Friday, 22 September 2017

Extract from Chapter One of The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

Chapter One


June 1881

Phoebe Stanbury, blushing, beautiful, and almost in love, greeted the last of her unfamiliar guests and took her seat. As the quartet began to play, she could feel her cheeks paling as her heart retreated to its rightful place; the heart that would, in less than nine and one quarter minutes, pump every ounce of her innocent blood into the flagstones beneath her feet.

The doors to the orangery stood open and a slight chill whis- pered across her skin. She had asked her mother not to close them yet. The garden’s last scent was strong, and she wanted today to be perfect. It was perfect. Benjamin held her hand in his limp grasp. This was their engagement party – something she could still not quite believe, nor, she suspected, could their guests. She saw the question in their eyes: why was Benjamin Raycraft, son of Sir Jasper, marrying such a nobody? He was surely one of the most eligible bachelors in London, not for his form or ability maybe, poor Benjamin, but blood is blood after all. She and her mother had endured their interrogations: are you perhaps related to the Chichester Stanburys? And even, wasn’t it a Phoebe Stanbury who accidentally hit Prince Alfred with an oar at Henley last year? No, then smile, then no again. Phoebe wondered what hushed conversations had brought them all to her mother’s house on the wrong side of the river. Sir Jasper’s pedigree? Or prurient interest in the unknown bride? No matter, her mother had said, they are here.

As the music danced, Phoebe snatched a glance at their guests. Even the Society Editor of The Times, who sat primly towards the back of the room, had smiled in her direction. Now his mouth moved slightly, as if composing the words that would sketch this enchanting evening for his readers. She did not know it then, but Phoebe would never read those words, and he would not write them.

Beyond the open doors, past the cherub fountain that tinkled in the evening sun and down the slope to the river, the curtain of willow trees hid a naked man.

He shivered, his sopping clothes dripping from the branches of the nearest willow. Flat out on the riverbank, he hoped the weakening sun might warm him. He could feel his wet back begin to liquefy the hard surface of the mud beneath him, releasing the earthy smell of decay that the early summer heat had yet to eliminate. It felt appropriate that he should smell like this, of nature, of life and death. Today, he would give the gift of one by bestowing the horror of the other. Today he would right the wrong, the terrible aberration taking place in the house of swirling music and perfume. He would bring the stink of corrosion and finally they would know what had been under their noses: a secret, rotting slowly in the ground for so long.

He rolled on to his front and covered his body with the resurrected muck of the riverbank, pulling it through his pale hair and smearing his face and neck with the rich juice of the earth. He dipped his hand into the chill of the river and wiped some of the mud away, revealing the tattoos that marked his arms and chest. It was important that everyone should see them, particularly the girl. He reached for the leather satchel that hung from the willow bough and removed a bundle swathed in newspaper, sodden and turned to sticky clods of wet ash. Once unwrapped, the hunting knife refused to glint in the evening light as if it knew there was grave business ahead.

It was time. The innocent would die to punish the guilty.

The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans published by Little Brown
A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets... One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society. As she takes her fiancé's hand, a stranger holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl's life. Amid the chaos, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: 'I promised I would save you.' The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message…

Thursday, 21 September 2017


The Bouchercon National Board of Directors has selected George Easter as the recipient of its 2017 David Thompson Special Service Award for “extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the crime fiction field.”

The David Thompson Special Service Award was created by the Bouchercon Board to honor the memory and contributions to the crime fiction community of David Thompson, a much beloved Houston bookseller who passed away in 2010. Past recipients of the award include Ali Karim, Marv Lachman, Len & June Moffatt, Judy Bobalik, Otto Penzler, and Bill and Toby Gottfried.

Founded in 1970, and named after distinguished mystery critic, editor, and author, Anthony Boucher, Bouchercon is an all-volunteer non-profit organisation that each year brings together fans, authors, publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers from around the world in a different location for a four-day celebration of their shared love of the crime genre. This year's Bouchercon, Passport to Murder, will take place in Toronto, October 12-15, 2017

George Easter is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, one of the premiere review periodicals in the mystery community. Deadly Pleasures, a great resource for readers, was started in 1992. DP also includes news of forthcoming releases in the U.S. and abroad, and columns, reviews, and interviews from an international group of contributors. Sneak previews of upcoming books are divided into soft boiled, hardboiled, medium boiled and more. Deadly Pleasures was nominated four times for an Anthony Award for Best Mystery Magazine and won the Anthony for Best Critical/Biographic Work in 1999.

But Deadly Pleasures was not enough for George, being a fan’s fan, and in 1997 he conceived the Barry Awards (named after fan Barry Gardner) that are presented by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine in various categories for excellence. George also presents the Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mystery Fandom (named after fan Don Sandstrom).

George has served on the Bouchercon National Board, has attended every Bouchercon, except two, since 1991 in Pasadena, CA, and volunteered to produce the Program Book for the 2000 Bouchercon in Denver, CO. He was also responsible for getting publishers to donate books to the Book Bazaar giveaway at last year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans.

The Bouchercon Board is pleased to honor George Easter with the David Thompson award for all he has contributed to the mystery community and for his honoring both mystery authors and fans. George Easter is truly a Fan’s Fan.

H/T - Janet Rudolph

The inspiration for ‘The One That Got Away’ by Anna Kantaria

The title implies that this is a story about an ex. And I suppose on the surface it is. But it’s about a lot more than that. I try to put a psychological issue at the core of my novels and this one stemmed from my fascination with the concept of gas-lighting – namely, the ‘systematic and repeated psychological manipulation’ of a person in order to make them question their own sanity. 
It sounds dramatic. You’d think you’d know if someone was doing this to you, wouldn’t you? But, the more I researched gas-lighting, the more I realised two things. First, how subtle gas-lighting can be. It doesn’t have to be an obvious thing. It can be as discrete as someone taking your mobile phone, watching you search the house for it for a couple of days, then placing it back exactly where you left it, leaving wondering if you imagined the whole thing.
Or it could be someone removing two thirds of the shampoo from a new bottle so you wonder whether or not you actually opened the new one you’re sure you bought but now can’t find. You start to question yourself; your self-confidence is slowly eroded and, ironically, the person you turn to for reassurance will often be the gas-lighter him or herself.
The second thing I noticed is how pervasive gas-lighting is in everyday life. In any relationship between two people you have the potential for it. You might think of it as happening primarily in marriages – there’s always the cliché of the controlling husband and the insecure / timid wife – but gas-lighting also occurs between parents and children, between office colleagues, and friends. If you look, the internet is chock-a-block with articles on how to spot if you’re being gas-lit and, if you are, how to get away from the perpetrator (in a nutshell: carefully and completely).

So I had all of this information bubbling in my head when my senior school reunion rolled around. Torn between curiosity and nerves, I went – and I really enjoyed reconnecting with people from my past. School reunions are funny things. Some of the people with whom I spent least time at school have, since that night, become good friends. And, as I reflected on the connections that were re-established that night; the forgotten relationships reignited; and the friendships that last over the decades, I realised a school reunion would be a great place to start a book. You could have a couple, I thought, who used to date at school. They meet again as adults – they think they know each other – but they have no idea what’s happened to each of them in the missing years – and how it’s damaged the people that they’ve become… throw in some gas-lighting and there you have the basis for a juicy plot.

The One That Got Away by Annabel Kantaria published by HQ
Everyone has one. An ex you still think about. The one who makes you ask ‘what if’?  Fifteen years have passed since Stella and George last saw each other. But something makes Stella click ‘yes’ to the invite to her school reunion.  There’s still a spark between them, and although their relationship ended badly, they begin an affair.  But once someone gets you back, sometimes they’re never going to let you go again…