Fiction Reboot Presents: An Interview with DB Jackson/Thieftaker

fictionreboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot (companion to the Daily Dose)!

Have you ever wondered how authors make historical fiction “work”? Or better, how do fusions of fiction and fact come together? From works like Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell to Dan Brown’s re-envisioning of the past, books offer us a taste not just of what “was” but what “might have been.” One of my favorite genres, steampunk, does the same. It plays with our sense of reality. But the authors of such works walk a careful line. At last year’s World Fantasy Conference, I listened in on a panel of historical fiction authors as they discussed their ethical duty to the past. Today, I am happy to feature one of those panelists: David Coe, or D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker series. Taking place in Revolutionary Boston, the story mixes fact and the fantastic for a magical realism circa 1776. Thank you, David, for answering our burning questions!

DEAD MAN’S REACH is available now! Order today!

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  1. The Thieftaker series combines fantasy with historical fiction. What inspired you–and more specifically, is there anything about the Revolutionary period in America that lends itself to magic-making?

I was originally inspired to write the Thieftaker Chronicles by something I read about the rise of thieftakers, private investigators operating in the absence of established police forces, who recovered stolen goods for a fee. In particular, I read about Jonathan Wild, a corrupt, ruthless thieftaker who operated in London in the early 18th century, and who was responsible for most of the thefts he “investigated.” Upon reading this, I knew that I wanted to write about thieftakers. My idea was to create a character based on Wild who would be the nemesis for my honest, magic-wielding, thieftaking hero. That character became Sephira Pryce, the lovely, dangerous nemesis for Ethan Kaille.

200DeadMansReachI chose to set the books in 1760s Boston because the city lacked an effective police force, and so could well have been someplace where thieftakers might flourish (though there is no historical evidence to suggest they actually did). It was also the center of pre-Revolutionary political unrest in North America, and I thought it would be a rich source of story ideas. And, to get to your second question, Boston, and the Province of Massachusetts Bay in general, saw “witch” trials and scares throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Given the history of witchcraft in the region, it seemed the perfect setting for a magical story.

  1. The magic in Thieftaker is much more than wand-waving; it’s physical, bloody, even sacrificial. Could you briefly describe the methods to the unfamiliar reader? What about this kind of magic made it right for the story world?

There are actually several “parts” to my magic system. First, every conjurer, including Ethan, has a spectral guide who appears whenever a conjurer casts a spell. These ghosts grant the conjurer access to magical power, which dwells at the boundary between the living world, and the realm of the dead. Second, every spell must include an incantation, spoken in Latin, which shapes that power and gives it purpose. And finally, every spell has to be fueled by some sort of offering. For the weakest spells — illusion spells mostly — a conjurer might use water or fire as a source. Stronger spells — those that shape matter in some way, like healing spells, or conjurings that can shatter glass or rend wood — require a more substantive offering, taken from some living thing. A conjurer might use grass, or leaves from a tree. Most often they use blood, because it’s readily available, and because it is the most powerful living source. The strongest spells require the taking of a life — human or some other animate creature. These conjurings are dark, even evil, and most conjurers stay away from them.

I created this complicated magic system with the intention of making it blend with my world. As I mentioned a moment ago, my books are set in a time and place in which people still feared witchcraft. Spells require that my conjurers commune with spirits, speak in tongues, use blood sacrifice. All of these appear in contemporary accounts of what witchcraft looked like, and so all contribute to the conflation of conjuring with “witchery.” Thus, in addition to all the other trials and tribulations I throw at my hero, he also lives in constant fear of being hanged or burned for witchcraft.

  1. You create a very real fear in the audience that this time the protagonist(s) might not actually make it out OK. How do you balance the thrill of an adventure tale, the centrality of all of the characters, and the suspense of the action sequences?

Thank you. That’s kind of you to say. I want my audience to fear for my characters, so I’m glad to hear that you were worried! I’m a big believer in the power of point of view. I believe that the narration of a point of view character is, in many ways, the most powerful tool a writer has at her or his disposal. When POV is handled well, the intellect, senses, and emotions of the protagonist inform everything the reader experiences. Put another way, Ethan’s fear, anger, love, hate, frustration, confusion, etc. insinuate themselves into your emotions.

On one level, of course, my readers know (or at least think they know) that everything will turn out all right in the end. They don’t believe that I’m going to kill off Ethan, and they probably assume that those closest to him are safe as well. But they’re subject to the power of Ethan’s emotions, and ETHAN doesn’t know any of those things for certain. He thinks he could be killed at any moment. He fears for the safety of Kannice and Janna, Diver and Henry. It’s his emotions and uncertainty that bring suspense to my action scenes. I do everything I can to make his reactions as real and visceral for my readers as possible. I like to say that point of view is the nexus of character and plot. It’s the place where character and adventure meet to create suspense.

  1. Some of the characters which intrigued me most were the less central ones, like his fellow conjurers. Can you tell us a little about how you go about creating these characters who are only briefly shown, but still have strong and interesting personalities?

On one level, this comes down to doing my homework. The characters to whom you refer may be minor, but I still want them to have depth and dimension. So I take time to give them a history, to create a personality to go with the name and face. I don’t spend as much time on them as I do on Ethan, Sephira, and Kannice, but I spend more time than one might think. My readers may not ever learn all that I know about them, but the weight of their backgrounds is conveyed in the narrative, and makes them seem real.

And again, point of view plays a role in this. To Ethan, all of these people are living breathing people. So his response to them, his observations, the rapport he shares with them, all combine to make them seem more believable to my readers.

  1. I was very surprised (as a first-time Thieftaker reader) to realize that Kaille was not strongly on the side of the Revolution. What made you decide to pull back from the perhaps more expected approach of backing the Revolution from the beginning and make Kaille so mistrustful of the men we now know as the nation’s forefathers?

I spent a good deal of time developing Ethan’s character, filling in his background, coming up with a detailed personal history. He’s an ex-convict, a former navy sailor, the son of a naval officer. He’s also somewhat older than most fantasy heroes — in his mid-forties by the time of the action in DEAD MAN’s REACH — and so is more set in his ways than the younger men who tended to gravitate to the Sons of Liberty. It probably sounds odd, but given everything I knew about him by the time I’d completed this process, I couldn’t make him anything but a loyalist. You’re right: Making him a patriot would have been more expected, and also more convenient. But he essentially told me he was a loyalist, and I had to respect that. I’ll also admit that it makes him a more interesting character, and his political conversion, which takes place over the span of these four books, complements the emotional elements of his character arc.

  1. Rumor has it this is the last novel in this series–how do you, as an author, know when a story-arc has arrived at its finale? Will there ever be more?

I hope there will be more Thieftaker novels. I have ideas for more. We have to see how this last book does commercially. Frankly, after writing four Thieftaker books in four years, I’m ready for a break. I’ll come back to Ethan and his adventures eventually, but for now I have other projects in mind.

And I think that answers your question to some extent. I knew while writing DEAD MAN’S REACH that I was ready to move on to something else. I love the book — I think it might be the best I’ve ever written. But I also could tell that if I’d had to write another Thieftaker novel right away, it would have felt stale, to me and to my readers. I trust that instinct, and I looked for ways to tie up some of the plot threads that run through the series, to give my readers and my characters some sense of closure. There is room still for more mysteries, more thrills, but there is also a feeling of resolution.

*****

CoeJacksonPubPic1000David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, was released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, came out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

 

http://www.DavidBCoe.com

http://www.davidbcoe.com/blog/

http://www.dbjackson-author.com

http://www.facebook.com/david.b.coe

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidbcoe

 

Fiction Reboot: Author Interview with D.B. Jackson

Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot! Historical Fiction: It can be daunting, and yet history has so much to offer in terms of idea generation. Take D.B. Jackson’s new novel: Thieftaker. The concept (not unlike a bounty hunter) comes from 18th century America. Jackson then takes this idea and uses it as the kernel of a fabulous book, interweaving magic and mystery along the way. Thank you, D. B. Jackson, for joining us today with your take on the writing life!

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AUTHOR BIO

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, will be released by Tor Books on July 3. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

For more on Jackson:

http://www.dbjackson-author.com

http://www.dbjackson-author.com/blog

http://www.facebook.com/dbjacksonAuthor

http://twitter.com/dbjacksonauthor

THIEFTAKER

Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles, #1)Boston, 1765: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.
Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

1.      I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” Does this describe you? Could you say a bit about your early writing experiences?

I absolutely identify with that sentiment.  Writing is hard.  It’s a hard way to make a living, it’s a hard art to master.  Being a professional writer can be frustrating, discouraging, downright disheartening.  And yet, I love it and can hardly imagine doing anything else with my life.  Because the truth is, I HAVE to write.  I have characters in my head, clamoring for my attention.  I have stories burning a hole in my chest.  I don’t know if I’d die if I couldn’t write, but I’m certain that I’d go nuts listening to those voices in my mind if I didn’t have a way to let them out.

As for my early writing experiences, I wrote my first books when I was six.  Seriously.  I still have them.  They’re not very good, and the illustrations are truly atrocious.  But I was writing stories pretty much as soon as I could write words.  For as long as I can remember, writing and storytelling have been a part of who I am, of what I do.  Yes, it comes as naturally to me as does breathing.

2.      Not unlike many an author, I come from an academic background where writing fiction is a somewhat closeted affair. You say that you “thought better” of going into academe after the PhD (I confess, I sometimes think an organic goat farm might have been a better choice for me…) Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”—that decision to write for publication and give this work the time and energy it so deserves? In your opinion, what does it mean to be a ‘professional writer?’

I had just finished my doctoral dissertation and had turned it in and received my degree.  This was in May 1993.  My plan was to apply for academic teaching positions in the fall.  And my wife said to me, “Since the day I met you, you’ve been talking about writing a novel.  You have five months before those first job applications are due.  Why not work on a novel now?”

She is a wise and wonderful woman.  I started writing, and by the end of those five months had not only a few rough short stories that served as character sketches for the main characters in my first novel, Children of Amarid, I also had five chapters of the book and a full outline of the rest of the story.  I gave these to a friend who had agreed to act as my agent.  Months later, in one 24 hour period, I received a job offer from the history department at a very good university and a call from an editor at Tor Books who wanted to buy my book.  I had one weekend to decide which opportunity to pursue.  I chose writing and really have never looked back.

What does it mean to be a professional writer?  Well, on one level it means the obvious:  That you’re getting paid for your work.  But more than that, it also means comporting oneself in a professional manner, both privately and publicly.  Write every day, or as close to every day as you can.  Hit your deadlines.  Don’t speak ill of other writers or of editors, agents, or publishers in public venues.  Take constructive criticism seriously and gracefully; be willing to revise, to rethink, to entertain the notion that you might not have gotten it right the first time.  But also remember that ultimately it’s your book, and be prepared to stick to your guns if you feel the book needs to be written a certain way.  Those are the things professionals do; they separate serious writers from dilettantes.

3.      As an author and medical humanist, I am always interested in the intersections of history and fiction. Given your recent Thieftaker series, can you say a bit about the relationship between research, history and the creative process?

As I’ve mentioned, I have a Ph.D. in history.  I care about the discipline, and I strive for authenticity when writing historical fiction.  That said, I think it’s important to remember that for a novelist, history and research are tools that can enhance the creative process.  But that’s all they are.  As a writer of fiction — even historical fiction — my primary allegiances are to character, setting and plot.  If historical accuracy works within the bounds of those narrative concerns, great.  If it doesn’t, and if there is no way to make it work well, then accuracy be damned, because I have a story to tell.

That probably sounds more flip than I mean it to.  I took great pains to make THIEFTAKER as authentic and accurate as possible.  When I could bend my narrative to accommodate historical circumstance, I did so, because I wanted my story to be as close to history as possible. But in the end, I was writing fiction.  I was writing to entertain a 21st century audience, and I felt strongly that my first responsibility was to them, not to the history texts I referred to in my research.

4.      I know you often have sample chapters of your work online. I do this, too, as it seems a good way to market stories. Can you speak about this—about not giving too much away but still attracting a tech-connected audience? Any other thoughts on marketing strategies?

We live in an age in which people have grown accustomed to sampling before buying.  Music vendors make available small sample passages from songs, mall restaurants give away small pieces of food to lure in customers.  So it’s not that surprising that authors should do the same.  Frankly I welcome the opportunity, because I have always felt that if readers gave my work even a quick look, they would be drawn into the stories. And, I’ve found that my sample chapters really do help me sell my books.  I don’t worry too much about giving too much away in terms of plot spoilers and that sort of thing, because I usually limit my free samples to the first two or three chapters of my books.  My feeling is, anything that is revealed that early in the novel really can’t be considered a surprise.  So I make the work available, and I hope that it will bring me a wider readership.

I have found with THIEFTAKER, that used properly Facebook and Twitter are truly effective tools for publicity and promotion.  It’s not so much about shouting “Read My Book!!” at the top of one’s lungs, as it is about networking, about sharing links with other audiences and cross-pollinating our readerships.  It’s an exercise in reciprocity, and it definitely works.

5.      You had a very successful writing career under another name in fantasy before the historical fantasy series you are presently working on. Could you talk a bit about your decision to write under a pseudonym? Was the decision motivated because you wanted to strike out in a new genre, or perhaps do the old genre in a new way?

The pseudonym was basically a branding decision.  Nearly all my published novels up until THIEFTAKER had been epic, alternate-world fantasies.  They were set in Medieval-type worlds and had lots of intrigue, sorcery, battles, etc.  And they usually had many point of view characters and were written in the sweeping heroic style often associated with epic fantasy.  They are fun books; I enjoyed writing them, and could certainly see writing more of them.

But THIEFTAKER is a very different kind of book.  It’s not only historical fantasy, it’s also urban fantasy, and so has a leaner style, a more hard-boiled voice.  It’s got only one point of view character.  Each book also has a mystery element and each is a stand alone story, as opposed to an extended story-arc.  And so in nearly every way the Thieftaker novels are going to be different from my old stuff.  In order to avoid confusing readers, or worse, disappointing them with a book written under my own name that is nothing like my old work, we went with the pseudonym.  So, I guess you could say that we made the decision because I had already struck out in a new direction.  It was a  reaction to the fact that I was doing something new.

6.      Every writer has a different writing strategy—or so I tell my novel-writing students. How do you approach the writing process? Revision? Writers’ block?

The writing process can mean so many different things.  I tend to write every day, during certain hours — usually something akin to “normal business hours” while my wife is at work and my kids are at school.  I try not to work nights and weekends — that is family time, and that’s really important to me.  In the age-old “Planner vs. Pantser” debate, I am more of a planner.  I outline my books, although rather roughly.  I’ll outline by chapter with only a sentence or two describing in the broadest terms what is going to happen in each chapter.  That way I have some plot markers to keep me on track, but I also have enough freedom to let my characters and my narrative roam just a bit.

I write somewhat slowly (although to aspiring writers my pace will probably sound pretty fast).  I shoot for 2,000 to 2,500 words per day.  I have friends who write as much 4,000 or even 6,000 words per day; I can’t do that, in part because I tend to do a lot of polishing as I write.  So I don’t finish my books as quickly as some of my friends do.  On the other hand, many of my books need less revision after the initial draft is done, because I’ve taken that time to polish.  That said, I spend a good deal of time revising and rewriting, because I never, ever get it just right the first time.  I send my manuscripts out to beta readers and take their criticisms very seriously.  Which is not to say that I don’t sometimes disagree with some feedback or suggested changes.  But I certainly make sure that I’m resisting out of artistic concerns rather than egotistical ones.

As for writer’s block, here is the abbreviated version of my Writer’s Block Rant.  I don’t believe writer’s block exists.  Writing is hard.  It is filled with fits and starts, frustrations and setbacks.  The very idea of writer’s block presupposes that writing ought to be easy, that it ought to flow, and that when we get stuck we’re “blocked.”  That’s nonsense.  Getting stuck is part of writing.  Struggling is part of writing.  And so what other people call writer’s block, I call “writing.”  It’s hard, it’s uneven, it’s ugly.  That’s the nature of the beast.

7.      As the mentor for a university writing club, I often preach to my students about the value of networking and workshopping. Could you say a bit about your own responsive readers and mentors? Your approach to criticism?

I covered a bit of this in the previous question.  I am deeply fortunate to have several good friends — writers all — who are willing to read my work and give me feedback on it.  I respect their opinions and I take their criticisms seriously and in the spirit in which they are offered.  I also have an agent who I trust and love, and who is a great critical reader, and I have an editor at Tor who has worked with me for years, and who knows my writing as well as anyone in the world.  All of these folks are interested in the same thing — they want to help me make my book as good as it can possibly be.  And so I listen to their advice, I look for patterns in their reactions.  If one of them says something critical about a passage or a character or a plot twist, etc., I will consider it and see if I agree.  If several or all of them say something about the same section of the book, I KNOW I have a problem that I HAVE to fix.  But I trust them all and I consider their words carefully.  If I wasn’t going to do this, why would I have them read the manuscript in the first place, right?

8.      Do you have advice for new writers on “breaking in” to the publishing world? Or upon the need/value of agents?

Love it.  This business is hard.  H. A. R. D.  It’s hard to break in, it’s hard to make a living, it’s hard to deal with the delays and setbacks, and it’s just hard to do the work.  You have to love it to make it work.  You’re probably not going to make a lot of money.  Few of us do, and the ones who get really rich are the exceptions, the lucky ones.  So you have to just love to write, to play with plot lines and create characters.  More than that, though, you also have to love your stories.  People talk about writing “to the market” and I can tell you it’s almost impossible to do.  The market is a moving target, and while vampire gerbil novels might be all the rage today, if you start YOUR vampire gerbil novel now, chances are that by the time it’s written, and revised, and sold, and published, the vampire gerbil craze will be long gone.  Zombie Hamsters will be the new thing, and you’ll be stuck with a vampire gerbil book that no one wants.  So don’t worry about the market.  Write the book you love, the one you’re passionate about, the one that you really WANT to write.  Because if it’s good — and it’s far more likely to be good if you love it — the market will find you.

As for agents, every professional writer should have one.  Agents do more than sell your book to a publisher and collect their 15%.  Agents help you plan a career, they help you sell your books to foreign markets for translation, they help you interpret contracts and avoid bad contract provisions.  They help you make subsidiary rights sales (movies, games, etc.) They help you promote yourself and your work.  They give business advice, and, if you’re as lucky as I am, artistic advice as well.  I adore my agent; I can’t imagine where my career would be without her.

9.      Who do you consider your inspiration? (Literary or otherwise?)

Wow.  How much time do you have.  Literary inspirations?  Tolkien inspired me to read as much fantasy as I could get my hands on.  Stephen R. Donaldson inspired me to try my hand at writing fantasy.  Guy Gavriel Kay inspired me to write fantasy that was rich and literary and thoughtful and intelligent as well as exciting.

My daughters inspire me everyday, with their love of life, their enthusiasm for all they do.  My wife inspires me with her professionalism, her intelligence, and the fact that, beyond all explanation, she actually loves me.  My brother, who is a professional painter, inspires me with his talent.  My mother and father inspired me with their reverence for the written world.  Inspiration is all around us.  We just have to open our eyes and see it.

10.  Finally, are there any forums, books, blogs or other sites and services you would recommend to new writers?

Actually, there is one blog in particular that I can recommend without hesitation, because I am part of it and helped to found it.  It is called Magical Words — http://magicalwords.net — and it is devoted entirely to the craft and business of writing.  It was founded by Faith Hunter, Misty Massey and me (writing as David B. Coe) and it now includes other authors including Kalayna Price, C.E. Murphy, A.J. Hartley, Carrie Ryan, Mindy Klasky, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Lucienne Diver (who is also my agent) and others who appear on occasion.  The content is always being updated, and the archives are a treasure trove for those seeking advice on any aspect of writing or publishing.

We also have a book out from Bella Rosa Books called HOW TO WRITE MAGICAL WORDS:  A WRITER’S COMPANION.  I can recommend that, as well.

Friday Fiction Feature

Welcome once again to the Friday Fiction Feature, the weekly post that honors great writing as well as notable new releases! One of the more interactive posts, the Fiction Feature includes recommendations from readers collected the previous week. Do you have an author you would like featured here? Send me an email (bschillace) or post a comment!

Today, I will be looking at some up and coming YA releases, as well as some favored new releases of authors–one of whom is on tour! (PS: Scroll down for THIEFTAKER and MEMORY OF BLOOD…plus an anecdote about reading backwards.)

Jonathon Friesen’s THE LAST MARTIN is a new release by Zonderkidz (author represented by the Knight Agency). A fun new adventure of the Gothic variety, this text reminds me a bit of the John Bellairs series (circa 1950s). There’s always a Martin. One Martin. Martin Boyle already has plenty to worry about. His germaphobic mother keeps him home from school if she hears so much as a sneeze, and his father is always off somewhere reenacting old war battles. Julia, the most beautiful girl in school, won’t even speak to Martin, and the gym teacher is officially out to get him. Which is why Martin really doesn’t need this curse hanging over his head. On a trip to the family cemetery, Martin wanders among the tombstones of his ancestors and discovers a disturbing pattern: when one Martin is born, the previous Martin dies. And—just his luck—Martin’s aunt is about to give birth to a baby boy, who will, according to tradition, be named Martin. Martin must find a way to break the curse, but every clue seems to lead to a dead end. And time is running out!

One of Delacourt’s books for young readers, Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD was a Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year title and one of NPR’s Top 5 Young Adult Novels of 2011. It introduces us to Cas Lowood, who has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.

Released in 2011, Jason Lethcoe’s NO PLACE LIKE HOLMES is a bit of mystery fun for the youngest of Sherlock lovers. When Griffin is sent to stay with his detective uncle at 221A Baker Street for the summer, he is certain that his uncle must be the great Sherlock Holmes! But Griffin is disappointed to discover that Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street and his uncle lives unit 221A. His uncle is a detective, just not a very good one. But when Griffin meets a woman with a case that Holmes has turned away for being too ridiculous, he and his uncle team up to help her. Along the way, Griffin shows his uncle just what it means to have true faith in God, even when the case challenges that.  The woman claims that her husband was eaten by the Loch Ness Monster, but monsters aren’t real—or are they?

I thought, given our focus on mystery, these three YA/young reader novels were a sound addition to the Friday Feature!

NEW RELEASES (for the not-so-young-adult)

Now on a short author tour, D.B. Jackson brings us history, mystery and–fantasy! What more do you need? Introducing THIEFTAKER. A warm evening in colonial North America’s leading city. Smoke drifts across the city, and with it the sound of voices raised in anger, of shattering glass and splintering wood. A mob is rioting in the streets, enraged by the newest outrage from Parliament: a Stamp Tax . Houses are destroyed, royal officials are burned in effigy. And on a deserted lane, a young girl is murdered. Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker of some notoriety, and a conjurer of some skill, is hired by the girl’s father to find her killer. Soon he is swept up in a storm of intrigue and magic, politics and treachery. The murder has drawn the notice of the lovely and deadly Sephira Pryce, a rival thieftaker in Boston; of powerful men in the royal government; of leaders of the American rebels, including Samuel Adams; and of a mysterious sorcerer who wields magic the likes of which Ethan has never encountered before. NOTE: Jackson will join us here for an interview in the future!

This next one is quite dear to me, as I am a big fan of Bryant and May. Christopher Fowler’s latest release just hit American shelves in March 2012 (we were behind schedule for some reason–UK got it sooner). I will give the synopsis below, but first, a little about my introduction to the crime-solving duo.

I am an avid reader, but I don’t read in a straight line. I sometimes read books backwards, last chapter, second to last, and so on. (Incidentally, that does interesting things to Uncle Tom’s Cabin). I also often read a series backwards, beginning at the end. Naturally, when I purchased my first two of the Fowler series, I bought the latest and the first, intending to read them in reverse order. Surprise! The first of the series is actually the last, told from the latter year perspective of Detective May–a reflection on their first case. I was nonplussed. I had just been beaten at my own game–as if the crusty, history-loving Bryant had me in the cross-hairs of his somewhat dismissive sights. In love from day one–I present the latest from Bryant and May: MEMORY OF BLOOD.

For the crew of the New Strand Theatre, the play The Two Murderers seems less performance than prophecy when a cast party ends in the shocking death of the theater owner’s son. The crime scene is most unusual, even for Bryant and May. In a locked bedroom without any trace of fingerprints or blood, the only sign of disturbance is a gruesome life-size puppet of Mr. Punch laying on the floor. Everyone at the party is a suspect, including the corrupt producer, the rakish male lead, the dour set designer, and the assistant stage manager, who is the wild daughter of a prominent government official. It’s this last fact that threatens the Peculiar Crimes Unit’s investigation, as the government’s Home Office, wary of the team’s eccentric methods, seeks to throw them off the case. But the nimble minds of Bryant and May are not so easily deterred. Delving into the history of the London theater and the disturbing origins of Punch and Judy, the detectives race to find the maniacal killer before he reaches his even deadlier final act.