A Wicked Welcome to Kelly Oliver!

by Julie, summering/sweltering in Somerville

I’m thrilled to welcome Kelly Oliver to the blog today! Kelly serves as the vice president/incoming president of Sisters in Crime, and we’ve worked together closely during the past year. In addition to her service to the community, Kelly is a wonderful and prolific writer.

History is Fun??

picture of Kelly's cat posed by her books

Wanna hear something funny? Not funny haha. More funny, ironic. (Unless you find an entire shelf of unread books on WWI funny). I hated history in school. I ended up putting history courses on pass-fail, majoring in philosophy, and then going on to get a PhD in philosophy. Abstract thinking is my comfort zone. Anything detail-oriented, including history, not so much.

Fast-forward several decades (leaving out the little detail of how many), and I’m writing historical cozy mysteries. I love researching women’s stories that have been forgotten by canonical history. Finding amazing women and bringing their stories to life has become my passion— a passion for feminist reclamation in historical fiction.

Mata Hari (Margaretha Gertruida Zelle) is a great example of a woman maligned by history as a spy who allegedly exchanged sexual favors for state secrets. Biographer Pat Shipman argues that Mata Hari was a scapegoat for the double-dealing Georges Ladoux, France’s counterespionage chief. I couldn’t resist making Mata Hari a secondary character in my second Fiona Figg mystery, High Treason at the Grand Hotel.

Doing research for Villainy in Vienna, I came across Anna Sacher—the cigar-smoking, French bulldog loving, wife of the owner of the Sacher Hotel (think Sacher Torte). When her husband died, Anna took over the hotel and became known as a tough but discrete businesswoman. The most interesting woman I met on my journey to 1917 Vienna was Mileva Einstein, Albert’s first wife. She corrected Albert’s early work, went uncredited for collaborating on his early writings, and most likely contributed important research to Einstein’s theory of relativity.

In Mayhem in the Mountains (out August 15th), Fiona and her side-kick Kitty Lane travel to the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. There, they meet Marie Marvingt, a French bomber pilot and competitive athlete who invented the air ambulance. She disguised herself as a man to join the French army. In addition, she was a major in the Red Cross and worked as a nurse. A regular “renaissance” woman, Marie was quite a character in real life.

Another one of my favorite real-life characters appears in Arsenic at Ascot (out in November). Emilie Augusta Louise “Lizzy” Lind af Hageby co-founded the Animal Defense Society. In addition, she infiltrated the University College London Medical School as a student to uncover brutal vivisectionist practices. Together with Nina Duchess of Hamilton, she founded Ferne House as a refugee for abandoned pets during the world wars. Arsenic at Ascot features these early animal rights activists.

Bringing these amazing women to life in my fiction, I hope to reclaim their histories. And in the process bring new awareness to women’s issues both historical and contemporary.

In addition to rediscovering women’s stories, I love writing historical mysteries for plot points. If you find a great real-life mystery, you’ve got a built-in plot! And I feel such glee when I uncover a fun historical tidbit, especially if I can work it into my novel.

A couple of my favorites involve tea (Fiona’s favorite beverage and coincidentally 😉 mine too). With the Cake and Pastry Order of 1917, to ensure the troops had enough tea to keep fighting, the British government declared tea a necessary “weapon of war.” That’s kind of funny. Troops carried water to the front in tins used for fuel, and tea became a way to camouflage the taste of petrol. 🤢 Not so funny.

What do you enjoy about reading or writing historical fiction? What kind of balance do you like between history and entertainment? Why is it important to reclaim women’s history?

Fiona Figg book covers


Mayhem in the Mountains

A Fiona Figg & Kitty Lane Mystery

Mayhem in the Mountains cover

 (August 15th, 2023)

1918 Italy

When a deadly blizzard traps Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane in the Dolomite Mountains, it’s all downhill from there.

Their hotel is snowed-in, and no one can get in or out. Then a man is found dead in his locked hotel room – and the killer is still on the premises. But with no murder weapon and too many suspects, their investigation is treading on thin ice.

The colder it gets outside, the hotter it gets inside as Fiona squares off with both her beloved Archie and her nemesis Fredricks. With her love-life on a slippery-slope, Fiona risks everything in one bold move…

As fast and twisty as a downhill slalom, this slick new cozy from Kelly Oliver will have you melting into a puddle of laughter.

Snap in and enjoy the ride.


picture of Kelly Oliver

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning and bestselling author of three mystery series: Jessica James Mysteries (contemporary suspense); Pet Detective Mysteries (middle grade); Fiona Figg Mysteries (historical cozy).

Currently, Kelly is Vice President of Sisters in Crime. Kelly is a Emerita Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. To learn more about Kelly and her books, go to www.kellyoliverbooks.com.


21 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to the blog, Kelly. I also love history for the women we discover. I haven’t had a chance to adventure with Fiona Figg yet, but I look forward to it! Love your covers, by the way.

  2. Congratulations on your new book! I love to read historical fiction because I like to learn about history while I am reading a fictional book that adds to that history. Learning about history helps me understand how a character resides in a certain time, place, her habits and why she has those habits.

  3. Good morning Kelly! I’m thrilled to meet a new to me author. I’ve already liked you everywhere and added “Mayhem in the Mountains” to my gotta read list on Goodreads. Sounds like an absolutely amazing read and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review it.

    Love when turn to history facts are added to a story. They often lead me to do follow up research on interesting details. Love when an author does their homework to bring such accuracy to a story. Those too facts and reading your post is why I’ve added you to my list of search this author’s books out list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. I love historical fiction, historical mysteries in particular, because, if they are well researched, I learn so much. I hated history in school, too, because the method of teaching it was so painfully dull and boring. I am fascinated (and frustrated) by how much women have contributed to so many fields and not given credit for it. I’m delighted I have now learned about your series and am headed to the bookstore.

  5. Welcome Kelly and congratulations on your new book! Your blog is fascinating, and I am so glad to have learned new information you shared with us! I love historical mysteries especially during WWII, and if they are “cozy” that’s the ticket for me! Thank you for sharing your writing skills with us readers! Luis at ole dot travel

  6. Good morning, Kelly. First, thank you for your service to SinC. I’ve served with the Guppies, and there’s much truth to the statement that it’s the toughest job you will ever love.

    Your covers are fantastic. They hit all my buttons, and congratulations on your latest release. I love reading historical fiction, could never write it though. The siren song of the research rabbit hole is too strong to resist.

    Yes to telling women’s history. I devoured my mother’s copies of The Motor Girl books. Turn of the century friends who drove all around the US having adventures that often included historical figures. In the fourth grade I encountered Nelly Bly. My book report came back with an A, but I was cautioned that I was supposed to review a non-fiction book! My delight at educating my teacher was well repaid when she included Nelly in a class history lesson.

    1. There is so much teachers don’t know either. Good for her for admitting it and then using it as a lesson.

  7. I’m finally working more historical mysteries into my reading, and I’m enjoying them. I like it when real history works its way into the story, but I also enjoy it when it just shows off what life was like back then.

  8. Welcome to the Wickeds, Kelly! And thanks for your hard work at Sisters in Crime.

    I am a fan of historical fiction in books, movies and TV. I find it lets me dip in and out of interesting times in the past. Often I find myself dipping in deeper, doing some research on my own once a fictional account has got me interested.

  9. Congrats on the new book, Kelly. I liked history in school, but never thought I’d write historical fiction. I’m getting ready to turn in the manuscript for the fifth book in the Homefront Mystery series, so…go figure.

  10. Happy book birthday. I enjoy learning how women were treated as well as the fashion of the time. It is so interesting to see how women can stand up for themselves and speak up to me who were in authority at the time. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

Comments are closed.