by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of The Hour of Death by Jane Willan, along with an interesting interview with Jane. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of The Hour of Death, a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
The Hour of Death: Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery by Jane Willan
Review by Sandra Murphy
The rural Welsh convent of Gwenafwy Abbey is getting ready for the Yuletide holidays. When Tiffany Reese, the organizer of all things, is found dead at the art fair, it’s unclear as to the cause of death. Sister Agatha is on the scene and ready to help solve what she’s sure is a murder.
The Abbey is unusual in that when the Sisters turn sixty, they are given the opportunity to learn something new and unrelated to their duties. One sister studied yoga in India while Sister Agatha is learning to write hard-boiled mysteries. She carries a notebook with her at all times to record ideas for her character or in this case, a list of clues.
While Tiffany was a force behind fundraisers and events in town, it can’t be said she was well-liked for it. She ran everything with military precision and suggestions for improvement were not well-received. In fact, one volunteer who helped with the food served after funerals remarked she couldn’t wait to prepare Tiffany’s funeral dinner.
Sister Agatha is aided by her good friend, Father Selwyn. Since she runs many of the errands for the Abbey, she’s able to drop by to discuss the case or meet him for scones and tea at the local shop. The suspect list is long and Tiffany’s brother heads the list.
They’d been fighting over an inheritance and rumor had it, Tiffany was running roughshod over him to get a bigger share. Where there are secrets, there’s always someone willing to use them for personal gain. Everybody has secrets.
With a Mother Superior who shoots hoops to relax, a cheese-making business, sheep, boarders also known as artists in residence, and a more relaxed attitude than most convents, Gwenafwy Abbey is a place you’d love to visit and the nuns, people you’d count as friends. The cranberry scones are well worth the trip themselves. Sadly, the recipe is not included—Sister Agatha does not cook.
This is the second book in the series. Sister Agatha is a unique character, seeing beyond the obvious and determined to find out the truth. Father Selwyn is an excellent foil for her, more cautious in most circumstances but willing to do his part. I look forward to reading more of Sister Agatha’s adventures as the series continues.
Interview with author Jane Willan:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Jane: About 20 years. I started in my 30’s.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called, and can you tell us a little about it?
Jane: The Shadow of Death came out April 2018. It is a semi-cozy/semi-traditional mystery with a murder set in rural Wales. The amateur sleuth is a nun with a vicar as her sidekick.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Jane: I have tried to write the “Great American Novel” but I always go back to the mystery.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Jane: I love the setting because Wales is so beautiful. It is sort of my “Narnia,” and the Welsh countryside seems like such a great place for a mystery. The protagonist is an Anglican nun in her 60’s and she is funny, smart and loves to read other mystery writers.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Jane: I want it to be a fun read but also look at some of the bigger issues – living in community, relationships, offering grace.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Jane: Mornings! I am useless by lunch.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Jane: I use Scrivener. I start with a loose outline and a synopsis of about 2000 words and just plunge in. I like to know who it did before I start, but sometimes that changes.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Jane: 8-12 a.m.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Jane: I found an agent pretty quickly and she is awesome. She found a publisher for me.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Jane: Early on, I sent a book to an agent and he sent an actual typed letter back. He said “Your writing is smooth. The first page of the novel is wonderful, after that it’s really boring.” I actually found that encouraging! I thought, if I can write one wonderful page, I can write more!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Jane: Some very cool libraries with fantastic librarians.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Jane: The third book in the Sister Agatha series. A police procedural.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Jane: Anthony Horowitz, David Baldacci, C.S. Lewis. Harper Lee, Jane Austen, the Bronte’s
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Jane: Quick internet searches only as I really don’t have time for more. I have developed an email relationship with a police officer dept. administrator which has really helped.
KRL: What do you read?
Jane: Mysteries, literature, biographies
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Jane: TV: The Big Bang Theory, Doc Martin, Call the Midwife. PBS, Netflix, BritBox. Movies? Only the classics – Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Jane: Don’t give up when it feels like you are getting nowhere. Find the world that makes you happy and write about it.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Jane: A good agent is everything.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
To enter to win a copy of The Hour of Death, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hour,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 17, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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