The Story Behind A Twist of Murder
A Twist of Murder is the fifth in my historical mystery series, A Dickens of a Crime. It started in January 1835, when (yes, that) Charles Dickens was a parliamentary reporter, not yet a novelist, and tracks the start of his literary career and his courtship with Catherine Hogarth, his future real-life wife. The first four books were set in London, but I moved most of the action to Harrow on the Hill for book five, set in March 1836, to follow my former mudlark characters who are going to school there.
And what a school it is! Strange goings on indeed. The owner of Aga Academy seems to have sold off part interest to Fagin Sikes, a harsh taskmaster who treats the students like poor orphans, not paying customers. A servant girl is flashing around a treasure map. When a circus comes to town, some of the students vanish and no one looks for them. Soon after, the servant girl goes missing, and people finally start to care. When a coroner’s job includes researching rumors of treasure, that might get the highest priority of all. Charles Dickens and friends are called to the school to find the missing students, the missing servant, and the treasure.
When you are writing an ongoing series, the next story idea appears quite naturally as an offshoot of the characters from previous books. I prefer to hold onto characters instead of dropping them from book to book. I think it makes series richer. Therefore, the missing students and victims in this book have largely been featured in previous books or are related to important ongoing characters. This gives relationships between all my story people room to grow and change. Aga Academy had been mentioned and briefly visited in earlier books, so it was time to feature it as a main location.
Charles Dickens did a little treasure hunting in A Tale of Two Murders, book one, but that was nothing compared to his new adventure. As an ardent follower of the History Channel TV show The Curse of Oak Island, I love to have treasure hunts in my books. This was my first opportunity to create an actual treasure map, though. I confused myself a few times while creating it. I guess I wasn’t a pirate in a previous life, LOL.
This series is loosely based on the novels of Charles Dickens. A Twist of Murder includes elements of his novels Oliver Twist and Hard Times, such as the life of orphans and students, as well as his hatred of the Utilitarian philosophy of education. My conceit for the series is that Charles is having experiences and hearing names that will ultimately appear in his fiction. We know that his novels are far from being fanciful. Modern readers are so far removed from the Victorian era that we often don’t recognize what is in his novels was normal life at the time.
I had a lot of fun writing a book set in 1836 Harrow on the Hill, and I hope you enjoy this adventure hunting for treasure, missing students, and the murderer of a young servant girl.
A TWIST OF MURDER
In Victorian England, aspiring author Charles Dickens is on the case again—in pursuit of missing orphans, legendary treasure, and a cold-blooded killer in the latest installment of Heather Redmond’s charming series that reimagines the famous writer as an amateur sleuth.
Harrow-on-the-Hill, March 1836: In a sense, orphans Ollie, John, and Arthur have always been treasure hunters. The mudlarks have gone from a hardscrabble life scavenging the banks of the Thames for bits and bobs to becoming students at a boarding school outside of London, thanks to the kind and generous intercession of Charles Dickens. But now they’re missing—as is, apparently, a treasure map.
When Charles arrives at the school, he’s hit with another twist—the servant girl who was allegedly in possession of the map has been strangled in the icehouse. Unbeknownst to them on their spirited adventure, his young friends may be in mortal danger. Now Charles and his fiancée Kate Hogarth, who has come to join him in the search for the runaways, must artfully dodge false leads and red herrings to find the boys and the map—before X marks the spot of their graves . . .
Heather Redmond writes two mystery series, A Dickens of a Crime, featuring young Charles Dickens in the 1830s, and a Seattle-set cozy mystery series, the Journaling mysteries. Her latest Dickens title is A Twist of Murder, book 5 in the series, and the paperback edition of Tattooed to Death, book 2 of her cozy series, will be available in January. She also writes as Heather Hiestand and lives in Washington state.