And it’s here. The Fressingfield Witch launched on audiobook today read by Andrew Cullum and is available at the following retailers:
Next up – The Ripper Deception on 19th November
The Felsham Affair is available for pre-order in the Amazon kindle store with a release date of 20th September. The paperback version will be ready soon after, but invariably takes a little while longer. I will post the link when the paperback is available for purchase.
This Felsham Affair is set in Suffolk and East London. As usual, it is based on real historical crimes.
When a much-loved child disappears with his minder, Lawrence Harpham follows the trail to Battersea. Meanwhile, Violet investigates a thirty-year-old Suffolk poisoning.
With suspects thin on the ground, Violet must use every means at her disposal to solve the mystery. Can Lawrence’s close encounter with a callous serial killer provide clues to her investigation? And will their increasingly fractured relationship stand in the way of progress?
As the two mysteries converge, Lawrence finds himself at the mercy of a predator. Can he survive and will he ever see Violet again?
Click here to pre-order The Felsham Affair from the Amazon Kindle store.
Vote for Murder – new & updated
It’s 1911, and the women of Ipswich are making a peaceful stand against the unfairness of the voting system. Suffragist Louisa Russell joins the census evasion protest at the Old Museum in Ipswich. In a quiet moment, she explores the back rooms of the museum and finds a diary belonging to a prisoner – and not just any prisoner, but the infamous Mary Cage executed for murdering her husband six decades earlier.
When Louisa’s next-door neighbour dies under suspicious circumstances, the parallels between his death and the poisoning of James Cage become impossible to ignore.
But can there be a link between two deaths sixty years apart? And will Louisa find the poisoner before an innocent woman is convicted?
Vote for Murder is a historical fiction novel based on a true Suffolk crime.
The fourth book in the Lawrence Harpham mystery series is finished and with my fabulous editor. Once again, it’s set in East Anglia – but where?
To solve this riddle, you’ll need to be familiar with The Lawrence Harpham series (unless you recognise the photographs taken this weekend).
My first is in Fressingfield, but never in witch
My second’s in mere, but it isn’t in ditch
My third can be found in my leading man’s name
My fourth’s in his partner’s, but isn’t the same
My fifth is in fish, but it isn’t in kipper
My sixth is in Jack, but is absent from Ripper
My seventh’s a mystery, short, sweet and merry
My whole is a village to the south-east of Bury.
Where am I?
It’s been a year of ups and downs – one where self-help books and gin seemed like the only answer. A year where insurmountable obstacles appeared from nowhere and navigating them became a way of life. Mum died unexpectedly in February, closely followed by my mother-in-law in law, and four weeks ago, I came within a whisker of losing Dad. Other people I know have been through worse during these uncertain and challenging months, and in many ways, it’s brought out the best in people. I’ve witnessed frequent and humbling acts of kindness.
Concentration is vital for writers and never easy when emotions are high, so I took a few weeks out of my busy schedule to ease the pressure. My carefully constructed diary is now full of red lines, and I’m a month behind on all my goals. Attending to my poor excuse of a mailing list and other planned projects has fallen by the wayside. But life goes on, and it’s time to consolidate and move forwards. Assuming there are no further curveballs, here’s the plan for the rest of the year.
I’ve recently released the first three books in the Lawrence Harpham series as an Amazon Kindle ebook boxset for anyone who likes to binge read their mysteries! I will also re-release an updated version of Vote for Murder with a professional cover and not the hideous version I designed in my early years as a writer. This will be ready by autumn.
I’ll be completing book four in the Lawrence Harpham mystery series in the next week. After time with the editor, it should be available in ebook and paperback in a couple of months. Book five is in the plotting stage, and I’m hoping to finish writing it by the end of the year for release in early 2021.
And the final piece of news is for those of you who prefer listening to reading. I have signed an audiobook deal with the UK’s largest audio producer W F Howes for audio rights to The Fressingfield Witch, The Ripper Deception and The Scole Confession. The recording is underway with book one provisionally due at the end of September, book two in October and book three in November. It has been an absolute pleasure to deal with the acquisitions editor, Craig Thomson and his team and I wish all my business dealings ran as smoothly as this one.
Hopefully, the second half of the year will be an improvement on the first!
I’m often asked where the inspiration for my books comes from, and it’s not difficult to answer. The antics of my ancestors inspire me. Other people have illustrious forebears. Mine are mad, bad and often dangerous to know. My family tree has over fifty-five thousand individuals, and it’s still growing, so there’s plenty to go at.
My first book, Vote for Murder, was inspired by the execution of Mary Emily Cage in 1851. Mary was hanged after poisoning her husband James with arsenic, and she may have killed several of her children. An admitted sinner and adulteress, Mary denied murdering her husband and went to her death without confessing. She was condemned by the press who reported every detail of her misconduct without any consideration for her circumstances. But Mary was a victim of domestic abuse. James Cage had already been imprisoned for his ill-treatment of her while under the influence of alcohol. The family were destitute and in desperate need. In another century, there would have been more sympathy for her situation.
Around the time that I discovered my relationship (through marriage) to Mary Cage, I also found several suffragists in my family tree. They were peaceful activists, and their absence from the 1911 census suggests that they were at the census evasion night in The Old Museum, Ipswich organised by prominent Suffolk suffragette Constance Andrews. Both stories fascinated me, and inspired my first adult fiction novel. Naturally, my protagonist in Vote for Murder is a suffragist, and her story weaves together with that of Mary’s to produce a murder mystery set in Victorian and Edwardian Suffolk.
After finishing Vote for Murder, I gave myself a year off without thinking too hard about writing, but my family tree kept growing, and skeleton’s continued to appear. I had long been fascinated by the genealogy of my East Anglian Corben family including the name variants Corbin and Corbyn. Having made a tenuous link back to Corbyn’s in the late 1400s, I found a more recent connection (again by marriage) to Mary Corbyn of Fressingfield. Mary was rumoured to be a witch. Now, an accusation of witchcraft was not unusual in the 1600s, but a rarity in the 1890s. The basis of the allegation was the death of Mary’s grandchild, which was reported in the press as follows:
Alleged Witchcraft in Suffolk. At an inquest held at Fressingfield on Thursday by Mr C W Chaston on the body of a child named Hammond aged 11, weeks, daughter of a labourer, the father and mother stated that they believed the death of the Child was due to the witchcraft of Mrs Corbyn, the Child’s step-grandmother. This woman died a few hours before the Child and stated that the Child would not live long after her. The Child was taken out, and the father stated that he saw smoke issue from its perambulator and that the Child died upon being taken home, the mother stating that it was hot and dry, and smelt of brimstone. The medical evidence went to show that death was due to shock caused by the external application of some irritant, and the jury, in returning a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence said there was not sufficient evidence to show the nature of the irritant. George Corbyn said he was of the opinion that his late wife had the powers of a witch, and he always tried to do what she wanted in consequence.
I couldn’t resist using this story as the starting point for the first of my Lawrence Harpham mystery novels, The Fressingfield Witch. A crime had occurred, but without evidence, there was no one to bring to justice. My book would have been very short, but for one thing. Fressingfield already had a witch.
Faith Mills was a victim of witchcraft accusations from the Suffolk Witch Trials of the 1640s. She was one of the unfortunate women executed on the strength of allegations made by Matthew Hopkins and his Suffolk born colleague, John Stearne. The two men arrived in Fressingfield during the Witch Hunts and stoked up fear of the supernatural in the hope of personal gain. This genuine terror of witchcraft escalated in an atmosphere influenced by religion, politics and the civil war. The victims were mostly, though not always, women and they were exploited by Hopkins and Stearne who deliberately targeted the poor, vulnerable, marginalised or different.
Once again, my book combined stories set in two different eras, this time involving Private Investigator Lawrence Harpham and his business partner Violet Smith.
By the time I began writing the sequel, I was running out of interesting relatives and had started using historical newspapers as the basis for my stories. There is nothing quite as strange as real life, and I have found crimes covered in newspaper articles to be excellent sources of inspiration. The Ripper Deception, Book two in my series, was created from three separate newspaper stories. One featured a miser’s death; one involved a haunted rectory and the final report described the inquest of Frances Coles who may or may not have been a victim of Jack the Ripper. Together, these three true stories created an unusual twist on a common theme.
I have recently published a Christmas short story, The Montpellier Mystery, and the next full-length book in the Lawrence Harpham series, The Scole Confession, has just been released. Both books rely heavily on newspaper coverage of actual events. Both are set in recognisable English towns and those readers so inclined, can identify the real people who were involved in the accounts. If they look closely, they may even find them in their family trees!
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Overstrand 1895. Lawrence Harpham and Violet Smith are witnesses to suicide while on holiday. Beneath the body, lies a bible belonging to a murdered man.
Clues lead to the violent death of a bookseller and a chilling confession from the past. From Norfolk to Liverpool, investigations point to the unsolved murder of Fanny Nunn in the town of Diss. But how are the murders connected? Why do the parish registers contain so many unnatural deaths?
As Lawrence and Violet close in on the killer, Lawrence discovers a long-kept secret about his wife’s death. Can he overcome his demons, and will they stop the murders before more lives are lost?
In December, I finally got around to writing a short story set in Cheltenham. It’s something I’ve intended to do for years as it’s local to me and features occasionally in the other Lawrence Harpham Mysteries. As usual, The Montpellier Mystery involves actual events and real people. Less commonly, it is a short story (57 pages), so a quick read to curl up with during these dark winter evenings.
The Montpellier Mystery tells the story of Herbert Hillen who died from carbolic acid poisoning at his home in Rotunda Terrace in 1884. It was not clear how he came to take the poison, a problem further compounded when his doctor incorrectly gave the cause of death as long-continued consumption.
This story merges seamlessly with another mysterious death in Cheltenham General Hospital in 1893 when four men fell violently ill. All four had eaten biscuits brought into the ward against hospital policy by Caroline Puddicumbe. When one young man died, the case was referred to the Public Analyst and then to the Coroner.
Neither of these cases came to a satisfactory resolution and were therefore perfect for Lawrence and Violet to investigate in their fictional world. Needless to say, they came to a firmer conclusion than both original inquests.
The Montpellier Mystery is available on Amazon Kindle (Free on Kindle Unlimited) by following this link – The Montpellier Mystery
Coming soon … The Scole Confession – Lawrence Harpham Mysteries Book 3
In terms of dogs, the year started badly. My beloved border terrier passed away in his fifteenth year while I was in Suffolk – but this is not a sad tale. Toby had a happy life on the edge of the Cotswolds with more lovely walks than you can shake a stick at and a family who loved him. Though he hated most dogs (it’s a terrier thing), he developed a strong bond with a miniature schnauzer called Benson. They became ‘The Cone Brothers’ when coincidentally injured in the same week and made to wear the cones of shame.
It has taken until now to consider the prospect of a new dog. My husband works from home, and we already look after several dogs, which made Toby’s loss bearable. Bella, who belongs to my daughter, is the beagle equivalent of Miss World. She is a leggy girl with long eyelashes and ears the colour of burnished brass. She has film star aspirations and over 6000 followers on her Instagram page.
Another household canine distraction comes in the form of the gorgeous Sally, and it’s hard to imagine a more loving dog. Sally belongs to a family friend and started her life in Uganda. She wandered into a local factory as a tiny puppy, was adopted and brought back to England. Sweet natured Sally is calm and affectionate with never so much as a glance in anger. It’s as if she knows how fortunate she has been and is forever grateful.
Two weeks ago, we finally felt ready for another dog of our own. We look after Sally in the day, and Benson and Bella are occasional visitors, so the evenings were dog-free and far too quiet. We steeled ourselves for a long search as my husband wanted a puppy, and I desperately wanted to give a rescue dog a home. In the end, it happened quickly, and we both got what we wanted. Little Teddy, a cockapoo, arrived at The Dog’s Trust when he was only 11 weeks old, a squirming handful of exuberance and joy. Teddy is inquisitive, loving and full of character. He is our forever dog, and we will give him everything a dog could ever want.
The Dog’s Trust is a fantastic organization staffed with dedicated men and women giving love and hope to homeless animals. I can’t speak highly enough of their kindness and patience. Some of their dogs never find homes. I have sponsored one for many years who will never leave his home at the Glasgow Trust. Teddy came from Evesham and is already a huge distraction to my writing life, but worth every moment. My phone is full of photographs, and What’s App buzzes with constant pupdates. He has filled the dog-shaped hole in our lives.
A busy week researching the first place setting for my latest murder mystery and current work in progress. Any guesses where in the UK this is?
Clue: Another nod to my East Anglian heritage.