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Thursday 28 March 2013

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins

The crime at the heart of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate came to me when I was a graduate student in history.  I'd been pouring through ballads and broadsides—the penny press that served as both a source of exaggerated news and a cheap entertainment in seventeenth-century England—and I was struck by the same story that appeared again and again.

These “true accounts” would speak of a woman who’d been found stabbed in a secluded glen or a deserted field. In her pocket, the investigating authorities often found a letter, purportedly from the killer. In this letter, he would usually tell his victim to meet him at ‘such-and-such deserted location.’  Then he would sign the letter, with either his given name or his initials. 

The case seemed open and shut.

Yet, every time I read one of these accounts, I had to wonder:  Why didn’t the killer search his victim for incriminating evidence before he fled the scene? Didn’t it ever occur to him that she might bring the letter—you know, the one with his initials—with her to their rendezvous? I also would wonder: Why did the victims agree to meet these killers? Or perhaps, most simply of all, was some other chap being framed for the crime?

No matter what, the story was not just sad, but incomplete.

In some ways, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate became the answer to the questions that never got asked--Who was this woman? Why had she agreed to meet her killer? Did she know him, or had she been tricked?
And perhaps most important of all—Would she get the justice she deserved?

I decided to focus my story around Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate.  Lucy’s life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone she loves is wrongly arrested for the crime. In a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn't kill them first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see her brother alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer…before that murderer turns on her.

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Susie Calkins said...

Thank you so much for hosting me today!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great book and one I'll have to share with my mom, who is a big mystery fan. I love when real life stories like the one you described lead writers to start asking those "what if" questions. Thanks for sharing the story behind your story.

Susie Calkins said...

Thanks Jessica!