Spies under every Tudor rock! An interview with Kathy Lynn Emerson

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

I'm delighted to welcome my friend Kathy Lynn Emerson today to talk about her newest historical mystery, Murder in the Merchant's Hall.  Though best known for the mysteries she writes under her own name and as Kaitlyn Dunnett, Kathy has also written Tudor historicals as Kate Emerson, and her long and distinguished career has also included romance, children's stories, and non-fiction.  She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and has been an Agatha finalist for her fiction as well.  

Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries as Kathy (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall). The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” KathyLynnEmerson(224x300)series and is set in Elizabethan England.
 
The Scottie Barked at MidnightAnd in the spirit of the season–Kathy's Liss MacCrimmon mystery Ho-Ho-Homicide is now available in paperback, and she lives on a Christmas tree farm in New England. <G>  Kathy, thanks so much for joining us today.  Tell us about the new book!

Kathy Lynn Emerson: As an avid reader of novels written by the good folks here at Word Wenches, I’ve noticed that many of them have plots that deal with espionage. I have a weakness for such stories myself.

This turns out to be fortunate, since I write mysteries set in the Elizabethan era. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you couldn’t turn over a rock during the late sixteenth century without uncovering some treasonous scheme to undermine the government, assassinate Good Queen Bess, or otherwise wreak havoc.

MurderintheMerchant'sHallMurder in the Merchant’s Hall, the second book in the Mistress Jaffrey Mystery Series after Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe, starts out as a simple case of murder. My protagonist’s childhood friend is accused of killing her brother-in-law after quarreling with him over her refusal to marry the man he’s picked out for her.

She quite sensibly flees the scene of the crime rather than be hauled off to gaol. In those days, once you were charged with murder you were assumed to be guilty and given no opportunity to defend yourself in court. You weren’t even entitled to a lawyer. That’s a topic for a blog in itself.

Naturally, Rosamond Jaffrey, amateur sleuth and sometime spy, agrees to look for the real killer. Her quest leads her to the French Embassy, where the man her friend really wants to marry is employed as a translator. Little does she know what she’s getting into the moment she sets foot inside! The queen’s spy master, Sir Francis Walsingham, has eyes and ears everywhere. The next thing Rosamond knows, she’s warned to stay away from the embassy. Naturally, no one tells her why.

Equally naturally, since she doesn’t take well to following orders, she ignores this one . . . and ends up smack in the middle of the Elizabethan version of Spy vs. Spy.

Sometimes I’m convinced that everybody who lived during this era was involved in espionage. All Murder in the Queen's Wardrobethe most prominent noblemen had their own intelligence gatherers. Walsingham had a network of agents feeding information to him from all over England and the Continent. Even the ladies at court fattened their purses by passing on rumors to foreign ambassadors and their agents.

The plot Rosamond stumbles into is real. A fellow named Francis Throckmorton was caught with letters that implicated both the French and the Spanish ambassadors in a scheme with Mary, Queen of Scots, at that time a prisoner of the English. The plan was to invade England, depose Elizabeth, and put Mary on the throne. It might well have fallen apart even if Throckmorton hadn’t been arrested. Similar plots were thick to the ground.

Some writers have suggested that Englishmen of the Tudor era were paranoid, seeing treason Rosamondwhere there was none. They may be right. On the other hand, better safe than sorry seemed to be the watchword. The tales of treason in Tudor England are a gold mine for writers.

If you want to read about what really happened, minus my fictional characters, I recommend John Bossy’s Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair (Yale UP, 1991) and Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story (Yale UP, 2001), in which Bossy corrects conclusions he came to in his earlier book. Fiction writers have an advantage. When it doubt, we get to make things up. Thus Rosamond plays a key role in Throckmorton’s arrest and then, of course, goes on to solve the mystery of who killed her friend’s brother-in-law.  Here's an excerpt:

Kate Emerson          Rosamond, Lina thought. She could ask Rosamond for help. She would know what to do. Rosamond always knew what to do. Sometimes it was the wrong thing but she was never at a loss when it came to making plans.
            Lina wondered what Rosamond would do if she were the one standing alone in a dark garden at the back of a London mercery? Rosamond would go back inside, Lina decided, not to surrender to Hugo’s plans for her but to better prepare herself for an escape from the city.
            The lock on the garden door yielded to the pin on the back of one of Lina’s brooches, a trick Rosamond had taught her when they were no more than thirteen. Moving silently through the dark house, Lina found her way back to her own bedchamber door. Since Hugo had not bothered to take away the key, she had no trouble gaining entry.
            Once inside the room, by the light of the candle she had left burning when she fled, Lina added a second layer of clothing to what she already wore and tossed her warmest cloak over the whole. She had been shivering in the garden for want of one. Then it was down to the larder to stuff bread and cheese into a cloth bag.
            It was the middle of the night and no one else was stirring. Hugo and Isolde, Hugo’s apprentices and the servants were all asleep in their beds. The girls Isolde was training to be silkwomen, all but Lina herself, went home to their parents at night. Lina hesitated, then turned her steps in the direction of the chamber above the kitchen that Hugo used as his counting house.
            Greatly daring, she intended to help herself to whatever was in the cash box. She told herself it would not be stealing. She was reclaiming what was rightfully hers. Besides, she would be long gone before anyone discovered that both she and the money were missing.
            She stepped over the threshold, candle held high . . . and froze. The room was not empty, as she had expected it to be. In the flickering light of her candle, the only illumination in the chamber, she recognized her brother-in-law seated at his writing table. He appeared to have fallen asleep over his ledgers.
            Then she saw the knife and the blood.
            Her screams woke the rest of the household.

Ho-Ho-HomicideKathy will give a free copy of Murder in the Merchant's Hall to one person who comments between now and Saturday midnight.

And watch out for dangerous Christmas trees!

Mary Jo

 

 

 

105 thoughts on “Spies under every Tudor rock! An interview with Kathy Lynn Emerson”

  1. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’ve not read this series yet, so I’m off to order a copy. Thanks for stopping by the wenches. Hmm, and maybe I need to get that Christmas book–I love the cover!

    Reply
  2. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’ve not read this series yet, so I’m off to order a copy. Thanks for stopping by the wenches. Hmm, and maybe I need to get that Christmas book–I love the cover!

    Reply
  3. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’ve not read this series yet, so I’m off to order a copy. Thanks for stopping by the wenches. Hmm, and maybe I need to get that Christmas book–I love the cover!

    Reply
  4. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’ve not read this series yet, so I’m off to order a copy. Thanks for stopping by the wenches. Hmm, and maybe I need to get that Christmas book–I love the cover!

    Reply
  5. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’ve not read this series yet, so I’m off to order a copy. Thanks for stopping by the wenches. Hmm, and maybe I need to get that Christmas book–I love the cover!

    Reply
  6. I do love a good historical mystery, and these sound intriguing. One of the effects of reading Wolf Hall was to realize that wealth and power were nice, but getting to keep one’s head was even nicer. Those close to royalty seem to have had highly abbreviated life spans (a bit like Bond girls several centuries later).

    Reply
  7. I do love a good historical mystery, and these sound intriguing. One of the effects of reading Wolf Hall was to realize that wealth and power were nice, but getting to keep one’s head was even nicer. Those close to royalty seem to have had highly abbreviated life spans (a bit like Bond girls several centuries later).

    Reply
  8. I do love a good historical mystery, and these sound intriguing. One of the effects of reading Wolf Hall was to realize that wealth and power were nice, but getting to keep one’s head was even nicer. Those close to royalty seem to have had highly abbreviated life spans (a bit like Bond girls several centuries later).

    Reply
  9. I do love a good historical mystery, and these sound intriguing. One of the effects of reading Wolf Hall was to realize that wealth and power were nice, but getting to keep one’s head was even nicer. Those close to royalty seem to have had highly abbreviated life spans (a bit like Bond girls several centuries later).

    Reply
  10. I do love a good historical mystery, and these sound intriguing. One of the effects of reading Wolf Hall was to realize that wealth and power were nice, but getting to keep one’s head was even nicer. Those close to royalty seem to have had highly abbreviated life spans (a bit like Bond girls several centuries later).

    Reply
  11. I loved your Lady Appleton series and did not realize you have started on a new one with Mistress Jaffrey. I will have to get “Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe”, so I am in from the beginning. I love be to find new protagonists.

    Reply
  12. I loved your Lady Appleton series and did not realize you have started on a new one with Mistress Jaffrey. I will have to get “Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe”, so I am in from the beginning. I love be to find new protagonists.

    Reply
  13. I loved your Lady Appleton series and did not realize you have started on a new one with Mistress Jaffrey. I will have to get “Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe”, so I am in from the beginning. I love be to find new protagonists.

    Reply
  14. I loved your Lady Appleton series and did not realize you have started on a new one with Mistress Jaffrey. I will have to get “Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe”, so I am in from the beginning. I love be to find new protagonists.

    Reply
  15. I loved your Lady Appleton series and did not realize you have started on a new one with Mistress Jaffrey. I will have to get “Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe”, so I am in from the beginning. I love be to find new protagonists.

    Reply
  16. I can’t wait to read this! Kathy, I love your books, both historical and contemporary. In fact, it’s hard to decide which I like better.

    Reply
  17. I can’t wait to read this! Kathy, I love your books, both historical and contemporary. In fact, it’s hard to decide which I like better.

    Reply
  18. I can’t wait to read this! Kathy, I love your books, both historical and contemporary. In fact, it’s hard to decide which I like better.

    Reply
  19. I can’t wait to read this! Kathy, I love your books, both historical and contemporary. In fact, it’s hard to decide which I like better.

    Reply
  20. I can’t wait to read this! Kathy, I love your books, both historical and contemporary. In fact, it’s hard to decide which I like better.

    Reply
  21. Thanks for Kathy’s interview and leads on many more good books to read!! This will be a page to bookmark and follow up on. Thanks for writing for those of us who can’t write but savor what others do. I can’t imagine not reading and exploring new corners of our vast world and unlimitless imagination. You all bring it right to me – history, travel, thoughts, ideas . . . Have a happy holiday!

    Reply
  22. Thanks for Kathy’s interview and leads on many more good books to read!! This will be a page to bookmark and follow up on. Thanks for writing for those of us who can’t write but savor what others do. I can’t imagine not reading and exploring new corners of our vast world and unlimitless imagination. You all bring it right to me – history, travel, thoughts, ideas . . . Have a happy holiday!

    Reply
  23. Thanks for Kathy’s interview and leads on many more good books to read!! This will be a page to bookmark and follow up on. Thanks for writing for those of us who can’t write but savor what others do. I can’t imagine not reading and exploring new corners of our vast world and unlimitless imagination. You all bring it right to me – history, travel, thoughts, ideas . . . Have a happy holiday!

    Reply
  24. Thanks for Kathy’s interview and leads on many more good books to read!! This will be a page to bookmark and follow up on. Thanks for writing for those of us who can’t write but savor what others do. I can’t imagine not reading and exploring new corners of our vast world and unlimitless imagination. You all bring it right to me – history, travel, thoughts, ideas . . . Have a happy holiday!

    Reply
  25. Thanks for Kathy’s interview and leads on many more good books to read!! This will be a page to bookmark and follow up on. Thanks for writing for those of us who can’t write but savor what others do. I can’t imagine not reading and exploring new corners of our vast world and unlimitless imagination. You all bring it right to me – history, travel, thoughts, ideas . . . Have a happy holiday!

    Reply
  26. I’m thankful I dropped by today as I positively love historical cosies!
    Ms Emerson I added ‘Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe’ to my Leafmarks TBR as I dearly want to read more Cosies in New Year! What intrigued me the most is this is set during times of Court and the intrigue of sorting out fact from lies… Love the time period now that I have been introduced to it a bit by other authors. Like you wonder to some extent if more were involved with covert affairs for the Crown as so much was happening back then that required ingenuity of Crown affairs. Even like your choice of a lead character as the ‘amauter’ sleuth is one of my most enjoyable to read!

    Reply
  27. I’m thankful I dropped by today as I positively love historical cosies!
    Ms Emerson I added ‘Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe’ to my Leafmarks TBR as I dearly want to read more Cosies in New Year! What intrigued me the most is this is set during times of Court and the intrigue of sorting out fact from lies… Love the time period now that I have been introduced to it a bit by other authors. Like you wonder to some extent if more were involved with covert affairs for the Crown as so much was happening back then that required ingenuity of Crown affairs. Even like your choice of a lead character as the ‘amauter’ sleuth is one of my most enjoyable to read!

    Reply
  28. I’m thankful I dropped by today as I positively love historical cosies!
    Ms Emerson I added ‘Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe’ to my Leafmarks TBR as I dearly want to read more Cosies in New Year! What intrigued me the most is this is set during times of Court and the intrigue of sorting out fact from lies… Love the time period now that I have been introduced to it a bit by other authors. Like you wonder to some extent if more were involved with covert affairs for the Crown as so much was happening back then that required ingenuity of Crown affairs. Even like your choice of a lead character as the ‘amauter’ sleuth is one of my most enjoyable to read!

    Reply
  29. I’m thankful I dropped by today as I positively love historical cosies!
    Ms Emerson I added ‘Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe’ to my Leafmarks TBR as I dearly want to read more Cosies in New Year! What intrigued me the most is this is set during times of Court and the intrigue of sorting out fact from lies… Love the time period now that I have been introduced to it a bit by other authors. Like you wonder to some extent if more were involved with covert affairs for the Crown as so much was happening back then that required ingenuity of Crown affairs. Even like your choice of a lead character as the ‘amauter’ sleuth is one of my most enjoyable to read!

    Reply
  30. I’m thankful I dropped by today as I positively love historical cosies!
    Ms Emerson I added ‘Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe’ to my Leafmarks TBR as I dearly want to read more Cosies in New Year! What intrigued me the most is this is set during times of Court and the intrigue of sorting out fact from lies… Love the time period now that I have been introduced to it a bit by other authors. Like you wonder to some extent if more were involved with covert affairs for the Crown as so much was happening back then that required ingenuity of Crown affairs. Even like your choice of a lead character as the ‘amauter’ sleuth is one of my most enjoyable to read!

    Reply
  31. Hallo again, Ms Emerson!
    I am looking forward to reading the books, except I learnt they are only via ILL right now but my library has your latest release: The Scottie Barked At Midnight – being the 9th in the series, should I backtrack or give this a whirl to soak inside the towne and series? Generally I start at the beginnings, but was so happy to see this was avail after reading this blog!
    I can request the other book in Feb. as that will be 6 months out from pub.
    Let me know – mysteries and small townes are wicked!

    Reply
  32. Hallo again, Ms Emerson!
    I am looking forward to reading the books, except I learnt they are only via ILL right now but my library has your latest release: The Scottie Barked At Midnight – being the 9th in the series, should I backtrack or give this a whirl to soak inside the towne and series? Generally I start at the beginnings, but was so happy to see this was avail after reading this blog!
    I can request the other book in Feb. as that will be 6 months out from pub.
    Let me know – mysteries and small townes are wicked!

    Reply
  33. Hallo again, Ms Emerson!
    I am looking forward to reading the books, except I learnt they are only via ILL right now but my library has your latest release: The Scottie Barked At Midnight – being the 9th in the series, should I backtrack or give this a whirl to soak inside the towne and series? Generally I start at the beginnings, but was so happy to see this was avail after reading this blog!
    I can request the other book in Feb. as that will be 6 months out from pub.
    Let me know – mysteries and small townes are wicked!

    Reply
  34. Hallo again, Ms Emerson!
    I am looking forward to reading the books, except I learnt they are only via ILL right now but my library has your latest release: The Scottie Barked At Midnight – being the 9th in the series, should I backtrack or give this a whirl to soak inside the towne and series? Generally I start at the beginnings, but was so happy to see this was avail after reading this blog!
    I can request the other book in Feb. as that will be 6 months out from pub.
    Let me know – mysteries and small townes are wicked!

    Reply
  35. Hallo again, Ms Emerson!
    I am looking forward to reading the books, except I learnt they are only via ILL right now but my library has your latest release: The Scottie Barked At Midnight – being the 9th in the series, should I backtrack or give this a whirl to soak inside the towne and series? Generally I start at the beginnings, but was so happy to see this was avail after reading this blog!
    I can request the other book in Feb. as that will be 6 months out from pub.
    Let me know – mysteries and small townes are wicked!

    Reply
  36. You should be able to read #9 without having read the others first. Each mystery is separate. This one takes place several years after the first book, Kilt Dead, so the characters are older and their relationships have developed, but I don’t think it would spoil anything for you to know who my amateur sleuth married or that another character has a couple more children than she did at the beginning. Happy Reading!

    Reply
  37. You should be able to read #9 without having read the others first. Each mystery is separate. This one takes place several years after the first book, Kilt Dead, so the characters are older and their relationships have developed, but I don’t think it would spoil anything for you to know who my amateur sleuth married or that another character has a couple more children than she did at the beginning. Happy Reading!

    Reply
  38. You should be able to read #9 without having read the others first. Each mystery is separate. This one takes place several years after the first book, Kilt Dead, so the characters are older and their relationships have developed, but I don’t think it would spoil anything for you to know who my amateur sleuth married or that another character has a couple more children than she did at the beginning. Happy Reading!

    Reply
  39. You should be able to read #9 without having read the others first. Each mystery is separate. This one takes place several years after the first book, Kilt Dead, so the characters are older and their relationships have developed, but I don’t think it would spoil anything for you to know who my amateur sleuth married or that another character has a couple more children than she did at the beginning. Happy Reading!

    Reply
  40. You should be able to read #9 without having read the others first. Each mystery is separate. This one takes place several years after the first book, Kilt Dead, so the characters are older and their relationships have developed, but I don’t think it would spoil anything for you to know who my amateur sleuth married or that another character has a couple more children than she did at the beginning. Happy Reading!

    Reply

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