Victorian Crime Mystery
Frances Evesham writes Victorian crime mystery. Danger at Thatcham Hall is her second novel. It takes us back to Thatcham Hall, the location of her first novel, An Independent Woman. Thatcham Hall ia a large country estate in Victorian England, where the reader will encounter more mysteries and romance.
Danger at Thatcham Hall is easy to love if you enjoy well-written, entertaining, moving, exciting, and romantic, crime novels, set in Victorian England. It was easy for me to love. Victorian England is my favourite place, so it was a joy to spend several hours wandering around the English countryside, solving crimes.
On this occasion, there are two guests at the Hall, and a murder mystery to be unraveled, which endangers the lives of the residents at the Hall. Nelson is Lord Thatcham’s ambitious lawyer, who is a physically and spiritually scarred man, having experienced trauma at war and the betrayal of his fiancée. He meets Olivia, a strong willed pianist, who fears she may have to become a governess due to the constraints women faced when pursuing musical careers.
They stumble across a dead body, and Lord Thatcham asks Nelson to investigate the accusations against one of his staff. Nelson accepts the job and with Olivia’s help finally disentangles the mystery.
There are plenty of richly drawn characters including a villain, a spoilt child, the imposing Dowager, the lovers, a mysterious healer, villagers, farmhands, and servants at the Hall. The reader is submerged with the characters into daily life in Victorian England, including a visit to London.
Once again, the author shows expert knowledge of Victorian England, which she transmits wrapped up in an enjoyable parcel of mystery, action, and romance.
Danger at Thatcham Hall can be read as a stand-alone. The action in the first book in the series, An Independent Woman, revolved around Lord Thatcham and how he met his wife-to-be, Philomena. My only complaint is that I would have liked to see more involvement of these two impressive characters in this second novel. Of course, it is no longer their story, but I came to like them enough to want to know more. If you have not read an Independent Woman yet, I also highly recommend it, too!
Frances writes historical fiction, as I do. It’s great to be able to chat with another author with similar interests as a writer. This is part of our virtual conversation.
- What would you say to a reader who doesn’t usually read historical fiction to give it a try?
Imagine living in a world where everything is different: clothes, culture, food, manners and customs, but where people’s deep feelings are the same as yours.
Picture yourself as a servant, up at dawn to clean fireplaces, or a labourer working every daylight hour on someone else’s farm, or toiling in a dirty, noisy factory. Perhaps you’d rather be a member of the aristocracy, rich and envied, moving in a small social circle, but closely watched, terrified your slightest mistake will see you ostracised forever from society. How would you feel if you had to marry for money, were forbidden to own property or travel alone?
Falling in love, longing for happiness, struggling against the difficulties and barriers of a past time stopping you reaching your goals: would you sink or swim?
When you buy historical fiction, you travel back in time to that different world, letting modern day stresses and strains fall away from your shoulders as, for a few, precious hours, you belong in another vivid time and place.
I think this is a wonderful answer, Frances! I absolutely agree. One of the most exciting things a reader can do is travel in time. It’s somewhere you’ll never be able to visit unless a writer takes you there!
- Where did the idea or inspiration for Danger at Thatcham Hall come from?
It’s such a delight to pick up a story and lose all track of time, reading murders, mystery, history and crime. I devour Philippa Gregory, Agatha Christie and Robert Galbraith as well as the 19th century novelists, Wilkie Collins, Mrs Gaskell and the Brontes, Charles Dickens, and my all-time writing hero, Jane Austen.
Danger at Thatcham Hall lets me introduce Olivia, a women with a talent repressed by the social order of the day, to Nelson, a wounded, bitter soldier searching for his own place in society. They spar together, trying to solve a series of thefts and murder, each wondering whether the other can be trusted.
It’s a joy to indulge a love of spooky old buildings, deep, dark woods and gothic crypts, and meet old friends from An Independent Woman; Philomena, Hugh and his irrepressible son John.
We share the same favourite writers, Frances. Jane Austen, The Bronte’s, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens, are so much part of my literary mind, that I’m sure I’d be another person if I hadn’t read their novels! I certainly wouldn’t write what I write or the way I write. I feel so much respect for them that I constantly turn to them for inspiration.
3- Can you tell us something about your next project?
I have a third Thatcham Hall Mystery in progress, and I’ve also begun a new series of short, contemporary murder mysteries set at the seaside in Somerset, called Exham on Sea. I’m planning to bring out new Exham on Sea stories every 3 or 4 months, because they’re such fun.
Somerset makes a terrific setting, full of misty levels, miles of sandy beaches, and the ancient, atmospheric sites of Glastonbury Tor and Brent Knoll. My own town, Burnham on Sea, boasts the shortest pier in the UK and possibly the oddest lighthouse, with nine wooden legs rooting it in the sand.
That lighthouse features on the cover of the first story in the series, Murder at the Lighthouse. Libby Forest picks her way through the intricacies of small town relationships to uncover the killer of the town’s famous folk-rock star, Susie Bennett, helped by Bear, an enormous Carpathian Sheepdog, Fuzzy, the aloof marmalade cat and the unsettling, secretive Max.
Somerset is a lovely part of England. I haven’t been there for a long time. I’m sure it’s inspirational. I’m looking forward to reading your short mystery, Murder at the Lighthouse, and your next instalment of the Thatchan Hall Mysteries.
The sea and coastal areas are no doubt an added stimulus for artists. The first two volumes of the Eyre Hall Trilogy are set almost entirely in Yorkshire and London, although the final chapter of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, also includes a sea voyage to Jamaica and back. However, my third novel takes place in Yorkshire and Cornwall. I bet that surprised you! I can say no more…
- What’s your writing routine like?
I’ve just started writing in a standing position, with a raised desk, to counteract the effects of sitting in a chair all day. Of course, there’s new research out now, suggesting it does no good at all.
When I’m in the middle of a story, I hardly notice the time passing, because I’m lost in my fictional world. I’ve taken to setting alarms to remind me to get up and walk about from time to time. When I get to a knotty problem, or can’t see how my characters can possibly get themselves out of their latest mess, I go for a walk on the beach and eat ice cream. That usually does the trick.
I’ve never tried standing up while writing! I also forget to walk around while I’m writing, so my legs feel heavy and swollen sometimes. When that happens, I usually go for a walk, too, but I think I’ll take some ice cream next time. Sounds like a plan!
I’ve had a great time answering your questions, Luccia, thanks so much for inviting me.
Thank you so much for coming, Frances. It’s been great having you.
That was fun!
Find out more about Frances:
Frances Evesham: Author of The Thatcham Hall and Exham on Sea Mysteries for readers who love Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Midsomer Murders and cosy crime
I’ll be doing Author Spotlights every Friday. I have quite a few lined up for the following months, but if you are an author and you would like to be featured, please let me know. I’m especially keen on featuring debut and independent authors. I enjoy all sorts of novels with engaging characters and compelling plots, especially romance, historical, mystery and suspense.
See you all next Friday for next weeks’ Author Spotlight.
Have a great weekend! Read a book!