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
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