Guest Victoria Thompson

Edith here, basking in having family around me. Our guest today is the fabulous Victoria Thompson. City of Scoundrels, her third Counterfeit Lady Mystery, came out last month and I just finished reading the latest adventure of Elizabeth Miles. I wanted to be sure our Wicked fans knew about it too, so I invited Victoria back on the blog. She’s giving away a copy, too!

Imagine getting sick with a deadly disease for which there is no treatment or cure. Then imagine hundreds of people getting sick with the same disease at the same time, whole families, whole neighborhoods.  Then imagine this happening in every city and town in the entire world! Sadly, we don’t have to imagine this because it actually happened in the fall of 1918, and at least 50 million people died world-wide.

In my new book, City of Scoundrels, con artist Elizabeth Miles and her fiancé, Gideon Bates, are holding down the home front while WWI rages a continent away.  Gideon knows he will be drafted soon, so he’s spending his time helping soldiers write their wills before they ship out. When a widow of one of these men gets cheated out of her inheritance by her scoundrel of a brother-in-law, the law is on his side, so Gideon and Elizabeth must go beyond the law to get justice.  Using Elizabeth’s skills as a grifter, they must outwit not only the brother-in-law but a gang of German spies into the bargain.

But as Gideon and Elizabeth work desperately to beat their adversaries, a new disease begins striking down their friends and neighbors. The influenza epidemic began in an army camp, and it quickly spread, going with the troops as they shipped out across the world.  The press—restrained by war-time censorship—fails to adequately warn the public, and thousands die.  The flu finally strikes very close to home for Elizabeth, and takes someone near and dear. 

New York City lost more people to the flu than to the war. To this day, no one is really sure what strain of flu it was that proved so deadly. We like to think something like that could never happen again, outside of a horror movie, but can we really be sure?

I’ve been amazed at how many fans had a relative who died of the flu back then.

Readers: Did your family lose someone in the great flu epidemic, or in WWI? Leave your comments below.  I’m going to give away a signed copy of City of Scoundrels to a randomly selected commenter.  US residents only, please.

Victoria Thompson is the USA Today bestselling author of the Edgar® and Agatha Award finalist Gaslight Mystery Series and the Sue Grafton Memorial Award finalist Counterfeit Lady Series. She has published 24 mysteries. She currently teaches in the Master’s program for writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University.

Contact Victoria through her website,, on Facebook at Victoria.Thompson.Author or twitter @gaslightvt.

70 Thoughts

  1. I don’t recall hearing of any of my ancestors dying of influenza back then, but the possibilities for a recurrence is terrifying! I need to get caught up on your new series, Vicki! It looks like one I’d enjoy binge reading!

  2. To the best of my knowledge, there weren’t any such loses in my family. However, details of any family members prior to my grandparents is either very sketchy or nonexistent which is sad.

    “City of Scoundrels” sounds like a fabulous book and one that I would greatly enjoy having the opportunity to read. I’ve shared everywhere and have my fingers crossed to be the very fortunate one selected.

    Have a great day!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. I’m not aware of anyone in my family who died in the great flu epidemic, but what a scary thing. Let’s hope nothing like that ever happens again.

  4. Going by what little I remember from family tales, I don’t think any family members died from the flu breakout or in World War One.

    As for the new book, I am sorry to say that I haven’t read the series before but this book sounds totally fascinating so I’m going to add it to my list.

  5. Welcome back to the Wickeds, Vicki. My grandfather, an only child, served in WWI and returned. His only cousin Percy died of influenza, leaving my grandfather as the only member of his generation in his family to survive to adulthood.

  6. No family members that I know of, but my Aunt Carrie had a photo of the Salem Common completly covered with tents where Spanish flu victims were being treated.

  7. Your new book sounds very intriguing. How horrifying! I don’t know the history of my family that far back so I can’t say.

  8. I enjoyed reading your scenes involving influenza in the book, Vicki. What a horrifying disease. I lost a great-uncle in WWI, but no one to the epidemic that I know of.

    1. America didn’t lose as many young men as the European countries, but still far too many died.

  9. My grandmother’s sister died in the influenza outbreak in 1918. Before she died she asked her mother to name the baby she was carrying, Mildred, if it was a girl. She was reading a book about a girl named, Mildred. I have a small table that belonged to her. Sadly, I don’t remember her name.

      1. Yes, she did. Mildred was my grandmother. She hated her name, but loved that the sister she never knew named her. 😊
        Btw, I bought City of Scoundrels before I saw this post! So if I should win, please pass it on to someone else.

  10. Yay, a new Counterfeit Lady book! Can’t wait to read what happens even though I’m thinking it might be rather sad. It occurs to me that I don’t know anything about my ancestors during that time period, although I know a lot about before that. I can’t think of anyone who served in WW1 although there must have been at least a few. Can’t think of anyone who died in the flue epidemic either -at least I don’t think so; I may be getting confused with books I’ve read and maybe “adopted” a few characters as my ancestors.

    1. Lots of people get confused between history and fiction! That’s why authors try to be as accurate as possible.

  11. Not that I know of, but I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been back then. Your book sounds wonderful – thanks for the chance to own it.

  12. I don’t believe my family list anyone to the war or to the flu but I can’t be sure. What a scary time that must have been!
    I’m excited to read the book and learn for details!!

  13. I thought I had begun reading this series, but it appears that I have not. Time to rectify that oversight!

    As far as I know, my family escaped the flu epidemic. But I have very little information on the generations prior to my own parents’. I’m envious of people who do know their family histories.

  14. Love your books, Victoria! Hoping I win a copy. But if not, I’ll be sure to order one from the library!

  15. My ancestors lived in New York and I don’t know any family stories of having lost anyone to the great flu epidemic of 1918, but the generation who told stories of those days is no longer with us. Oh, and by the by, today’s my birthday — just saying! 😉

  16. I haven’t heard of any of my ancestors that died from influenza or in WWI. “City of Scoundrels” sounds like a book I would really like to read. Thanks for the chance. Happy New Year!

    1. You are lucky to know so much about your family history. As you can see from the other comments, many people don’t!

  17. I do have a vague memory about how bad diseases were then and a brief remark about family member or to. All I really know about that time for sure is my granddad lost a leg in the Great War. In those days prosthesis were handmade, carved from wood. His was held in place by suspenders. A form of ‘sock’ went over his stump. He used crutches most often cuz it was so uncomfortable. He let us kids play with the leg. Stumpy was the name of our game. My folks heard us talk about playing stumpy after a visit but did not really know what it was until they came up early to get us. We lived in AZ at the time, Grandfolks lived in Eugene, OR. Mom was appalled when she found out was Stumpy was. She started bawling us out when Grandpa told her to leave us alone we weren’t hurting anything, & to let us have our fun. She was but he told her to shut up. It was his choice. He had no problem with it. She just shook her head, went into the house. Grams told her to let it be. But he never talked of those days.

    1. So many men came home maimed from the war. Your grandfather was pretty typical since few men spoke of their experiences in the war. What an interesting story about “Stumpy”!

  18. My great grandmother died around that time. I ordered a copy of her death certificate. It was not the flu that effected her death. I always wondered.

  19. Hi Victoria! Welcome back to The Wickeds!

    Please don’t include me in the drawing … I read this one the day it came out!

    I must say, I like your City of Scoundrels series even better than the Gaslight books (and that’s a big say). I particularly love that Elizabeth is no angel (which helps her deal effectively with some of the lower lives she encounters), but creates wonderful conflict as she interacts with those who don’t see the world with her jaundiced (some would correctly say more realistic) eye. I love her resolutions to leave her sordid behaviors behind and emulate her noble and pure fiancee while at the same time drawing her fiancee into her schemes (now done only for the best of motives) and gradually “corrupting” him.

    You’ve set up a magnificent conflict and are working wonders with it.

    I also love how you’ve used each of the novels to share fascinating information about the time and historic events. I thought I knew a great deal about the Suffragist movement including about the forced feedings, but I must admit I didn’t appreciate their brutality until I read the first book in the series.

    Because my mother worked in the Public Health arena, I also knew a great deal about the influenza epidemic (which was actually worldwide). One thing you didn’t cover was the huge amount of propaganda to blame it on Germany. But, again I learned so much that I hadn’t known. I wasn’t aware of the people seeming healthy and literally dropping dead in the streets. In fact, had you not shared your sources, I would have assumed it was a novelist’s invention to pep up the plot.

    I’m sure everyone reading this can tell how enthusiastic I am about this series. In fact, the early parts of the first book reminded me of the first novel in Jessie’s “Whispers Beyond the Veil” series (which remains one of my favorite books of all time). I have a great fondness for reading about con men … or in these books con women … although I suspect I would NOT have enjoyed encountering one in real life. Everyone, do read the City of Scoundrels series (and start with the first book). I promise you’ll absolutely LOVE it.

    Victoria, can you tell us anything about the next one … even so much as when it’s coming out? Frankly, I’m ready to read it now!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Lee! I’m so glad you like the new series. It’s much more challenging to write than the Gaslights because I have to figure out a con for each one, then figure out how it can go wrong and then how they can fix it! That’s hard when you tend to be an honest person in real life! The next Counterfeit Lady book will be out next November and is called CITY OF SCHEMES. I’m just finishing it up this week! Oscar Thornton returns and must be dealt with while Elizabeth is already busy trying to save one of Gideon’s friends from being conned by someone else. Good times.

      1. OK! That sounds like Bunches o’Fun, Victoria! I’ve blocked off the month of November for this one!!!

  20. My grandfather loss his first wife and daughter to the flu epidemic. When I went to college he gave me his wife’s watch. It’s a beautiful heavily engraved silver watch. The band is a finely meshed silver.

  21. My grandmother’s older sister got sick and died during this time period. If anyone ever gave the illness a name, I have never heard it.

    This was before penicillin. It was little more than 100 years ago but it was the darks ages of medicine.

    1. It’s scary when you realize that we didn’t even have antibiotics until WWII. Medicine is really still in its infancy.

  22. My great-grandfather (my mother’s grandfather) fought in WWI. He survived, however he ended up passing away less then two years later from a ruptured appendix.
    I am looking forward to reading your new series. I just finished reading “Murder on Trinity Place” today (I have read every one of your delightful books in that series now). I hope I will be as fascinated and addicted to these three books as I have been with Sarah and Frank! Happy New Year!

  23. That really added another great element to this book, and it brought the epidemic to life in a way I hadn’t experienced before.

    And yes, I’ve already read and enjoyed this book. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to get a copy. Personally, I’m still catching up on the Gaslight Mysteries. Murder on Bank Street is next on my TBR pile.

  24. I haven’t heard of any personal connection, but I am in mourning after reading THE CITY OF SCOUNDRELS . . . amazing how attached we get to fictional persons. Review written, only sorry there are only 5 stars possible. <3

  25. My Great Great Grandmother died of the flu when she was visiting her son in Chile, after her daughter in law died in childbirth. They are both buried in the “British Cemetery” for the non-natives. My Dad and one of my brothers found the graves, and repainted the tombstones after the desert sand had blasted away the paint. My brother apologized to Great Great Grandma Euphemia for sitting on top of her grave while doing the painting.

    1. Such a sad story. And it’s also sad that their graves are so far way. I love the story of painting the tombstones

  26. I don’t know of any relatives who died in the flu epidemic or who were in WWI. But I’ve read about it. In an age when there such a vocal minority against vaccinations, I shudder to think how easy, and devastating, a disease outbreak would be, especially considering how interconnected our world is these days.

  27. I love all your series. As a nurse myself, I’m aware of the difficulties of the times. I would love to receive a book.

  28. I’m not aware of any deaths from then from the flu. Your book sounds interesting. I want to read it.

  29. I’m not sure if I had a relative in either category or not. I’d love to read your book!

  30. Finding out that we lost so many to disease in one of the most populated areas of the United States is astounding – now I want to know how people survived it and if they found out the cause for the widespread contagion.

    1. They know it was a form of the flu, but not which one exactly. Sometimes survival came down to whether there was someone to take care of you. If the whole family was ill, they would all die because they had no one to even bring them water. It was very tragic.

  31. I’m sure we did, but that kind of family history before my grandparents is lost. The Spokesman Review newspaper, that we still read, has a feature for articles from 100 years ago. I read the months of reports about “The Flu” with great interest. Very glad I was not there, terrifying. I’m looking forward to the next City of Scandals book.

  32. I wish I knew more about my family history. I have an aunt who has done a great deal of research. I hope she writes a book before all that work is lost.
    I know my grandfather lost brothers due to illness and he, himself, was presumed dead but `came back“ and lived another ninety years!
    Oh how the world has changed.

    LaurasReadingBlog AT gmail DOT com

    1. Perhaps you should ask your aunt to leave you the materials when she dies, in case she never gets around to writing her book.

  33. I don’t know of anyone in my family who died. The book sound interesting!

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