Did You Know . . . Jeri Westerson and THE DEEPEST GRAVE

deepest grave

London, 1392. Strange mischief is afoot at St Modwen’s Church. Are corpses stalking the graveyard at night, disturbing graves and dragging coffins? Meanwhile,  Philippa Walcote’s seven-year-old son, Christopher, has been accused of murder and of attempting to steal a family relic – the missing relic of St Modwen. Is he guilty? Crispin faces a desperate race against time to solve the strange goings-on at St Modwen’s and prove a child’s innocence.

 

Full of dark, disturbing mischief, THE DEEPEST GRAVE is the new title in the Crispin Guest medieval noir series. Are corpses stalking the graveyard at night at St Modwen’s Church? Before we reveal Jeri’s Did You Know for THE DEEPEST GRAVE, we have one for Jeri herself: did you know she collects medieval weaponry? Not only that, she’s learned how to use them! As she says, pumpkins are a lot of fun to scalp with a broadsword!

Did you know that as far back as the Middle Ages, people feared the walking dead? There were reported incidents when family members claimed to have seen their deceased loved ones walking about at night, and sometimes family members had fallen ill because their dead were cursing them. To put a stop to it, families dug up the dead and found that face cloths around the mouth were bloodied, and instantly ascribed it to the late-night blood-sucking. Of course, we know now that once any kind of animal dies, it can no longer rely on living enzymes and circulating blood to prevent the bacteria from breaking down the body, and some of that putrefaction of decay creates liquid waste which excretes where it can. Some of that results in gases that expand the body and split it open. But, not to put too fine a point on it, there are other openings of the body. One is the mouth. It’s naturally occurring, this appearance of what seems to be blood on the mouth. But they didn’t know that then, and all sorts of fanciful tales emerged, like those of vampires. The sure-fire way to stop the dead from walking was to cut off the head and place it between the legs of the deceased, and then cut out the heart and burn it at a crossroads. Ah, those were the days!

THE DEEPEST GRAVE is published 30 April in the UK and 1 August in the US. Find out more here.

 

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Blizzards and Books: A PLA Adventure!

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Last month, Severn House’s two leading ladies, Kate Lyall Grant and Michelle Duff, headed Stateside for the PLA conference, and what an eventful trip it was! From fromages to feline mysteries, blizzards to Booklist, Kate gives us her round-up of their American adventure . . .

In March, my esteemed colleague Michelle Duff and I headed to Philadelphia for the Public Library  Association (PLA) conference. Unfortunately, on the day we were due to arrive (March 21st), the US East Coast was hit by the mother of all storms, a true nor’easter. We only just made it by the skin of our teeth, catching the last flight out of London before all East Coast-bound flights were cancelled, and endured an extremely bumpy landing in Philly as the blizzard raged around us.

However, the next day dawned bright and fair and, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we headed to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to man our stall, and meet the librarians who order our books. It was a fascinating morning, making face-to-face contact and soliciting invaluable feedback from our key customers, those librarians on the shop floor who actually purchase our books, know many of the readers personally, and who could tell us what makes them select a particular title (or not); what they think of our covers; what their readers actually think of our books, and what kind of books they like to read themselves.

That afternoon, we were delighted to welcome Severn House authors Karen E. Olson and Clea Simon to the booth, where they were signing copies of their latest titles (fast-paced cybercrime thrillers VANISHED and BETRAYED from Karen; intriguing feline mysteries CROSS MY PATH and AS DARK AS MY FUR from Clea) to an enthusiastic reception from librarians and passing punters.

All copies having been successfully signed and sold, it was off to the Booklist booth to partake of some cheeky reds, delicate whites and scrumptious fromages at their well-attended ‘Wine, Cheese and Murder’ event, chewing the fat with legendary Booklist editor Bill Ott and those of his colleagues who had made it through the blizzards from Chicago, as well as various mystery writers and editors.

We then wended our way to the Pyramid Club (which boasts the most spectacular views of the city) where our distributors, Ingram, were hosting a lavish Customer Event, complete with copious canapes, cockle-warming cocktails, a lively band and someone who looked suspiciously like Founding Father Benjamin Franklin himself.  Michelle and I had sixty copies of Patricia MacDonald’s compelling new psychological thriller, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS, to give away – and had many enthusiastic takers, despite the fact that the author herself was not there to sign them, her flight home from Jamaica having been cancelled due to the storm. (But if you’re going to be stranded anywhere, Jamaica is probably a good place to start!).

Finally, it was off to the Dandelion Pub (www.thedandelionpub.com), Philadelphia’s famous British-themed pub, where Michelle and I felt very much at home as we tucked into hearty rabbit pie, succulent fish-and-chips and that quintessential British dish, chicken tikka masala, while putting the world to rights with Booklist’s Bill Ott, who had recently enjoyed a trip to the UK, and was interested to discuss the merits (or otherwise) of those British TV staples, Gogglebox and Naked Attraction.

The following day, bidding a fond farewell to Philadelphia, we boarded the train for New York to sample the delights of NYC’s intriguing new interactive spy museum (www.spyscape.com) where Michelle covered herself in glory; I (I’m sorry to admit) rather less so. But that, as they say, is another story . . .

#BookExtract: THE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson

tin godLeeds, England. October, 1897. Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife Annabelle is one of seven women selected to stand for election as a Poor Law Guardian. But as the campaign begins, Annabelle and the other female candidates start to receive anonymous letters from someone who believes a woman’s place lies firmly in the home. When the threats escalate into outright violence with fatal consequences, Harper knows he’s in a race against time to uncover the culprit before more deaths follow. With the lives of his wife and daughter at risk, the political becomes cruelly personal . . .

 

Love historical mysteries and looking for a new read? THE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson is steeped in 1890s Leeds and has women in politics – and murder – at its core. This fascinating and compelling historical crime mystery will have you hooked in no time . . . get a taster by reading this tantalising extract! 

On the stroke of five, Harper pulled on his mackintosh and hat and glanced out of the window. Blue skies, a few high clouds, and a lemon sun: a perfect late autumn afternoon. Saturday, and a day away from this place ahead of him. Not free, though; he’d promised Annabelle he’d spend tomorrow walking round Sheepscar, delivering leaflets for her campaign.

Ash sat at his desk in the detectives’ office, writing up a report.

‘Did you find anything yet?’

‘Not a dicky bird, sir.’ He sighed and scratched his chin. ‘You weren’t banking on it, were you?’

‘No.’ He shook his head. ‘If there’s any trouble tonight, make sure you let me know.’

‘I will, sir. Let’s hope it’s peaceful, eh?’

It was warm enough to walk back out to the Victoria. Even if the air was filled with all the soot and smoke of industry, so strong he could taste it on his tongue, it still felt good to breathe it into his lungs after a day in a stuffy office.

###

‘Do you think I look all right, Tom?’ Annabelle stood in front of the mirror. She was wearing a plain dress of dark blue wool. It was cut high, to the base of her throat, modest and serious, a cameo brooch at her neck. Her hair was up in some style he couldn’t name but had probably taken an hour to engineer so it looked nonchalant.

‘I think you look grand,’ he told her. ‘Like a member of the Poor Law Board.’ He nudged Mary, who was sitting on his lap, staring in awe at her mother.

‘Da’s right. You’re a bobby dazzler, Mam,’ she said. ‘I’d vote for you.’

‘That’ll do for me.’ Annabelle picked up her daughter and twirled her in the air. ‘You’re absolutely sure?’

‘Positive,’ Harper replied. He pulled the watch from his waistcoat. ‘We’d better get going. That meeting starts in three-quarters of an hour.’ It wasn’t that far – the hall at St Clement’s, just up Chapeltown Road – but he knew she’d want to arrive early, to prepare herself, and put leaflets on all the chairs. Ellen would bring Mary shortly before the event began.

It was a fine evening for a stroll, Indian summer, still some sun and a note of warmth in the air. The factories had shut down until Monday morning, the constant hums and drones and bangs of the machinery all silenced. The chimneystacks rose like a forest, stretching off to the horizon, the dirt leaving its mark on every surface around Leeds.

Annabelle took his arm as they walked. He’d put on his best suit, the fine dove-grey worsted she’d had Moses Cohen tailor for him seven years before. It was still smart, but growing uncomfortably tight around the waist.

‘It’s going to be fine, isn’t it?’ she asked.

‘Of course it is.’ He glanced over at her. ‘It’s not like you to be so nervous. You usually dive right in.’

‘This is something new, that’s all,’ she replied after a moment. ‘And if I fail, well, it’ll be obvious, won’t it? I’d be letting everyone down who’s helping.’ She nodded at the hall, just visible behind the church, its low outline stark against the gasometers. ‘All of them who turn up tonight. If anyone does.’

‘You’ll do well.’ He kissed her cheek and grinned. ‘Trust me, I’m a policeman.’

‘I thought you lot were only good for telling the time.’

The words had hardly left her mouth when he heard the low roar. It grew louder, then a deep, violent explosion ripped out of the ground. A column of smoke plumed up from the hall, throwing wood and roof tiles and bricks high into the air.

‘Christ.’ They stared for a second, not knowing what to say. He didn’t have the words for this. ‘Stay here,’ he told her, then changed his mind. ‘No. Go home.’

Before he’d finished speaking, Tom Harper was running towards the blast.

Want to read more? Click here for more information about THE TIN GOD and previous titles in the Tom Harper series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May UK and September US Editor’s Pick: THE LAST NIGHT OUT by Catherine O’Connell

Our Editor’s Pick for May UK/September US is Catherine O’Connell’s compelling psychological thriller, THE LAST NIGHT OUT, chosen by Kate Lyall Grant, Publisher.

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After drinking too much at her bachelorette party, Maggie Trueheart wakes up to find a stranger in her bed. To make matters worse, a phone call brings the devastating news that her dear friend, Angie Lupino, was murdered some time after they parted ways the night before.

Kelly Delaney, who left the party early, is the first of Maggie’s friends to face questions from Chicago Homicide Detective, Ron O’Reilly. After taking a closer look at the other women who attended the party, O’Reilly comes to the conclusion that some or all of them are lying.

As the clock ticks down on the wedding day and more shocking secrets are revealed, the murderer zeros in on another one of the girls. Can the killer be stopped before there is another victim?

Fast-paced and suspenseful, involving a cast of intriguing and convincing characters, all of them with fascinating back stories, THE LAST NIGHT OUT, with its many unexpected twists and turns, kept me racing through the pages, desperate to uncover the various secrets that Maggie, Kelly, Suzanne, Carol Anne and Natasha are concealing. This gripping page-turner combines the suspense of Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood with the appealing, complicated characters of Marian Keyes, but with a unique perspective that is Catherine O’Connell’s own. I loved it!

And it turns out, I’m not the only one: foreign rights have already been pre-empted in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Brazil, ensuring an exciting future ahead for this enormously talented thriller writer.

Read more about THE LAST NIGHT OUT here.

Behind the Book: HUSK by Dave Zeltserman

HuskClassic contemporary horror from the Shamus and Derringer-winning author of Small Crimes.

Charlie is a Husker on the prowl in the New Hampshire wilderness when he falls in love. But loving Jill means leaving the Husk clan, with its gruesome cannibalistic rituals – a hugely difficult task. It’s only in New York City that the secret to ending his terrible cravings may reveal itself – if it doesn’t kill him and everything he has grown to love first. HUSK is guaranteed to leave readers shaken, stirred – and chilled to the bone.

 

Creepy mythology combined with romance and a fascinating lead character – we quickly fell under the spell of this darkly imagined tale. Award-winning author Dave Zeltserman takes us back to where it all started . . .

I was invited to provide a story a horror story for a book that will be titled Kannibal Cookbook, and my story features a woman who is pissed at her boyfriend for bailing at the last minute on a trip to Stowe, Vermont, decides to go herself, picks up a hitchhiker whom she is strongly attracted to, and accepts his invitation to spend a night at his remote New Hampshire town, which turns out to be a backward hidden place filled with cannibals. She is then descended on by the townsfolks with their many century-old sharp-bladed tools.

Writing this got the creative juices flowing for a novel that would be the reverse of this story. Instead of a member of a cannibal clan returning home after three years because he couldn’t stand living in our world, I would have Charlie Husk of the New Hampshire Husk clan out on a run to pick up stragglers, but finding and falling in love with Jill Zemler, and deciding to live in our world to be with her. Charlie will ultimately learn it’s not so easy to leave the clan behind.

This book has two of my favorite elements: (1) an outsider desperately trying to fit in, (2) a creepy mythology. In this mythology, clans are scattered throughout the world, living in remote, undiscovered wilderness, collecting lost hikers or venturing into our world to pick up stragglers. They’re stronger and faster than us, and there are other subtle physical differences. Clan members feed on us not out of choice, but because the cravings demand it. Charlie imagines the cravings as tiny, angry worms that will burrow into his bones and muscles and ultimately drive him to madness if they’re not kept satisfied. There are other elements to this mythology, including the slaughtering ritual, but my hope is this all adds up to a creepy horror novel with an After Hours (1985 Martin Scorsese film) vibe.

HUSK is available from 31 May in the UK and 1 September in the US. Click here for more chilling details . . . 

Behind the Book: THE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson

tin god

Leeds, England. October, 1897. Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife Annabelle is one of seven women selected to stand for election as a Poor Law Guardian. But as the campaign begins, Annabelle and the other female candidates start to receive anonymous letters from someone who believes a woman’s place lies firmly in the home. When the threats escalate into outright violence with fatal consequences, Harper knows he’s in a race against time to uncover the culprit before more deaths follow. With the lives of his wife and daughter at risk, the political becomes cruelly personal . . .

 

Women in politics is a striking theme in the fascinating new Tom Harper mystery, THE TIN GOD.  Superintendent Tom Harper’s own wife, Annabelle, stands as a Poor Law Guardian, but it seems some people aren’t happy at the idea of women standing for election, with devastating consequences . . . This compelling historical crime mystery is steeped in 1890s Leeds, but how did more recent political events inspire Chris Nickson’s latest page-turner?

I’d finished an event relating to the last Tom Harper book, ON COPPER STREET, and was beginning to think of the next one when a historian friend said, ‘Why don’t you have Annabelle run for office?’ and suddenly it all clicked into place. Nineteenth-century women’s politics in Leeds is her subject, so she supplied the grounding, and the rest just took off. Also, this came in the wake of the horrific murder of MP Jo Cox, and the public humiliation of Elizabeth Warren in the US Senate. It seemed that men didn’t want women in politics and were determined to denigrate them. Although this is very much an historical crime novel, it’s meant to be very much an answer to those males, that women will continue, no matter what’s placed in their way, and to try and stop them is going against the tide of history. The subject matter makes it very dark, yet it’s also a celebration, and it gave me the chance to work Tom’s story and his wife Annabelle’s together in a different way. It’s different to the previous books in the series, yet equally political and driven by crime, but of a different sort. What’s interesting is that out of this has come an exhibition, to be held in May at Leeds Central Library, called The Vote Before The Vote, curated by Vine Pemberton Joss, who gave me the idea for the book. I’m assisting in this, and the book launch will be part of it. We’re mixing fact and fiction by featuring Annabelle alongside real historical figures, to make her story and struggle to be elected a part of the narrative.

Want to know more? Click here for more information about the book and Chris Nickson.

Did You Know? THE RED HAND OF FURY by R. N. Morris

Red Hand of Fury 4

June, 1914. A young man is mauled to death by a polar bear at London Zoo. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from a notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities.

Following a third attempted suicide, DI Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men to discover why they took their own lives. What does a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand, signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process?

Dark, ominous, brilliant . . . the fourth title in the superb Detective Inspector Silas Quinn historical mystery series had us gripped from the beginning! This unputdownable read deals with mental illness, with the spotlight not only on the victims but also the intriguing and complicated DI Quinn himself. Author R. N. Morris shares this fascinating (and disturbing!) fact about an American psychiatrist’s theory. Did you know . . .

An American psychiatrist called Cotton believed that all mental illnesses had a single physiological cause – a germ of madness, if you like. This germ spread through the bloodstream and poisoned the brain. The ‘cure’ was to surgically remove the source of the infection, which he initially believed to be the teeth and tonsils. But when this didn’t really work he whipped out stomachs, spleens, cervixes and colons. He claimed this cured up to 85 per cent of the mad. It’s hard to believe now, but his theories were taken seriously and he had his followers around the world, including England.

THE RED HAND OF FURY is available now in the UK and from 1 July in the US. Read more about it here.

 

DEATH OF A NOVICE by Cora Harrison: Spotlight on Cork

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The Reverend Mother is shocked when Sister Gertrude is found dead inside a small wooden shed beside the river. Delving into the young nun’s background, she finds some puzzling anomalies. Why did she not delay her entry to the convent until after her sister’s wedding? Could there be a link between Sister Gertrude’s death and the gunpowder explosion on Spike Island? The Reverend Mother must find the answers to these questions if she is to safeguard her community from suspicions of murder.

 

The fifth Reverend Mother mystery sees Reverend Mother Aquinas facing another puzzling investigation, and we were kept guessing till the end . . . If you’re looking for a historical mystery set in Ireland, this is the book for you! Author Cora Harrison shares some fascinating historical facts on Cork, the setting for the series:

  • Cork city, like Venice, was built on a marsh. Most of its main streets were originally rivers or canals and the water still flows beneath these streets.
  • In 1920s Cork city, Ireland, overcrowding was defined as more than nine people living in one room.
  • Also in 1920s Cork city, eight babies out of every hundred born died within twelve months.
  • The first woman professor in the UK and Ireland was Mary Ryan of University College, Cork, in the year 1910. 

DEATH OF A NOVICE is published 30 March in the UK and 1 July in the US. Read more about Cora Harrison and the Reverend Mother series here.

#BookExtract: SABOTAGE IN THE SECRET CITY by Diane Fanning

sabotage in the secretMay 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 as swift a conclusion as possible. But does the end justify the means? Libby Clark has mixed feelings about the horror she and her fellow scientists are labouring to unleash on the citizens of Japan – and 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, Libby is forced once again to turn undercover sleuth in order to prevent further deaths and keep the focus on ending World War II.

Can research chemist-sleuth Libby Clark uncover the traitor within in this gripping World War II mystery? Read this book extract from SABOTAGE IN THE SECRET CITY, coming 30 March in the UK and 1 July in the US!

I reached the building but saw no sign of the courier. I worried that he had already been inside when the fire erupted. I ran to the door, but it was engulfed in flames. The intensity was growing with every passing moment. I heard the approaching clang of our new fire truck, but I was too close to the billowing smoke of the burning structure, to see more than a foot ahead of me. I stepped back away from the source and spotted the emergency vehicle approaching with a convoy of military jeeps and trucks trailing right behind.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d been told to go to the rendezvous point and if the courier was not there, I should go inside and wait for his arrival or for someone to arrive and present me with a new set of orders, but I certainly couldn’t go inside. My soldier rushed to assist the firefighters  so much for always staying by my side. I felt quite vulnerable standing on the edge of the chaos holding the precious cargo in my hands.

My suspicious mind was building a case around the possibility that the fire was merely a ruse to isolate me and steal the crystals. I was thinking about driving off in the jeep, securing the package in the lab and returning for the soldier, when I heard my name shouted in a very familiar voice. The rigid posture and stony face of Lieutenant Colonel Crenshaw headed my way . . .

Read more about Diane Fanning and other titles in the Libby Clark World War II mystery series here.

 

 

 

Behind the Book: MURDER TAKES A TURN by Eric Brown

 

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When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917?

Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. And when a body is discovered, dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself, are uncovered . . .

 

We’re completely engrossed by Eric Brown’s well-crafted Langham & Dupré mystery series, but had one burning question after reading the new book in the series, MURDER TAKES A TURN: what inspired it? Eric explains the central idea behind the story . . . 

I’m fascinated about where writers write. Roald Dahl famously had a shed at the bottom of his garden. A friend of mine likes nothing more than to tap away at his laptop in a noisy cafe. Lester del Rey, the American science fiction writer, liked to write in silence and in a confined space – so he worked in a specially adapted wardrobe! I now have my own study, but I have written in a Tibetan monastery in Nepal, on my father’s boat on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, and in a garden shed. Last year I read an article about the restoration of George Bernard Shaw’s famous study – a garden shed on a turntable which he could rotate to follow the sun. This set me to wondering if it would be possible to build a revolving study which followed the path of the sun – not manually powered, as was Shaw’s, but turned by an electric motor. Research into this possibility led me to the central idea behind my murder-mystery MURDER TAKES A TURN. A friend of mine is an electrical engineer, and I put the problem to him: would it be possible to have a weighty study – made even heavier by the inclusion of an upright piano, a table and several chairs – that could be turned by an electric motor? To my relief the answer was, “Yes, depending on the power of the motor and a suitable arrangement of gear wheels.” On this I built the plot of the novel, in which the despised novelist Denbigh Connaught invites a few old friends down to his Cornish country pile for the weekend – friends he has, over the years, slighted in one way or another. Needless to say, during the course of the weekend a corpse is discovered . . . in the writer’s revolving study.

MURDER TAKES A TURN is available from 30 March in the UK and 1 July in the US. Find out more about this title and the Langham and Dupré mysteries here.