By Heather Redmond
In this clever reimagining of Charles Dickens’s life, he and fiancée Kate Hogarth must solve the murder of a spinster wearing a wedding gown ...
London, June 1835:
London, June 1835:
In the interest of being a good neighbor, Charles checks in on Miss Haverstock, the elderly spinster who resides in the flat above his. But as the young journalist and his fiancée Kate ascend the stairs, they are assaulted by the unmistakable smell of death. Upon entering the woman’s quarters, they find her decomposing corpse propped up, adorned in a faded gown that looks like it could have been her wedding dress, had she been married. A murderer has set the stage. But to what purpose?
As news of an escaped convict from Coldbath Fields reaches the couple, Charles reasonably expects the prisoner, Ned Blood, may be responsible. But Kate suspects more personal motives, given the time and effort in dressing the victim. When a local blacksmith is found with cut manacles in his shop and arrested, his distraught wife begs Charles and Kate to help. At the inquest, they are surprised to meet Miss Haverstock’s cold and haughty foster daughter, shadowed by her miserably besotted companion. Secrets shrouded by the old woman’s past may hold the answers to this web of mystery. But Charles and Kate will have to risk their lives to unveil the truth.
An Author’s Inspiration
I sold my A Dickens of a Crime series as a trilogy, based on three different novels by Charles Dickens, who, as a brilliant young journalist in 1835, is my amateur sleuth for the series. The first book, A Tale of Two Murders, was based on A Tale of Two Cities, the second book, Grave Expectations, was based on Great Expectations, and the third, Christmas Carol Murder, is based on A Christmas Carol.
I used Great Expectations to give me some hints as to my Grave Expectations plot and themes. I made choices based on a reread of this amazing classic novel. I had to have a spinster in a wedding dress, a kindly blacksmith, some convicts running around, and fun names like Jaggers in my mystery. It’s all there, along with classic themes from the Dickens work like surprise revelations, the reluctance of the dead to stay dead, how the past is unavoidable and can act like an unseen hand guiding a life, the ambitions of children, and how one person can lift the expectations of another then crush them.
From that, I had to decide what interested me at the moment I plotted the story. I had just discovered I had a Jewish grandfather born in London who I knew nothing about. I was on a personal journey to learn more about the Jewish experience in London. That all became intertwined in my novel as well.
In Grave Expectations, Charles Dickens has just become engaged to Kate Hogarth, and he’s taken temporary lodgings down the street from her parents’ house in order to spend more time with her. But all is not what it seems in the neat building in Selwood Terrace.
Excerpt from Grave Expectations
“I will give up sleep,” Charles said aloud.
“You will not, Mr. Dickens,” Kate said with a giggle. “That will not serve you.”
“Your mind must remain keen.”
He tickled her cheek with one daring finger. “But I am such a fool for love. The more I do, the more I earn, and the faster I can afford to marry you.”
“Come, fool,” she said, standing. “We had better go upstairs. I don’t want to have to lie to Mother about never being alone with you in your rooms. You know it isn’t proper.”
He put his hands on her shoulders. “May I steal a kiss first?”
She tilted her cheek, leaving him a surface for his lips.
“Only there?” he said gently. “Is that all Mr. Dickens deserves?”
“Charles,” she whispered, her eyes meeting his.
He grinned and rubbed his nose against hers, then kissed the tip. “That will keep me. Your honor is as important to me as it is to you.”
“Thank you.” Her cheeks pinkened, and she stared at the floor.
He offered his arm with a gentlemanly flourish. “Let us go upstairs.”
“When did you last visit Miss Haverstock?” Kate asked, a little unsteady on her feet, as she softly took his arm, the pressure of her fingers almost unfelt against his coat. “I admit I am concerned, considering what Mr. Jones said. It was selfish of me not to demand we check upstairs right away.”
“You are never selfish, darling. Miss Haverstock uses that stick, you know, because of her bad hip. Maybe she couldn’t rise from bed yesterday.”
He and Kate stepped into the narrow hall between the sets of rooms. Opposite the front door to the building was a wooden staircase spanning the width of the hall, with extremely squeaky steps. Mrs. Haverstock was a small woman and didn’t make much noise going upstairs or moving in her rooms, which were over Charles’s. The noise she made was more like that of a mouse skittering than that of a full-grown person going about the business of their day.
As they climbed the steps, Kate having let go of his arm in order to lift her skirts slightly, he realized he hadn’t heard the mouselike sounds in days. When had he last seen his upstairs neighbor?
Kate glanced at him, a pinched expression around her eyes. “What is that smell, Charles?”
“Meat that’s gone off?” he asked, curling his lips with distaste. He’d smelled something like this before, half a year ago, when he’d been taken to the scene of a bloody suicide.
They reached the top of the stairs. The smell intensified. Kate coughed and pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and held it to her nose. “Maybe she is ill?”
Charles knew better, now that they were at the unremarkable front door of Miss Haverstock’s rooms. “It’s death, Kate. It can be nothing else.”
*Giveaway is now closed.
*Giveaway is now closed.
To celebrate the release of Grave Expectations, Heather Redmond is giving away two paperback copies of her fabulous book
All you need to do is answer this question:
Have you ever read a book by Charles Dickens? If so, which one?
• Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.
• Giveaway ends at 11:59pm BST on August 14th.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
• Giveaway is only open US Residents Only.
•Only one entry per household.
• All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
•Winners will be announced in the comments.
• Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
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Crime writer Heather Redmond is a committed anglophile, Dickens devotee, and lover of all things nineteenth century. She writes two mystery series, A Dickens of A Crime, featuring young Charles Dickens in the 1830s, and a new cozy mystery series set in Seattle which debuts in fall 2019.