The Masque of a Murderer
Published as… Historical Mystery
A Chat with…Lucy Campion
Bella: What is the name of the book where we’ll find you? Can you tell us a little about it?
Lucy Campion: I have appeared in three books so far— all a rather odd chronicling of my life in 1660s London. The titles come from tracts I wrote, describing some strange events that have transpired around me: A MURDER AT ROSAMUND’S GATE, FROM THE CHARRED REMAINS, and THE MASQUE OF A MURDERER.
Bella: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?
Lucy Campion: Several years ago, when I was sixteen I joined Master Hargrave’s household as a chambermaid. He’s a magistrate, and never beat me like most masters will do. For a long time, my life was just an endless repetition of emptying pots, stoking fires, and laundering clothes. I did learn to read though, listening to the tutors brought to teach Master Hargrave’s daughter from behind a curtain. Everything changed when my best friend—another servant—was killed and my brother Will was accused of her murder. That was bad enough. But the world completely overturned when the plague struck, and then a Great Fire ravaged London. After that I had to do something different with my life, and somehow I finagled an apprenticeship with a master printer. Now, I spend my days setting type, running presses and selling books on street corners. I also am being wooed by two men, Adam Hargrave the magistrate’s son, and Jeb Duncan, a constable. I thought I was in love with Adam, but I wonder now whether I could ever fit into his social circle. Sometimes I am not even sure if I want to marry, since I rather like making books and selling them, and could not well do that with young ones hanging onto my skirts.
Bella: What do you think of the author? Be honest. We won’t tell.
Lucy Campion: There is a madness to your question. I know that someone else, Susanna Calkins, claims to have written these stories, but I can assure you that I am the author. I know that women are not supposed to write books, especially about such indelicate topics as murder. Which is why I write my tracts as Anonymous, or with my initials, L.C. Master Aubrey, my master, has several of my works good enough to print. I have written several tracts now, but the ones about murder sell the best. I can always get a good crowd. But sometimes that’s a problem. When I first started to sell FROM THE CHARRED REMAINS, in which I wrote about a body that had been found murdered after the Great Fire, the murderer heard my story and came after me. It was quite terrifying, I can assure you. Maybe I should let people think Susanna is truly the author; madmen and lunatics might stop pursuing me.
Bella: How do you feel about the story you’re in?
Lucy Campion: Even though my life is hard, I truly enjoy being a printer’s apprentice and a bookseller. Somehow I always seem to stumble across puzzles and secrets too, which makes life interesting. But it is never easy to see someone die, and death is ever present in my world. As I explain in THE MASQUE OF A MURDERER, I was even brought to record the last dying words of a man run over by a cart and horse. Before he died, he told me he had been pushed, and that his murderer was someone he knew. I have seen several murderers brought to justice though, and that is a reward that I will treasure.
Bella: How do you see your future? Without giving anything away about the story, naturally.
Lucy Campion: I do not know what divine providence has in store for me, but if I had my druthers, I would set up my own printing press, and be the master of my own trade. Somehow I think though, that even if that wondrous thing should come to occur, that murders and secrets will still find me…
Bella: What do you know about your author’s plans? Can we expect to see you in any future stories?
Lucy Campion: I am currently writing another of my stories, based on a true but strange tale that I recently experienced. Early one morning, as I was walking near Holborn Bridge, I discovered a young woman, distraught and clad only in her nightdress, which was covered in blood. She knew not her name, but I realized very early on that she was a noblewoman and needed to be tended to. I have called this story, A DEATH ALONG THE RIVER FLEET, which Master Aubrey will print and I will hawk next April (the year of our Lord, 2016).
Bella: Let’s say they make a movie about this book. Who do you want to play you, and why?
Lucy Campion: I have heard tell of this devilish thing—“the movie—which seems to be strange and wonderful. I do not wish to point to a player with my likeness, however, for fear that she would be strung up as a witch for cavorting about in such an unnatural way. So I shall keep such speculation to myself. I wish you a very good day and farewell.
About the Book
In Susanna Calkins’ next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her—that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.
Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate’s son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.
In The Masque of a Murderer, Susanna Calkins has once again combined finely wrought characters, a richly detailed historical atmosphere, and a tightly-plotted mystery into a compelling read.
About the Author
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, where she is an educator at Northwestern University. With a PhD in history, her historical mysteries feature Lucy Campion, a 17th century chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, was a finalist for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). The second in this series, From the Charred Remains, is currently a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, The Masque of a Murderer, will be released in April 2015.