As summer moves into fall and the days grow shorter, I am pleased to announce the publication of my newest Charlotte Edgerton Mystery story. This one is set in Florence, Italy, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and a magnet for 19th century Americans fascinated by the historical roots of the art and culture that dazzled them. Coming from a new country at a time when photography didn’t exist and travel was slow and difficult, they could scarcely believe the beauty that they found in Italy. Charlotte and her family were among the American visitors in 1849. Death Enters the Convent is the story of what happened during their visit.
Charlotte and Daniel moved to Italy to save Daniel’s life, but would the mystery they find there threaten Charlotte’s? While Daniel battles consumption, Charlotte explores the beauty of the city, but discovers ominous signs of violence everywhere, even on the grounds of a quiet convent. During the revolutionary year of 1849, ancient institutions are struggling to maintain their traditional power against the threatening forces of change. When peaceful nuns are struck down by a mysterious illness, and a grieving widow is attacked, the convent is thrown into turmoil. And then a priceless chalice—the most precious treasure of the convent—disappears. The authorities will not act, but Charlotte is determined to solve the mystery and save the besieged convent.
While Daniel fights to defeat the illness that threatens him, Charlotte must act on her own to protect her family and friends. Can she trust the mysterious painter who offers to help? What does he know about the scandalous documents found in the convent library? Can Charlotte outwit the machinations of greedy enemies with a long list of grievances, while also protecting the nuns and restoring the fortunes of Santa Chiara? Never before has she faced such a bewildering enemy.
Join Charlotte and her friends and leave the world of endless screens and noisy voices to visit a city where the past lingers and casts its shadow on everyday life and death. Death Enters the Convent is available in print and in a Kindle version at Amazon.com.
Here in northern California we have been preoccupied by the wildfires that are threatening homes and property in many parts of the state. Even in San Francisco, which is miles away from the nearest fire, the vague smell of smoke hovers over us and on some days the sky in the morning has an ominous yellowy-greenish hue. City dwellers are sometimes thought to be immune to changes in the natural world, but nature has intruded on us this year and we have become preoccupied by it.
The wildfires in so many western states—made much worse by the hot, dry weather that has prevailed—are only one example of the way the natural world has been changing our view of the power of nature. The long, hot summer and the disastrous hurricanes have affected the lives of people throughout the country. And the hurricane season has only started. All the measures that we have taken to tailor weather to our preferences are failing us. We can’t spend all of our time hunkering down in our air-conditioned houses and cars. Nature is taking its revenge and forcing us to consider how we live and work.
Last year when I visited London, I bought a book called Weatherland: Writers and artists under English Skies. The author, Alexandra Harris, traces the history of the way writers and artists have been influenced by English weather over the centuries. The ever-changing British weather has encouraged a deep interested in tracking the vagaries of
changes in the weather. Even architecture has been impacted. The warm summers of the 1720s and 1730s, as reported by Harris, have been suggested as an incentive to introduce the neoclassical style buildings in cities like Bath. Although as she explains the “high ceilings and open colonnades were considerably less appealing” when the average chilly English climate reappeared in later years.
The 19th century was one that brought dampness and rain to much of England. Byron wrote “Morn came and went and came, and brought no day,/And men forgot their passions in the dread…” As the century went on and cities grew in size and density, rain and fog became a part of the plot as in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House in which rain falls throughout the first twelve chapters and weather seems to become an integral character in the story.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the influence of people on the weather was recognized as being as important as the influence of weather on people. The use of fossil fuels and the growth
of manufacturing led to increasing episodes of smog both in England and America. The culmination, for London, was the great smog of December 1952 which killed several thousand people. At last the general public began to pay attention and the first Clean Air Act was passed in 1956.
Now we are again to be in an era when mankind is impacting weather so strongly that once again people throughout the world are in danger. Climate change is causing rising temperatures for oceans and land. Unprecedented storms are increasing in numbers and violence. Deserts are expanding in Africa and coastlines are receding as the oceans rise. Although our national government has become reluctant to act on the clear danger, if enough people push hard enough, we will be able to stop the reckless policies of our so-called leaders and insist on regulations to limit the worst effects of these changes.
Reading Wonderland won’t give you a background in climate science, but it is a great reminder of how important weather has always been in the life of human beings.