A Wicked Welcome to Alyssa Maxwell **plus a giveaway**

by Julie, enjoying the waning days of summer in Somerville

We’re talking about research on the blog this month, so Alyssa Maxwell’s post is perfect. Who’s up to a field trip to Newport once all this is over? Welcome back to the blog, Alyssa!

Good morning Julie, Wickeds, and Readers! It’s such a pleasure to be talking to all of you, especially since I’m just now coming up for air after finishing up my ninth Gilded Newport Mystery. It’s called Murder at Wakehurst and it’ll be out next summer. Before I jump into things, I want to let you know I’ll be doing a giveaway with this post, open to U.S. residents. Answer the question at the end in the comments section to be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Murder at Kingscote.

The Breakers, Newport RI

Anyway . . . I’m often asked how I choose each house I write about. My reasons vary, actually. Sometimes I choose the house itself, while other times I choose the family who lived in it. The most famous of all the Newport “cottages” is The Breakers, and the most famous name from the Gilded Age is Vanderbilt, so starting off the series with the Vanderbilts and The Breakers was an easy decision. Now, for Murder at Crossways, I very much wanted to explore the character of the owner’s wife, Mamie Fish, who was `known for her irreverent sense of humor and extravagant personality. Crossways isn’t one of my favorite houses, but I knew Mamie would be a fun sidekick for Emma Cross in that story. Mamie didn’t disappoint.

Such was not the case in Murder at Kingscote. The widowed owner, Ella King, was quiet, intelligent, thoughtful, dignified, and a dedicated philanthropist. Kingscote itself is one of the smallest of Newport’s cottages, nowhere near on a scale with The Breakers or Ochre Court. So why did I write about it? Simply because I love this house, as do most people who have ever visited it. I love its Gothic Revival-fairytale exterior, and the delightful mingling of design styles inside. I felt compelled to include this jewel of a house, but at the same time I wondered if I would have trouble finding enough details about the family to make them appealing characters.

Boy, did I worry for nothing! Through the Preservation Society of Newport County, I discovered a treasure trove of letters and journal entries written by the King family—and suddenly I was off and running. Through those documents and further research, I discovered Eugenia Webster-Ross, a woman who cast a legal shadow over the King family for years with her claims of being the true heir to the King fortune and Kingscote itself. I discovered that Ella King’s son, Philip, was a near-do-well who drank too much. I discovered that William Henry King, Ella’s husband’s uncle who had first purchased Kingscote, was committed to an insane asylum due to his “reckless lifestyle.” And I discovered that Newport held its first-ever automobile parade in the year I set the story, 1899.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont driving in the Automobile Parade
Butler Hospital, Providence RI

Insanity. Drunkenness. Rival claimants to the inheritance. And reckless drivers. I’d struck gold with this one! And it led me to some new places and themes for Emma. But just to make things a more difficult, I gave her a real moral dilemma near the end of the story. What if someone committed a crime for a very good reason? Do you still turn them in and let the justice system decide—even if innocent people will suffer as a result? Poor Emma also faces a career crisis. I’m not going to give anything away, but suffice it to say she has her hands full in Murder at Kingscote!

Question for giveaway:

I was recently asked this question myself. What kind of mystery reader are you? Do you like to figure out who done it and why before the end of the book? If so, are you usually right? Or are you along for the ride, happy to live the events along with the characters until the big reveal near the end? Can you guess what kind of reader I am? **NOTE Alicia is the winner of Murder at Kingscote!**

About Murder at Kingscote

In late nineteenth-century Newport, Rhode Island, journalist Emma Cross discovers the newest form of transportation has become the newest type of murder weapon . . .

On a clear July day in 1899, the salty ocean breeze along Bellevue Avenue carries new smells of gasoline and exhaust as Emma, now editor-in-chief of the Newport Messenger, covers Newport’s first-ever automobile parade. But the festive atmosphere soon turns to shock as young Philip King drunkenly swerves his motorcar into a wooden figure of a nanny pushing a pram on the obstacle course.

That evening, at a dinner party hosted by Ella King at her magnificent Gothic-inspired “cottage,” Kingscote, Emma and her beau Derrick Andrews are enjoying the food and the company when Ella’s son staggers in, obviously still inebriated. But the disruption is nothing compared to the urgent shouts of the coachman. Rushing out, they find the family’s butler pinned against a tree beneath the front wheels of Philip’s motorcar, close to death.

At first, the tragic tableau appears to be a reckless accident—one which could ruin Philip’s reputation. But when Emma later receives a message informing her that the butler bullied his staff and took advantage of young maids, she begins to suspect the scene may have been staged and steers the police toward a murder investigation. But while Emma investigates the connections between a competing heir for the King fortune, a mysterious child, an inmate of an insane asylum, and the brutal boxing rings of Providence, a killer remains at large—with unfinished business to attend to . . .

To see where you can buy Murder at Kingscote, visit the Kensington Publishing Corp site.

About Alyssa Maxwell

Alyssa Maxwell began a love affair with the city of Newport years ago. Time and again the colonial neighborhoods and grand mansions drew her to return, and on one of those later visits she met the man who would become her husband. Always a lover of history, Maxwell found that marrying into a large, generations–old Newport family opened up an exciting new world of historical discovery. Today, she and her husband reside in Florida, but part of her heart remains firmly in that small New England city of great historical significance. For more info please visit www.alyssamaxwell.com.

88 Thoughts

  1. Hi, Alyssa. You and I met on a panel years ago at a conference. (Remember panels? Remember conferences? Lovely post. I fell in love with these RI mansions decades ago, so this was a nice nostalgic journey for me.

    1. Of course I remember being on that panel with you! It was one of my first after my series debuted. Here’s to being able to travel to our favorite places again!

  2. Welcome back, Alyssa! I love this series so much, and the new book is queued up on my kindle. I like to try to figure things out as I read, but I don’t let it slow me down.

  3. I am along for the story when I read a cozy. I rarely figure out the murderer and frankly don’t try. I bet you are the figurebthevwho reader.

  4. I am a mystery reader that is “along for the story” though some times I am able to figure out the ending before it occurs. I really enjoy new series.

    1. It’s exciting to find a new series to love, isn’t it? I sometimes do guess who dunnit, but there’s also the question of why and how which keeps me turning pages.

  5. I am along for the ride when reading a mystery. Seeing how the author twists the plot and characters to keep the reader always questioning the results is what holds my interest. Thanks so much for the insight into Alyssa Maxwell’s latest book. My fingers are crossed.

    1. I agree with you completely here. As I said in my prior comment, it’s more than finding out who dunnit. There are other questions that will be answered along the way.

  6. For the most part, I’d say I was one who likes to find out the whodunit and why when it’s revealed in the book. That being said, I do so love to figure out who it is, why or both to have it confirmed at the reveal. It gives one the satisfaction that the old noodle is still firing on all cylinders and one point for this reader when I get it right.

    On the same train of thought, there are two kinds of writers – those that know the whodunit and why and work backwards and those that know the characters and let them lead you on which direction to go. With all your research into the places and people and events associated with them, I would say you are more of a know whodunit and why before you start righting. However, your lovable characters may lead you astray from time to time adding details and adventures along the way.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a hardback copy of “Murder at Kingscote” Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.

    Have a great week and please be safe, stay healthy and have a little adventure along the way – even if through the pages of a good book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thank you, Kay! As a writer, I’m a little of both. I plot the book out before its written, but there have been several occasions when I decided to change whodunit part way through because I felt a different character than anticipated would make a more interesting culprit. I always give all my suspects a reason to look guilty, so changes like that aren’t hard to make.

  7. I go along for the ride, and I would guess you are too. Trying to figure out whodunit is too much like working when you’re a mystery writer! Congrats on your latest. The cover is gorgeous.

    1. Yes! I don’t want to work when I read. I’d much rather relax and let the characters take me along with them. It’s their job, lol! I do adore this cover. It’s thanks to artist Stephen Gardner, and the Kensington art department.

    1. Sometimes I think I’ve figured it out, but then discover I was wrong. But I don’t mind that at all. It means the author weaved a great mystery!

  8. I’m along for the ride. If I figure it out that’s a bonus. I think you like to figure it out

  9. I like to try to figure out the culprit and a lot of times I do. It’s still a fun ride with the characters whether I guess it or not. There’s also some fun stories where it might name the killer right at the beginning, but the question is how did they do it, and the rest is spent trying to actually prove their guilt.

  10. At the risk of appearing to have a split-personality, I do both…go along for the ride until something happens that makes me think I know who the “murderer” is. As someone else said, I like to be surprised that I did not figure it out, so twists and turns and red herrings are always appreciated. You are a new author to me and I am always so appreciative of the Wicked blog for introducing me to new to me authors. I have an affinity for architecture and keep my little book Clues to American Architecture by Marilyn W. Klein and David P. Fogle handy to determine what style a house could be that I have seen and liked. There is a quote in the book by Calvert Vaux that I appreciate: “In the United States it would seem that diversities of style and strong contrasts of architectural design are a perfectly natural occurrence.”

    1. What a fabulous quote, and so true! Thank you for mentioning that book, Clues to American Architecture. It’s not one I was aware of, but I just ordered a copy – because one can never have too many books on such topics!

    1. Thanks, Sherry! It’s interesting because I think a lot of readers just assume if we write mysteries we naturally figure things out as we read, but I’ll bet more of us just want to enjoy the read.

  11. There is no place like Newport. I love that your stories give readers the opportunity to vicariously live in these wonderful “cottages.”

    I like to go along for the ride in mysteries, but I often find that my deductive skills are cranking in the background and I often know who dun it by mid-book. I won’t let myself cheat and flip to the end to find out if my suspicions are correct though. That would be cheating if I’m wrong!

    1. I’m glad to hear you won’t cheat! I never look at the end of a book before I get there. I’m so glad you feel you can visit Newport through the series!

  12. Welcome back to the Wickeds, Alyssa! I am a reader who floats along with the story. If I figure it out, fine, but that’s not the main fun for me. As I writer, I feel like I should be more analytical. “How did she do that?” But reading was my first love and I don’t want to spoil it so I just hope the writer’s tricks and techniques seep into my subconscious.

  13. Thanks, Barbara! This is such a talented group, it’s an honor to be here. And yes, reading of course came first. It was all the wonderful books I read growing up that made me want to be a writer. Being too analytical would spoil the pleasure of enjoying a book.

  14. Congratulations on the new book Alyssa!

    I don’t necessarily want to figure out the mystery before it is revealed towards the end of the book. I think if I figure it out and I turn out to be right, it takes away a little of the magic of the story for me.

    Sometimes I do figure it out correctly, and I’m left wondering if it because I was “so smart” or if it was simply too easily telegraphed by the writer. Luckily that has only rarely happened. I prefer to turn off the more analytical side of my thinking when I’m reading and let the author tell me the story at their pace and hopefully be surprised by the whodunnit’s reveal.

    1. Thank you, Jay! I like that you said “tell the story at their pace.” I love the different styles authors have of telling their stories, and how even similar plots can be told in very different ways. It keeps the genre fresh for me!

  15. I like to try to figure it out, but I don’t let it get in the way of enjoying the story. I’m often right (or right enough), so I’m especially tickled when the author “fools me.”

    I’d guess you’re a “enjoy the story” kind of reader.

    1. I like that – right enough! Yes, I’m an “enjoy the story” reader. Same with movies. I usually don’t figure it out and just watch and enjoy. I have a daughter, on the other hand, who can figure things out within 10 minutes of watching, lol.

  16. I like to get lost in the story but if I figure out the perp, that’s fun. I seldom do. Kingscote is my favorite “cottage” also because it feels so much more livable than the others.

    1. I definitely agree with Kingscote being more livable. It’s cozy and comfortable, in addition to being elegant. I had actually received requests that I do Kingscote, so there was no way I wouldn’t include it.

  17. I do like to try to figure out who the killer is, but I don’t dwell on it. I’m all about enjoying what I’m reading. I don’t always figure it out. I would say I’m correct about half the time.

  18. I’m complicated. I like trying to figure things out, finding the clues and the events that lead to the killer. But I also like to be fooled and surprised when I reach the end. When I figure it out, I can be happy with myself. But if it happens to easily I am disappointed.

  19. I can always tell if the mystery is good. If it is, I go along for the ride. If there is so much boring detail that clearly the author researched and by golly she is going to work it in, then I skip to the last chapter and maybe then go back

    1. Let that be fair warning to all of us writers! I will say that I do put in a fair amount of detail about the houses in my series. But that’s for people who have toured them (quite a lot of people!) and will look for familiar elements.

      1. And let me say that rereading my comment it sounds a bit harsh. However I had just read your latest, which is fantastic as always, and I wanted to read more so I took the suggestion of one of those “if you like this author you should like this other author..” recommendations on a website. Not even half way into the story the other author was going on with page after page after page of historical detail which had nothing to do with the story, geographically or other otherwise.

  20. I like to let the story play out in it’s own time. I don’t feel the need to figure it out and there’s usually a curve ball in the ending making my guess wrong. Great series, thanks for the chance.

    1. Those last minute twists are the best. With me, they don’t always occur to me at the outset. They come later, and I’m always so happy when it happens.

  21. I love to figure it out before it’s revealed! Most of the time I’m correct!! Thank you for the chance to win!!

  22. I absolutely adore this series, as I’ve told Alyssa many times. Congratulations, my friend! As to what kind of mystery reader I am, I am definitely along for the reader. I’m not happy when I’ve guessed whodunnit. I want to be surprised!

    1. I’m glad I’m not alone in this, lol! I thought, if I write mysteries, why don’t I figure out the ones I read? But apparently there is nothing wrong with me, haha.

  23. I like to keep guessing till the end. As a reader I would think maybe you like to be surprised since as a writer you know what is going to happen. Thanks for the chance.

  24. I sometimes figure out the ending ahead of time, but I don’t spend a lot of time and energy trying to do that. I guess you let the story evolve rather than deciding “who dunnit” at the beginning.

    1. You’re right. And sometimes even in my own books the ending surprises me in that when I plotted it out, I imagined a different culprit, but a new twist sends things in a new direction.

  25. I used to always try and figure it out, but now that I am older I just enjoy the story and go along for the ride. I love to let it just take me away.

  26. I like to try to solve the mysteries as I read them. Sometimes I’m even right. I’m gonna guess you’re a similar reader?

  27. I just read along & enjoy the story unfolding. I gather suspicions, & change my mind all along. But the times I do figure out whodunnit I feel like a genius! 😂

  28. I think that you are the kind of reader who likes to go along for the thrill of the ride and then get to the big reveal at the end. But I bet sometimes you figure out the who before you get to the end. That is how I am.

  29. I think it kind of depends on the book too. If it is a new series and I am unfamiliar with how the characters work together, I prefer to ride along and not worry if I figure it out first! Thanks for the chance to win!

    1. That is a very good point! Later in a series, when you’re well acquainted with the characters, it should become easier. By then, hopefully, readers feel they are part of the crew.

  30. I always try to figure out the mystery but I usually don’t. I enjoyed Newport the only time I visited. Unfortunately we only toured the Breakers so I’m glad to hear about all the other cottages. Stay safe and well.

    1. I’m glad you had a chance to see some of Newport, and of course the Breakers is the crown jewel of the Preservation Society’s properties. Perhaps you’ll visit again once life is back to normal.

  31. Alyssa,

    What a wonderful article! It provides fascinating insight into your research and how your delicious mysteries are conceived.

    As for your question, I like trying to figure out who the killer is before the sleuth. And am I usually right. There have been only a few occasions, when I’ve been mistaken. It’s a matter of paying careful attention to the clues that the author dangles before the reader’s eyes. As for you, I think you enjoy following along for the ride.

    I wish you success with your new book!

  32. I like to figure it out. If it’s a series that I’ve read a lot of, I’m usually right (but it’s still enjoyable)! Often new authors will surprise me, which is fun. This is a new series for me and I look forward to reading it!

  33. I’m the second kind. If I do make a guess at who the murderer is, I’m rarely right, and if I am right, I really didn’t have any specific reason for picking them. I like the characters and seeing what they get up to. Congratulations on another book and thank you for the contest.

  34. Hi, you are a new to me author , very nice to meet you. Your books sound very intriguing and I love the book covers! I love to read mysteries, and sometimes I kind of think I know the answer, but then there comes a twist and some turns in the stories so I just keep turning the pages and at the end I am surprised of who dun it! I love to read good page turners and your books sound like they are that! Thank you so much for the chance of your awesome sounding book. Have a Great week and stay safe. God Bless you. Thank you so much for keeping our minds exercised and occupied.

  35. I want to wish everyone a very good night! I’ll check back tomorrow to answer any more comments, and then find out when I should choose a winner for Murder at Kingscote. Good night, all!

  36. Love your books – the research really shows. And the pictures are always gorgeous. So beautiful and elegant. I like to play along with the story and have enough clues to take some good guesses and make little discoveries along the way. I don’t mind figuring it out if close to the end and I also don’t mind being surprised. What I don’t like is the way some of today’s thrillers with unreliable narrators have that oh wow ending that is sometimes just unbelievable. Thanks for the giveaway.

  37. I am along forvthevstory and if I pick up clues along the read more fun. Love your series and seeing the grand houses through your eyes.

  38. First of all, Kingscote is one of my favorite Newport cottages and whenever I come to Newport, I always try to see it. So glad you set a mystery there! I usually try to guess who the murderer is, and get very disappointed with the author if I can figure it out too early on.

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