Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Guest Post by Susanna Calkins, Author of A Death Along the River Fleet

Please join me in welcoming Susanna Calkins, author of A Death Along the River Fleet, to A Literary Vacation today! She has graciously provided us with a wonderful guest post on how asking questions inspires the stories she writes. I hope you enjoy it and be sure to continue after for more information on the book, the author, and the blog tour.

Readers often ask me how do I start my books, or what inspires me. Each of my novels set in seventeenth-century England began with an opening image—usually something very simple that triggers a number of questions for me. For A DEATH ALONG THE RIVER FLEET, for example, I had the image of a senseless young woman, running as if the Devil were chasing her (and I very much appreciate that the artist put this image on the cover of my book).

First I had the big questions: Why is she running? IS someone chasing her? Why is she barefoot and clad only in a shift? Why does she have blood on her? Why does she not remember who she is or what might have happened to her?

Then, I move to the next set of questions. Where is she? How can Lucy, my chambermaid-turned-printer’s-apprentice, come in contact with her? Where could they be that no one else is around? What will Lucy’s response be when she first encounters this woman?

I had the image of the woman on a bridge, but the only bridge crossing the Thames in 1667 was the London Bridge and that had been damaged by the Great Fire several months before. I had no good reason for either Lucy or this woman to be on the London Bridge.

Then, I remembered the lost River Fleet. From contemporary maps I could see that the river flowed from the north, went through the Smithfield butcher markets, traversed Fleet Street, and emptied into the Thames. (The river was covered over in the 19th century, and it is considered one of the great “hidden” subterreanean rivers today.
By all accounts, even in the 17th century, the River Fleet was no longer a river where boats could easily travel, but had instead become a place where people would dump animal parts, excrement, and general household waste. So the River Fleet--and the original bridges that crossed it--formed a natural backdrop for my story.

And because the Holborn Bridge was still in place after the Great Fire of 1666, with the un-burnt area and markets on one side, and the burnt out area on the other, it became the perfect place for Lucy to encounter this desperate woman. I made it early in the morning, with Lucy out delivering some books to a customer at dawn. That also ensured that few people were around.

After I had thought about my opening scene, context, and location, I began to have questions about how this mysterious woman would be treated, not just by Lucy but by local townspeople, soothsayers, apothecaries, as well as more educated physicians.

So I began to think carefully about the kinds of wounds and injuries this woman might have. On closer inspection, not only did this woman have odd wounds on her hands and an amulet of rosemary around her neck, but it was clear that someone had been doing bloodletting on her neck. Who would have done that? As the questions arose, it became fun for me to answer them.

Then, of course, even more questions arose. Were there techniques available to medical practitioners of the 17th century, that would allow lost memories to be restored? And even more simple questions—whose blood was on her clothes? And later, when the corpse of a murdered man is discovered by Holborn Bridge—had the woman play some hand in his murder?


Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Minotaur Books
Hardcover & eBook; 336 Pages
 Lucy Campion Mysteries #4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Lucy Campion, a ladies’ maid turned printer’s apprentice in 17th-century London, is crossing Holborn Bridge over the murky waters of the River Fleet one morning when, out of the mist, she sees a specter moving toward her. Frightened at first, Lucy soon realizes the otherworldly figure is in fact a young woman, clearly distraught and clad only in a blood-spattered white nightdress. Barely able to speak, the woman has no memory of who she is or what’s happened to her. The townspeople believe she’s possessed. But Lucy is concerned for the woman’s well-being and takes her to see a physician. When, shockingly, the woman is identified as the daughter of a nobleman, Lucy is asked to temporarily give up her bookselling duties to discreetly serve as the woman’s companion while she remains under the physician’s care.
As the woman slowly recovers, she begins—with Lucy’s help—to reconstruct the terrible events that led her to Holborn Bridge that morning. But when it becomes clear the woman’s safety might still be at risk, Lucy becomes unwillingly privy to a plot with far-reaching social implications, and she’ll have to decide just how far she’s willing to go to protect the young woman in her care.
Susanna Calkins has drawn a richly detailed portrait of a time in history and a young woman struggling against the bounds of her society in her next absorbing Lucy Campion mystery.

The Lucy Campion Mystery Series


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

Nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award

Nominated for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery (Lefty) Award

Buy the Book


About the Author


SUSANNA CALKINS became fascinated with seventeenth-century England while pursuing her
doctorate in British history and uses her fiction to explore this chaotic period. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two sons. A Death Along the River Fleet is her fourth novel.

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.

Death Along the River Fleet Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 12

Blog Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, April 13

Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, April 14

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Interview at The Book Connection

Friday, April 15

Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, April 18

Review & Giveaway at A Holland Reads
Interview at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Tuesday, April 19

Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, April 20

Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Thursday, April 21

Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Saturday, April 23

Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, April 25

Review at Diana’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 26

Review at The Editing Pen



  1. Susanna Calkins is a new author to me. These books sounds so good!! Am putting them on my TBR list.Is this is a series that should be read in the order published or are they stand alone? Should I just start with the first one? Eager to read one now! I'm a big fan of historical fiction!!

    1. I love historical fiction too! I haven't read this series yet, but I would imagine that reading them in order would be best...I find it usually is, at least for background information on the characters and what they previously experienced with each other.

    2. Thanks, Colleen! These really sound good. Hopefully I'll get to the first one soon!! But I have so many others on my pile to read. I'm sure you can relate!! :-)

    3. YES!! So many piles of beautiful books, so little time ;)!! When you do read it let me know what you think!!