The fourth Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery.
A short story
Suicide or murder?
As medieval Londoners joyously prepare for the Christmas celebrations, goldsmith Lawrence Ducket is involved in a street brawl. Fearful that his opponent is dying from his injuries, Lawrence seeks sanctuary in a church nearby.
When Ducket is found hanging from the rafters, people assume it’s suicide. Yet, Sebastian Foxley is unconvinced. Why is his young apprentice, Jack Tabor, so terrified that he takes to his bed?
Amidst feasting and merriment, Seb is determined to solve the mystery of his friend’s death and to ease Jack’s fears.
How have you been able to continue the drama of your series?
My characters do all the hard work. Stephen King, the author of so many thrillers and suspense novels, says he dreams up a character, puts them in a situation and sees what they do. That’s about it for me too. I put a couple of my characters together and let them get on with it. For example, when, in ‘Cold Blood’, Emily wasn’t the perfect wife to Seb, I never planned it that way. Emily’s character just went her own. I think real marriages are often like that – relationships aren’t always quite as you expect. Besides, where is the suspense if everything is wonderful? Medieval life was as full of unexpected twists and turns, just as life today. Characters keep secrets, not only from each other but, just occasionally, from the reader too.
Who is your favourite character?
My favourite character has to be Seb, of course. If I don’t love my hero, then the reader probably won’t either. Having said that, I have more fun with the secondary characters. Gabriel Widowson, that man of mystery with a certain something that so appeals to women – I did enjoy working with him as I was never sure what would happen next. And what about his ‘relationship’ with Emily? That was intriguing and I’m still not sure quite how far they went – that’s one of those secrets I mentioned. What about Seb and Rose? Were those reading lessons as innocent as Seb claimed? He was certainly attracted to her and now she lives under the same roof. Will anything happen? That’s another mystery for a future story! Just think medieval Eastenders and the dramatic possibilities are endless. Villainous characters are great fun to write as well. Father Hugh Wessell amused me no end, the pompous, nasty piece of work. Way back in Poison, Lord Lovell surprised me. As some readers have pointed out, historically, Lovell was Richard of Gloucester’s best mate: how could he be bad? I’m afraid that was his doing, not mine. My characters rule.
Why does medieval crime attract you?
I am fascinated by medieval social history and love a good crime thriller. Put the two together and you’ve got medieval crime. There are many fascinating cases in Court Rolls and Coroners’ Rolls throughout the medieval and early Tudor periods. Sometimes, they only describe the crime committed – often in minute detail – but don’t say whether the accused was found guilty. Otherwise, the accused may be sentenced but his crime not explained. It is down to luck as to which documents have survived. The result is a huge supply of half-told stories, all waiting to have the mysterious gaps explained. I enjoy the challenge of writing about the primitive methods available to solving crimes: no forensic medicine, no DNA analysis, no psychological profiling although there was fingerprinting in Poison, just about. There is only Seb with his artist’s eye for detail, clever brain and knowledge of human weaknesses. Plenty of scope for suspense and mystery in my medieval tales of murder.