What might Victorian England have to tell us about the present day?

Today I get to welcome author Donna Fletcher Crow to my blog. I'm thrilled to be able to announce the release of her most recent novel, A Lethal Spectre. It's the latest in a series of mysteries set in Victorian times, all centering on Lord Danvers and his wife Antonia. Think Lord Peter Wimsey in an earlier generation perhaps. The stories evoke Victorian England in its complicated dust and glory, portraying all sides of fascinating stories, and always including real history and real events. A Lethal Spectre

FIND IT HERE https://www.amazon.com/dp/198765613X/ IN PAPERBACK

is particularly close to my heart for it's portrayal of social and political follies, not so different from those we know today. So, find a chair, pour a coffee or your favorite beverage, and meet Donna Fletcher Crow. Hello Donna!

Sheila, thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today. And thank you so much for your amazing contribution to this book. I think we should tell your readers right up front that you have served as my editor—and a stellar job you have done, too!

Thank you so much Donna. I really loved doing it - both reading and editing your novel. As with each of your books, I feel like I've learned so much. But where do you find all this information - about time, place, people, historical events, etc...?

Oh, research is always one of my favorite parts of writing, and my experience for A Lethal Spectre was unique. I read absolutely every book I could get my hands on about the Cawnpore massacre—three of them first-hand accounts from the three survivors of the atrocity.

Since my goal, however, was to contrast the horrors of an Indian mutiny with the glamour of a London season, the London side was actually harder to pin down. Until I found an incredible website: They have scanned every newspaper published in Great Britain—which strikes me as being a very English undertaking—like the goal of having a copy of every book ever published in the British Library.

Since the site is searchable by topic and by date, I was able to coordinate events in London and events in India as the story moves back and forth. One of the things that struck me was how slowly news travelled in those days—especially after the rebels cut the telegraph wires. It’s such a contrast to today’s world where it seems like we know about events almost before they happen.

Indeed it is. Though there also seem to be just so many parallels between society then and now. Perhaps in our expectation to hear everything "as it happens" we forget to listen.

Now that I've read quite a number of Lord Danvers Investigates novels I have to ask: As the series moves forward in history, what inspires you to choose your next background topic?

Because Lord Danvers investigates is a Victorian true-crime series, the backgrounds rather find me. It all began when I read about the Stanfield Hall murders and was captured by questions about the psychology of the villain. A Most Inconvenient Death was the result. Also, contrasts fascinate me. Horrible crimes in the middle of Victorian middle class respectability or upper class elegance are something I am really drawn to explore.

 A Lethal Spectre has been a long time coming. An episode in a television documentary years ago was the first I had heard of the Cawnpore Massacre, but I knew then I would write about it someday. (So long ago, we recorded the program on a VCR.) I wasn’t able to get to England to visit the docklands (much changed today) and make a return visit to Brighton for my onsite research, which is always so important to me, until four years ago. Then I had to finish other projects before I could launch into this book.

My husband visited Docklands with his father recently. The area has indeed changed a lot.  I always enjoy that sense of really being there when I read your books. And I love that you're willing to share these photos of Brighton and London with us - thank you!

Do have plans for another novel in the series?

 That depends. I’m trying to keep three series going: The Monastery Murders, The Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense and Lord Danvers Investigates. It’s always a matter of which story bubbles to the top and presses me the hardest. Next will be another Richard and Elizabeth—I want to explore Jane Austen’s seashore sites with these sleuthing literature professors.

Ooh, that sounds fun!

You mentioned wanting to travel to England and see the sites before writing a Lethal Spectre: What's the hardest thing about writing historical fiction set in a foreign country? And what's the most satisfying thing about it?

 The hardest thing is also the part I enjoy the most—research! Especially the onsite research, which I insist on because one of my goals as a writer is to put my readers in each scene. I can’t do that if I haven’t been there myself. No matter how much I love it, travel is still expensive, time-consuming and exhausting. All that is made easier for me, however, because our daughter married an Englishman (wasn’t that considerate of her!). Since I now have five English grandchildren that gives me an additional excuse to travel. But in a way it also makes the research harder, because I’m torn between visiting family and taking off to do research. I guess some people are just never happy.

The other challenge is getting the details right. And that’s where an editor comes in. I have been blessed with great editors—all of them English. No matter how much research I do, there’s no substitute for being a “native-born speaker.”
So that gets me to the second part of your question. The most satisfying things are the joys of telling the story and the wonderful people I meet and get to work with—including my readers!

At this point, perhaps I should include a picture of Donna and my mum in England. One day perhaps I'll be able to share a picture of Donna and myself!

Before you leave, I should probably tell readers where they can find out more about you:

For information about all of Donna’s books
and pictures from her research trips and garden,
visit her website.

You can also follow her on 
Facebook or 

To keep up on Donna’s latest news, 
including lots of free books, 
subscribe to her newsletter.

And finally, here's the book:

Antonia and Charles are swept up in the glittering swirl of a London season as they present Aunt Aelfrida’s ward to society. In India Antonia’s closest girlhood friend is caught in the most brutal massacre ‘in the book of time’. What could these disparate events have to do with murders in London and Brighton? This engrossing story comes to life with all the vivid historical detail readers expect from Donna Fletcher Crow.

FIND IT HERE https://www.amazon.com/dp/198765613X/ IN PAPERBACK


Sheila, thank you so much for having me as your guest on Launch Day for Lethal Spectre. This was such a fun conversation--I loved answering your questions, and I loved reading it all again!
Sheila Deeth said…
One day we just may have to meet and converse in real life!
So ironic that I met your mum and your brother--who are thousands of miles away--and we are only a few hundred and haven't managed it yet--but we will. In the meantime, thank goodness for email!
Sheila Deeth said…
comment from Sally Wright
The Edgar Award Finalist Ben Reese mysteries
The Jo Grant horse country series

I’m so glad to see that Donna Crow has come out with a new Lord Danvers investigates. She uses her meticulous research to create such believable people and places. And juxtaposing the massacre in India with the social swirl in Victorian England is a contrast well worth examining. Congratulations Donna! I look forward to reading A Lethal Spectre soon.

Jean Harkin said…
A most interesting interview, and I've heard so much about this book from my friend Sheila throughout the editing process. I will order a copy from Amazon soon now that the book is released!

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