Edward Marston’s Exciting Railway Detective

The Railway Detective by Edward Marston

A Review by Juliet Kincaid

The first in Edward Marston’s Detective Inspector Colbeck Mystery series, The Railway Detective has lots to offer the historical mystery fan.

Marston brings mid-19th century Britain to life with vivid descriptions of places like London’s Devil’s Acre, for one example, and for another, the Crystal Palace, the site of the Great Exhibition in 1851.

Marston’s gentleman detective Robert Colbeck is both capable and clever. Marston presents lower class characters like a moneylender named Isadore Vout with gritty, almost Dickensian detail. Nut he also gives us members of the growing middle class and the gentry. He provides Colbeck with a love interest, the lovely Madeleine, a damsel in some distress.

The story includes exciting action like a train robbery and train wreck near the start of the book.

The plot is solid overall, but this reviewer has one slight quibble with it, though. Time and time again, Marston lets Colbeck pursue leads right up to almost catching a bad guy, only for him to be a little too late. At points like those, Marston cuts from the action with the detective to a scene with the current bad guy. To my mind, these are slight plot spoilers that bleed away some suspense and tension here and there. I sort of changed my mind about this, though, when near the end of the book . . . Well, you’ll get no spoilers from me.

If you’re hankering after a visit to Victorian England, I strongly recommend The Railway Detective.

 

Great Read only $0.99

From the Kansas City Star Tuesday, 6 February, 1900

A CAR KILLS A SCHOOL GIRL

Little Hortense Petty Horribly Mangled

On the Northeast Line

Hortense, the 12-year-old daughter of Wilfred Petty of 4116 St. John Avenue, was killed by an electric car at St. John and Jackson Avenues, almost directly in front of her own home at 8:30 o’clock this morning.

The little girl was on her way to school with her brother, Willy, 9 years old. They attended the Scarritt School, the little girl being in the fifth grade. There is no sidewalk along the north side of St. John Avenue west of Jackson and the two children were walking westward in the street along the north side of the track. The little boy says they heard no car coming. The cars run swiftly there, the neighbors say.

Just before the children reached Jackson Avenue, the little girl being at the left of her brother and a little in advance, started across the first car track. Just as she was stepping over the last rail of the first track the westbound car, running at high speed, struck her.

The man reading the previous evening’s newspaper lowered it to his lap. Across the bedroom a woman huddled against the wall. The lamplight transformed her red skirt into a pool of blood on the carpet around her.

That would work and well, the man thought. People constantly blundered onto the tracks of Kansas City’s streetcars, cable cars, and railway trains. The schoolgirl was the first of the month to die in that way, but undoubtedly not the last.

Not if he had anything to say about it at least.

He glanced over his shoulder at the rumpled bed and then at the girl. “Get up. You’re not hurt all that bad.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not sure–“

“I told you to get up.”

“Yes, sir,” she said in her light, pretty voice and began a long, slow climb to standing, first her left foot, then hands flat on the floor as she got her right foot under her, but also on the hem of her dress. Still crouching, she yanked the red cloth out from under her scuffed shoe, and straightened, but never fully. Propping herself against the wall, she folded her arms across her hips and moaned softly.

“Quit your belly aching.”

“Okay.”

When she glanced toward the door, he said, “You’re not leaving until I’m good and ready.”

“But, sir,” she blubbered.

“Don’t worry. I’ll see that you get home.” It wasn’t his plan to take her home, but she wasn’t to know that.

He’d made a mistake with this one.

The others hadn’t mattered. But someone might care about this girl, a pretty thing with red hair. People might come looking for her, and if they found her alive, she might tell them what he’d done. That would never do.

Besides, she was ruined now, quite ruined. Why, if she knew what he planned, she’d probably thank him for ending her misery.

But evening was hours away and he needed darkness. Meanwhile, there was the bed and there was the girl. The newspaper dropped to the floor as he stood.

Then, quite by chance, somewhere nearby a train sounded its whistle, its great metal wheels rumbled on the tracks, and he smiled.

She surprised him by smiling in return.

<> <> <>

That morning, at her desk at Price Investigations, Minty Wilcox pounded the keys of her old Remington typewriter. She stopped and lifted the carriage of the blind strike machine to check the date on the report from earlier in the week that she was typing.

Did I get it right? she asked herself. Yes, she had. She had typed Wednesday February 7, 1900, and not the 1899 that she’d typed more times than she cared to admit so early in the year . . .

It’s February 1900, and a young woman has gone missing from a Kansas City garment factory. Price Investigations has been hired to find the girl, who may have come to harm. Minty Wilcox longs to help, but her boss doesn’t approve of women sleuthing. He also forbids any office romance at all, especially with the dashing detective, Daniel Price. When Minty decides to defy her boss and go undercover to find the girl, Daniel helps her, but he also hinders her with outrageous flirtation and other ploys. And, as she digs into the case, Minty comes into danger herself. Will Daniel rescue her? Will Minty even let him try? Read Fatal February to find out.

From January through December, the Calendar Mysteries tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a century or so ago.

Buy Fatal February from February 14 through February 20, 2017, for only 99 cents at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM.

Praise for January Jinx

Book 1 of the Calendar Mysteries

Mystery and romance in old Kansas City

By Juliet Kincaid

What fun it is to read a mystery set in a different locale, Kansas City in this case. Set at the turn of the last century, the book is well-researched and the details of daily life are woven into the story so expertly that you are transported. The characters are lively and everything they do and think is suitable for the era. The main character, Minty Wilcox, is the kind of young woman you root for: gutsy and daring for her time while still trying to maintain her manners. The love interest is fun, the plot engaging and the ending a surprise. Jump into another century with a rich variety of characters and have a good read.

The story moves with no dead spots at all. One little surprise after another triggers the wonder when the next in the series will arrive. Overall, an enjoyable few hours of reading. Cleverly done.

Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break and that’s certainly true for Minty Wilcox. Everything just keeps getting worse, but Minty knows she’s not a murderer and she’s bound to prove it. January Jinx is a great mystery and a great kick-off for this series.

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

Calling Long Distance in 1900

Making a long distance telephone call in 1900 was pretty complicated.

For instance, in Mischief in March, the third in my Calendar mystery series, when Minty Wilcox wants to make a call from Kansas City to her uncle Charles in St. Joseph, MO, she can’t just grab her cell or even pick up her home phone and do it. Instead, she has to go through a fairly long process.

1) A day or so before Minty wants to make her call, she goes to the Coates House Hotel to make an appointment. She also pays for the call up front. At 50 cents, or about $50 today, it was expensive, too.

2) In the interim between making the appointment for the call and making the call, the operator sets up the connections on the lines to the destination for the call. (When the first commercial telephone exchanges opened began providing service in 1878, the operators were young men or boys. They soon proved to be too impatient for the job, so by 1900 most telephone operators were women.)

3) The next day Minty returns to the hotel and goes inside a telephone booth, also called a “silence cabinet.” When the telephone rings, she picks up the earpiece from the wall phone. And finally, after the operator completes the connection, Minty talks to her uncle Charles.

We can count our blessings that long distance calling is so easy these days.

 

 

 

 

January Jinx, the first Calendar mystery, is available for $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February, the second, is available for $4.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both eBooks are free from Kindle Unlimited. Look for Mischief in March coming in 2017.

Dare I Say Bah Humbug?

WiP Report # 18

What I’ve named “my week from H3LL” threatened to turn me all Scroogish as I began the annual trek through the holidays this year.

You see, during the first week of every month, I usually have four meetings and a lunch in addition to my usual weekly activities of attending an art class; teaching a novel writing class; self-maintenance like going to four Jazzercise classes; running a household; and continuing my career as a self-published author.

But the first week of December 2016 became a week from H3LL for me even though I cut a meeting and a class.

Here are the extra things I did during the first week of December 2016.

1) I went to lunch not once but twice. (I spent the second lunch worrying about completing chore # 4 listed below in a timely fashion.)

2) I copyrighted and promoted the last book in my Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mystery series.

3) I participated in an indie author event. Here I am, dressed up as Minty Wilcox, the heroine of my Calendar Mystery series, with fellow indie authors Joyce Ann Brown and Terry Showalter at Readers World in Lees Summit, MO, on December 3, 2016.

4) Recently, we bought a new car that I licensed on December 5.

5) I had to appear for jury duty at federal court. (I’m happy to report that I was dismissed so that I didn’t have to cancel any more of my novel-writing classes.)

All these tasks didn’t help me at all as I struggled to find time for the goal I’d set for myself—completing the current draft of my WiP, Mischief in March, the third novel in my Calendar Mystery series.

To add to the stress of performing these tasks, even the fun ones like a very special holiday dinner book club meeting, I developed insomnia. My novelist’s habit of creating worst-case scenarios at every turn compounded the stress. (You don’t want to hear the worst-case scenarios I’ve come up with since Donald J. Trump got elected.)

Still, I hung in there and I completed it though on the second Monday of the month, not the first. At 102,000 words, this draft is a bit longer than I like. But I’m pretty pleased with it otherwise. (An early reader said, “Mischief in March had a delightful sauciness to it.” Thank you so much, Peg.)

So now I’ve cast bah-humbugs aside and set myself free to enjoy holiday tasks like signing and addressing greeting cards and decorating a tiny Christmas tree.

Happy holidays to all of you, my friends.

P. S. You’ll find Cinderella, P. I., First Case to Last for $2.99 and free on Kindle Unlimited at www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXC0MED

P. S. S. My New Year’s resolution is to cut way back on extra commitments in 2017, especially those scheduled for the first week of the month, so I can write more. What’s yours?

Kansas City’s New England Building

Looking for Old K. C., Part 1

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Checking out sites for my calendar mysteries, set in Kansas City around 1900, can involve quite a bit of sleuthing. Take the New England Building at 9th Street and Wyandotte in Kansas City, MO, for instance.

While working on January Jinx, the first in the series, I decided to put Price Investigations in the New England Building instead of the New York Life Insurance Building, mostly because the upper floors of the latter were closed to visitors. (Indeed, when my friend Sally O and I sneaked down to the basement to scope out the placement for the café that appears in January Jinx, the building guard stood on the steps and called plaintively, “Ladies, ladies.” Giggling, we did come back upstairs and out of the building.) But on a later junket, I was able to get inside the New England Building and go up the steps to the second floor though not inside any of the offices.

The New England Building continues to serve as the site for Price Investigations in Fatal February, the second in the series, but now that I’m working on Mischief in March, I have some questions about the offices that I didn’t answer in my initial site visit. In particular, I’d like to actually see the inside of the New England Building’s most famous architectural feature, the oriel on the southwest corner, to figure out what George Mathison, the manager of my fictional detective agency, might have put in it, or indeed if it’s actually available to put anything inside it.

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I’d tried to figure out its size from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and tentatively decided, given the 60’ by 118’ overall size of the building, that the oriel is about five feet across at its widest. But the map gives no details about the floors above the first.

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An exquisite poster of the building made from an article in the American Architect and Building News that I found online shows the basic layouts of four of the floors. But the text isn’t distinct enough for me to find out details about the offices. Besides, now that I’m revising Mischief in March, I’m finding that Minty Wilcox, the heroine of the series, needs to navigate around more of the building than just up the stairs or elevator to the third floor.

So, recently I set off to the Kansas City site of the State Historical Society of Missouri, located in 302 Newcomb Hall on the University of Missouri-Kansas City to look at their collection of architectural drawings that included the New England Building.

An aside: doing historical research is so much easier these days than it was when I started the project in 2004. (Yikes!) Now you can scan documents to a flash drive instead of printing them out on a library machine. Also so much has been digitized and made available online, like the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, that you can download and print for free.

That’s the good news. The bad news about the scans of the drawings is they don’t have keys and most of the written info is too blurry to read when I blow the images up.

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Still, I was able to see inside the offices to figure out where the lights were and that most had little closets and sinks. Some suites had ladies and gents powder rooms. And after a quick referral back to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, I found that the building had steam heat. Comparing the office layout with the roof layout, which included chimneys, I figured out where the radiators were, so I now can appropriately arrange the furniture inside Price Investigations.

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See? I told you researching historical fiction requires sleuthing.

Unfortunately, there are two parallel dotted lines across the narrow entrance to the oriel that I don’t understand. I’m tentatively thinking there would be room maybe for the ever-popular Boston fern. But I don’t know for sure.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that historical fiction writers obsess over the smallest details. That’s because some expert out there might make a fuss online about a tiny error. And that mistake could destroy the old Kansas City I’m trying to bring to life in my calendar mysteries. So I worry about the tiny details.

And so if at all possible, I’d like to get inside the New England Building. This might not be easy because recently it was purchased for redevelopment as loft apartments. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.

Best, Juliet

If you haven’t read the first two calendar mysteries featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City where living could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, you can buy them as trade paperbacks from Amazon or as Kindle eBooks:  January Jinx at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM

Making Progress

WiP Report # 17: Mischief in March

MM6x9

Shown here is the working cover for the third book in my Calendar Mystery Series. (I’m keeping what the actual cover will look like as a secret for now since it’s a spoiler.) I’m happy to report that I recently completed the draft of Mischief in March, well sort of anyway.

The “sort of” comes from my ending the current draft with an outline for the last twenty pages instead of writing those scenes. I’m not beating myself up about it though. I’ve been at this point with at least one previous book and it turned out fine.

What happened was recently I found myself making excuses to do other things (like mowing the lawn, which you know has to be desperation) instead of working on MiM, dear MiM, such a fun project it’s been to work on. I do this pretty often as I write, in fact, whenever my subconscious mind is trying to tell me something about what I’ve just written. But one morning recently I woke up realizing what the problem with the current WiP is. I won’t actually know which characters I need to put in the climactic parts of the book until I’ve revised the book from the start and found out who they are. Also, I need to do some on-site research on the settings before I can move my characters around in those places.

So I’m happy with my decision to stop work on MiM temporarily. It has freed me up to knock off some of the smaller projects on my master plan. For example, I’ve almost finished editing a large print edition of Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories.

But now Minty Wilcox, the heroine of the Calendar mysteries, is calling to me from the wings of my mind and tapping her foot impatiently. “Come back,” she says. “How could you leave me and Daniel in the lurch on our . . .” Well, that’s all you get, dear reader except the assurance that I’ll get back to work on Mischief in March soon.

Best, Juliet

P. S. Check out this trailer for the new audio book of Cinderella, P. I. Around the World narrated by the very talented Alyx Morgan.

 

 

Good Deal for Mystery Readers

FF.ebook

Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price return in Fatal February for more adventure, mystery and romance in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. Now through May 7 only $0.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM Buy it now to share with your mom or baby mama on Mother’s Day.

PRAISE FOR JANUARY JINX, THE FIRST CALENDER MYSTERY

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic. The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

 

Good deal for readers

MW

Here I am, all dolled up as Minty Wilcox, the heroine of my Calendar Mysteries, might have been if she went to a party in 1900. January Jinx, the first in the series, is available as an eBook for only $.99 from April 21 through April 27 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4.

Marching On

WiP Report # 17

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Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun in my title. You see, the current Work in Progress, the third in my Calendar Mysteries, takes place in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, in March 1900 and it’s called Mischief in March.

One of the most fun things about this WiP is working on it in springtime. Now I realize that probably daffodils and other flowers are blooming in 2016 three to four weeks earlier than they did in March 1900. Still, my heroine Minty Wilcox might very well see crocus like those pictured above blooming in a sheltered spot in front of her house.

Now, I must admit that I’m pretty far behind schedule on this book from where I’d hoped to be. My original concept for the series was to bring out a book a year during the month in the title. I managed to bring the eBook version of January Jinx out in January 2014 and the print version in January 2015. But I didn’t get Fatal February out until November 2015. (Sigh.)

Here are some reasons why I’m behind schedule.

1) If you’ve kept up with my periodic WiP Reports, you know that I wrote a 54,000 draft of Mischief in March during National Novel Writing Month 2015. But due to one thing and another, I didn’t get back to it until February 18.

2) And even then, it took me quite a while to regain my momentum. Tip to all you other writers out there: do it every day, so you don’t lose your momentum. So far my progress has been slow with an average production of 835 words per day. This is about half of the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,667 words a day.

3) As you might be able to tell from the photo of a corner store around 1900 below, I’m doing research as I go along. (In Mischief in March, Minty Wilcox, two of her country cousins, and the series villain visit a neighborhood grocery store similar to this one. Researching as I write also has slowed me down.

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But let’s shift to the upside here.

I’m telling myself that doing research as I go along might save me time in the long run since I’ll probably write fewer drafts than the ten or twelve January Jinx required. In fact, even though I did some research as I went along, Fatal February required only four drafts plus an overall line-by-line edit.

Some good news: last week my process sped up, and without even noticing, I blew through plot point 1, that is, the moment at which the hero (or heroes) begin the journey or the detective (or detectives) actively take on the case. That happened at 19,418 words on page 70. Multiply those stats by four and you get 77,672 words and 280 pages, a very nice size for a first draft. If I keep up the pace of 835 words a day, I should finish the current draft around the end of May.

If you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

If you have read the first two Calendar Mysteries that tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. As the old wisdom goes, word of mouth sells. (Of course sex sells, too. I’m working on getting some sex into Mischief in March. Minty and Daniel are definitely up for it.) And online reviews are the 21st Century version of word of mouth, one kind at least. Just a few sentences of positive comments help and I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

Encouraging Feedback on Fatal February

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My dear friend and fellow writer Anne Bauman recently wrote me this letter of praise for Fatal February, the second calendar mystery. (I’ve omitted or rephrased here and there to avoid spoilers.)

Dear Juliet,

 Congratulations on Fatal February, another terrific read. Yes, I enjoyed it immensely, both as a reader and a writer. Between the lines, it reveals lots of work, thought, skill and care.

It seems to me that your characters were even better developed than in January Jinx, though the characters were well-done in [it], too. In the second novel I enjoyed the actions and especially the dialogue. Each character is distinctly developed as his own person.

Minty seems to be maturing and improving as a character. I like the way you played off [Daniel Price, the love interest] to help develop the personality of each. It helps the reader to see Minty more clearly as she interacts with the other characters.

Of course, I always enjoy reading about Kansas City around the turn of the century. Since my grandmother was a young woman at the time of your books, it’s pleasant to imagine what K. C. was like at that time and how it helped her develop her independence and self-assurance. I like the details you use to develop Kansas City as a character, too.

All in all, Juliet, you’ve created a masterpiece and I’m now looking forward to March.

Thank you so much, Anne. And I’m happy to tell you and other readers that I’m working on Mischief in March, the third Calendar Mystery featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price in Kansas City, a downright dangerous place a hundred years or so ago.

If, dear reader, you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available on Kindle at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are also available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

And if you like these books, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. Just a few sentences help. I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

P. S. Didn’t my daughter do lovely work on the cover of Fatal February?