’

‘Not at all,’ Fran protested. ‘I was just trying to build up a picture of your family.’
‘Ah, you don’t fool me, Mrs Black. I could tell you were frightfully clever the first minute I saw you. I say, do you like jazz? You don’t happen to play piano, do you?’

‘I’m sorry?’ Fran was completely thrown off by the question. ‘The assignment isn’t musical in any way, is it?’

Eddie laughed again. ‘Not at all. I just thought that if you played – well, anything really, a trumpet or a ukulele, we could have some jolly sessions together. In the evenings, you know. When you’re not sleuthing.’

‘I’m afraid I’m not a great success on the piano. I never got much past five-finger exercises and the ‘Old Folks at Home’. I certainly never graduated to the trumpet or the ukulele.’

‘Ah, well, not to worry. Here we are – these are our gates.’

Eddie swung the car expertly between a pair of tall metal gates which had been opened to their widest extent, simultaneously slowing the engine to a muted roar for their cruise down a drive which descended gently between trees, beyond which Fran caught occasional glimpses of the sea.

‘Gosh,’ she said. ‘You live right on the coast.’

‘We do indeed. There are sea views from most of the main rooms in the house. It’s a pity that you’ve come so early in the year, for there’s really no chance of bathing here until at least the end of May.’

‘Do you have to walk far to get to a beach?’

‘It’s only ten minutes through the garden. Of course, it’s much better now that the beach hut has been built. When we first lived here we used to have to carry all the picnic chairs and shrimping nets and so on, up and down from the house whenever we wanted them, whereas now we can keep all manner of kit down there.’

‘It must be very nice to live so close. Does it get crowded down there in the holiday season?’

‘Oh, it’s our own private beach,’ Eddie assured her, just as if having one’s own private beach was the most normal thing in the world. ‘Our land runs well to either side, so it isn’t overlooked or anything tiresome like that.’

He slowed the car for another steep bend and seconds later Fran found herself looking up at a large, modern house with grey stone walls and a grey-tiled roof.

‘Welcome to Sunnyside House,’ he said.

THE MISSING DIAMOND MURDER is available from 31 July in the UK and 1 November in the US. Read more here.

#BookExtract: DRESSED TO KILL by Kathleen Delaney

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Mary McGill and her cocker spaniel Millie get the fright of their lives on Halloween when they hear gunshots coming from the bank and the robber, dressed in a clown costume, points his gun at them before fleeing the scene. Mary is horrified when she discovers Police Chief Dan Dunham has been shot in the shoulder and a woman has been killed. Why would the clown shoot an ordinary citizen? Mary soon learns that the victim is Victoria Witherspoon, a local woman who owned a sewing shop and must have recognised the clown costume – because she made it herself. With Dan in hospital and unable to investigate, can Mary and Millie unmask the savage killer clown before he strikes again?

Santa Louisa’s Halloween celebrations are derailed when a masked killer dressed as a clown strikes in the entertaining new Mary McGill dog mystery. In this book extract, Mary and Millie are about to get the fright of their lives . . .

She walked back to view the events. The small slide was decorated with cutouts of black cats, black and orange crepe paper, and a laughing ghost made from a bedsheet and stuffed with pillows at the bottom. The children would slide down almost into its arms. There were small tables holding spray chalk for decorating the sidewalk and big boards set up for painting the witches, goblins, and ghosts that were outlined on them. Small tubs held apples for bobbing, but the rules and safety precautions were different from the ones for the older kids, and so was the fun house. Nothing scary here. Just some fun and surprises – at least Mary hoped so. She stared at it, trying to decide how she felt about it when a loud blast distracted her. It distracted Millie, too, who yelped as if she’d been hit. A firecracker? Then another sounded, and another. They seemed to be coming from around the bank. Some teenager trying to get things started early?

Beyond irritated, she grabbed Millie into her arms and headed for the street at a brisk trot. It seemed empty. The door of the bank flew open and the clown appeared. He had a tote bag in one hand and a small gun in the other.

Mary gasped and tightened her grip on Millie, who yelped again. The clown turned to look at them and raised the gun. He was going to shoot them. Horror and disbelief filled Mary as she stared at the clown. Should she try to shove Millie behind her? Or drop to the grass? She could do neither. Her body seemed frozen in place. Except for her heart. It was beating so hard she thought it might escape. But the clown didn’t shoot. He dropped his hand and, with surprising speed, ran down the street and turned the corner toward the parking lot behind the library and disappeared.

What had just happened? She took a deep breath, only now aware she had been holding it. Her brain started functioning again. Had she really seen what she thought she’d seen? A clown with a gun? One who had almost shot them? Oh, dear God. Those weren’t firecrackers she’d heard. They were gunshots.

DRESSED TO KILL is out 31 July in the UK and 1 November in the US. Find out more here.

#BookExtract: HEART’S EASE by Sarah Harrison

9780727888952_FCSisters Felicity, Charity and Honor Blyth and their little brother Bruno enjoyed a secure, idyllic childhood at Heart’s Ease, their spacious family home on the Devon coast. Whatever their troubles, the siblings know they can always return to Heart’s Ease, their bolthole and sanctuary. Heart’s Ease will always be there for them… but will it?

Three very different sisters discover that life doesn’t always turn out as one would expect in this powerful romantic drama. In the book extract below, Felicity, Charity and Honor all react to the birth of their little brother, Bruno… 

A boy! At speed, at home, in the early hours of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee! The story of Bruno’s precipitate arrival became part of Blyth family lore and Bruno lapped it up with his mother’s milk.

No one gave him explicitly to understand that he was a golden child – as parents Marguerite and Hugh were far too wise for that – but they didn’t have to. It was implicit in the circumstances of his birth. And then, of course, he was an enchanting boy, a real heartbreaker with dark hair, round grey eyes fringed with sooty lashes, and a winning manner. He wasn’t always sweet and good, there was an impish streak in Bruno and he could be a little devil, but that was true of any boy worth his salt.

Honor loved him the most. She’d been there, after all, when he’d appeared, when her father, a surprised expression on his face, had caught him as he slithered out all sticky and new. She knew right away there could never, ever, be a moment in her life as exciting as this one. A whole person, with a loud, scratchy quavering voice and waving fists, who had been until a moment ago inside Ma! And Ma was fine, moaning and puffing (and swearing a bit) while it was going on, and then laughing with delight, and Pa the same, somehow astonished but tremendously pleased with themselves at having beaten the nurse to it. By the time her sisters arrived on the scene she, Honor, had been holding the baby, proud as punch. He didn’t have a name then, or for a couple of weeks afterwards, he was just referred to as ‘Boy’ and that stuck for quite a while.

In spite of her carefully-assumed cool, Charity was interested in the events of that summer night. A purely scientific interest, she told herself. By her calculation the baby had arrived exactly one hour after their mother’s waters had broken, which was rapid by any standard, and Marguerite had obviously delivered with something of a flourish – if not painlessly, then certainly not in agony. She deserved some respect for that. Honor, as Charity recalled, had been born in hospital with no complications that anyone knew of (Marguerite had been home in a couple of days) but this had taken place right there in what Felicity referred to rather prissily as ‘peasant-style’. Charity was amused by both peasanty-ness and the prissiness, and the baby looked fine to her, especially compared with some you saw being wheeled around who were just plain plug-ugly, like mewling gargoyles. That it was a boy was neither here nor there, why should that be a big deal? She believed her parents when they said they didn’t care as long as it was healthy. But all in all, in the back of Charity’s mind the notion was forming that she herself would never want children.

Felicity, whose fantasy it was to be the graceful mother of a Bruno, found herself rather resentful of this single intruder. She recognized the reaction as undignified, but couldn’t help herself. The baby’s arrival had even upstaged the queen, for heaven’s sake. She supposed he was sweet – prettier than the girls had been anyway – and she joined in the general cooing and passing round, but her heart wasn’t in it. She wanted no part of this boy-centred household. The sooner she got back up to London the better.

HEART’S EASE is available from 31 July in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Read more here.

Behind the Book: THE DEAD DON’T WAIT by Michael Jecks

9781780291208_FCApril, 1555. A priest has been stabbed to death in the village of St Botolph, his body left to rot by the roadside – and Jack Blackjack stands accused of his murder. As well as clearing his name, Jack has his own reasons for wanting to find out who really killed the priest – but this is an investigation where nothing is as it seems.

Michael Jecks explains how the idea for THE DEAD DON’T WAIT emerged from a chance discovery about Queen Mary’s attitude towards laws concerning priests…

DID YOU KNOW?

When Queen Mary took over the throne, she was utterly determined to bring the Kingdom back to the Catholic Church. She earned the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ because of the numbers of priests and others whom she consigned to the flames. According to The Life and Times of Mary Tudor by Jasper Ridley (George Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1973), ‘Henry VII burned 10 heretics in 24 years. Henry VIII burned 81 in 38 years, including one Catholic… Two Protestant extremists were burned during the six-year reign of Edward VI, and five by Elizabeth I in her 44 years. Mary burned 283 in under four years’  – which makes almost 71 each year of her reign.

BEHIND THE BOOK

The Dead Don’t Wait came about because I was working on an idea for a short story, and while I was researching it, I came across the story of the priests who, during Queen Mary’s reign, were forced to suffer from her religious zeal.

Under the changes brought about by King Henry VII, priests were released from their oaths of chastity. This had a huge impact on large numbers of people up and down the country. Many were already having affairs, and it was not uncommon for priests to become overly friendly with women who were themselves lonely: widows, spinsters and others would occasionally form close ties with the local priest. This was hardly surprising. It was an age when young men could be brought to the priesthood very young, and were all too often thrown from raucous city living in Oxford, to existence in a filthy peasant village many hundreds of miles from family, friends and their past lives.

No one could be surprised that many priests could seek companionship given those circumstances.

So, as soon as the laws were changed, and priests were released from their vows of chastity, it was noticeable that suddenly there was a rash of marriages. Priests, suddenly made free of their vows, hurried to make honest women of their companions. Which I think was rather a sign that their hearts were in the right place.

But then Mary arrived on the throne.

She was determined to overturn her father’s legacy, and that had appalling consequences for many when she decided to return the priesthood to chastity. Suddenly priests were told that they could keep their living, if they wanted, but only by discarding their women. Priests could only be priests if they were chaste.

So, what happened?

Women and children were suddenly forced from their marriages and their homes. Their husbands became non-husbands, their children became illegitimate.

Many of the priests, to their credit, refused – either by giving up their livings, or by maintaining their  spouses illegally and surreptitiously. But the punishments were severe. One man discovered cuddling him own child was reported, and severely thrashed. Others were pilloried.

It was as soon as I saw this piece that I became determined to write a novel that explored the misery of these women, their children, and their husbands. I started researching some while ago, and the result is The Dead Don’t Wait!

THE DEAD DON’T WAIT is available from 31 July in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Read more here.