#AuthorTrivia – Hilary Bonner

I am thBonner Hilary - Coloure reigning  British Media Backgammon Champion!

Unfortunately, I must admit that there has only ever been just the one media championship competition – and that was 30 years ago. It was staged by Victor Lownes, the man behind those hedonistic Playboy clubs, in his rather different Chelsea club, Stocks.

I was then Showbusiness Editor of the Mail on Sunday. I beat a number of doyens of the British press, including the famous columnist and equally famous backgammon player Nigel Dempster, on my way to victory. My prize was entry to the Backgammon Championship of Great Britain – which I did not win!

I do, however, still play backgammon regularly.

As does my series detective DI David Vogel. He also compiles crosswords. And is very, very clever. I am quite confident that if I were able play Vogel at backgammon, I would lose horribly.

DI David Vogel features in Hilary’s forthcoming psychological thriller DEADLY DANCE, available 31 August in the UK and 1 December in the USA. Visit our website for more information.



Behind the book – Spring Break by Gerald Elias

9780727887122The titles of the first four novels in the Daniel Jacobus mystery series were the names of classical music compositions dealing with death: “Devil’s Trill,” “Danse Macabre,” “Death and the Maiden,” and “Death and Transfiguration.” Books five and six are the first two instalment of a second “quartet.” The inspiration for these books, however, have come from a different source: The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, highly evocative concertos for violin and string orchestra that he composed from sonnets of his own authorship. The Four Seasons are perhaps the most beloved collection of concertos in the entire Baroque literature.

9780727886149My stories are based upon these concertos in several ways. First of all, they take place in the season depicted in the concertos: “Playing with Fire” in Winter, and “Spring Break” in Spring. They also draw upon the text of the sonnets, sometimes reverently, other times ironically. Finally, the music itself becomes part and parcel of the plot. In “Spring Break,” for example, a student’s error-filled performance at a master class is what leads Daniel Jacobus — the blind, curmudgeonly, violin pedagogue and super sleuth — to believe that something is more amiss than the student’s skill.

Each book in this second “quartet” of stories centres around a venue very specific to the music profession and real life issues encountered in them. In “Playing with Fire” it was a violin shop and the forgery of violins and their authentication. In “Spring Break” the setting is a music conservatory with an ingrained culture of sexual harassment. Vivaldi may write, “Stirred by the festive tones of rustic pipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the verdant canopy of spring,” but those feelings aren’t necessarily unanimous.  

Visit our website for more information on  Gerald Elias.

Praise for Spring Break:

“Readers will enjoy spending time in the company of the curmudgeonly Jacobus, and many will welcome the absence of fisticuffs, car chases, and Glocks. Jacobus’s blindness adds an interesting angle, with suspects and witnesses classified and identified by the cadence and timbre of their voices.”

Publishers Weekly 

Editor’s Pick – Deadly Dance by Hilary Bonner

9780727887344_FC.jpgWe are delighted to welcome the long-established, highly-regarded crime writer Hilary Bonner to Severn House with DEADLY DANCE, a tense and twisting psychological thriller featuring crossword-solving Bristol detective, David Vogel.
The discovery of the partially-clothed body of a teenage girl in the heart of Bristol’s red light district marks the start of a baffling murder investigation where nothing is as it first appears.  14-year-old Melanie Cooke had told her mother she was going to meet a school friend. Who was she really going to meet – and why?  Vogel is drawn towards three very different suspects, each of whom grows increasingly chilling.  But are they what they seem – and is any one of them capable of murder?

A cunningly crafted, sexually charged and wholly original read, DEADLY DANCE kept me intrigued throughout, as I was drawn into each of the three suspects’ stories and kept guessing right to the end as to which of them – if any – is the killer.  Bonner skilfully keeps the questions coming and the tension going strong, ensuring that the murderer’s true identity, when finally revealed, comes as a genuine shock.  The clues of course were there all the time, but so cunningly planted that even the most eagle-eyed reader will be hard-pressed to spot them.

The geeky, vegetarian, teetotal, mild-mannered, happily married Vogel makes a refreshing change from all those embittered, divorced, hard-drinking detectives out there: his decidedly uncool crossword-compiling hobby eventually proving key to cracking the case.  I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of this particular detective inspector in mysteries to come.

Visit our website for more information on this title.


#BookExtract – A Study in Gold by Annie Dalton

A Study in Gold book jacketA Second World War-themed murder mystery weekend ends in murder for real in A STUDY IN GOLD, the third title in Annie Dalton’s Oxford Dogwalker series, set in Oxford.  

At a World War II-themed murder mystery party which they’d attended to make up the numbers, reluctant party goers Anna Hopkins and her fellow dogwalkers find they are enjoying themselves more than they’d expected.  That is, until a real body is discovered floating in the ornamental pond. Who was the mysterious woman who attended the event without a ticket?

As Anna and her friends delve further, they find themselves caught up in an intrigue that leads to a lost painting and a wartime secret that involves Anna’s own family. Was her late father really guilty of a monstrous crime…?  Here’s a taster from the book…

Back in their room they packed their bags at lightning speed. Not wanting to wait for the lift, or worse, risk getting into the lift with someone who might drag them off to an Austrian jail, they stole down the back stairs.

Even before they reached reception they could hear the woman berating her teenage grandson for his permanent state of gloom. ‘Dein missmutiges Gesicht erschrickt die Gaeste,’ she scolded. (‘Your miserable face is enough to frighten the guests.’)

Under cover of this family quarrel, Tansy and Anna slipped out into the street, and began to power-walk in the direction of the train station.

 ‘Damn,’ Anna said abruptly. ‘I’ve still got our key.’

‘We can post it back later.’

‘It won’t take a moment.’ Anna made to turn back.

‘Are you crazy?’ Tansy protested. ‘They’ll have spares.’

A police car pulled up with a squeal of brakes. Two police officers, Anna wasn’t sure if they were the same two, and the man in the leather jacket, jumped out and disappeared inside the hotel.

She dropped the key in the street and they ran.

‘People do run for trains,’ Tansy panted. ‘It’s not suspicious in the least.’ Anna was past caring. She just wanted to get the hell out of Innsbruck, before their unknown pursuer caught up with them.

They ran, occasionally shifting down to speed-walking, all the way to the station. ‘Do you mind getting the tickets?’ Anna was gasping for breath now. ‘I’ll call Jake. If something does go horribly wrong, we might need someone to be our advocate.’

‘You swear they’ll speak English.’ Tansy looked anxious.

‘Yes, I swear.’ Anna had already pulled up Jake’s number.

Tansy hovered. ‘So, um, I’m getting us tickets for the next train to Vienna?’

‘No! the next train out of Austria!’

‘Jesus, this is scary,’ Tansy said, and sprinted towards the ticket office.

 A STUDY OF GOLD is available in the UK now, and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 September.  Visit our website for more information on this series. 

Previous titles in the series


Did You Know . . . this about Vivaldi?

9780727887122This week’s interesting fact was supplied by Gerald Elias, author of the Daniel Jacobus mystery series. The latest title is this series, Spring Break, is due for release in hardcover and ebook on 1 August in the US. 

* * * * * * * * * * *

Did you know that Antonio Vivaldi, the great Italian Baroque composer of the 17th and 18th centuries, was employed by a convent in Venice for almost forty years?

The Ospedale della Pietà was a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice, almost exclusively for figlie, girls. Not all the students were orphans, nor even poor for that matter. Initially, and through the seventeenth century, the ospedali—there were four—provided training in sacred music. As the excellence of the Pietà’s training grew, so did its reputation. It attracted the attention of the nobility, who sometimes enrolled their infants, legitimate or otherwise. Many of the concerts were arranged especially for important, wealthy visitors.

 But unlike concerts these days, the young ladies, because of mores of modesty, were constrained to perform behind an iron grille lattice, like a wall. Even though they comprised the finest orchestra in Venice, they were never seen!

La Pietà hired the best faculty in the city and promoted its high quality concerts. None other than the great Antonio Vivaldi was appointed a violin teacher in 1703 and served in various roles on and off until 1740. Much of his greatest music was written for performance at the Pietà.

One would not imagine that life in an orphanage had much to offer, so it might seem surprising that for the young ladies the status that came with being successful figlie was much coveted, and created incentive for excellence. Though most remained at the ospedale their entire lives, some were lavished with gifts from admirers, a few were permitted to marry and were even provided dowries, and many were offered vacations in villas on the Italian mainland.

 The ospedali’s activities provided countless commissions for local violin and other instrument makers, liuter del loco, not only for the manufacture of good instruments but also for the constant maintenance and repair of such instruments, adding significantly to Venice’s economy as well as its culture.

Visit our website for more information on the Daniel Jacobus series.


#BookExtract – Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner

Season of Sacrifice book jacketSEASON OF SACRIFICE by Bharti Kirchner is the first in a new Seattle-based mystery series introducing feisty PI Maya Mallick…

During a morning stroll, Maya sees two women set themselves ablaze in front of the temporary residence of the visiting Chinese foreign minister.  She’s even more shocked to recognize one of them: Sylvie Burton, a brilliant Tibetan-American scientist, who is the adopted sister of Maya’s best friend. An onlooker says that the two women are martyrs, protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Yet, with so much to live for, why would Sylvie end her life in this horrific way?

Here’s an extract from the first chapter…

The chanting continued, the chorus ascending and then dramatically descending, sounding cruel and evil. A second woman came forward, pivoted and faced the assembly. Taller than the first, she was also dressed in a white shroud, with a similar garland around her neck. Maya saw only the woman’s bright eyes above her veil, eyes that looked familiar. They reminded her of Sylvie, a dedicated malaria research scientist and the sister of Maya’s best friend. Sylvie had been adopted from a Tibetan refugee camp in Darjeeling, India, when she was still a baby. Her bloodline could be traced to a Tibetan royal family. But Sylvie, who didn’t have a political bone, wouldn’t come to a street rally. She’d rather be cooped up in her research lab for a twelve-hour day.

And yet, Maya’s chest tightened. She called out, ‘Sylvie?’

The chanting stopped for an anxious moment.

With a sweep of his hand, Sunglasses Man gave the second woman the go-ahead. She took a few shuffling, mechanical steps, unsteadily assumed her place beside her companion and gazed up at the mansion.

With his thumbnail, Sunglasses Man ignited a pair of red-tipped wooden matches and handed one to each woman. After uttering a few instructions, he backed away to a safe distance. The women accepted the tiny, playful sparks as if in a trance.

‘Don’t!’ Maya screamed.

SEASON OF SACRIFICE is out now in the UK and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 September.  For further information, please visit our website here.

#Behind the Book – Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner

SEASON OF SACRIFICE by Bharti Kirchner is the first in a new Seattle-based mystery series introducing feisty PI Maya Mallick.  During a morning stroll, Maya is horrified to see two women set themselves ablaze in front of the temporary residence of the visiting Chinese foreign minister.  She’s even more shocked to recognize one of them: Sylvie Burton, a brilliant Tibetan-American scientist, who is the adopted sister of Maya’s best friend.  An onlooker says that the two women are martyrs, protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Yet, with so much to live for, why would Sylvie end her life in this horrific way?   Here, Bharti Kirchner tells us a little about the background to the book…

Season of Sacrifice book jacket

Season of Sacrifice started with a “what if” scenario. A news item about a Tibetan activist in India also sparked my interest. A young Tibetan planned to self-immolate in New Delhi to protest against the visit of a high-ranking Chinese official. For one reason or another, this didn’t happen. But I remember thinking: what if it did, as it has many times in the past in Tibet or elsewhere, with activists sacrificing their lives? What if such an event took place in the USA?

I had in mind also to have a young female scientist as one of the players in this new novel. I wasn’t exactly sure what this scientist did. Something to do with medical research was all I knew. Then I happened to be listening to a scientist friend of mine talk about the kind of malaria research she was doing and it clicked immediately. I learned much about the cutting edge of vaccine research and it fit perfectly with the plot line.

I wanted to put a young, female Indian-American private detective, Maya Mallick, who’s just getting started, in the driver’s seat. There are too few such sleuths, if any, in American mystery novels right now. Maya’s late father Subir Mallick was a legendary police detective in India.  She’d studied criminology in college in the US and though petite and has the look of a “grad student,” she’s learned an awful lot about solving criminal matters from her former police boyfriend.

Praise for Bharti Kirchner’s previous book, Goddess of Fire 9780727885500

“A sweeping historical novel … What shines the brightest is Kirchner’s rich portrayal of the Indians who toil for British colonialists” Booklist 

“Kirchner’s background as a cookbook writer and novelist shines through in her luscious descriptions of food and the mores of the time… This tale is best read for its historical detail” Kirkus Reviews 

SEASON OF SACRIFICE by Bharti Kirchner is out now in the UK, and will be published in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 September.  Please visit our website here for further information.




#AuthorTrivia – Michael Jecks

morris3Michael Jecks is the author of the Medieval Knights Templar mystery series and the Bloody Mary mysteries featuring Jack BlackJack and in his spare time has a very pertinent hobby.

It involves jingling bells, waving hankies and clashing sticks. Yes, he is a Morris Man (light blue waistcoat left), but not just an occasional Morris Man, he has taken part in numerous events this summer and still has a few more coming up (details below). Why not go along to see him in action.

In one of his recent blogs he explained how he came to this very British tradition (let’s just say it involved beer).

morris1July 1 – South Brent Folk Event  10.30am-12 noon and 2.15pm-3.15pm

July 6 – Dance out with Dartmoor Border – 8pm-9pm

July 15 – Feast of St James, Tiverton Medieval Fair–  11.30am-3pm.

August 6 – Sidmouth Sunday – 10.30am-3pm



Morris Dancing (possibly derived from Moorish dancing) was first recorded in Britain in the mid-15th Century and so around the time of the start of the Tudor period.

The latest Bloody Mary Tudor mystery, A MURDER TOO SOON, is available to order now in the UK and will be available in ebook on 1 September.


Did You Know. . .this about the Italian wolf?


Lovers of wild animals will be pleased to know that the main character in this series, Seb Cangio, is an ethologist. He studies the behaviour of the wolves in the Apennine mountains in central Italy. Born in Calabria, however, he knows more than anyone else in Umbria about the two-legged ‘wolves’ who are the instruments of the  ’Ndrangheta, the most formidable criminal organization in the world.

The  ’Ndrangheta has tried to kill him before. He knows that they will try again…


The Italian wolf (Canis lupus italicus) is a subspecies of grey wolf native to the Italian Peninsula. It inhabits the mountainous areas of the Apennine mountains. As of 2005, the Italian wolf population is estimated to consist of 500 individuals. It has been strictly protected in Italy since the 1970s, when the population reached a low of 70–100 individuals. The population is increasing steadily in number, though illegal hunting and persecution still constitute a threat. (Wikipedia).

The author consults closely with Bernardino Ragni, professor of animal biology and environmental zoology at the University of Perugia, an expert on the wolf population of the Apennines.

Any similarity between the behaviour of wolves and the behaviour of the ’Ndranghetisti (the soldiers of a Mafia clan) is purely coincidental. Wolves kill to satisfy their hunger. The ’Ndrangheta kills to satisfy its greed and maintain its power.

The first two titles in this series are Cry Wolf and Think Wolf. 

#BookExtract – Beyond Absolution by Cora Harrison


Praise for Cora Harrison’s previous Reverend Mother Mystery A Shocking Assassination  “Well-drawn characters, including a lead capable of sustaining a long series, complement the clever plot” ***Publishers Weekly

In the third of Cora Harrison’s coBeyond Absolution book jacketmpelling new Irish historical mystery series, Reverend Mother Aquinas must discover who murdered a much-loved priest.   

It’s Ireland, 1925. Pierced through to the brain, Father Dominic’s dead body is found wedged into the small, dark confessional cubicle.  Loved by all, he had lent a listening ear to sinners of all kinds: gunmen and policemen; prostitutes and nuns; prosperous businessmen and petty swindlers; tradesmen and thieves.

But who knelt behind the metal grid and inserted a deadly weapon into that listening ear?  

‘Would it have been anything to do with those republicans, with the IRA,’ he said breaking the silence.

She thought about this, not so much because she considered that there was any truth in that idea, but more to give the question due consideration.

‘No, I don’t think so,’ she said after a moment. ‘I think he was revered by the Republicans. Do you remember how he visited the men on hunger strike in the gaol, despite what the bishop said? And set up a first aid centre in the Father Matthew Hall to deal with wounds? He said someone had to look after these men as they did not dare go to the hospitals in case they would be handed over to the RIC – no, the Republicans would be the last people to injure Dominic.’

He nodded sadly and stared stonily ahead. She was half-sorry not to have discussed the question more; not to have encouraged him to talk.

‘Was there anything worrying him, do you think?’ She tried this question and was glad to see that he immediately turned back towards her.

‘Do you know; it’s funny that you said that? He came to me on Tuesday, not yesterday, the day before . . .’ He seemed to be thinking hard, and so she did not say anything, just waited quietly. After a few seconds, he gave a heavy sigh.

‘I suppose that there is no harm in saying this, because I am giving no details, just as he gave me no details, but he said, talking to me as his prior, not as his brother, he said that he was worried about something told to him under the shield of confession. He said that a man had confessed to him that he had been involved in some sinful crimes and that further crimes were planned by . . . by the gang, he said and Dom wondered whether without betraying the penitent . . . he was asking me whether he could take action to prevent such a crime. He would not betray anyone – that was what he said, but he could prevent robbery and perhaps a death.’

The Reverend Mother kept her silence for a long minute, but  Prior Lawrence did not appear to have anything else to say.

‘What did you say to him?’ she said eventually. He was staring at the altar, his face white and strained.

‘I said that I would have to think about it,’ he said and there was a note of bitterness, of self-hatred, perhaps, in his voice.

She reflected upon this. The seal of confession was a serious matter and she had often thanked God that this burden was not placed upon the shoulders of nuns.

‘I wouldn’t be sure what to say, either.’ She hoped that her voice held a matter-of-fact note. Lawrence needed comforting. He had been a deeply sensitive and almost morbid boy, lacking the happy assurance of his younger brother. She guessed that he would suffer over his apparent refusal to give advice to Dominic. So Dominic held a dangerous secret. Could this be connected with that strange death? Murder it must be; Dr Scher was a clever man. He had looked at the body, seen enough to have the strongest of suspicions and had immediately requested the presence of the police.

‘You can’t blame yourself in any way,’ she said as decisively as she could manage. ‘I’m sure he would have been happy to wait for your decision.’ Even as she said those words, she wondered whether they were true. Dominic was a man at peace with himself and did what he felt was right. He thought it right to minister to the wounded and to the dying whatever their politics and he went ahead and did it, without asking permission of anyone, not even of the prior at that time. The interdict of the bishop had meant nothing to Dominic. He had done what he felt was right to do.

BEYOND ABSOLUTION was published in the UK in April, and is also now available in the USA.  For further information about Cora Harrison and her work, please visit our website here.