Did you know…? Medieval law with Candace Robb

Conspiracy of

1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling? Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is in York on a secret mission on behalf of Prince Edward, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.

A gruesome murder and a deadly conspiracy lie at the heart of Candace Robb’s enthralling new mystery featuring Owen Archer. Can murder ever be ‘honorable’? Candace reveals some intriguing facts about medieval law…

The coroner’s jury in medieval England shaped how a case would be presented to the crown whether a death was a felony, a misdemeanor, or a misadventure. Beyond examining the evidence, they considered the significance of both the death and the verdict to the community at large, their goal being the best outcome for the people. For example, in the case of misadventure, or accidental death, the jury could chose to punish a property holder for neglect despite having no cause to believe the owner meant the victim harm. Such a verdict would result in the property being confiscated or the owner heavily fined, thus preventing further accidents. Even more intriguing to me, medieval law was more interested in a man’s honor, or “truth”, rather than the truth of the accusations made against him. It was perfectly legal for the jury to find a murder honorable an honorable man killing a dishonorable man for the good of the community. The makeup of the coroner’s jury was also quite a different kettle of fish than we would find appropriate today, the jurors often kin to the dead or the accused, neighbors, friends, business associates. They were valuable in potentially having insights into what happened, what led up to it, the victim’s health, etc., which was, apparently, far more important than possible conflicts of interest.

A CONSPIRACY OF WOLVES is available from 30 April in the UK and 1 August in the US. Read more here.

 

 

 

 

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#BookExtract: CURTAIN CALL by Graham Hurley

Curtain Call

Actress Enora Andressen has a brain tumour that could kill her, she’s struggling with the wreckage of her marriage and has a strained relationship with her son. When investigative journalist Mitch Culligan on her doorstep, asking for her help, she is thrown into danger… and must confront her past while facing an uncertain future.

With CURTAIN CALL, Graham Hurley introduces us to a tough and thrilling new female lead: actress Enora Andressen. In this extract from the start of the book, Enora receives some devastating news about her brain tumour. How will she respond?

The neurosurgeon has a fondness for metaphor. ‘The Reaper comes knocking at every door,’ he says. ‘I’m afraid yours might be one of them.’

I’m staring at him. Pale face. Pale eyes behind the rimless glasses. Pale everything. Half-dead already, he could be an apprentice ghost. Another metaphor.

‘Should I lock the door? Hide? Pretend I’m not in?’

‘Any of the above.’ The eyes drift to the PC screen. ‘Next of kin? A husband maybe?’

‘He’s in Stockholm.’

‘On business?’

‘He’s about to re-marry.  It might be the same thing.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘So am I.  The last thing the poor woman needs is Berndt.’

He reaches for his keyboard and taps a line I can’t read. Is he making notes about some drug or other, some brave attempt to stay the Reaper at the corner of the street? Or is he having trouble spelling Berndt? I did once, so I wouldn’t blame him.

With a tiny sigh he glances up, as if to check I’m still there.  Then he half-turns to consult a calendar on the wall behind him.  The calendar features a child’s painting, stick figures in crayon, mainly red and yellow. There’s a football, and birds, and a big whiskery sun.  I rather like it.

‘Do you have enough Percocet?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good. No more than one tablet every six hours and lay off the booze. Before we make any decisions, I’m afraid I’ll need to see you again.’  His finger has settled on the end of next week.  ‘Would Friday be convenient?’

‘Friday would be perfect.’ I manage a smile. ‘My place or yours?’

CURTAIN CALL is available now in the UK and from 1 May in the US. Want to find out more? Click here.

From Clacton to kibbutzim: Graham Hurley

Curtain Call

Actress Enora Andressen has a brain tumour that could kill her, she’s struggling with the wreckage of her marriage and has a strained relationship with her son. When investigative journalist Mitch Culligan on her doorstep, asking for her help, she is thrown into danger… and must confront her past while facing an uncertain future.

Enora Andressen, Graham Hurley’s intriguing new heroine, is a successful actress, but we think Graham’s own job history is just as interesting, as he reveals below…

As a teenager at Clacton-on-Sea, I sold ice creams and deckchairs during the summer before becoming a lifeguard. As a university student, I spent three summers on Israeli kibbutzim writing and picking apples. The middle summer was 1967, the year of the Six-Day War, and my kibbutz was on the front line. Much excitement. After Cambridge I spent twenty happy years making more than a hundred documentaries for ITV.  These included the discovery and filming of the Titanic, Richard Branson’s near-fatal balloon flight across the Atlantic, the twentieth anniversary tribute to The Boys of ’66 (football), a major documentary about the Brighton Bombing, an award-winning film shot the day the Task Force departed for the Falklands, plus a series of WW2 anniversary documentaries.  I’ve also been a radio reporter,  playwright, beach bum, and – more recently – manic offshore rower. Lots to talk/write about? Well, yes…

CURTAIN CALL is available now in the UK and from 1 May in the US. Read more here.

Happy National Pet Day!

We couldn’t let today pass us by without celebrating some of our favourite furry friends on the Severn House list! We love the puppies (and parrot) in the titles below, and we think you will too…

COOKIN’ THE BOOKS
available now

Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon fights to save her reputation and catch a killer when a murder occurs during a fundraising dinner for the local library.

STARRING: Langhorne the green conure

Langhorne travels around perched upon the shoulder of his owner, Enid Kemper (although she will claim he is a companion, not a pet.) He’s better groomed than most of the residents in town, as he gets a shampoo and blow dry twice a week, and he can say “hello” in ten languages!


THE GARDEN CLUB MURDER
available 31 May UK / 1 Sep US

Tish Tarragon’s preparations for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards luncheon are threatened when one of the prime contenders is murdered.

STARRING: Biscuit the Bichon Frise

Biscuit is a well groomed and energetic little dog who comes to live with Tish at her café. He is very friendly and loves head rubs!


9780727888945_FC

The Mary McGill dog mysteries

DRESSED TO KILL
available 31 July UK / 1 Nov US

Santa Louisa’s Halloween celebrations are derailed when a masked killer dressed as a clown strikes in the entertaining new Mary McGill dog mystery.

STARRING: Millie the Cocker Spaniel

Millie is a very happy and friendly black and white Cocker Spaniel, who accompanies her owner Mary McGill around and helps her to solve mysteries.


9780727888242

MURDER A LA MOCHA
available now

Coffee, a canine and a corpse: a bad feeling leads to an even worse discovery when Maggy tries to return a Chihuahua to its owners in the new coffeehouse mystery.

STARRING: Mocha the Chihuahua

Mocha is a long-haired Chihuahua, with a light brown and black coat and a thick and luxuriant tail. It is easy to see how she got her name!

Editor’s Pick May UK/September US: FATAL ALLY by Tim Sebastian

Fatal Ally

 

With this riveting, highly topical espionage thriller, we are delighted to welcome acclaimed author and award-winning television journalist Tim Sebastian to the Severn House list.

FATAL ALLY is a deftly-crafted, well-plotted page-turner which spotlights the treachery of big powers and reveals the men and women who kill for them. This is a world where emotions are lethal distractions – and where your conscience can get you killed.

The action kicks off when, after five years’ silence, a British intelligence asset makes contact from Moscow.  Claiming to be in possession of an explosive piece of information, he wants to defect to the West.  But the carefully-planned operation to secure his release goes catastrophically wrong, the would-be defector ruthlessly betrayed by a rogue element at the highest level of US government. As a result, MI6’s Margo Lane is ordered to deliver a message the White House won’t forget. It’s a mission that will take Margo to the violent heart of contemporary Russia and the edge of the civil war in Syria – and finally to a terrifying personal decision she had hoped she would never have to make.

One of the great strengths of FATAL ALLY is the fact that the author has personal experience of the world of which he writes. As a BBC foreign correspondent working in Moscow Washington and Warsaw, Tim Sebastian has enjoyed a highly successful journalism and broadcast career. He is a former winner of BAFTA’s Richard Dimbleby award, and has twice won the Royal Television Society’s Interviewer of the Year award, thanks to his memorable interviews with numerous world leaders including US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, South African Presidents Thabo Mbeki and F W de Klerk, and the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.  Before giving up writing fiction to concentrate on his television career, Tim was an internationally bestselling thriller writer. Now, after a twenty-year absence, he has triumphantly returned to the genre with this psychologically complex, well-informed and almost unbearably tense tale of political chicanery and ruthless power games, involving two formidable female protagonists, a series of gripping and exciting action scenes and a number of unexpected twists.  Anyone who enjoys the sophisticated spy thrillers of John le Carre and Frank Gardner, for example, should make a point of adding Tim Sebastian to their reading list.

FATAL ALLY is available from 31 May in the UK and 1 September in the US. Read more here.

Draw your sword… #BookExtract from TRAITOR’S CODEX by Jeri Westerson

Traitor's Codex

 

Crispin Guest receives a mysterious bundle containing an ancient leather-bound book. A rabbi helps to make a shocking discovery: it is the Gospel of Judas from the Holy Land. Crispin is quickly drawn into a deadly maze and a series of horrific events confirm his fears that there are powerful men who will stop at nothing to see the codex destroyed.

Described as ‘lively’ with ‘brisk prose and well-drawn characters’ by Publishers Weekly, the new Crispin Guest mystery sees religion and politics mix to create an explosive and compelling read. In this #BookExtract, Crispin finds himself drawn into a sword fight with two men whose master demands to speak to him . . . 

He hurried on and, taking a shortcut back to the Shambles at the mouth of another alley, he found his way barred again, this time by two men.

He tried to skirt past them with a polite, ‘I beg your mercy.’ But when they stepped back into his path, he squared his shoulders. ‘Is there a reason you are preventing me from proceeding, gentlemen?’

And they were gentlemen, from the sheen of their velvet cote-hardies to the fit of their stockings. The dark-bearded one huffed a breath. ‘We want a word with you . . . Crispin Guest.’

Crispin eyed them both, noted that they both had swords. ‘State your purpose then.’

‘You must come with us.’

‘Indeed. Where?’

‘Don’t ask questions. Just comply.’

‘I’m rarely in the habit of complying when two churls greet me in an alley—’

The punch to his jaw was unexpected. He landed on his arse. Raising a hand to rub at his chin he felt blood. Sticking his tongue out he licked it away from the side of his mouth. ‘You shouldn’t have done that.’

‘You’ll get more of the same if you don’t do as we say.’

Crispin took his time getting to his feet and wiping the dirt from his cote-hardie. ‘You should apologize to me.’

The men looked at one another and laughed. It was true that they were both taller than Crispin, and wider across the chest and shoulders. A wiser man might have been intimidated. But at the moment, Crispin was more angry than wise.

‘I said . . .’ Crispin slowly drew his sword with the whisper of steel on leather. Even in the shadows, the sun caught an edge and sent a shard of light over the men’s faces. ‘Apologize!’

In answer they drew their own weapons.

‘If that’s the way you want it.’

Crispin didn’t wait. He charged them, arcing his blade toward their shins. They blocked his sword with their own in a clash of metal and sparks. Stepping back, Crispin assessed. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw people fleeing near the alley entrance. No one wanted to get in the way of a sword fight.

Crispin wiped his other hand over his mouth, swiping the blood away. ‘What is your game?’ he asked the men. ‘Who are you and what do you want?’

‘Our master wishes to speak with you.’

‘And he would do so from the edge of a blade?’

‘If necessary. We were told to bring you to him . . . upright or limp.’

‘And who is your master?’

The clean-shaven man only grinned. He lunged and Crispin parried the sword out of the way. A sword came at him from the other direction. Crispin slid around the man and spun, slicing outward with his own blade toward the bearded man.

Steel caught sleeve and flesh. The man’s cry was almost anticlimactic. Crispin turned and caught the sword from the other with his own and struck hard, slapping it away.

Crispin was already winded. He hadn’t done such swordplay in a while and he was older than these two. If he had been practicing every day as he used to do, as Lancaster had, he would be in fine shape. As it was . . . What he couldn’t do with strength he’d have to do with cunning.

He went on the offensive and slashed again at the bearded man’s shins. Tactical and expeditious in battle, any knight feared to be laid low by a cut to their legs. The man backed away, parrying the blows away with his steel.

Clean-shaven tried to approach Crispin from another angle but Crispin used the same tactic against him, and he, too, defended his legs, backing away.

There was only one way out of this. Crispin kept Bearded Man back with wild swoops of his blade, while he kicked dirt up into Clean-shaven’s face. The man took but a moment to wipe at his eyes, but that was all Crispin needed to spin and force his blade up to the man’s neck. Clean-shaven froze.

‘That was a wise decision,’ said Crispin, close to his face and trying not to pant. Bearded Man stopped his approach. ‘I won’t have any compunction about killing your companion,’ he told the other. Crispin pressed the edge of the steel that much more into the man’s fleshy neck. Clean-shaven cringed but forced himself not to move a muscle.

‘Drop the sword.’

Clean-shaven did so with an echoing clang.

‘Now you,’ said Crispin to the other. But Bearded Man did not seem as anxious to comply. ‘Do you care nothing for your compatriot?’

Bearded Man scowled. He hoisted his sword, changing his grip on the hilt. Suddenly, he heaved it forward toward Crispin.

‘God’s blood!’ Crispin ducked, using his sword to bat it away from his head. The flying sword rang against the stone wall behind him.

When he looked up again, Clean-shaven managed to slip away and was gripping his sword in his hand again. And his angry grimace showed no quarter. Without looking away from Crispin, Clean-shaven kicked Bearded Man’s blade toward his companion, who picked it up.

Crispin blew his fringe away from his eyes and crouched, his sword at the ready. ‘That didn’t turn out as I expected.’

They both swung. Crispin ducked and darted toward the opening of the alley. Footsteps behind told him all he needed to know.

He ran harder, glanced back. Yes, they were hot on his heels. Damn! There would be no point in stopping and turning to fight. Perhaps in another day when he was at his peak, but that day had long passed.

‘Get out of the way!’ he cried to the people on the street in front of him. He waved his sword and they screamed, falling to the sides. If he could get enough in front of his pursuers, get to a roof somehow, he could drop down on them. But for now, running was his only course . . . and he was already tired.

He wove in and out of backstreets and closes, but always he heard their footsteps ringing out and echoing off the shopfronts and houses hard behind him.

Someone dumped their rubbish out the window, barely missing him, but it landed on his foes. He heard their curses and their slowing steps. He sent up a prayer of thanks to that unknown woman.

He turned a corner and made a dash for the main road. And it would have gone well for him if that barrel-shaped carriage hadn’t suddenly pulled into his way.

He tucked his sword to his side, cast his arm over his face, and hit the canvas side hard enough to tear it.

He landed with a thump on the carriage floor, somewhat amazed that he had survived intact. When he looked up, he wasn’t so sure his survival was worth it.

The Duke of Lancaster crouched beside his mistress Katherine Swynford, and they were both staring at Crispin with widened eyes.

TRAITOR’S CODEX by Jeri Westerson is out now in the UK and is available from 1 June in the US. Read more here.

THE MAUSOLEUM author David Mark: books and music that inspired him

 

mausoleum

1967. Grieving the loss of her son, Cordelia Hemlock seeks out the company of the dead, taking comfort in the local churchyard. During a storm, she sees a corpse that doesn’t belong among the crumbling bones. Cordelia begins to investigate, but there are those who believe the village’s secrets should remain buried . . . whatever the cost.

Described as ‘exceptional’ by Publishers Weekly, David Mark’s tense and atmospheric new thriller chilled our bones and left shivers down our spines . . . David tells us which five books/albums have had a lasting impact on him, and why.

The Days of Pearly Spencer, Marc Almond.  Not really my usual taste in music but when I was about 14 my dad managed to scrape together enough money to buy a CD player and I had enough to buy one album. I bought a Marc Almond album because I liked his cover of Jackie, and I think my dad was a bit worried about which direction I might be heading in life. I listened to Pearly Spencer endlessly because I liked the pictures it filled my head with. The descriptions of this dandy highwayman reduced to a stubbled ruin of a man, reeking of rotgun gin, waiting for the hangman – it all filled my head with images as clear as a film. I’d already been writing stories and dabbling with prose at that age but that was when I really got the hang of taking the pictures from my head and describing them for other people, which is really what writing is about.

Everything about Richard Sharpe, by Bernard Cornwell, and adapted for ITV starring Sean Bean. Quite simply brilliant. I was a very unhappy teenager but Sharpe saved my life. Every single scene was transportive and when I delved into the books I realised it was possible to be more than just a goody or a baddy. They’re really exciting adventures but there’s so much more than that. I still love Sean Bean to the point of madness.

Jamaica Inn by Du Maurier. A book so beautifully written that the reader actually shivers when the wind blows and feels damp when it rains.

Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. When I read this, I was still desperately fighting for a publishing deal. When I read Birdsong, I knew that there was no way I was ever going to be the greatest writer of the modern age, as Sebastian was clearly better than me. That rather took the pressure off. I decided second best would be fine. Then I discovered Hilary Mantell and had a cry.

Last Orders by Graham Swift. Book and film, working in perfect harmony. If anybody wants to see how a filmmaker can faithfully adapt a work of superb fiction, this is the way to do it. it was as if the director had reached into my skull and taken all the images that had played as I read. Magnificent.

THE MAUSOLEUM is out now in the UK and from 1 June in the US. Read more here.

It’s all so quiet, until… THE LEADEN HEART #BookExtract

Leaden Heart

Leeds, England. July, 1899. The hot summer has been fairly quiet for Detective Superintendent Tom Harper and his squad, until a daring burglary occurs at an expensive Leeds address. Then his friend and former colleague, Inspector Billy Reed, asks for his help. Billy’s brother, Charlie, a shopkeeper, has committed suicide. Going through Charlie’s papers, Billy discovers crippling rent rises demanded by his new landlord. Could these have driven him to his death? As Harper investigates, he uncovers a web of intimidation and corruption that leads back to the mysterious North Leeds Company. Who is pulling the strings behind the scenes and bringing a new kind of misery and violence to the people of Leeds? Harper is determined to unmask the culprits, but how much blood will be shed as he tries?

Burglary, murder, suicide, corruption… the temperature is rising in Leeds and Tom Harper is feeling the heat when he finds himself up against a formidable foe in this absorbing new mystery. Is he about to get burnt? Check out this book extract, where Tom and his former colleague, Billy Reed, make a shocking discovery… 

Outside, Reed lit a cigarette and started to walk, leading the way through the back streets. ‘There’s something wrong about this,’ he said. ‘Every proper business has an office.’

‘An accommodation address is legal,’ Harper answered slowly. ‘Just like hiding the owners’ names. But you’re right. This feels bad.’

‘The Smiths,’ Reed began.

‘I’ve never come across them before. But I want a long talk with them now.’

This was his patch, Billy thought. He was supposed to know what was going on. That was his job. ‘Let’s talk to Hester,’ he said. ‘She might be able to tell us something.’

But the blind was down on the shop door. No notice to announce a closing. Reed peered through the window and drew in his breath.

‘What is it?’

‘The shop’s a mess. Things strewn all over the floor. I’ll go in the back way,’ Reed said.

Through the ginnel and into the yard. He tapped on the door. No answer, but the knob turned in his hand.

‘Hester?’ he said quietly. She wasn’t in the office; he climbed the stairs. The door to the flat was open. No one in the living room or kitchen. He heard a quiet cry and stiffened, waiting until it came again. The bedroom.

The curtains were closed, the room stifling in the heat. He could make out her shape, lying on the bed.

‘Hester, it’s Billy. What’s happened?’

She turned her head. There was just enough light to make out the bruises on her face.

‘What’s been going on?’ he asked, but she looked at him with empty eyes.

Downstairs, he unlocked the front door. ‘You’d better come in, Tom. This has become real police business.’

THE LEADEN HEART is out now in the UK and from 1 July in the US. Read more here.

 

 

#BookExtract: FIRST TRACKS by Catherine O’Connell

9780727888730_FCWhen Greta Westerlind awakes in hospital having almost been killed in an avalanche, she is devastated to learn that her close friend perished in the slide. With no memory of the incident, Greta can’t explain why they were skiing in such lethal terrain, but as a series of menacing incidents unfolds, she is convinced that someone means to harm her…

In this intriguing thriller, Greta Westerlind discovers there’s a darker side to the glamorous skiers’ paradise of Aspen. In the extract below, Greta spots something unusual while out on ski patrol…

I was floating, my legs and feet in unison over the skis like the tail of a mermaid as they conquered the gravity, drawing me downhill. They stretched out to find no bottom, only the marshmallow pillows that propped me above the surface. Streams of snow hitting my face were love taps and my arms reached out, alternately flicking my poles to embrace my downhill course. My mind was cleansed of all things negative, dialed into the mountain and nature, to the elements and beauty, to my own physicality and my body’s response to the challenge of each turn or circumnavigating the trees like a race car driver around cones. There was nothing other than the skiing. I was unstoppable, invincible, one with nature, a creature unique in this world, reveling in my solitary existence, all troubles reduced by the purity of the snow.

Having skied without stopping for fifteen elated minutes and seen no other skiers, my legs and lungs were burning, but in a good way. I had segued further to skier’s right and one of the heaviest gladed areas when I stopped to take a breather. Glad to be the sole person present, I raised my goggles to wipe the sweat off my forehead and in that one movement couldn’t help but notice a flash of blue peeping out from the well of a nearby tree. My nervous system responded, sending an alarm system of arpeggios along my spine.

Being a ski patroller, aside from an avid nature enthusiast, it wasn’t difficult to ascertain this was not a color found in nature. A lost glove or an abandoned article of clothing? Perhaps. But my gut told me otherwise.

FIRST TRACKS is available now in the UK and from 1 July in the US. Read more here.

#BookExtract: MARKED MEN by Chris Simms

9780727888815_FCAfter a couple of bodies are discovered drowned, a figure seen asking questions about both victims becomes the prime suspect. As DC Sean Blake delves into the pasts of the friends killed and still living – including one who’s now the crime lord of Manchester – their group’s transgressions as teenagers come to light and, with them, more suspects.

In this thrilling sequel to Loose Tongues, DC Sean Blake returns to investigate a number of violent drownings in the Greater Manchester area. In the extract below, Blake and his partner Magda Dragomir investigate a drained lock…

Half-bricks, upturned chairs, broken umbrellas. Countless bottles, cans and glasses. Further off, a mountain bike minus its front wheel. A woman’s stiletto shoe. Two traffic cones.

‘Three hundred grand, that’s the annual clean-up bill for the canal network. Never found a body before, though.’

Sean lifted his gaze to the white tent at the far end of the lock. It was at an angle, one corner leg too high. The straps of the waders he’d been handed before climbing down the ladder weighed heavy on his shoulders. Rubber gloves encased his forearms. A fluorescent bib. He adjusted his hard hat, picturing his wavy mass of thick black hair trapped beneath it. When he took the thing off, it would spring out in all directions. Jack-in-a-box style. ‘We’d better take a look.’

‘Some of this mud can go up to your thighs,’ the council worker said. ‘Avoid the pools of water and you’ll be all right.’

Sean glanced at Magda. With her feet sunk from sight, she looked top-heavy. A pin at the end of a bowling lane. Something was causing a look of disgust. He peered down and spotted the plunger of a syringe.

‘We’re getting all the treats today,’ she announced grimly.

‘Manchester at its finest,’ Sean replied, lifting a foot clear of the mud and releasing a sulphurous smell.

MARKED MEN is available now in the UK and from 1 July in the US. Read more here.