Happy Friday! It’s Liz, with guest Erica Ruth Neubauer, with some insider info on her latest Jane Wunderly Mystery. Take it away, Erica!
I love an English manor house mystery, don’t you? Something about all that tranquility, all those rolling green hills, grazing sheep and sprawling brick homes interrupted by the darkness of murder that is somehow captivating. It’s one of the reasons I’ve watched every single season of Midsomer Murders (and there are a lot of seasons). So, given the events of my first novel, MURDER AT THE MENA HOUSE, it was something of a no-brainer for my characters to travel to England next to visit some long-lost family. Thus, in MURDER AT WEDGEFIELD MANOR, Jane Wunderly finds herself on a secluded estate, rather bored and filling her time by taking flying lessons.
But what Jane also finds at Wedgefield Manor is an estate that goes out of its way to hire veterans of the first World War. As a veteran myself—of much more recent nature, obviously—it was important to me to cast a light on some of the difficulties men returning home from war faced, much like men and women do today. I myself never deployed, but I have many friends who did, and the nightmares, the flinching at loud noises, the insomnia and so much more, are things that may take years to fade, if they ever do. Today we offer more services for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the lingering effects remain.
The veterans on Wedgefield Manor are those that perhaps would not have been employable elsewhere, but the Lord of the manor gives them a chance. The gardener, Sergeant Barlow, is a Black man originally from the West Indies who fought for Britain in the war and lost a hand in the process. This was based on history—there were thousands of Black men that fought on the side of England, then returned and found they were not only unwelcome in the country they fought for, but several race riots ensued over Black veterans taking employment from their white counterparts.
Simon Marshall, the mechanic at the estate, also struggled with his own employment after the war. Even though he was young and white, he struggled with PTSD, or “shell shock” as it was known in the 1920’s. Nightmares and restlessness fueled the young man’s hot temper, which in the novel puts him in the way of a murderer.
While those characters are based on imagination, some of the veterans in the novel are nods to people I actually served with in the military. The flight instructor who gives Jane lessons is a delightful chap called Major Chris Hammond, and is based off of (a little bit, anyway) the real Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hammond that I served with in the Air Force Reserves. (Sorry I demoted you in the book, buddy.) Chris is a man with one of the wickedest senses of humor I’ve ever encountered, and a long-standing friend. I also have a cameo appearance by Air Commodore Ward, based off my old boss Colonel Tim Ward, who was hands down the best boss I’ve ever worked for, and one of the best people. Col Ward’s little white dog Rascal also makes an appearance, and even made the cover. So it’s not all hardship and gloom for my WWI vets. This series is, after all, meant to be a fun escape from reality—with a little touch of murder.
Readers, tell me about your favorite veteran. And if you don’t have one of those, tell me about your favorite mystery set in a manor house.
My favorite veteran would be my Dad. He was stationed in Japan and got the word to go to Korea and was on the ship heading over when the Armistice was signed. He was then sent to NC where he met my Mom who was a waitress in a diner. They married on the day my Dad got out of the Marines and they headed back to his home in MA and I was born just shy of a year later. My Dad was so proud of being a Marine.
Welcome to the blog, Erica Ruth! I loved Mena House and can’t wait to read this new one.
My father and grandfather were both veterans. My favorite living one might be a man named Sean. He showed up at our Quaker Meeting once Sunday after returning from being deployed in Iran. He was a lot younger than most of us and didn’t say much for a year or two. Then he opened up and shared how being among us and studying the history of Friends had changed his views on war and the military. He moved away to go to medical school, and I was delighted to see him on one of our Zoom worships in the last year. I wish he’d move back!
Without a doubt, my favorite veteran and one I greatly admire is my Dad. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Army for 29 years during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He was in the Army when they still used horses. He instilled in me my love of God, country and family. We could use more examples like him in this world. I miss him so much, but know we will be together again some day.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I’m married to my favorite veteran. But my grandfather served in WWII and he could tell some of the funniest stories.
Congratulations on the new book! I loved Murder at Mena House. My favorite veteran is my husband who served in the Air Force for 21 years.
Congratulations on the new book! My hubs is my favorite veteran, too.
I’d have to say my late Dad, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War. But he was stationed in England, where he met my mother!! Your new book sounds great and congrats! Loved the first.
I also have an upcoming series set in England, in Cambridge. Wish I could get there right now…sigh.
My favorite veteran is my late grandfather who became a US citizen in order to fight in WWII for the US, and then helped to liberate a concentration camp. I enjoyed Mena House, and I have added your new book to my TBR!
Hi, Erica Ruth. My favorite veteran is my late dad who served in Italy in WWII. Congratulations on your new release!
Congratulations on the new book. I loved the first one and look forward to reading this installment. My favorite veteran was my late mother. She served in Munich, Germany, just after the end of WWII. She had a degree in bacteriology, and ran the laboratory at Krankenhaus Schwabbing there … which was where she met my father which resulted in me.
Oh, and Liz, it’s actually Thursday!
Welcome to the Wickeds, Erica! I look forward to reading Murder at Wedgefield Manor. My father and grandfather were both veterans. My father served in Korea and my grandfather in WWI.
You book sounds delightful and I do plan on getting it to read. As to my favorite veteran, that would be my mate. He served in the Viet Nam war. I can’t tell you want he did since his records are sealed which should give you a clue as to part of what he did. Luckily, he doesn’t have PSTD and is a happy, well adjusted person. He did tell me that the hardest thing he ever did was to kill a child who had a bomb strapped to him, sent by his mother to kill the Americans. He was glad to get out of Nam and welcomed being sent to Europe where his ability to speak multiple languages fluently was put to good use, hence the sealed records. I have a great respect for anyone who had served their country. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we do today.
I drafted by review of this book yesterday. Really enjoyed it. I appreciated the way you brought in this particular theme without slowing down the mystery as well but making it part of these characters.
I have three favorite veterans: my late father who served in the Army Air Corps in Italy during WWII; my husband who was in the Air Force when we met and married; and our eldest son who recently retired from the Air Force. To all veterans: YOU have my respect, admiration and thanks for what you have done and are doing for our country. Thank you each one, thank you Erica. I am looking forward to reading your books.
My Father, my brother and my brother in law are all vets.
They are all favorites of mine and I love them dearly. Most interesting would be my brother in law. He was in the British army and served in Africa (where he was born). He was involved in the Biafra conflict. He was highly trained. He saw bad stuff. He talked sometimes but mostly, like my Father & brother, it was very rare. He was mustered out due to extensive wounds. He went to school on the British version of the GI bill. (Compared to the US, it really sucked.) He paid for his advanced schooling by being a hunting guide or Brass Penny Whore as they called themselves, in reference to the cost of reloading their ammunition (brass). He eventually obtained 7 degrees and 3 Doctorates & started his own business building wildlife habitats. His stories, when you could get him to talk, were absolutely fascinating.
Perhaps one of my favorites was of the mother elephant who thought he was a threat to her baby (he wasn’t). She tried to kill him and literally followed him for a month. Talk about an elephant never forgets! He is a really neat guy.
Both of my parents and my Uncle Paul (father’s brother) were all WW II veterans. My parents were never deployed, but my uncle was in Europe, then was part of the occupation force in Japan. I’m proud of all of them, but especially my mother – my father & uncle were drafted, but Mom chose to serve her country as a WAC!
Congrats on the book! Love the book cover! My favorite veteran is my grandfather.
I would say my favorite veterans are my Dad and Ron Lewis. They were involved in the Cuba conflict. My six uncles on my Mom’s side all fought in WWII. It is hard to pick just one. Thank you for sharing your time and your talent.
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