Book Launch! Connie Berry’s A Legacy of Murder.

Tracee: Connie, the next in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series releases tomorrow (yes, folks, there’s still time to pre-order!) and all of your fellow Miss Demeanors are excited for the week ahead.

Left: Book Cover A LEGACY OF MURDER; Right: Connie Berry

Connie: Hello, Tracee! Thank you for welcoming me to Miss Demeanors, not as a blogger this time but a guest. I’m thrilled to announce the release of A Legacy of Murder, the second book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. I had loads of fun writing this one and hope readers will enjoy reading it.

Tracee: While we all love Kate, I’m sure a lot of returning readers will want to know if detective inspector Tom Mallory makes a return appearance?

Connie: Of course! While Kate remains the main character, Tom will be on the scene. After all, A Legacy of Murder is set in the fictional village of Long Barston, Suffolk, which is on Tom’s patch. Whatever mayhem ensues, he’s on the job. And, of course, his relationship with Kate is very much on his mind—and hers.

Tracee: What about other on-going characters?  

Connie: Tom’s mother (the one who doesn’t like Americans) will be there. We heard all about her in A Dream of Death. Now Kate must deal with her in person, and we’ll see how well they get along. Kate’s own mother, Linnea Larson, will make a return appearance as Kate’s trusted advisor. Tom once described Linnea as the “fixed point” in Kate’s life, but life has a tendency to change, doesn’t it? Kate’s daughter, Christine, will return as well. In A Dream of Death, the volatile young Oxford University student had a walk-on. In A Legacy of Murder, she plays a major role, causing her mother not a few sleepless nights. And then (since I pretty much killed off or otherwise disposed of just about everyone on the Isle of Glenroth) there will be new characters populating the village of Long Barston—Lady Barbara Finchley-fforde and her friend, Violet Bunn; Albert Mugg, Lady Barbara’s über-loyal butler; Ivor Tweedy, an eccentric antiquities dealer; Danny, a little boy who sees more than he realizes; a pair of rival pub owners; and even a dishy vicar.

Left: Lavenham door; Right: Lavenham garden

Tracee: When you create a character, do you know they will be ‘on-going,’ or does that evolve as their place in the story line takes hold?

Connie: Although Kate and Tom may return one day to the Isle of Glenroth, I knew from the beginning that Scotland wouldn’t be a permanent location for the series. So (with a few exceptions) the cast of characters in Scotland were either killed, arrested, or sent off to other locales. The characters who carry over to A Legacy of Murder are those revolving most closely around Kate and Tom. And since Kate and Tom will remain in Long Barston for a while, we’ll definitely see more of Lady Barbara, Violet Bunn, and Ivor Tweedy. In my WIP, tentatively entitled A Pattern of Betrayal, Kate is running Ivor’s antiquities business while he recovers from bilateral hip surgery.

Tracee: The first in the series, A Dream of Death, was set in Scotland while A Legacy of Murder is in Suffolk. What enticed you to Suffolk in particular? 

Left: Lavenham Suffolk; Right: Suffolk Lane

Connie: Suffolk, in my opinion, is one of least-visited and most underrated parts of England. The coastline is incredibly picturesque and the salt marshes in the north brooding and mysterious, but most of Suffolk has a gentle, pastoral beauty, captured by the early nineteenth-century painter Constable. What I love is the history. After the end of Roman rule (around 410 A.D.), Suffolk and Norfolk (the south folk and the north folk), formed the ancient Kingdom of East Anglia, settled by tribes from northern Germany and Denmark. This is Anglo-Saxon territory. Narrow, one-track lanes bounded by hedgerows connect impossibly quaint villages with astonishingly well-preserved ancient buildings. The market town of Lavenham, for example, is one of the best-preserved medieval villages in Britain with over 320 listed timber-frame structures. Last October, Bob and I rented a stunning fourteenth-century weaver’s cottage near Lavenham’s village center and spent time soaking up the history. Perhaps because of its remoteness and rich history, Suffolk has been a favorite setting for mystery writers like Dorothy Sayers, P. D. James, Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid, and Charles Todd.

Left: Lavenham bedroom; Right: Lavenham kitchen

Tracee: You come by your love of antiques honestly. I believe your parents even opened a store in order to justify continuing to acquire! Was that the starting point for the idea for the series, or did that come later in the creative process?

Connie: I knew from the beginning that my protagonist would share my personal history, growing up in the high-end antiques trade, so that certainly was a starting point. Writers are advised to write what they know, and I know what it is to live every day with objects of the past. Once as a child, I asked my mother why we couldn’t have new furniture like everyone else. “Our furniture has a history,” she answered. “So much more interesting, don’t you think?” Writers, however, also write what they love, so the British setting was natural for me. During my college years, I studied the modern English novel at St. Clare’s College, Oxford. As a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying Anglophile, I can think of nothing better than a mystery set somewhere in the British countryside.

Tracee: I love history and think the idea of seeing history through antiques is a marvelous adventure. Are the secrets of your mysteries, for example the Finchley Hoard, based on real finds?

Left: Flatford Mill by Constable; Right: Sutton Hoo Warrior’s Mask

Connie: Absolutely. Suffolk is known for its treasure troves. In 1942, a ploughman accidentally dug up the Mildenhall Treasure, a large and immensely valuable hoard of Roman silver dating from 390 A.D. Then in 1992, a metal detectorist unearthed the Hoxne Hoard, the largest hoard in Britain of Roman coins, silver, and gold, dating from 407 A.D. Suffolk’s most famous treasure trove is Sutton Hoo, the site of two sixth- and early seventh-century Anglo-Saxon burial mounds. One contained an undisturbed ship burial, including a wealth of artefacts now in the British Museum. In each of the Kate Hamilton books, a valuable antique is integral to the plot. In A Dream of Death, a seventeenth-century marquetry casket contains secrets someone is determined to conceal. In A Legacy of Murder, a missing blood-red ruby ring holds the key to a series of unsolved deaths and a centuries-old legacy of murder. 

Tracee: Where can fans find you this fall? 

Connie: This fall will be super busy. After my launch party for A Legacy of Murder in Columbus, Ohio, on October 12th (details on www.connieberry.com), I’ll be attending Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Dallas and New England Crime Bake in Boston. On November 17th, I’ll be part of a mystery panel at the Barnes & Noble in Champaign, Illinois. On November 23rd I’ll be signing books at The Learned Owl bookstore in Hudson, Ohio; and in December I’ll be signing books and talking about holiday-themed mysteries at libraries near Cleveland (Mayfield Village on December 7th and Middleburg Heights on December 12th. Details on my website). If you live near any of these locations, please stop in and say hello!

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