Helen Marsay‘s debut novel A Long Shadow, the first in Chief Inspector Shadow Mystery series is releasing today. I have read the book and I highly recommend it. If you love police procedurals and/or detective fiction, you will surely enjoy reading Helen Marsay’s A Long Shadow.
I am honored to have Helen on the blog today. She will be telling us what Chief Inspector Shadow Mysteries is all about. There’s also an exclusive excerpt from book #2 in the latter half of this post.
Over to Helen:
Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog to talk about the Chief Inspector Shadow Mysteries. I have always loved reading mysteries and trying to work out “whodunnit”. My detective heroes and heroines are Morse, Frost, Marple and Poirot. They inspired me to try and write my own detective story. A Long Shadow is that story. When it found a home at Tule Publishing, I was thrilled that they asked me to write five more books featuring Chief Inspector John Shadow and create a whole “Shadow” series.
I knew I wanted to set my series in York, my home city. It is a place crammed full of history, and I really liked the idea of connecting a crime that happened in the past to one being investigated in the present day. A Long Shadow opens with the discovery of the body of a young homeless woman and later that day, the remains of another girl, who died many years before are also found. It is up to Shadow to discover if the two are linked. The title of the book comes from the saying, “old sins cast long shadows”. York also has plenty of dark alleyways and hidden corners, so it is the perfect place to plot a mystery. In normal times, the city attracts lots of visitors and it is great place to people watch. Sometimes I find inspiration for a character just from the way someone walks or a snippet of overheard conversation.
When it came to the characters, both Shadow and his sergeant, Jimmy Chang popped into my head fully formed, but it took a little longer to get to know the other characters. I had to listen for their voices, and they quite often ended up doing something I hadn’t planned for them. In A Long Shadow this is particularly true of three of the female characters, Cristina, Maggie and Sophie. Initially, I thought Cristina would just be a barmaid who provided an alibi for another character, but she became central to helping Shadow solve the crime. As for Maggie and Sophie, well they both turned out to be far more important to the series than I ever expected.
At first, Shadow may seem a little grumpy, but he is honest, loyal, pragmatic and plain speaking (some might say a typical Yorkshireman). Unfortunately, events in Shadow’s past have turned him into a bit of a loner. He hasn’t been able to move on with his life, and I think that is something readers will be able to sympathize with. Although he isn’t very sociable it doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in other people. Often by remaining in the background, quietly observing rather than interacting, he notices little details that someone else might miss. Shadow prefers to work on his own, and he is not at all happy to be teamed up with his new sergeant, Jimmy Chang. Jimmy is everything Shadow is not; he’s energetic, enthusiastic and very eager to share all his theories. As the series progresses, we see how their relationship evolves and also what happens in their private lives. I am determined Shadow won’t be alone forever!
I am currently writing Book 6 in the series. As York is such a big part of the series, it almost feels like another character, so I try to centre each book around something the city is famous for. For example, Book 3 is A Ghostly Shadow and features the murder of two of the city’s ghost walk tour guides, while Book 4, A Roman Shadow, focuses on the theft of valuable artefacts from the Roman museum.
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM A VIKING’S SHADOW
Inside the palace, painted shields and more animal skulls and horns covered the walls. Long wooden tables with benches ran along each side and there was a smouldering fire in the centre of the room with the smoke drifting up to a hole in the roof. At the far end were two carved wooden throne-style chairs with a heavy black curtain hanging behind.
“The body’s through here, Chief,” said Jimmy as he pushed aside the curtain.
Shadow stepped through into a smaller anteroom. Another fire surrounded by stones was burning on the floor of the room. There was a wooden bed covered in fur throws pushed against the wall. There was also a fur rug on the floor beneath the body. In the centre of the room were two wooden chairs and a table.
Jimmy began busily using his phone to take photos from various angles. Shadow took in the details of the scene while trying very hard not to look directly at the wound and the copious amount of blood on the floor. Despite a career in the police that spanned over thirty years, Shadow was still incredibly squeamish.
The dead man’s hands were resting on the hilt of the sword. There was a length of black silky material covering his eyes and tied around the back of his head. On the table was an open bottle of expensive French red wine and two full glasses. No mead in a horn for King Ragnar, thought Shadow. By the way he’d fallen, it looked like Alfred was sitting on the chair with his back to the curtain before the sword had struck him and he’d slumped down on to the floor.
“What are you thinking, Chief?” asked Jimmy, switching on his electronic notebook, ready to begin taking notes.
“I’m thinking that for such a brutal death, it’s a remarkably peaceful crime scene. No signs of a struggle. The glasses haven’t been knocked over; there’s not even a single drop of wine spilt.”
“Wow, you’re right! Do you think he did it to himself? It does look like he’s holding on to the sword handle.”
“Hilt,” Shadow corrected him automatically. “Suicide is a possibility, I suppose,” he conceded, without much conviction.
“Or maybe someone entered, threatened him with a gun so he didn’t move or try and fight back, then stuck the sword in him?” Jimmy continued.
“Then why not use the gun to kill him?” replied Shadow, humouring his sergeant, although privately he was skeptical of the idea. In his experience, guns were rarely a feature of crimes in the city. They were certainly not as readily available as Jimmy might imagine.
“Too loud?” offered Jimmy.
“Perhaps,” mused Shadow, but he was distracted by something else. There was a heavy scent of perfume in the air. It was strong enough not to be masked by the wood smoke from the fire. He knew he’d smelt it before, but he couldn’t remember where or when.
Helen, thank you so much for the guest post and the exclusive excerpt.