Coming soon: The Thief of St Martins: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 5

As you may be aware, (I’ve talked about it a couple of times recently) there is a new Dottie Manderson book in the pipeline. I plan/hope to release it on 27th October, as an eBook and paperback on Amazon, and as an eBook and paperback through other online outlets such as Apple (not the print, though, soz), Kobo, eBook through Barnes and Noble’s Nook, paperback at Barnes and Noble’s online store, and a few other places. Still not at Waterstones, sorry, that would be a dream come true for me, but hey, maybe next year? I can’t give you the links at the moment for anything except the Kindle pre-order page.

The book is called The Thief of St Martins. It’s the fifth book in the series, and I’m really excited about it. If you want to read a sample chapter (that may or may not still be chapter one by the time the book is released, I’m not quite decided, but it will definitely be in there somewhere…) you can find the link to it below this brief description:

We last saw Dottie in the Summer of 1934, discovering that her mother was in fact really her aunt, and that she was the shameful daughter of her mother’s sister, her ‘aunt’ Cecilia Cowdrey. Some months later, to help herself to come to terms with this revelation, Dottie accepts an invitation to spend a few days with Cecilia and Lewis Cowdrey over New Year, although she’s not too sure what to expect.

Sample chapter that may or may not be chapter one on publication ;D

Meanwhile though, if you’ve missed out on books 1 to 4, here’s a little catch-up: (warning, contains a few spoilers!)

 

Book 1: Night and Day:

London, November 1933. Dottie Manderson stumbles upon the body of a dying man in a deserted night-time street. As she waits for help to arrive, she holds the man’s hand and tries to get him to tell her what happened. But with his last breaths he sings to her some lines from a popular stage show.
But why, Dottie wonders? Why would he sing to her instead of sending a final message to his loved ones? Why didn’t he name his attacker?
Dottie needs to know the answers to these questions and even though a particular, very annoying young policeman Sergeant William Hardy is investigating the case officially, she feels compelled to carry out her own investigation into the mysterious death.

 

 

Book 2: The Mantle of God:

Can a tiny piece of faded cloth really be worth killing for? Is the past ever truly forgotten? Dottie’s new friend William Hardy asks her to find out more about a scrap of fabric found in a dead man’s pocket. But as soon as she starts to ask questions, things begin to happen. It’s not long before someone dies, and Dottie wonders if she may be next. Can the insignificant scrap really be a clue to a bloody time of religious hatred and murder?
Join Dottie as she works to uncover the truth of a distant past, whilst uncovering secrets held by her own closest friends and family. Can Inspector Hardy put the murderer behind bars before it’s too late? Setting aside his own personal tragedy, Hardy has to get behind the polite façade of 1930s London society to find a killer.

 

 

Book 3: Scotch Mist: 

After the funeral of her friend and mentor Mrs Carmichael, Dottie Manderson is sent on a mission to find the dead woman’s missing son and to inform him of the death of a mother he never knew. Unbeknown to her, Dottie’s close friend Inspector William Hardy has also been sent on a mission, one that will force him to confront his past. His conversation with the Mrs Carmichael just before she was killed opened up questions about his father William would prefer not to ask. A sentimental lawyer has plans to bring Dottie and William together, acting on Mrs Carmichael’s bequest. But after a personal tragedy and some hectic months in his new role, is Inspector Hardy ready for romance? Perhaps if no one got murdered, he could think about other things?

 

Book 4: The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish: 

Dottie’s had a hectic and difficult time: she’s attended too many funerals, and has just had a massive row with the man she thought she loved. on the spur of the moment she makes a stop off on her way home, in search of a dear friend who needs her help. In any case, a few days rest in a hotel by the sea is just what Dottie needs. It’s not long before she makes the acquaintance of the newly-widowed Penny Parfitt, and her attractive brother-in-law Gervase. Dottie impulsively accepts their invitation to spend a few days at Penny’s home in the country.
Quickly Dottie realises that secrets and intrigues lurk beneath the pleasant surface of their lives. A suicide years earlier casts a shadow. Was it really suicide? Dottie begins to think something sinister has taken place.
But after all this time, can she find out what really happened?

 

So now that you know a little bit about these, I hope that you feel intrigued enough and inspired enough to give them a try. There are more in the pipeline, but as yet I’ve only planned the first ten books in this series. Will there be more? Yes, I think there will. By book 11 we will be into the war years: the war no one ever thought would happen. So I am looking ahead and seeing the potential for that. How will the war affect the lives of Dottie, Flora, Mr and Mrs Manderson, and of course, William Hardy? Who will fight for King and Country? Who will be left behind, and what will they do to cope with the strain of constant danger? I’m quite keen to get to that point. But there’s so much to do first.

 

I’m what writers call a ‘pantser’ ie I don’t plan my books in meticulous detail in advance, but I write by the seat of my pants, almost literally making it up as I go along. BUT I do plan loo

sely, sometimes years ahead. But if I told you any of those loose plans now, it would ruin everything, wouldn’t it?

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the wonderful people who’ve said such nice things, and given me so much encouragement with my writing, and with this series in particular. Honestly, you have no idea how amazing it is to know that someone somewhere has read and enjoyed one–sometimes more than one–of my books. Thank you so much.

And thank you too to my family and friends for all their love support and active assistance, ‘without whom’…

***

It’s a Book Thing.

Reading, we are told, has a host of benefits; it helps us improve our word-power, it boosts memory, makes us more compassionate and caring, makes us more interesting, and it provides a means of escape from stress, anxiety and loneliness. So we ought to read, don’t you think?

Writers, too, are told to read. The received wisdom from most writing tutors and mentors, is as Stephen King says, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write’. We can learn so much about the ‘how-to’ of writing, simply by reading other peoples’ work. You can learn the grammatical rules, and how to break them. You can learn how to plot, how to create believable characters, you can learn how to create suspense or how to write dialogue. The nuts and bolts of creativity and writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, literary or genre, for adult or children, it’s all there to be absorbed, in the pages of other peoples’ books.

But as we all know, life gets in the way. Apparently binge-watching TV shows is at the moment, the biggest ‘threat’ to reading. I say that in quotes because there’s always some new threat, and nothing ever seems to keep people away from books for good – thankfully.

I’m as guilty as anyone for binge-watching TV shows. I’ve gone from being someone who seldom watches TV to one of those people who says, ‘It’s still early, let’s watch the next one…’ So yes, it’s eaten into my reading time. I can say without shame I have binge-watched the usual: The Making of a Murderer; How To Get Away With Murder; Imposters; The Staircase; Unforgotten; Homicide Hunter; Snapped: Women Who Kill; as well as all the usual British mystery dramas: Vera, Shetland, Hinterland, Midsomer Murders, The Loch, Endeavour, Morse, Lewis, Poirot, Marple, The Coroner (fluffy but likeable, and underrated), Death in Paradise…

I’ve made a concerted effort this year though, to read more than I did in 2018. And yes, it is good to pick up a book and dive in, escaping from the world around me into a fictional place that I have never seen with my eyes, but which I feel instinctively I know in my head.

As a child, I used to think all my favourite characters and heroes knew each other. That they all existed in a collective fictional world, just the other side of my perception. I imagined Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington meeting up for honey or marmalade. I thought that the Famous Five and the Secret Seven got together for the odd ‘case’, forming the Tremendous Twelve. These days we’d call that a mash-up, I think. Fifty years ago, it was just my daft idea. Maybe there’s some fan-fiction out there somewhere in which these things actually take place. (If you write this kind of stuff, message me!!!)

Well you probably know that I love murder mysteries, but in fact I’m really a romantic suspense secret adherent. (We meet up, cult style, by candlelight wearing sheets and murmur the password, ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ In a phone box – it’s a small group.) There’s a strong romantic streak in my work, and if I read a murder mystery ‘without shenanigans’, I’m bitterly disappointed!

What I’ve read so far this year:

By Patricia Wentworth:

Grey Mask: the first Miss Silver book, published in 1928, and the Miss Silver character undergoes quite a bit of refining in later books. But I do love this one! A recent reprint.

Danger Point: Another Miss Silver, but published later, in 1942 in the full power of Wentworth’s writing. This is one of her best, in my opinion, although others point to the weak heroine, and it’s true, she is a bit of a wimp, but I love this book. After a long time out of print, it has recently been reissued.

The Alington Inheritance: Miss Silver again, one of the later books, published in 1956, and irresistibly romantic, with a young heroine, lost treasure, and a truly evil murderer that you instinctively hate from the outset.

The Coldstone: older, non-series, not her best work, but ok, particularly good if you want to get a feel for idioms and customs etc of the 1920s.

By Peter Robinson:

Sleeping in the Ground: I’m ashamed to say I got bored with this about a third of the way in and couldn’t be bothered with it. Yet I’ve got most of Robinson’s books, having started collecting them in the later 1990s when we lived in Australia. I used to go into Brisbane city centre to a shop called Pulp Fiction, which sold only genre fiction and true crime. I loved that shop! And that’s where I first met Peter Robinson’s books, and those of Barry Maitland, Marele Day and John Baker.

By Elly Griffiths:

The House at Sea’s End: I bought this book because I loved the title. This is a great book for lovers of murder mystery overlaid with a historical context. The main character is a forensic archaeologist. And there are a few shenanigans between the main character and the second main character (spoiler alert!) Actually this is the third book of the series, so I really should get the first two next, and do my homework!

By Julia Chapman:

Date with Mystery: I love the continuing characters in this series, they are revealed with such affection and depth. I am a bit frustrated by how slowly the two main characters are getting together – if they don’t get together soon, I shall be really fed up! The mysteries are quite good, but the characters are better. This is book 3 of the series, book 4 is out in June. I shall definitely get that. I have done my homework here and read the first two!

And by way of a change: By Rupi Kaur;

The Sun and her Flowers: a book of amazingly touching and vivid poetry – you have to read this if you love language, or the intricacies and nuances of family life. Or life, generally. Absolutely beautiful. I bought it for the cover and the title, and loved it. The poetry is mainly short and very accessible, reflections on what it means to be a wife, a daughter, a mother. Beautiful, wise, and a bit intimate.

Next to read:

Cara Hunter: In the Dark.

M J Rose: The Book of Lost Fragrances.

Peter May: I’ll Keep You Safe.

Chris Brookmyre: Black Widow.

 

What are you reading?

***

Easy Living – sneak peek

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I was still lying there, enjoying the coolness of the crisp hospital sheets. So smooth. Ours at home were rather bobbly and old. ‘Pilling’, they call it in the textiles trade apparently. These hospital sheets were luxury itself.

Next to me the machines hummed softly, familiarly, and beeped out my heartbeat, gasped for me as they forced the air in and out of my lungs for me. I knew the one monitoring my brain activity was showing a flat line, that had happened yesterday and the doctors and everyone had called a meeting about it. Brain dead. That’s what they said and I thought it sounded more like an insult than a medical diagnosis. Away by the door to my private room I could hear several hushed voices. I recognised one immediately.

Simon! Simon was here.

In the background my favourite Billie Holiday CD was playing. My parents had brought it in for me on the second day. At their insistence, nurses put the music on for me – I never tired of Billie, Nina, or Ella. In my mind, my ‘brain dead’ mind, I sang along to those long ago songs. Billie was just finishing That Ole Devil Called Love, and knowing the order of the CD by heart, I knew that at any moment she’d start singing Easy Living which was my all-time favourite song, by her or anyone else. As soon as the first bar of the piano’s part trickled through the air, I felt that same wave of pleasure wash over me. The prickle of anticipation, the plaintive, love-lorn lyrics hanging on the air.

Another day, I thought, just like any other. How long had it been now? A month? Five weeks? That’s a long time to just lie in bed and do nothing. Although there had been rainy winter Mondays in the past when I longed to do exactly that. Sometimes here I hear the patter of rain on the window if the wind is blowing in the right direction. Such a comforting sound.

I felt Simon take my hand in his warm one. His hand seemed so warm, so big, it seemed to swallow mine up inside it and I felt safe, protected. I could feel the roughness of the dried-on blobs of paint on his fingers and there was a definite aroma of turps. He’d been decorating again. Other husbands have to be nagged into DIY but Simon had been using it as therapy to help him cope since my accident. He’s such a sweetie. I reckoned he must have redecorated pretty much the whole of our little house by now. But I didn’t want to think about our little house – it made me feel so homesick. You had to curb your emotions in here; after all it still might be weeks before I could go home.

It was amazing really – Simon doing painting and decorating at home – and him from a very wealthy family, but he had never wanted to use his family’s wealth to make his way in the world, he wanted to be his own man – so he had started at the bottom of his father’s firm and it had taken him years of hard work to make his way up the ladder. Our house was small and modest; everything we had we’d worked hard for, and were justifiably proud of what we had achieved together – building our life together from almost nothing. We had never had much money but we had each other, and that was the way we liked it.

His visits never seemed to be as frequent as I would have liked, so I looked forward to them, knowing he was working very hard and couldn’t always get in to see me. When he did come in, he would sit and hold my hand and talk to me about his day at work, about the petty squabbles between staff members or tell me about meetings. Sometimes he’d read minutes to me, or reports. Poor Simon. It wasn’t very interesting stuff but it was so good to hear his voice. And at least I was able to feel that even just by being there, by listening, I was able to make a contribution to our relationship.

But now it dawned on me he was trying to tell me something, and there seemed to be something important he needed me to know. I was still half listening to Billie in the background:

Living for you is Easy Living

It’s easy to live when you’re in love

I’m so in love, there’s nothing in life

But You.

I was just dreaming along with the music, head full of dancers in speakeasies, swaying to the music amidst a fug of cigarette smoke and bootleg liquor. Suddenly I felt a strong pressure on my hand as Simon squeezed it when he turned around to shout over his shoulder at someone, anyone.

‘For God’s sake, turn that bloody racket off!’ His voice broke on the last words and there was a click and an abrupt silence. I felt Simon turn back to me, and now I knew with a shock that he was crying! That nurse came over to try and comfort him, but he shrugged her off. A Jamaican woman, she always sounded so big and black and vibrant. She always brought a rush of energy and life into the room with her. She was my favourite. She always had time to gossip and laugh, always made me feel like she knew me and cared about me. Some of the things she told me you’d never believe! Things about the other patients, or which nurse was sleeping with which doctor and of course I wasn’t going to tell anyone, was I?

Someone whose voice I didn’t recognise was on Simon’s other side, and there was another new man in the room too. My favourite doctor, Dr Nadim was not there, which was strange. Dr Nadim was another really nice person – so considerate – never treated you like a nameless lump of meat. Even if there’s no one else in the room, it’s always, ‘Mrs Cooper, I’m just going to do this’, or ‘Good morning Mrs Cooper, how are you today?’ So kind. So reassuring. He must have known how frightened I was at first. I’d never been in hospital before.

One of the other men told Simon that he was doing the right thing, no matter how hard it may seem. What did that mean, I wondered.

Everything had seemed so nice and normal, so everyday-ish, that I was really startled when I heard a couple of clicks and realised that the humming, beeping and gasping next to me had stopped. The machines that had been my constant companions for months had been switched off. The room seemed loud with the silence that followed.

At first I thought they were going to wake me up. I felt such a surge of excitement. After all this time, it had finally happened! I was better! They must have discovered I could breathe on my own now. But Simon’s hand clutched mine even more tightly, his other hand snagged in the bedclothes and his sad, silent weeping became anguished sobbing, and then slowly it began to dawn on me that whatever this was, it wasn’t good.

***