Someone, I can’t remember who, wrote “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery.”
I get the point but respectfully disagree. History is often a mystery as well.
The past is littered with secrets. Delving into my own heritage, for example, I learned that every ten years when the census-taker came round, my Scottish grandmother shaved a few years off her age. History is often a record, not of what actually happened but what certain people wanted the future to believe.
The idea behind The Art of Betrayal—and all my books—is the effect of the hidden past upon the present. What do we think we know? Is it true? What would happen if we knew the truth?
Two historical events provided a backdrop for this book.
First was The Domesday Book, a census record of England, ordered in 1085 by William the Conqueror—a summary listing of villages, family names, livestock, and land. The census taken in East Anglia (Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk) are especially fascinating because the text is undigested—a virtual treasure trove of historical details, little-known facts, descriptions of local customs, even the musings of the commissioners assigned the task of gathering information. Many of these stories made their way into British folklore. One of the characters in The Art of Betrayal believes she is descended from a mysterious “green maiden,” thought to have been discovered by a sheep farmer in the eleventh century. Is she right—or is her belief the most important thing?
My second inspiration was the sacking of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 by British troops under the command of the British High Commissioner, Lord Elgin. The act was in response to the torture deaths of delegates sent to negotiate the surrender of the Qing dynasty. In retribution, the magnificent palace, possessing the most extensive and invaluable art collection in China, was reduced to ashes and rubble. Soldiers helped themselves to many of the treasures, which have ended up in museums and private collections all over the world. China has made patriating these treasures a constitutional mandate. In The Art of Betrayal, Lady Barbara Finchley-fforde possesses a fabulous carved cinnabar plate “liberated” by one her ancestors during the destruction. What should she do about it?
These two separate historical events inform the beliefs and influence the motives of key characters in the book. In order to set things right in the present, my protagonist and amateur sleuth Kate must unravel the hidden mysteries of the past.
For Kate, the past is truly prologue.
AUTHOR: Connie Berry
PUBLISHER: Crooked Lane
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ABOUT THE BOOK:
American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. Kate is thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. Kate’s most puzzling case yet pits her against the spring floods, a creepy mansion in the Suffolk countryside, the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history, and a clever killer with an old secret.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.
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