Crime Cymru is holding the first Welsh International Crime Fiction festival very soon, on-line (prior to being alive – apart from the murder victims – at the Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival in Aberystwyth next year). As part of the digital festival, 2021, I shall be moderator at an event on May 3rd. Moderator make me think of a dour Presbyterian frowning on sinful Sabbath activities, but I think my role here will be rather different, because I shall be discussing dark and dreadful Horrible Histories, Gothic crime fiction, with mistresses of the genre, Rhiannon Ward and E S Thomson.
Rhiannon Ward also writes as Sarah Ward, author of the DC Childs crime series, but as Rhiannon she is delving into the Gothic with her latest book, The Quickening. She is a member of the Society of Psychical Research and has studied Conan Doyle’s passion for spiritualism, which accounts for Conan Doyle himself having a star turn in The Quickening.
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.
She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening.
When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.
E S Thomson (Elaine) lives in Edinburgh. She has a PhD in the history of medicine and works as a university lecturer. She was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award, the Scottish Arts Council First Book Award and her first book for Constable, Beloved Poison, was shortlisted for the prestigious William McIlvanney Award in 2016. She’s the author of the Victorian Londons mysteries featuring apothecary Jem Flockhart. The latest in the series, Nightshade, will be published on 15th April.
London, 1851. Restless and bored after a long hot summer, apothecary and poison expert Jem Flockhart decides to redesign her physic garden. But plans are thrown into confusion when a man’s skeleton is unearthed from beneath the deadly nightshade, a smaller, child-like skeleton curled at its feet. The body bears evidence of knife wounds to its ribs and arms, and is accompanied by a collection of macabre objects: a brass bowl, a curious coin-like token, a set of tiny ivory sculls.
The police claim the victim is too long-buried for answers to be found, but for Jem, a corpse in her own garden is something that cannot be ignored. The plans to the garden, laid out some forty years earlier, reveal a list of five names. When Jem and Will start asking questions, the murders begin. Each victim has a past connection with the physic garden; each corpse is found with its jaw broken wide and its mouth stuffed with deadly nightshade.
As they move closer to uncovering the truth Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain encounter a dark world of addiction, madness, power and death that strikes at the very heart of Jem’s own history. This time, the poison is personal. . .
Find Elaine on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @es_thomson
As for me, the book I shall be focussing on is Shadows, set in the ancient decaying mansion of Llys y Garn, a house that is hiding a lot of secrets. Go on, read it. Read Long Shadows too, revealing the source of the secrets that Shadows uncovers.
And better still, join Rhiannon, Elaine and me on-line on May 3rd at 1pm. It’s totally FREE, but you can reserve a place through Eventbrite. The event will be viewed on YouTube and if you can sign in with your YouTube channel or a Google account, you will be able to post questions for us to answer.
You can support bookshops to buy our books: we are partnered by Great Oaks Books, Llanidloes.