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A Meadow Murder

Author Helen Hollick's intriguing new cozy mystery novel

Today I welcome English novelist Helen Hollick to the blog in celebration of her new novel, A Meadow Murder (the latest installment in her Jan Christopher cozy mystery series). Helen writes widely across historical eras, and her talent for inventive and immersive stories never ends. Read on to discover—in Helen’s own words—the inspiration behind her captivating new novel.

(And yes, the U.K. spelling of ‘cozy’ is ‘cosy’.)

Make hay while the sun shines? But what happens when a murder is discovered, and country life is disrupted?

Summer 1972. Young library assistant Jan Christopher and her fiancé, DS Lawrence Walker, are on holiday in North Devon. There are country walks and a day at the races to enjoy, along with Sunday lunch at the village pub, and the hay to help bring in for the neighbouring farmer.

But when a body is found the holiday plans are to change into an investigation of murder, hampered by a resting actor, a woman convinced she’s met a leprechaun and a scarecrow on walkabout…

 A Meadow Murder is the fourth tale in the Jan Christopher cosy murder mystery series, the first three being A Mirror Murder, A Mystery of Murder and A Mistake of Murder… see what I’ve done there? Yes, I’ve created a proper puzzle for myself because now every tale in the series will have to follow the same title pattern of ‘A M-something- of Murder’ (Suggestions welcome!)

Based on working as a library assistant during the 1970s, the mysteries alternate between the location of Chingford, north-east London, where the real library I worked in used to be, (the building is still there, but is, alas, now offices,) and my own North Devon village, but ‘Chappletawton’ is a fictional version, larger than my rural community and has far more quirky characters.

The main characters in the series, however, remain the same: Jan Christopher is the niece, and ward, of Detective Chief Inspector Toby Christopher and his wife, her Aunt Madge. In A Mirror Murder, Jan (short for January, a name she hates) meets her uncle’s new driver, Detective Constable Lawrence Walker. Naturally, it is love at first sight… but will an investigation into a murder affect their budding romance?

We find out as the series continues: Episode Two takes the young couple to spend Christmas at Laurie’s parents’ old farmhouse in Devon, while Episode Three sees us back at work at Chingford library. We again travel to Devon for the summer of 1972 in Episode Four – A Meadow Murder. And no spoilers, but the title is a little bit of a giveaway!

I had the idea for A Meadow Murder during the summer of 2022, while watching our top meadow being cut for hay. The cover photograph is my field – a real Devonshire hay meadow, and the scenes in the story are based on my everyday life… even down to the red Massey Ferguson tractor.

Helen’s Devon

My husband and adult daughter and I… plus two cats, our dog and two horses moved from the busy north-east London Borough of Waltham Forest to the peaceful, leafy paradise of North Devon in January 2013.

Not that it was very ‘leafy’ that January – we moved in with over a foot of snow on the ground. Because of the snow, daughter, cats and horses had to stay in London an extra week because of the snow. Fortunately the hotel she was in was within easy walking distance of the livery yard, cattery and a Tesco store… she had to go shopping for additional clothes.

As an adventure it was quite exciting (I’ll maybe use it for a story plot one day.)

Our Devon home is an eighteenth-century farmhouse, with stables and thirteen acres of land. The only difference since those early days, we built an extension flat for Kathy and over the years we’ve acquired more horses. We now have six including two Exmoor ponies and our three-month-old foal. Sadly we lost two horses recently, both within ten days of each other. We also have hens, ducks and geese and did have goats and pigs – expect to meet them all in a future cozy mystery – especially the geese!

Wanting something different to do writing-wise during the Covid lockdown I decided to try my hand at a cozy mystery series (you can blame Debbie Young for this – I love her Sophie Sayers tales!) I plumped for using anecdotes and adventures from my library years and decided to alternate the locations with my home here in Devon. Thus, my village has become Chappletawton, and with their full permission, my friend Heather is the shopkeeper and Hazel and Steve run the village pub, the Exeter Inn. (I’ve portrayed the pub as it is today, but transported Hazel and Steve’s characters back in time.)

Every summer we have brought in our own crop of hay, cut and baled from our top field – with the assistance of Andrew, our neighbouring farmer. We have such fun doing the hay, so I had to use it as a background to one of my Jan Christopher mysteries.

In the story, the walk Jan and fiancé Laurie take up the lane depicts my lane (sadly, without the elm trees,) as is watching a barn owl hunting over the field of cut hay. We regularly see the deer and the rabbits, and I love hearing the buzzards mewing overhead – so do think of joining me in A Meadow Murder and explore the Devonshire countryside.

I assure you, though, in the real world I have never found a dead body…

Helen.

“As delicious as a Devon Cream Tea!author Elizabeth St John

“Every sentence pulls you back into the early 1970s… The Darling Buds of May, only not Kent, but Devon. The countryside itself is a character and Hollick imbues it with plenty of emotion” author Alison Morton

 Read A Meadow Murder, and immerse yourself in country life during the summer of 1972 … and maybe solve a murder along the way?

Where to buy the book:

Amazon Universal Link: this link should take you direct to your own local Amazon online store https://mybook.to/AMeadowMurder

 A Meadow Murder is available on Kindle Unlimited

Also available worldwide, or order from any reliable bookstore

All Helen’s books are available on Amazon: https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick

About the author:

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/supernatural series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler.

She lives with her husband and daughter in North Devon, enjoys hosting author guests on her blog ‘Let Us Talk Of Many Things’ and occasionally gets time to write…

Website: https://helenhollick.net

Subscribe to her Newsletter:  https://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick

Main Blog:  https://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helen.hollick

Twitter: @HelenHollick  https://twitter.com/HelenHollick

 

2 Comments

  1. Helen Hollick says:

    Thank you Amy!

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      My pleasure, Helen!

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