From time to time it’s good to welcome a guest to these pages, which is what I’m doing today, in the form of Helen Hollick, who – among many other things – runs the Discovering Diamonds website. I’ll leave her to say her piece!
Thank you, Graham, for hosting a stop on the joint tour I am undertaking with Alison Morton throughout February to celebrate the release of our mystery/thrillers Double Identity by Alison, and A Mirror Murder by me. Today, it’s my turn to pen something interesting…
A Mirror Murder is my first foray into the cosy mystery genre – the lighter side of crime mysteries, usually including a little romance, and often with the protagonist being female (though not always!) Not wanting to read anything similar to the novels I usually write (historical Arthurian, Saxon eleventh century or pirate-based nautical adventure,) I turned to murder-mystery for my Kindle entertainment. Some were a delight to read, but others did not impress me quite so much.
“Could I do better?” I wondered.
So I gave it a go by using my more than a decade of experience working in a public library in a North London suburb on the edge of Epping Forest and Essex, where I was born and lived until the early 1980s.
One of the things I especially like about Graham’s Master Mercurius series, is the fact that you feel you are there, looking over Mercurius’ shoulder as he reluctantly fumbles his way through his investigations. This is because Graham is meticulous with his research, and uses real places that can be looked up on a map (albeit the stories are set in the 1600s, so you need old maps!)
I made the decision to use real locations for my Jan Christopher Mysteries as well. South Chingford Library, although no longer used as a library is still there, in Hall Lane. There’s the Old Church on Chingford Mount, The Ridgeway, King’s Head Hill …today, with the modern police station, although back in 1971, when A Mirror Murder is set, it was still a Victorian building. The only location I made up was the scene of crime, although an eager sleuth could probably work out the real road!
I made all my characters up and enjoyed ‘meeting’ them; Jan Christopher herself, her love interest, DC Laurie Walker, her uncle and guardian DCI Toby Christopher, and her Aunt Madge. Now that Book One is published, I am looking forward to discovering what adventures befall Jan and co in future episodes. Book Two is already under way A Mystery of Murder will be set in Devon, during Christmas 1971.
The events in A Mirror Murder, (apart from the actual murder!) are based on ‘job experience’. I have quite a store of anecdotes from those years of librarianship, some of them quirky, some hilarious. What I did find difficult was remembering back to the 1970s – it is only fifty years ago, but checking the facts over uncertain memory took quite a bit of work… and left me thinking, how on earth did we manage before mobile phones, computers, laptops and pizza deliveries!
A BRIEF EXCERPT: A Mirror Murder by Helen Hollick
A drizzly morning, but it was only a ten-minute walk to the police station, so, armed with an umbrella, I set off. Few people were about; the faithful were already in church, and for the rest, the pubs were not yet open.
At the fire station, I dodged a puddle the size of a lake. Further on, King’s Head Hill was easy to cross at the traffic lights, even though there was another huge puddle beside a blocked drain.
Chingford police station had the appearance of a grand Victorian house, not a modern police premises, although there had been talk of pulling it down and rebuilding it for years. There had been two stables adjoining it back in the 1880s, the Victorian equivalent of a rapid response panda unit – horseback transport at the gallop.
Outside, a group of reporters were sheltering from the rain by huddling under the chestnut trees, plumes of cigarette smoke wafting above their heads. Several of them looking longingly at the still closed King’s Head pub. One or two glanced my way as I walked towards the police station, but dismissed me as inconsequential. I hid a smile: if only they knew I was the one who had found the body! A very small part of me was tempted to march over and tell them. My five minutes of fame! Then sense took hold and I kicked the idea out as a completely stupid one. I’d rather be famous, even for five minutes, for something much nicer, thank you very much. Like being the winner of the Booker-McConnell Prize, a world-acclaimed best seller or the writer behind a smash-hit TV series.
I hurried into the police station as another burst of heavier rain poured from the iron grey sky, and was greeted by Sergeant Tanner. As I walked in, he waved his hand towards one of the chairs, gesturing for me to sit and wait while he dealt with the man haranguing him.
“It isn’t good enough; I want something done!”
Sergeant Tanner, I could see, was nearing the end of his tether.
Amazon Author Page http://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick
The first in a new series of cosy mysteries set in the 1970s… Will romance blossom between library assistant Jan Christopher and DC Laurie Walker – or will a brutal murder intervene?
Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.
But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram, a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered… Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into murder?
Helen and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farmhouse through BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show.
First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Talesand Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction. She is currently writing more Voyages for the Sea Witch series and the next in the Jan Christopher Mysteries series. She has other ideas for other tales – and would like the time to write them!
CONNECT WITH HELEN:
Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick