So our two month long extravaganza begins today, fittingly, where it all began for me–with SILENT IN THE GRAVE. I had been writing novels for fourteen years without being published when I hit upon the idea of an aristocratic lady detective bent on solving her husband’s murder. (The notion of a particularly attractive half-Roma professional enquiry agent to lend a hand took a bit longer to come to me…)
I submitted the manuscript to my agent on March 13, 2003. It sold, after MANY rejections, in the summer of 2005 and made its debut in 2007. It was nominated for two RITAs–one of which it won, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, an Agatha, a Last Laugh, and a Dilys Winn, and was featured in the “Book-a-Day” Calendar for 2007. It is best known for its first line:
To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.
To this day, that line is one of the things I am proudest of having written not just because it’s a good hook but because it sums up so succinctly who Julia Grey is as a narrator. She’s arch, she’s witty, and a Victorian woman with modern sensibilities.
Not familiar with the book? Here’s what you’ve been missing:
“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”
These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests. Prepared to accept that Edward’s death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.
Already a fan of Lady Julia? Then here are a few things you probably didn’t know:
*Portia was named Rosalind in the first draft.
*The book was intended to be set in 1816; it wasn’t until I was fifty pages into it that I changed to the late-Victorian setting of 1886 instead of the earlier Regency era.
*Nicholas Brisbane was originally conceived as a Jewish character instead of half Roma.
*In the preliminary outline, Monk was a Chinese manservant.
*Morag was named after a surly girl working in the Glasgow airport.
Want a signed copy of SILENT IN THE GRAVE? Stick around this week, and I’ll tell you how to enter!