Thursday, April 9, 2015

Guest Post by Susanna Calkins, Author of The Masque of a Murderer

Ever since I was working on my PhD in history, I was intrigued by 17th century England, which is why I set my mysteries featuring Lucy Campion—a chambermaid turned printer’s apprentice--during this time period. Often considered a “world turned upside down,” England during this time was in enduring religious and political upheaval, civil strife and warfare, along with class and gender conflicts.  A strong legal tradition permeated English society, in both civic and ecclesiastic settings, as did a 'bottom-up' tradition of community monitoring and control.  But there was nothing like the police force that emerged in the eighteenth century, nor was the jury and trial system exactly the same.

Woodcut depicting executions at Newgate Prison

The 1660s represented an attempt to regain order, with the restoration of the Stuart line King Charles II (son of Bonny Prince Charles, beheaded at the order of Cromwell's Parliament). Yet, under Charles, theaters were reopened, Puritan stringency was cast aside, and a general frenzied air permeated the first few years of his reign.

Between 1664 and 1666, two great disasters befell England--London most catastrophically.  First, the plague struck heavily, killing thousands and thousands of people. Then, before anyone could even recover, the Great Fire of London swept through much of the city, destroying nearly 13000 homes and rendering thousands homeless. The struggle for order was formidable, and serves as the backdrop of my first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate.

Consequently, a remarkable social mobility occurred among the survivors, as servants and apprentices took over their master's homes and livelihoods.  While the fire courts sought to deal with these impostors and usurpers,  identity and property theft were widespread, all themes that feature prominently in From the Charred Remains and
The Masque of a Murderer.   

About The Masque of a Murderer


Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Minotaur Books/St. Martins Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 323

Series: Book Three, Lucy Campion Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

In Susanna Calkins’ next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her—that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.

Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate’s son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.

In The Masque of a Murderer, Susanna Calkins has once again combined finely wrought characters, a richly detailed historical atmosphere, and a tightly-plotted mystery into a compelling read.

Lucy Campion Mystery Series Titles

Book One: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate
Macavity Award Finalist Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (2014)
Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Selection (“Mystery Pick” and “Featured New Arrival”)
Chicago Book Review – Best Books of 2013

Book Two: From the Charred Remains (Paperback release on March 17, 2015)
Short-listed for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award (2015)

Book Three: The Masque of a Murderer (coming April 2015!)

Praise for the Lucy Campion Mystery Series

“…the high-quality writing augurs well for future outings.” -Publisher’s Weekly

“Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the real killer entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax with London in flames. This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London.” -Booklist

“Calkins’ debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail.” -Kirkus

“A historical mystery with originality and great attention to detail. Readers are transported to 17th century England, a time when social classes were just beginning to change. The characters are multi-dimensional–including the smart, adventurous Lucy Campion–and the mystery will keep readers turning the pages, and they’ll eagerly await the next book in the series.” RT Book Reviews (4 Stars)

“…an intricate tale of fraud and blackmail, leavened by a touch of romance. Calkins, who holds a doctorate in British history, puts her knowledge to sparkling use in this intriguing mystery, which combines a gripping plot with rich historical detail and one of the most admirable protagonists in the genre.” -The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Calkins is able to seamlessly weave this romance into the story without making it the main plot line, and keeping the mystery the main focus of the story….The puzzles, anagrams, and many secrets combine to make intertwining plot twists that keep the pages turning. FROM THE CHARRED REMAINS is an exciting, secret filled, historical mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end.” –Fresh Fiction (Reviewer’s Pick)

“A good yarn and a fascinating look at life in England in a time when things began to change…social classes, positions, servants’ rights…all because of plague and fire.” -Book Babe Blog

“For me, this book was more than a mystery. It was an eye-opening look at what London was like in the mid-1660s, including the plague and fire that ravaged London, class struggle, the plight of women, and the laws of the time. The author’s engaging writing style made it easy to slip back into the past and experience these things with Lucy.” -Book of Secrets

“A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is Susanna Calkins’ absorbing debut novel. Just a warning that time WILL easily slip away as you become engrossed in this historical fiction mystery.” -1776 Books: A Philadelphian’s Literary Journey

Pre-Order The Masque of a Murderer

Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

About the  Author

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, where she is an educator at Northwestern
University. With a PhD in history, her historical mysteries feature Lucy Campion, a 17th century chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, was a finalist for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). The second in this series, From the Charred Remains, is currently a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, The Masque of a Murderer, will be released in April 2015.

For more information and to subscribe to Susanna Calkins’ newsletter please visit her website. You can also follow her blog, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


The Masque of a Murderer Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, March 16

Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, March 17

Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, March 18

Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, March 20

Spotlight at Historical Readings & Reviews

Monday, March 23

Review & Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, March 25

Review & Interview at The Emerald City Book Review

Tuesday, March 31

Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, April 1

Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Thursday, April 2

Review at Just One More Chapter

Monday, April 6

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, April 7

Spotlight at The Genre Queen

Thursday, April 9

Review at The Lit Bitch
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Friday, April 10

Review at Book Nerd

Monday, April 13

Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, April 14

Review at Book Babe

Thursday, April 16

Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, April 17

Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past


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