An international best-selling novelist from Yorkshire has brought her writing talent home with her latest crime thriller.
Smoke & Cracked Mirrors, the eighth novel from historical crime fiction writer Karen Charlton, is the first book she has set in her native county.
It's the initial instalment in the York Ladies' Detective Agency mystery series which features two enterprising young women who launch a private investigation business in wartime York.
Karen has enjoyed enormous success and critical acclaim with her writing, having sold over 700,000 worldwide copies of The Detective Lavender Mysteries. These popular novels are set in Regency London and centre around the main character Stephen Lavender who was a real-life principal officer with the Bow Street Runners. Her writing has won over and retains a large fan base in the United States.
Smoke & Cracked Mirrors opens in 1940 with Jemma James returning to York, the city of her birth, to set up the agency with her best friend, Roberta ‘Bobbie' Baker.
The budding detectives quickly find themselves embroiled in a series of mysterious cases shadowing blackmailers and bigamists. They also stumble across an unsolved murder.
Born in Sheffield, Karen grew up in Leeds and now lives on the coast at Marske-by-the-Sea. This former teacher has also lived in Hull, Harrogate and Scarborough and she has always wanted to set a novel in her home county.
"Friends and neighbours have been asking me for years to make Yorkshire the focal point of a series," she explains. "I feel like I've finally come home! My fan base is mostly American, and I know they're going to love a series set in historical York. But it would also be a real thrill to achieve a greater literary presence at home with Yorkshire and UK readers picking up the first book and following the new series closely.
"The crime fiction genre has always fascinated me, particularly the golden age of the 1930s and 40s. York is a stunning city and is steeped in history and intrigue, so it's the perfect backdrop for a mystery novel - especially during the grim years of World War II.
"One of the most enjoyable parts of writing a home-based novel has been the chance to use my own dialect in the speech of the characters. Their dialogue is peppered with all sorts of Yorkshire sayings and phrases. That's been a lot of fun. I've even managed to squeeze in the saying: ‘Where there's muck, there's brass!' Although what my American readers will think of that, I don't know!'
"Some fantastic human interest stories have emerged from my research. Everyone I've approached, from the curators at the city's museums to the staff at the central library and Betty's Tea Rooms, could not have been more helpful."
To ensure accurate historical detail and context for the new thriller, Karen researched newspaper and museum archives to gain a close insight into the lives of ordinary people in York during that gruelling wartime period.
At the time, York had four air bases around the city with thousands of air men and another 1,000 soldiers in Strensall barracks. By 1942 the Luftwaffe was targeting the city and causing substantial air raid damage to livelihoods and buildings. Many of the facts and tales from her research have been adapted in the book bringing history back to life some 60 years later.
Smoke & Cracked Mirrors is released ins April and is available to buy in selected book stores, and from Amazon in eBook, paperback, and audiobook.
Karen is already writing the second novel in the series, ‘Dancing with Dusty Fossils', which features the mysterious murder of a museum curator from the York's Castle Museum. It will be published in September 2022.