Kathy: In A DREAM OF DEATH Kate Hamilton returns to a remote island in Scotland. Why did you decide to place your American protagonist there?
CB: Good question. And the answer is I'm a died-in-the-wool Anglophile. I write about what I love. Kate's deceased husband was born on the Isle of Glenroth—and died there three years earlier. Now his sister, proprietor of the island's country house hotel, claims she's in trouble, giving Kate a reason to return. I chose an island, cut off from the mainland by a freak snowstorm, to limit the suspects. Kate, an American and outsider, is able to discern patterns and detect anomalies the locals, blinded by familiarity, cannot see. I like the thought of navigating a culture you only partially understand. This creates tension and leads to the kind of complications we love to read about.
Kathy: Kate is an antiques dealer. Do you collect antiques? Any particular style you appreciate more?
CB: I don't so much collect antiques as live with them. My home is filled with things I grew up with and loved as a child. My parents were antiques collectors and dealers, handling mostly European and Oriental objects, so that's the world I knew. My childhood home, I must admit, looked a bit like a museum—an overcrowded museum in serious need of a curator. My parents weren't exactly hoarders, but they came close. Thankfully, I'm not a hoarder (well, okay—I hoard books and red lipstick), so I tend to combine the things I've inherited with a simpler, more contemporary backdrop.
Kathy: The current murder is similar to an unsolved case from the remote Scottish island's history. I love when history plays a part in a contemporary mystery. Do you enjoy historic unsolved mysteries, or history in general?
CB: Yes and yes. I love history—especially unsolved mysteries from the past. Several years ago I solved a mystery from my own past when I tracked down a relative who, in the 1920s, left two young children in the care of an alcoholic father, returned to Scotland, and was never heard from again. After years of searching, I found her in a hospital record (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk). As it turns out, she'd gotten married again (had there been a divorce?) and never told a soul about her previous life. She was long gone, of course, but I located an elderly woman whose name was on the hospital record and who was still living—seventy-some years later—in the same cottage in Scotland where she'd been born. As a young woman, she had been my relative's friend and co-worker. When my relative died, this young woman cleared out her house and saved some of the more precious items.
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
CB: Everyone loves a mystery, don't they? From the child playing peek-a-boo to the adult readers of crime fiction, we want to know whodunit, howdunit, and whydunit. Like so many others, I started by reading Nancy Drew. I wanted to be Nancy Drew and spent a lot of time finding mysteries in order to solve them. My cousin and I crafted disguises for ourselves out of white paper and crayons—eye glasses, mustaches, facial moles. Where were selfies when we needed them?
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
CB: I've written lots of non-fiction in my life, but this is my first novel, and I'm hooked. Building a world, creating characters, working out a plot, writing dialogue—irresistible!
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
CB: American antiques dealer and young widow, Kate Hamilton, teams up with a detective inspector from Suffolk, England, to solve crimes involving antiques and the past.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
CB: My protagonist, Kate, has to be my favorite. The book is written from her perspective. But I love all the characters—even the bad ones. I've tried to make each character unique and interesting in his or her own right. I must admit I'm partial to Kate's mother, Linnea, who has a practical, down-to-earth approach to life I admire.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
CB: Many years ago while researching the history of a Civil War soldier from Vermont for an article in the Hudson Valley Regional Review, I heard the story of a young bride who died while taking a horse and sleigh from an island in Lake Champlain to the mainland. I remember wondering if the whole story had been told. What was she doing on the ice in March? That question led me to imagine a fictional island off Scotland's west coast and another tragic young bride, Flora Arnott.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
CB: That was always my goal.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
CB: Why not go big?
1. Shakespeare because he was brilliant and original. His works are the source of many of the common expressions we hear today—second only to the Bible. I'd ask him where he learned about geography, geology, botany, biology, astronomy, mythology, theology, psychology, and more.
2. Jane Austen because I want to find out how she would have ended her final, unpublished novel Sandition. Four months before her death in 1817, she had written eleven-plus chapters and twenty-three thousand five hundred words. What really happened to poor Mr. Hollis? And Charlotte Heywood?
3. Dr. Samuel Johnson because he would make us all laugh with witty comments and characterizations of the important people in British society. I would also ask him what he really thought of Flora MacDonald, the young Scottish woman who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the English by disguising him as her maid.
4. George Eliot because I want to hear what it was like being a female author in an age that considered this unseemly and unwomanly. Who encouraged her? How did she first decide to write? What was her favorite book?
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
CB: THE CLOCKMAKER'S DAUGHTER by Kate Morton. I love her layered sense of history and lovely prose.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
CB: Besides writing mysteries, I love to read them. My interests include history, foreign travel, and animals (especially my sweet Shih Tzu, Millie).
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
CB: I'm afraid cooking isn't one of my skills, but we always have breakfast fixings on hand—eggs, fruit, bread. And coffee. Lots of coffee.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books, either in your current series or a new series?
CB: A LEGACY OF MURDER, the second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, will be out in early October of 2019.
What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, gently falling snow, and Tom Mallory,
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
CB: Setting my own schedule. This is also my least favorite thing. I'm a procrastinator by nature and have to create my own deadlines.
Thank you for hosting me today. I loved sharing my world with you and your readers!
A DREAM OF DEATH by Connie Berry
The First Kate Hamilton Mystery
Kate Hamilton never intended to return to Glenroth, but a call for help from her estranged sister-in-law brings Kate back to the Scottish isle where her husband was not only born, but died just three years earlier. Now she's faced with a best selling novel about a two hundred year old unsolved murder, a surprise engagement, and news that Elenor has sold the family home, now a posh hotel. But before Elenor can tell Kate the reason for her call, she's murdered in the same manner of young Flora Arnott in 1810. What was Elenor afraid of? Did it have something to do with the ornate antique casket? Or did she push the wrong person too far? As Kate finds herself in the midst of the investigation she'll have to use all her wits else she become the murderer's next target.
I loved just about everything in this first Kate Hamilton Mystery. There is a strong cast of characters, deeply developed and multi dimensional. Kate is an engaging and likeable protagonist with a good head on her shoulders. Not only is she forced to deal with a murder, but she has to relive her husband's last days and deal with feelings she's starting to develop for a man for the first time since she became a widow.
Connie Berry ingeniously entwines history with a contemporary plot. It was fascinating to read from Flora Arnott's diary and I was as invested in her murder as I was in Elenor's! The attention to detail brought crisp imagery and almost made it seem as if I was watching a film.
A DREAM OF DEATH is a fantastic start to what looks to be an amazing series. There's action, suspense, and a hint of romance. Combined with an atmospheric backdrop, authentic characters, and historical depth, A DREAM OF DEATH is a standout.
A Dream of Death (A Kate Hamilton Mystery) by Connie Berry
About the Book
Traditional Mystery 1st in Series
Crooked Lane Books (April 9, 2019)
Hardcover: 320 pages
On a remote Scottish island, American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton wrestles with her own past while sleuthing a brutal killing, staged to recreate a two-hundred-year-old unsolved murder.
Autumn has come and gone on Scotland’s Isle of Glenroth, and the islanders gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist-season gala. Spirits are high. A recently published novel about island history has brought hordes of tourists to the small Hebridean resort community. On the guest list is American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. Kate returns reluctantly to the island where her husband died, determined to repair her relationship with his sister, proprietor of the island’s luxe country house hotel, famous for its connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Kate has hardly unpacked when the next morning a body is found, murdered in a reenactment of an infamous unsolved murder described in the novel—and the only clue to the killer’s identity lies in a curiously embellished antique casket. The Scottish police discount the historical connection, but when a much-loved local handyman is arrested, Kate teams up with a vacationing detective inspector from Suffolk, England, to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history—and Kate’s future.
About the Author
Like her main character, Connie Berry was raised by charmingly eccentric antique collectors who opened a shop, not because they wanted to sell antiques but because they needed a plausible excuse to keep buying them. Connie adores history, off-season foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Millie.
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