Autumn Trapani is the winner of A Tale of Two Murders! I’m delighted to welcome back Heather. She writes the A Dickens of a Crime mystery series and is giving away a signed copy of A Tale of Two Murders. Grave Expectations the second in the series released on July 30!
Every subgenre of mysteries has its own subtle rules about the degree of violence and gore actually shown in the murder scene and its aftermath. From the graphic descriptions of Kathy Reichs’ forensic anthropologist-led Tempe Brennan series, to the off-camera death in Kellye Garrett’s PI trainee-led Hollywood Ending, there is a wide range of what kind of death is on the page.
I had never really thought about this until recently, when I was working on a library presentation on how to build exciting mysteries. I revisited or discovered a number of British and American mysteries from the last one hundred years in the process and noticed the substantial variations in crime scene discovery.
My A Dickens of a Crime series is that subgenre called “historical mystery” but it is one of the less clear genres in terms of descriptive death. It all depends on the sleuth. If your hero is an “anatomist” like in Tessa Harris’s Dr. Thomas Silkstone’s mysteries, it’s going to be gorier, whereas with someone who is writing cozier historicals, like Catherine Lloyd, the violence might be more glossed over.
My books, led by real life nineteenth century author Charles Dickens when he was a parliamentary reporter, are somewhere in between. I’ve written three of them so far. A Tale of Two Murders had poisoning and suicide, with Charles witnessing the first tragic death. The new one, Grave Expectations, has a rather grisly demise. Next year’s Christmas Carol Murder has the most delicate murder, I would say, though I think the novella I based it on, A Christmas Carol by Dickens, is as much a horror story as it is a comedy or holiday parable.
My series is based on both author Charles Dickens’s life as a young man in London and much more loosely, on his novels. Grave Expectations is set in the summer of 1835 when he lived in Selwood Terrace and worked at the Morning and Evening Chronicle as a reporter and sketch writer. I took themes and motifs from his novel Great Expectations, written many years later. Themes like “the dead don’t stay dead” and “the tug of past life on the present” and motifs like “spiderwebs.” I had to have characters like a blacksmith to honor the saintly Joe in the novel, and of course, an elderly lady in a wedding gown. Miss Havisham is such a grotesque character that my own version seemed to require some sort of fantastical death.
Readers, where do you fall on the murder spectrum? Do you want a cerebral puzzler, just focusing on the whodunnit, or do you like the realistic atmosphere of crime scene description? Answer below by September 10th to win a signed copy of A Tale of Two Murders, my first A Dickens of a Crime mystery. North American residents only.
About the book:
In this clever reimagining of Charles Dickens’s life, he and fiancée Kate Hogarth solve the murder of a spinster wearing a wedding gown . . .
London, June 1835: Charles checks in on an elderly spinster who resides above him. He finds her decomposing corpse propped up, adorned in a faded gown that looks like it could have been her wedding dress. A murderer has set the stage. But to what purpose?
Secrets shrouded by the old woman’s past may hold the answers. But Charles and Kate will have to risk their lives to unveil the truth . . .
About the author:
Heather Redmond is the author of many novels, novellas, and short stories under three names. She writes the A Dickens of a Crime and the Journaling mysteries series. Her novel, A Tale of Two Murders, received a coveted starred review from Kirkus and was a multi-week Barnes & Noble Hardcover Mystery Bestseller.