by Julie, enjoying mild weather in Somerville
I’m delighted to welcome Alyssa Maxwell back to the blog today!
A Deadly Endowment
by Alyssa Maxwell
Hello all you wonderful Wickeds and your fabulous readers! Thanks for having me on today, I’m delighted to be back. I have a question for everyone:
Which Kind of Person are You?
I maintain there are two kinds of people: puzzle people and game people. Now, that doesn’t mean puzzle people can’t enjoy playing games, or that game people can’t enjoy doing a puzzle now and then. But I think most people have a preference as to which they enjoy more. Now me—I’m a puzzle person. I love the solitary challenge of fitting pieces together, whether it’s actual jigsaw pieces or the number patterns in Sudoku, the turns and twists in a maze, or the letters in a word search or crossword. The patterns must fit together to complete the whole, and I enjoy watching a kind of story unfold as I work to solve the puzzle.
So, when it came to games growing up, I tended to like the ones that also told stories as you played. In Monopoly, the story is about buying real estate and managing your money. In Life, you earn a college degree (or not), start a career, get married, have children, etc. And in Clue, aways my favorite, a murder is committed and we must deduce who done it, how and where. We walk through the rooms of a manor house and interact with the other characters/suspects.
When I started writing A Deadly Endowment, I didn’t mean to channel my favorite boardgame, but that’s kind of what happened. I had a rather lengthy cast of characters, first of all, and needed to make each one distinct so my readers wouldn’t get confused. Clue makes it easy for us by color coding each character: Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, etc. Along with each color are their personalities, depicted on the playing cards. You couldn’t confuse who was who. I didn’t color code my characters exactly, but I made each one very different from the rest both in appearance, temperament, and social strata. So, for example, we have semi-retired and somewhat bumbling Dr. Bishop (Professor Plum?); the young and fashionable magazine writer, Ophelia Chapman (Miss Scarlet?); the dowdy widow, Arvina Bell (Mrs. Peacock?); her skittish ex-soldier son, Hayden; and so on.
We also traipse through the house featured in my series, Foxwood Hall, just like in Clue. With finances having taken a frightening downturn since WWI, Phoebe and Eva are conducting a first-ever house tour of Foxwood Hall to try to generate extra income to help with repairs on the tenant farms and to bring more people into the village to shop. Although Phoebe’s grandmother is horrified by the idea, her grandfather reluctantly agrees, and on the big day a busload of local schoolchildren plus six members of a local historical society eagerly pull up on the drive. We start in the Great Hall. Then it’s into the library, the dining room, drawing room, conservatory . . . Room by room, people lag behind or sneak off elsewhere, and it’s all Phoebe and Eva can do to keep track of everyone. Just as they lead their guests back outside and think they’re home free, they realize someone is missing: Arvina Bell (it’s in the blurb, so no spoilers here). Eva goes in search, and finds her . . .
In the library, strangled with a drapery cord (or in Clue, with the rope).
From there, the story branches out to the village of Little Barlow and it’s surrounding areas. I take Phoebe and Eva—and readers—to places they’ve never been before in the series, for a closer look at how people might have lived based on their wealth and position in society. It was an adventure for me as well as I discovered, for instance, a book store and a new tea shop I never knew existed in the area before, along with another grand estate—although, times being what they are, perhaps not so grand, despite the owners’ attempts to keep up appearances. Every suspect has a secret, some going back decades, but there are also secrets at Foxwood Hall itself, from a stolen 70-year-old photo to a member of the Renshaw family who’s gone missing. Phoebe and Eva need all their wits about them as they play a deadly game of sleuthing and attempt to solve several devilish puzzles!
So, for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of A Deadly Endowment (U.S. residents only due to shipping costs), tell me, are you a game person or a puzzle person? And have you ever dealt with a real-life mystery you needed to help solve?
The lean times following the Great War continue to require creative solutions for England’s noble class. But Lady Phoebe’s proposal to open up the Renshaw estate to guided tours for additional income strikes many in the family as a “vulgar enterprise.” Phoebe’s grandfather, the Earl of Wroxly, however, reluctantly concedes the necessity.
Their first tour group consists of members of the Historical Society, a magazine writer, and a flock of students. It’s a large group for Phoebe, her sister Amelia, and Eva to manage, and when the widow Arvina Bell goes missing, Eva goes in search of her—only to find her in the library, strangled with a silken drapery cord.
The schoolchildren are promptly sent home, but the members of the Historical Society—many of whom also wandered off at times—remain for interrogation. There is also, curiously, a framed photo missing from the library. As the police hastily zero in on a suspect, Phoebe and Eva weigh the clues. Does the crime have to do with rumors of hidden treasure at Foxwood Hall? But they must make haste to solve the widow’s murder—before someone else becomes history . . .
Alyssa Maxwell knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles drew her to the mystery genre. She is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She and her husband live in Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of American-Florida Chapter, Sisters in Crime-Treasure Coast Chapter, and the Florida Romance Writers. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books at http://www.alyssamaxwell.com and connect with her on social media at these links: