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.
Perhaps it is the tax season that started a rush among my friends to get rid of clutter, especially old tax forms. But getting rid of paper forms and receipts is only the start of a decluttering ritual that has been sweeping through the country. Marie Kondo’s 2014 book on decluttering started a trend.
Perhaps it is the echo of spring cleaning from long-forgotten great-grandmothers that makes simplifying seem attractive. Or maybe it is memories of a high school reading of Thoreau, who urged us to “Simplify; simplify” our lives. He told us to have one meal a day instead of three; to have one suit of clothes instead of many. Few of us have gone so far. Even Thoreau didn’t go that far. While he was living in his small bare cabin in the woods, he walked home from Walden Pond many evenings to have a meal in his family home. A meal probably cooked in his mother’s cluttered kitchen.
Throughout history most people have spent their time elaborating rather than simplifying. The simple objects that we need to make life livable have become canvases for art. Just take a look at a patchwork quilt made about the time that Thoreau was preaching simplicity. Instead of a bare necessity to keep a sleeper warm, some woman made this quilt into a feast for the eyes as well as a comfort for the body. That’s quite an achievement.
Recently I have been reading a lot about Florence, Italy, the setting for my next book in the Charlotte Edgerton mystery series. The Renaissance furniture of Italy with its unnecessarily elaborate decorations might have disappointed Thoreau, but I am glad that so many people from quilters to furniture makers over the centuries have chosen to embellish rather than strip down the household items they have made. And I certainly intend to enjoy the lovely objects that have grown out of people’s desire to make even humble objects beautiful.