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.
Sometimes I need a change from the present day with its endless news—endless recycling of stories that make me sad or mad or both. That’s when I lose myself in reading about the past. For the last week or so I’ve been reading a new biography of Edward Lear. Remember him? He was the author of children’s verse such as
The owl and the pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
Even more famous are his limericks, which have become almost as familiar as Mother Goose rhymes.
Like most people I had no idea that Lear was not primarily a poet, but rather a respected painter specializing in birds and landscapes. That was how he made his living and the reason why he traveled ceaselessly around Europe and the Middle East. I learned all this from a sparkling new biography by Jenny Unglow called Mr. Lear; a Life of Art and Nonsense.
During the past two weeks I’ve spent much of my spare time dipping into Edward Lear’s remarkable life. Unglow makes his life memorable by describing his unusual family life—he was the 13th of 14 (or possibly more) children and was raised primarily by an older sister because his mother couldn’t cope with all the babies.
Born in 1812, Lear was able to take advantage of the speedy travel made possible by the spread of trains across Great Britain and most of Europe and the steamships that took him to Greece, Malta and Sicily. His network of friends gave him companionship when he was in foreign lands. Although not an aristocrat, he found patrons among wealthy families who valued his pictures and enjoyed his cheerful company and his way with children. He was welcomed everywhere he went.
Certainly his life wasn’t easy. He suffered from a range of ailments including epileptic attacks as well as episodes of depression. He longed for the stability of marriage and family life, but his emotions centered on men and he never found a way of balancing his desires with the rules of Victorian society. Still, he maintained his friendships and found satisfaction in his work, although like all of us he often complained of overwork.
The past was not a happy place, and I wouldn’t want to live there, but visiting it now and then is refreshing. I urge you to read Jenny Unglow’s book, which is available now in libraries and bookstores as well as on Amazon.com.
People have lived through worse times than those we are going through today. Reading and writing about them today gives me perspective on the life and times of the 21st century. That is why I have set my Charlotte Edgerton mystery stories in the 1840s, a tumultuous period in both Europe and America. Charlotte Edgerton and her friends lived through many of the same events that Edward Lear did.
Later this month, the fourth Charlotte Edgerton mystery Death Enters the Convent will be published. I’ll write more about that in my next post.