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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Historical Mystery

Emily Kostova (of Emily’s Lair, by Cary Grossman)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the owner of a local bookstore. Her knowledge of the Whitechapel murders and of Jack the Ripper bring her to the attention of the police. She is here to tell us about how investigating a current murder brought up a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Emily, the proud owner of Emily’s Lair, a private, non-corporate bookshop in New Vernon, Connecticut, with a wonderful variety of books. There’s an entire wall dedicated to classic literature, for example, sections on art, exploration, science, history, ancient civilizations, even true crime. You can get the latest releases, of course, but most of the shop is made up of books that I find interesting and think other people will too. I’m especially proud of the special section in back that’s filled with books on the European witch hunts. It also features more than one biography on the woman responsible for singlehandedly ending the witch hunts, Liesbeth Jansson.

Liesbeth Jansson? Who was she?

She was a woman from Breda, a city in the Netherlands. She got married to a professor from Leiden, a city that became a beacon of the Enlightenment. He died when the Plague swept through Leiden, and because Liesbeth was smart and strong-willed and refused to conform to what citizens at the time considered to be a “proper Christian woman,” she became a target. At that time, women who were different, or, especially, who weren’t submissive to men, were often accused of witchcraft.

Was Liesbeth Jansson accused of witchcraft?

Oh yes. But she fought back. You see, none of the women accused of witchcraft—the accused were almost always women—were actually witches. Many were elderly spinsters, midwives, or rich widows like Liesbeth. If you had money, you were a prime target because a witch’s money was always seized by the state, and witch hunters loved money. But with Liesbeth they had stumbled on someone they never expected to encounter—a woman with real power. She escaped, hunted down each of her accusers, and killed them in a very public and brutal manner. Once people realized there was a chance that they might accuse a woman who could fight back, the witch hunts ended.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I met Will, a homicide detective. I fell for him right away despite that he was questioning me. You see, I was a person of interest in a murder that Will was investigating because I had once dated the man who was killed. Will came in the shop to ask me some questions; that’s how we met.

Continue reading “Emily Kostova (of Emily’s Lair, by Cary Grossman)”

Miss Bennet (of Death of a Clergyman, by Riana Everly)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a character out of Jane Austen’s novels, who found that life continues beyond her original appearance. She is here to tell us about love and murder during the Regency.


Well, Miss Bennet, you have had an interesting little adventure. As magistrate in these parts, I need to gather a bit more information to write my report. It is not every day that a young woman of your tender years solves a mystery like this, and the murder of a clergyman as well. We were all quite shocked. I have a few questions, if you do not mind. First, I need to know a bit about you. Your home, for example. 

Thank you, sir. Of course I will answer anything you need. My home is a small estate called Longbourn, in Hertfordshire. It has a small village, but the closest town of any size is Meryton, a mile yonder. I suppose it is not so different from many other market towns, and we have a good selection of shops and necessary provisions, as well as a fine set of assembly rooms. We lack for little, and in this modern age (for it is 1811, of course), we can travel to London in the course of half a day.

Your home sounds not out of the usual, but there must be something that has formed you into the person you are. What of your childhood? What has shaped you to be able to solve these horrid crimes?

I cannot imagine myself anything particularly special. Indeed, I grew up thinking myself not special at all. I am the middle of five daughters, after all. I am not pretty like my two older sisters, nor am I spirited and outgoing like the younger two. I would rather read then attend parties, and I have little interest in ribbons and lace or flirting with the officers from the milia regiment. I quite often feel rather invisible!

As a child, I retreated into the comforting words of scripture and sermons. They helped me make sense of the world and shaped my sense of morality. A young woman’s behaviour reflects not only on her, but on all her relations, and must be well regulated.

I also sought refuge in the pianoforte. I begged Papa to allow me to learn, and I had a great desire to become proficient. Perhaps, if I could play the most difficult pieces, people would pay attention to me and laud me.

I know not whether these shaped me, but perhaps they gave me the discipline to examine the clues I found so as to solve the mystery of Mr. Collins’ murder.

What do you propose to do now? Surely solving murders is not an appropriate activity for a gentlewoman of your tender years. Will you return to playing the pianoforte?

Oh no, sir! I can hardly credit it. It was a grand adventure, but you are correct. I am expected to act within my station, and with all propriety.

And yet I find the whole affair was stimulating. I should never wish to see such violent death again, nor do I rejoice in the cause of the investigation, but I have never felt so useful before in my life. I have never felt so needed, so important, so alive. I know I should be pleased to have this experience to remember in the years to come, and yet a part of me hopes that it might not be the last time I can put my meagre skills to work for so useful a purpose.

Very good. I shall make notes of all of this. Now, on to the crux of this interview. Here I must make good notes for my report. What can you tell us about these terrible events?

Oh, sir, I shudder even now to think of it. It started, as you know, when my cousin Mr. Collins was discovered dead in a field near Longbourn. He had been killed with a knife, and that knife turned out to belong to my sister Elizabeth. She had been out on the day Mr. Collins died, and she returned home injured and covered in blood. This, when seen with the evidence of the knife, brought her to the attention of the local authorities, who came to charge her with the death.

Of course, I could not let that happen! Elizabeth could never kill anybody. I knew I had to do whatever I could to save my dear sister. Then there were the missing candlesticks and the lost maid, and I found myself in the middle of a great mystery that needed solving.

Continue reading “Miss Bennet (of Death of a Clergyman, by Riana Everly)”

Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a deaf art student, who was dragged into a trail of murder, revenge and vengeance spanning centuries and countries.


What was it like living in London, then moving to Spain with your Aunt and Uncle?

For some reason, I don’t remember much about living in London. Snippets of events pop up here and there, they just don’t seem real. I remember our house in London. It always felt so cold, impersonal. I felt I had to tip toe around everywhere.

My father had inherited the house from some long lost relative. I think a part of me blocks out a lot of my earlier childhood.

It felt so different when I moved to Spain when I was 10. My aunt had made sure to make her house a home. Everything in their house felt like it had meaning. My bedroom actually felt like a sanctuary, instead of some place just to sleep in.

I missed my mother; however, for the first time, I felt safe, I felt part of a family.

What is your most cherished memory, and how does the bad memory of your father haunt the good ones?

Going to the Art museum with my mum is one of my most cherished moments, I guess one of the only times I can clearly remember from back then.

My nightmares always involve that museum, and would rapidly take me to the night the car crashed. In my nightmare, I clearly remember hearing my mum call for me, and then I see my body falling down the stairs, my father watching from above…

I don’t know if my nightmares cloud my actual memories, I struggle to picture what happened.

Yelling, threats, my fear of my father all felt so real at the time. When I wake, I just don’t know what is real, and what is imagined… Except that Art Museum.

This is a pretty personal question, how does being deaf affect what you are doing now?

Being deaf has both advantages and disadvantages. I don’t hear if someone is behind me, I sense it, I guess. When I was younger, I was terrified something bad would happen, I couldn’t ‘hear’ it coming.

So, I guess I fine-tuned my other senses. Trained myself to sense a change in the way the air flowed around me when someone was close.

The way nature and objects moved, birds suddenly scattering when something or someone disturbs it.

The smell of cologne or perfume, a hint of curry, tobacco or coffee.

Smelling, tasting, seeing small disruptions to create a more detailed picture around me. Learning to understand how to interpret those small changes.

Now, I use that to watch people. Watch how their lips move when they talk, how their feet are positioned, the way they hold their hands, small ticks that indicate to me they are holding back.

I can’t hear the tone of voice, I can’t hear if they’re angry or sad. Instead, I watch their face, learn the intricacies of their expressions.

That gives me the confidence. I don’t have to rely on others, that’s important to me.

Which is why, I guess, I love Art. I was studying Art History at Seville University, taking after my mum, in some ways. The picture holds so much depth; we only need to understand what we are seeing. Like body language, art has many interpretations to one single image; you just need to understand the workings behind it.

Continue reading “Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)”

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