Editor’s Pick Sept 2018 UK/Jan 2019 US: THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson

This month’s Editor’s Pick is THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson.

hanging psalm

 

Welcome to Leeds.

And welcome to 1820. THE HANGING PSALM is the first in a brand-new historical mystery series from acclaimed writer Chris Nickson, set in Regency Leeds and introducing thief-taker Simon Westow. Fans of the genre are in for a real treat!

Simon Westow is a skilled thief-taker who has a comfortable business finding and returning his clients’ stolen possessions. But he’s never been asked to find and return a person before…

When John Milner, a successful Leeds businessman, asks Simon to find his kidnapped daughter, Hannah, he’s suddenly facing a challenge like no other. Is it a challenge too far? Accompanied by his enigmatic and capable young assistant, Jane, Simon takes to the shadowy streets of Leeds for information, and the pair soon find themselves confronting danger at every turn. But Hannah’s disappearance is just the start. The roots of her kidnapping are darker than Simon could ever have imagined, and he soon realises that he is being taken on a journey into his own past – a journey that will lead him to an old enemy desperate for revenge. As he closes in on Hannah’s plight, the drama is only just beginning.

There is so much to get excited about in this book. Anyone who’s read one of Chris’s Tom Harper or Richard Nottingham novels will come to THE HANGING PSALM with high expectations, and Chris writes about the city of Leeds and draws his characters with all the skill and authority we’ve come to expect, peppering the story with a number of exhilarating twists and turns. It starts in the Moot Hall, with Simon answering questions before a committee about his time in the workhouse as a boy. As he recollects his experiences, the brutality of life in the workhouse and the past he has escaped from is brought to life in startling detail, and we quickly get the measure of Simon as a character. He has suffered but isn’t broken – on the cusp of turning thirty, he has a wife and two children, and from nothing he has built a comfortable life for himself and his family in the harsh environment of Regency Leeds. His resilience and sense of justice come to the fore as he tries to find Hannah. It’s clear that Simon is someone who can never be written off, even in his darkest moments, and I was immediately drawn to him.

Also worthy of a special mention is Simon’s sidekick, Jane. Like Simon, she is a complex character with a harrowing past. Jane prides herself on her ability to blend into the background, but this young woman is anything but ordinary: enigmatic, courageous yet vulnerable, a lost soul with a sharp mind and lightning quick reactions, she really is one of a kind, and I can’t wait to see her character grow in future books. Together, Simon and Jane are a fascinating and formidable pairing.

Last, but by no means least, there’s Regency Leeds at its vibrant best: the imposing mills dotting the landscape, the savagery of the workhouses, the immeasurable gap between the rich and the poor. Nickson brings the gritty, bustling streets of Leeds to life, particularly at night. He knows the history of this proud industrial city and its geography like the back of his hand – knowledge which is infused into Simon’s character as he navigates its menacing streets.

With a cast of characters as intriguing and layered as the plot itself – which keeps us guessing with some richly dramatic, heart-stopping moments – the HANGING PSALM is a brilliant first instalment in an exciting new historical mystery series. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second in the series – a genuinely mouth-watering prospect.

Watch out Tom Harper and Richard Nottingham: Leeds has a new hero!

THE HANGING PSALM is available from 28 September in the UK and 1 January in the US. Find out more here.

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THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson: bookish inspiration

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Nic Costa has been sent undercover to the Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared ‘Ndrangheta. But the deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy, Costa and his team find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. Is Nic getting too close to the enemy for comfort?

 

 

 

Which books have inspired David’s writing? Two in particular stand out . . .

I, Claudius

I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves. As a kid, it first inspired me to want to go to Italy.

Godfather

THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo taught me you can be entertaining while telling deep and dark tales.

I used to be a journalist for The Times, Sunday Times and Independent, and first visited Italy as a reporter nearly forty years ago.

THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson is available now in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Find out more here.

THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson: the return of Nic Costa!

savage

Nic Costa has been sent undercover to the Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared ‘Ndrangheta. But the deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy, Costa and his team find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. Is Nic getting too close to the enemy for comfort?

 

 

 

It’s been a while, but the holiday is over… Nic Costa is back and we couldn’t be happier to be reacquainted with him in THE SAVAGE SHORE!

The last time I saw my Roman detective Nic Costa was almost a decade ago. He was on a scooter riding into Rome after untangling – solving’s not quite the right word – a distinctly tricky family case in THE FALLEN ANGEL. I deliberately didn’t kill off Nic or his family of colleagues. They just needed a holiday.

And now that break is over. The team’s back in a new book, THE SAVAGE SHORE. So lots of people are asking me: what’s it like to reconnect with characters you haven’t written about in years?

In truth it was quite easy. I always knew Costa and co would return one day. The real challenge in returning to old characters though is one you face with a series all the time: how do you keep them fresh? How do you make sure you’re not retreading the same tracks story after story?

The Costa books are ensemble pieces; it’s not just about young Nic. From book to book different characters – the forensic officer Teresa Lupo, her partner, in crime and life, the older, emotionally intelligent Peroni, and Falcone the severe boss of them all – come to the fore.

But with THE SAVAGE SHORE Nic is very much at the forefront. What’s new is the location. Calabria, the toe of Italy about to kick Sicily, is a region few people know well, even many Italians. Wild, rugged, sparsely populated in areas, and controlled in many parts by a tough bunch of criminals called the ’Ndrangheta, it’s nothing like the controlled and comfy climate of Rome.

Nic and co are there to try to organise the defection of a gang boss who wants to turn ‘pentito’, state witness, against his peers. A risky move, one that the crime lord, a mysterious figure simply known as ‘Lo Spettro’, The Ghost, is approaching with understandable caution. He knows that his fellow gang members will kill him, and very possibly his family, if they get wind of what’s he’s planning. So Costa, Peroni, Teresa and Falcone are under cover in a picturesque fishing village on the Strait of Messina, waiting to be told how to make contact with the man. When the answer comes it’s shocking… Nic must join the ’Ndrangheta gang as if he’s a member in order to convince Lo Spettro the defection can happen safely.

I love this bunch of characters which naturally means, as an author, I want to make their lives hell. And a form of hell this is because for once they’re not in control. In Rome they’re boss and make the rules. In Calabria it’s the very opposite. The gangs have a finger in everything and our little band of undercover cops must try to meet the challenges the criminals pose along the way.

Like most of my books this is a mystery and a thriller on the surface, but something else beneath. In this case a story about choices and individuality, how difficult it is to be someone you’re not. How your true identity will usually come to the fore in the end, for good or bad. And that applies as much to the criminals as the cops because in the bleak lands of Aspromonte, the mountain overlooking the area where this story takes place, life is never black and white, more a hazy shade of grey.

I also wanted the book to be an introduction to the culture and history of this fascinating part of the world too, which happens through a few brief chapters supposedly culled from a local tourist guide written by a relative of one of the key players in the story. Though history in Aspromonte is never what it seems. Like much else… Nic and his colleagues are in for quite a few surprises along the way.

I hope you enjoy the return of my band of Romans as much as I did bringing them back from holiday for another adventure.

THE SAVAGE SHORE is available now in the UK and from 1 November in the US. Find out more here.

Did You Know? Sara Sheridan, author of THE ICE MAIDEN

ice maiden

1842. Karina, disguised as a cabin boy, stows away on a British ship, but she is in for a nasty shock. As conditions worsen on board, Karina and the crew tested to their limits. Then something extraordinary happens and Karina’s story becomes intertwined with some of the twentieth-century’s bravest Polar explorers.

 

 

 

We’re super excited to be publishing THE ICE MAIDEN – a chillingly good mystery with a shocking betrayal at its core, and the first novel by Sara Sheridan for Severn House! From tear-jerking films to beautifully scented perfumes, find out more about our new author.

Books for keeping:

Water Music by T C Boyle. It’s the book that made me want to write historical cos it’s so rambunctious. My (now) husband gave it to me. When Boyle came to the Edinburgh Book Festival I sat in the front row like a groupie. I think he’s phenomenally talented. I also love poetry. I think of it as ‘word heroin’ so my WB Yeats goes with me most places. I studied English at Trinity College Dublin so Yeats is big for me (as is Brendan Behan and JP Donleavy) I also love Satan by Jeremy Leven – it’s a huge American novel! I love it!

Life-changing films and books:

The Fifth Element (movie) cos it has everything – sci fi, comedy, action, romance. It’s the ultimate movie. Also District 19 because it made me cry. And Kingdom of Heaven because I am obsessed with crazy religious practices/beliefs and they don’t come crazier than the Crusades. Books-wise apart from Water Music (above) I also love The Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor cos he made me think about how to fake historical reality in different ways. Writers, huh?

Something you might not know . . .

I am obsessed with smells. I love smells. I founded a perfume company with my daughter because I am obsessed with smells. I am also a huge feminist. A big smelly feminist, that’s me.

What is your proudest achievement?

My daughter, of course! We run a company together – it’s a feminist perfume brand called REEK. Our first scent, DAMN REBEL BITCHES, has been featured in ELLE, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar in the last year and our second, WITCHES, is up for a perfume award at the moment.

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

Behind the Book: THE SAVAGE SHORE by David Hewson

savage

Roman police detective Nic Costa has been sent undercover to the Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared ‘Ndrangheta. But the deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy, Costa and his team find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. Is Nic getting too close to the enemy for comfort?

 

 

 

How did a trip to Italy years ago and the beautiful Italian coastline inspire THE SAVAGE SHORE? David Hewson discusses the starting point for his thrilling new Nic Costa mystery.

I’d written nine books in the Nic Costa series when I diverted to, first, adapting The Killing TV series in Copenhagen to books then working in scriptwriting and producing four novels set in Amsterdam. But Italy never gets out of your blood – and readers from around the world kept nagging me about a new Nic Costa.

The thing is I didn’t want to go back to the old books but to write a new one with the same characters. I feel even in a series each book must offer something fresh, not simply be a repeat of any earlier formula.

How to do that? Some years before I’d visited a part of Italy foreigners – and many Italians – never find. It’s near the Strait of Messina in Calabria, the toe of Italy, a wild and beautiful place that also happens to be home to a bunch of gangsters most of us have never heard of. They’re called the ’Ndrangheta, and are kind of cousins to the better-known Cosa Nostra of Sicily and Camorra of Naples. Except when I started to do some research into the area and their history things became much more interesting.

This is a part of Italy that’s traditionally been very poor and shunned by the wealthier parts of the country. Crime organisations have, in some ways, taken the place of politics, performing a role that’s as much social as it is criminal. And there was the germ of an idea: what if Costa and crew were forced into reversed roles? What if they were the outsiders, beyond the local norms? And the criminals were the ones in charge?

Books need a starting point. There was mine for THE SAVAGE SHORE.

THE SAVAGE SHORE is available from 31 July in the UK and 1 November in the US. Find out more here.

Behind the Book: CLAIRE’S LAST SECRET by Marty Ambrose

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1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the ‘haunted summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley circle, lives in genteel poverty. When William Michael Rossetti appears, his presence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816 to a tragic death. Can Claire discover the identity of her old enemy?

 

 

It’s the fiction novel she’s always wanted to write, but CLAIRE’S LAST SECRET started as more of a nightmare than a dream for Marty Ambrose . . .

Byron once said, “I awoke to find myself famous.” Truly, it is every writer’s dream to be thrust into a world of sudden, unfolding adoration for one’s work.  But the inspiration for Claire’s Last Secret was more of a nightmare:  I “awoke” during my summer teaching hiatus to find myself with a back injury that left me practically housebound on an island with nothing to do but watch the History channel and read.  New books. Old books. Any books.

I happened to pick up Daisy Hay’s biography, The Young Romantics, and learned that she had found a fragment of Claire Clairmont’s (Mary Shelley’s stepsister) journal saying that the famous Byron/Shelley summer of “free love” in 1816 had created a “perfect hell” for her. Of course, Claire wrote those words when she was almost eighty, impoverished, living in Florence, Italy, having outlived the two great poets and Mary by many decades.  Intrigued, I wondered what it would feel like to outlive everyone who had been part of one’s youth.

As I delved into Claire’s life, pieces came together in my thoughts:  her illicit love for Byron, her rocky relationship with Mary and Shelley, and her later years in Italy – and I knew I had to tell her story from two perspectives:  the young, reckless Claire and the older-but-wiser Claire.  Then, there was the mystery of her lost daughter with Byron.  Her lovers. Her passion for life. It all coalesced into the kind of genre-bending fiction novel that I’ve always wanted to create.

CLAIRE’S LAST SECRET is available now in the UK and 1 September in the US. Find out more here.

Behind the Book: In the Presence of Evil by Tania Bayard

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Paris, 1393. Recent widow Christine de Pizan became a scribe to support her family, but when she is called to the palace to work, she dreads going. There, everyone fears the king’s attacks of unreason and they believe the charlatans who claim they can cure him with vile potions. But when a mysterious book of magic leaves a trail of real murdered bodies in its wake, Christine has more than black magic to worry about . . .

 

 

Although a work of fiction, the inspiration for Tania’s heroine is the real-life Christine de Pizan. Tania gives us an insight into her unique character . . .

There are plenty of fictitious female sleuths in mysteries set in the Middle Ages, but my novel is different, because the sleuth is based on a real person, the noted author and defender of women, Christine de Pizan. Christine was an exceptionally courageous woman. Early in her career, she became incensed by the way women were belittled in The Romance of the Rose, one of the most popular books in the late 14th century, and she dared to carry on a literary quarrel about the book with some of the noted intellectuals of her day. She went on to earn her living as a writer, an extraordinary feat at that time, and she continued to defend women in almost everything she wrote.

Christine de Pizan was fearless, the ideal sleuth. In my novel, she knows that the woman accused of poisoning her husband is not guilty, so she defies the demented monarch who refuses to hear the truth and saves the woman from execution by finding the actual murderer. She proves a point the real Christine de Pizan made in her writings: “When women set out to do something, they are smarter and shrewder than men.”

IN THE PRESENCE OF EVIL is available now in the UK and 1 August in the US. Find out more here.

Editor’s Pick August 2018 UK/December 2018 US: A BAD, BAD THING by Elena Forbes

 

This month’s Editor’s Pick is A BAD, BAD THING by Elena Forbes.

bad

We are delighted to welcome acclaimed psychological thriller writer Elena Forbes to the Severn House list with A BAD, BAD THING, the first in a brand-new mystery series featuring former police officer Eve West, who is drawn into a dark and complex case when she’s asked to investigate a miscarriage of justice.

As the novel opens, Eve is suspended from duty after a police operation goes catastrophically wrong. Receiving help from an unexpected quarter – a criminal she helped put away many years before – Eve feels she has no choice but to agree to his request to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice in return. But why is a hardened criminal like John Duran so keen to help a fellow-inmate convicted of the murder of a stable-girl? And why has he chosen Eve to look into the case?

Teaming up with crusading journalist Dan Cooper, Eve begins to uncover disturbing flaws in the original police investigation. As her enquiries progress, it becomes clear that Eve has been keeping secrets of her own – and when those secrets begin to be dragged to the surface, she comes to realize that she has been plunged into a case more complex and sinister than she ever imagined.

Just some of the many elements that make A BAD, BAD THING an exceptionally strong whodunit are, not least, the heroine herself: Eve is smart and strong, but not invincible, and this makes her very accessible and her mysterious backstory ever more intriguing. Then there’s the multi-layered plot, which contains more than enough unexpected twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned mystery reader glued to the page: on one level there’s the intriguing background of Eve herself; on another, there’s the fact that she may well have been set up in the shocking opening episode – and it’s clear that the criminal John Duran has some strange knowledge of how and why; while on the third level there’s the mystery surrounding the stable-girl’s murder; and the questionable innocence of her alleged killer, who has been serving time ever since. There are some fabulous twists at the end, when all the mysteries begin to unravel and tie together in many unexpected ways.

And if that’s not enough to pique a reader’s curiosity, I don’t know what is!

I would highly recommend A BAD, BAD THING to fans of complex psychological thrillers such as those of Clare Mackintosh, Tana French and M J Arlidge.

A BAD, BAD THING is available 31 August in the UK and 1 December in the US. Read more here.

We’re recruiting! Publishing Assistant role at Severn House Publishing

Come and work with us!

Publishing Assistant

Due to the recent promotion of our current Editorial Assistant, we are hiring again.
Severn House is a vibrant independent publishing house, specialising in commercial fiction, especially crime and thrillers, romantic sagas, horror and historical fiction for primarily the British and American library markets. In 2017 we were acquired by Canongate Books, but remain independent within the group. We are looking for a meticulous and energetic Publishing Assistant to join our small and dynamic team.

Based in London, this entry-level position will support the Editorial and Marketing teams in all aspects of the publishing process – from the moment of acquisition to publication and beyond.

The key tasks you will be responsible for include (but are not limited to) the following:

• Supporting the editorial team and specifically the Publisher
• Liaising with authors, agents and freelancers to ensure individual projects are on track according to the publishing schedule
• Collating and checking proofs and covers for print
• Helping maintain up-to-date bibliographical data within Biblio
• Creating prelims for new titles
• Working with colleagues to create targeted marketing campaigns across Facebook, Twitter and company newsletters
• Loading titles on to NetGalley and approving reviewer requests
• Reading and reporting on new submissions

Some experience of editorial, marketing or production processes of a trade book publisher would be an advantage. A keen eye for detail as well as exceptional interpersonal and organisational skills are essential.

Starting salary will be £21K plus benefits.

Please email your CV and covering letter by Friday 13th July to jobs@severnhouse.com. Only successful applicants will be acknowledged.

 

 

July US titles out today!

 

Cats, novelists, country houses, iconic women, politics, Victorian Leeds, mental turmoil, secret missions, nuns and royalty . . . These new reads out now in the States are bursting with intrigue!

murder1MURDER TAKES A TURN by Eric Brown

A weekend at the grand home of a successful novelist leads to murder in the new Langham & Dupré mystery. 

Langham’s literary agent, Charles Elder, receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught. Accompanying Charles to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that they are not the only guests. And when a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself – are uncovered.

Find out more here.

tin godTHE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson

When Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife is threatened during an election campaign, the hunt for the attacker turns personal.

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?

Find out more here.

red hand of furyTHE RED HAND OF FURY by R.N. Morris

A series of bizarre suicides leads Detective Inspector Silas Quinn to revisit his own troubled past . . .

June, 1914. Following three, seemingly unrelated suicides, DI 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 clue is a card each victim was carrying, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. To find out what it means, Quinn must revisit his own dark history.

Find out more here.

sabotage in the secret

SABOTAGE IN THE SECRET CITY by Diane Fanning

Can research chemist-sleuth Libby Clark uncover the traitor within in this gripping World War II mystery?   

May 1945. Harry S. Truman has become president, the Allied Forces are closing in on Berlin and the research scientists at the secret facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, are doing their bit to bring the war to a conclusion. But a campaign of small acts of sabotage convinces Libby that one of their number is deliberately trying to delay the mission. But when the pranks turn deadly, can Libby unmask the traitor within?

Find out more here.

daeth of a novice

DEATH OF A NOVICE by Cora Harrison

A young nun’s death raises disturbing questions in the compelling new Reverend Mother mystery.

When new young nun, Sister Gertrude, is found dead inside a wooden shed, the Reverend Mother delves into her background and finds some puzzling anomalies. Could there be a link between her death and the gunpowder explosion on Spike Island? The answers to this question and more must be found if the Reverend Mother is to catch a vicious murderer.

Find out more here.
cross my pathCROSS MY PATH by Clea Simon

Private Investigator Care is riding on the wave of success, but is she about to come crashing off?

Care’s reputation as a private investigator is growing. An elderly woman seeks Care’s help in finding out what happened to her brother. Blackie senses he’s met this woman before, sometime before he became a cat. But who is she – and what is their connection? At the same time, a dockworker asks Care to find a colleague who’s gone missing, and the investigation takes a disturbing new twist . . .

Find out more here.

queen's progressQUEEN’S PROGRESS by M J Trow

Kit Marlowe must make sure Queen Elizabeth’s royal progress goes to plan, but there are problems ahead.

May, 1591. Queen Elizabeth decides to embark on a Royal Progress, and Kit Marlowe is sent ahead to ensure all goes smoothly. But Marlowe’s mission is dogged by disaster with the discovery of bodies along the way. Are the incidents linked? Is there a conspiracy to sabotage the Queen’s Progress? To uncover the truth, Marlowe must come up with a fiendishly clever plan.

Find out more here.