It is always so exciting to finally open the publisher's parcel and see the final version of my printed books. Green was the obvious colour for the jacket as so much of the story takes place in a forest. I live near Delamere Forest in Cheshire, England, but in my book I call it by its ancient name, the Mondrem Forest. Back in 2019 I wandered through the trees, aware of how easy it is to get lost and how malevolent the dark spaces between the trees can appear. Next, I imagined my pregnant heroine Tabitha finding the body of a murdered woman beneath the Mondrem Oak, her corpse covered in May flowers. Not far from the oak a charismatic young preacher is camping with his followers: Baptist Gunn is the prophet of the title, appearing to prophecy the future while in a trance-like sleep. Alarmed and suspicious, Tabitha vows to discover the woman's killer.
"A fabulous brew of sin and science, predictions and superstitions, with a murder mystery at its heart. You won't be able to put it down."
(Deborah Swift, author of The Pepys Trilogy and A Divided Inheritance)
The Prophet is released in hardback and available from the usual bookstores:
UK 26 February
US 5 April
UK Audiobook 8 March
Destiny, prophecy and murder weave an intricate web in this beguiling historical mystery. Could a dark prophecy spell danger for Tabitha De Vallory and her unborn child?
Cheshire. May Day, 1753. Tabitha De Vallory's perfect life is shaken when a girl is slaughtered beneath the Mondrem Oak on her family's forest estate. Nearby, enigmatic Baptist Gunn is convinced that a second messiah will be born, amid blood and strife, close to the oak on Midsummer's Day. Could the murder be linked to Gunn's cryptic prophecy?
I'm so pleased to be able to share with you that The Prophet will be published this spring. Many new books have been postponed due to this dreadful pandemic so I’m delighted that my book will reach readers so soon.
The book is a sequel to The Almanack but is also a standalone story. Publication of the hardback will be on 26 February in the UK and April in the US.
If you are a reviewer or blogger you can sign up for an advance copy on Netgalley. Here is one reader’s opinion:
“This ravishing read is atmospheric and exciting, the perfect escape from modern day life.” (beadyjansbooks.blogspot.com)
Just click here to make a request.
The Prophet is a good pick for book clubs. The themes are: murder, childbirth, possession, superstition, nature, predictions, romance, and much more…
If you do read it, drop me a line and let me know what you thought.
I am delighted that the paperback edition of The Almanack was released in the UK in November 2019. An ebook version is also available retailing at under £4. The US paperback and ebook editions will be out on 3 March 2020.
Thanks to everyone who has already read it and especially those who have reviewed it or written to me from as far afield as New Zealand and the US.
The Almanack was a UK Netgalley Book of the Month and had tremendous interest thanks to a great new pitch from the team at Canongate:
‘A puzzle-solvers delight, this engrossing historical mystery is as bamboozling as it is fiendishly gripping. Tabitha Hart’s mother is murdered, and the only clues to her death lie in an old book.’
It has a beautiful new cover design that I love, reflecting the story of blood and entanglement perfectly! I have also had some great quotes for the new cover:
'Historical fans are in for a treat' - Publishers Weekly
'A dark and twisting riddle that is certain to keep readers guessing until the end.' - S D Sykes
'An ingeniously plotted, hauntingly atmospheric murder mystery.' - Deborah Swift
The story runs from Midsummer to Christmas through the English feasts and festivals, so I hope that as winter sets in you will cosy up with an edition in the warm.
Many readers enjoyed the 50 riddles that preface each chapter. In my researches it became clear that riddling is an entertainment people have long enjoyed at Christmas. Why not join them and see if you are smarter than a Georgian lady or gentleman?
The UK book is available at bookshops and from Amazon or the Hive.
The Almanack is ideal for book clubs. I have been asked what the themes are: murder, romance, superstition, enigmas, love, Time, the stars, and everything…
If you do read it, drop me a line and let me know what you thought.
To celebrate the launch of The Almanack My Book, The Movie Blogspot invited me to 'dreamcast' an adaptation of my novel. It doesn't mean it's actually going to be filmed - I just get the chance to imagine it.
My heroine Tabitha was a courtesan in London, and is sharp-witted, light-fingered and bold, a shrewd handler of people, and charming when she wants to be. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of intelligence and physical allure.
Tabitha’s love interest is rakeish poet Nat Starling, a Cambridge University drop-out, obsessed with time. His creativity mixes with bouts of stupidity and drunkenness. No apologies for casting Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) as the intense, long-haired writer.
Joshua Saxton is Tabitha’s devoted old flame, now a widower and the dogged village constable. Rugged Alex O’Loughlin would be ideal (convict Will Bryant in mini-series Mary Bryant).
Joshua’s daughter Jennet represents the younger generation: still girlish at 15, her pursuit of romance and superstition leads her into danger. I’d love a young Christina Ricci, circa Sleepy Hollow to play her.
Youngest of all is Bess Hart, the infant left in the care of murdered Widow Hart. Precocious and beautiful at 3-years old, she walks in her sleep and some claim she has second sight. I picture her as Sally Jane Bruce, the child actor who played Pearl in the classic noir, The Night of the Hunter.
The Almanack is located in Cheshire and the county town of Chester, a 2,000 year old walled city in England famed for its distinctive black and white high-gabled buildings. Tabitha’s home village of Netherlea is scattered around a manor house, where country customs are celebrated, from a blood-stained harvest through autumn bonfires and a snowbound Christmas.
I would love to see a director capture the mix of fairy story and murder mystery, so someone with the talent of The Night of the Hunter’s Charles Laughton springs to mind as a dream come true. I’ll never forget the magical escape of the children along the benighted river with a soundtrack of Pearl’s eerily sung lullaby.
I’m sure Laughton (and his wizard of a cinematographer, Stanley Cortez) would do justice to the stars and moon reflected in watermeadows, the snowbound castle, and flickering candlelight as Tabitha and Nat study the almanack for the next riddle and revelation.
To celebrate the launch of A Taste for Nightshade I was invited by 'My Book the Movie' blogspot to 'dreamcast' an adaptation of my novel. It doesn't mean it's actually going to be filmed - I just get the chance to imagine it:
In my dream version I’d like to resurrect Alfred Hitchcock to direct my novel. I'm picturing the atmospheric sets he used for Rebecca and the way Hitch used food to drive his plots . I’ll never forget the illuminated glass of poisoned milk in Suspicion, or Marion Crane picking over her last sandwich in Psycho.
My flame-haired confidence trickster Mary is a talented cook, impersonator, and born survivor. I’d give her role to Myanna Buring, Edna in Downton Abbey and star of Banished and Ripper Street.
Mary’s timid mistress is Grace Moore, warm-hearted and vulnerable Anna Maxwell-Martin (Death Comes to Pemberley, Bleak House).
While writing I pictured Grace’s weak but handsome husband as a young James Fox. The other male lead is escaped convict Will, to be played by The Last Kingdom's Ragnar, Tobias Santelmann.
The main location, Delafosse Hall, is based on a house in North Wales with forgotten tunnels, decaying summerhouse, tales of hopeless love and ghostly hauntings. If it could have Hitchcock's brooding Manderley appearance I'd be very happy. My dark mystery also takes the reader to London’s Golden Square, the convict camps of Sydney, Australia, and Maori settlements of New Zealand.
The food needs to be highly crafted, from aphrodisiacs and poisons, to a tiny sugar four-poster bed for a wedding cake and a miniature baby and cradle. When writing the book I studied sugarwork with TV food historian Ivan Day, who created the food for Death Comes to Pemberley.
I’m sure Hitchcock would conjure the twisting staircases of Delafosse Hall, the snowbound winter rides, flickering candlelight and create edge-of-the-seat moments from the twists and revelations.
Image stills courtesy of Hitchcock's 'Rebecca' 1940.
The History of a Novel in Five Objects