Poisoned Pens and a Giveaway!

Jessie: On the coast of Maine, hurtling towards a book launch, a revisions due date and a manuscript deadline, all by September 1!

My sixth Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Through the English Post, releases on July 26 and I must confess, I have a very soft spot for this one. It provided me with the chance to write about beautiful gardens, romantic gifts and secrets aplenty.

When I first conceived of the plot I was startled to realize I had not yet written a mystery centered around a poisoned pen campaign. After all, it is one of the juiciest sorts of stories to write, at least to my way of thinking. It is especially well suited to village settings like Walmsley Parva where everyone knows each other as well as most of their private business. Or at least someone does.

As I started in on the research one of the most interesting things that I encountered was the sheer volume of poisoned pen cases that actually took place between the world wars. Novels with hateful missives are a trope in mystery fiction, but it turns out that has something to do with the fact that such plots were inspired by local newspaper headlines as well as stories tucked away on the inner pages of the national rags. The more I read through 1921 editions of papers at the British Newspaper Archive the more astonished I became. From unbalanced bachelors to meddlesome pensioners the UK seemed rife with those bent on that particular brand of mischief.

In many ways, the anonymous nastiness felt eerily similar to the sorts of things one encounters online so often of late. I have often wondered about some of the parallels between our own times and those of a hundred years ago. Technology changes, but people don’t seem to as quickly. Pandemics, social upheaval, and unrest between nations on a global level might go a long way to explaining hostilities at the personal one as well. Personal motives like envy, greed, and lust haven’t really changed at all. The things people feel and what they do with those feelings make as much, or as little, sense to us now as they did in 1921. I think that explains the continuing popularity of the crime novel, as well as its tropes like poisoned pens, over the decades. As I prepare to release my 13th mystery, I couldn’t be more grateful!

Readers, do you love a poisoned pen mystery? Writers, have you ever written one? I have three hardcover copies to give away to randomly chosen commenters!

64 Thoughts

  1. I can’t wait until this comes out!! Congratulations on another wonderful job well done!

  2. I’m not sure I’ve read a poisoned pen book. But it does sound very interesting. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

  3. Now I want to write a poisoned pen story, too!! I don’t think I have, but you’re so right about the small town being a perfect place for one. Looking forward to the new book.

  4. I have read books with letters like that, but pretty sure I have never written one! Congrats on the upcoming release!

      1. I have read a book where an anonymous letter was sent to the police indicating that a certain person committed a murder. I have not written one myself.

  5. First I must tell you that I LOVE the A Beryl and Edwina Mystery series! Beryl Helliwell and Edwina Davenport are two that I’d want on my team, as neighbors or in my lineage any time. I’m super excited about the release of “Murder Through the English Post” and can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review it.

    Agree with you that, although it may be another time – several decades or even a century later, a lot of things seem to never change. I do find it intriguing when some of the bad or gossip is unanimous giving the mystery another depth in the story. Living in a small town and knowing how fast gossip (true and false) spread, I can definitely see where a small town setting would be the right choice in a poison pen story.

    Thank you for the wonderful chance to win a copy. Shared and hoping to be one of the very fortunate ones selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. I have never read a poisoned pen book but it sounds terrific. We definitely still see that today but on such a wide and more destructive scale with technology. I look forward to reading this!

  7. Like Edith, I’ve never written one, but want to try now. Congratulations on the upcoming release, Jessie!

  8. You know, I don’t think I have read any poisoned pens. I live in a very small town in a very rural area where everybody knows everybody else and their business, so it’s not hard to for rumor and innuendo to spread. I can see how that would make for an enticing mystery with plenty of suspects trading gossip.

  9. I don’t think I’ve read a poisoned pens book. Sounds interesting!

    Thanks for the chance! Love the book cover!

  10. I do love the idea of a poisoned pen mystery, these letters are the precursor of today’s internet bullying and can be just as damaging. I’m not sure that I’ve read a mystery like this, but have seen poison pen letters in tv mysteries like Perry Mason.

    I love Beryl & Edwina, look forward to reading the latest!

    1. Thanks, Judith! I hadn’t thought about Perry Mason in this tradition, but it is a perfect fit for those stories! Now I want to go watch one!

  11. Congratulations on your 13th. Beryl and Edwina mystery1 What fun it must have been to read through those 1921 UK newspapers! I have seen some poison pen episodes in British Mysteries on Britbox or AcornTV, but I have never read a poison pen mystery book, and I am thrilled to get to read it! Can’t wait to read what Beryl and Edwina are up to this lucky 13th. time 🙂 Thank you for sharing your writing talents with us eager readers Luis at ole dot travel

  12. I have never read or written a poison pen mystery – must remedy that as to the reading part. Just ordered your latest!

  13. Geez, I thought poisoned pen letters had been replaced by actual Twitter and Facebook posts. lol

  14. Congrats, Jessie, on lucky #13! I love poison pen letter stories. Immediately Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger, and Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night came to mind. Eagerly looking for to seeing Beryl and Edwina do about them!

  15. as a stamp collector, I’m exited about the cover!
    I am sure I have read poison pen stories, at least from Agatha Christie.
    I haven’t read any of this series, so must start now.

  16. That sounds like a great book. Love Beryl and Edwina! Congratulations. It’s interesting that the more things change, the more they are the same. The technology does indeed change, but nasty people are still nasty people no matter the era!

  17. Congratulations on your new release. I don’t know if I’ve read a poisoned pen book. Looking forward to reading one in the future.

  18. Congratulations Jessie! This sounds amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a poison pen book before. I certainly think it sounds like something I’d enjoy very much. I can see something like that happening in a small town. I live in a rural area not far from a small town and it would be a believable setting for something like that.

  19. Hmm one of my all time favourite books is Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger which is based around poison pen letters! (btw not in the running for the book as it would cost too much to ship to the UK!)

  20. I read the Agatha Christie book and may have read others that featured poisoned pen letters. I love your series. Thanks for the chance.

  21. Congratulations on your #13, 13 is my Lucky number! I have never read a poisoned pen mystery, but it sounds pretty intriguing to me! Have a great week.

  22. Never read a poisoned pen book so this will be my first! By the way…there is an independent bookstore in Scottsdale Arizona called…THE POISONED PEN. It’s a great indie and I always visit when I’m in Arizona.

  23. Never read poisoned pen Mystery and since I write just for fun, I don’t think I ever wrote a poisoned pen mystery.
    I hope I win one of those hard copies so I can read & review it.

  24. I love all kinds of mysteries. I am not hooked into one kind. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you. Thanks for sharing.

  25. I have not read a poisoned pen mystery, but it certainly sounds intriguing. Thank you for sharing. Congratulations on your upcoming release.

  26. As several people say up above, the same principles behind poison pen letters still hold up, but now they’d do it with video and send threats by email.
    Your research into the real-world stuff sounds fascinating — is there any book available on the topic?

    1. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? I used newspaper articles from the British Newspaper Archive for my research. I am not aware of any book format resources on the topic, but it would make for a good read should someone produce one!

  27. I do like poison pen mysteries and will be watching for your new release.

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