Kathy: In Murder at Archly Manor we are introduced to Olive Belgrave, a penniless aristocrat. Determined to support herself Olive takes an unconventional job. If you were in her shoes, would you do the same?
SR: Olive is spunky, and I hope I’d have the same attitude. I’m a little more cautious than Olive, so it would probably take me longer to reach the same conclusion as Olive—that she’s got to essentially create a job for herself.
Kathy: Your High Society Lady Detective series takes place in England in the 1920s. How did you choose this time period?
SR: I love to read mysteries from the 1920s from authors like Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Patricia Wentworth. I also enjoy reading historical mysteries from contemporary authors set in that same time period. So much was changing—clothing, music, and travel. It was the beginning of the modern era and a very exciting time.
Kathy: Historical mysteries require an extra special brand of research. What's your favorite method to research this time period?
SR: I enjoy reading fiction written during the time period. I get a glimpse of daily life that can be hard to come by. Another fun thing I did was subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive, which let me read the newspapers and magazines from 1923. I ran across a short story in “The Sketch” magazine by Agatha Christie!
Kathy: Have you been influenced by some of the writers of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction?
SR: Yes! Christie and Sayers are two of my favorites. I’ve also read Patricia Wentworth, Gladys Mitchell, and Christianna Brand. I love the intricate plots and hope I’ve brought that aspect to my books.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
SR: I enjoy reading about an average person swept up in an extraordinary situation. Cozies focus on the people and the community. I also enjoy the window I get into so many unique and interesting occupations and hobbies.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
SR: I stick to mysteries! Those are my favorites as a reader and as a writer.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
SR: The High Society Lady Detective is my only historical cozy series. I have three other contemporary cozy series. The Murder on Location series is about a location scout who travels around England and stumbles across a number of dead bodies. The On the Run series is not strictly a cozy—it’s more travel with a dash of romance and suspense, but it has the same lighthearted tone as my other books. And the Ellie Avery series is about a military spouse who finds murder and mayhem wherever she goes.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
SR: That’s like asking if I have a favorite child! :) It’s hard to pick one. I enjoy writing all my different stories. My favorite character always seems to be the one I’m writing at the moment!
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
SR: I didn’t have a specific person or event that I based the series on. It was more general for me. I wanted to capture the glamour, the fun, and the energy of the 1920s in the High Society Lady Detective series.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
SR: I want my books to be read and I hope the stories give readers a bit of an escape from their everyday world.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
SR: Agatha Christie, Mary Stewart, M.M. Kaye, and Elizabeth Peters would be at the top of my list because they’ve written some of my favorite books.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
SR: “A Gentleman's Murder” by Christopher Huang. It’s by a contemporary author, but has that Golden Age feel to it.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
SR: I love a bargain and will hit up discount stores like TJ Maxx and outlet malls. I enjoy baking cookies and walking and hiking—that way, I can walk off the calories from the cookies. :)
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
SR: Dark chocolate, cashews, granola, and Diet Coke.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
SR: Yes! I’m having too much fun with the 1920s to leave. Olive will have several more adventures. I’m already working on the next two books in the series, “Murder at Blackburn Hall” and “The Egyptian Antiquities Murder.”
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
SR: I love delving into research. Some days I need to learn about a specific poison. Other times, it’s whether or not people used medicine cabinets in the 1920s or what the favorite foods were. It’s never boring! Connecting with readers is great fun, too. I’m so happy to know people are enjoying the books.
MURDER AT ARCHLY MANOR by Sara Rosett
The First High Society Lady Detective Book
Unable to live with her domineering step-mother, Olive Belgrave moves to London, assured she can easily find a job and support herself. Unfortunately, Olive soon learns that jobs are much harder to find, even for an educated young lady in 1923. A call for assistance from a wealthy cousin turns into a job. After all, why pay a detective to ferret out information on a shady looking suitor when the money can be kept in the family. Soon Olive is crashing a house party to glean information on the wily fiance. Circumstances change however when Olive sees a blonde woman shove him over a balcony to his death. Now instead of looking into his life, she's investigating his death and trying to prove her cousin innocent of his murder.
The juxtaposition of the wealthy, the penniless aristocrats, and the hangers on, gives a compelling look at 1920s high society. Those Bright Young People with their fancy house parties and their questionable morals, extravagance, and superficial views of the world force readers to contemplate their own part in society. It's all a lark, or is it?
The first High Society Lady Detective book takes a fascinating look at society in the 1920s while providing a clever mystery. I love the maps at the start of the book, certainly a nod to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. With read herrings, plenty of suspects, and disreputable characters MURDER AT ARCHLY MANOR is a solid start to a new series.