GUEST BLOG POST by Jenn McKinlay
Author of the Hat Shop Mysteries
For Scarlett Parker, part of the fun of living in London is celebrating the British holidays, and she’s excited to share her first Bonfire Night with her cousin Vivian Tremont. Invited to a posh party by their friend Harrison Wentworth, Scarlett and Viv decide to promote their hat shop, Mim’s Whims, by donning a few of their more outrageous creations. The hats prove to be quite the conversation starters as the girls mix and mingle with the guests—never suspecting that one of them is a killer.
It’s a cold, clear night, perfect for the British tradition of tossing a straw stuffed effigy of Guy Fawkes, traitor to the crown, onto the bonfire. But instead of a straw man, they realize in the heat of the moment that the would-be Guy Fawkes is actually Harrison’s office rival and he’s been murdered. Before the smoke has cleared, Harrison is the Metropolitan police’s prime suspect, and Scarlett and Vivian must find the real homicidal hothead before their dear friend’s life goes up in flames.
One of the things I love best about writing the London Hat Shop series is learning about all of the customs and traditions of another country. I did travel to London to research the series but it soon became clear that mastering the underground and attending a posh tea were just the beginning of my studies of all things British. When it came time to write COPY CAP MURDER, I knew I wanted to include something that was unique to England and Guy Fawkes night or Bonfire night absolutely fit the bill.
Bonfire night came about on November 5, 1605, when Guy Fawkes and his conspirators put gunpowder beneath the House of Lords in an attempt to blow it up and kill King James I at the Opening of Parliament. Fawkes was caught and tortured but died from a fall before he could be executed. Celebrating King James’s survival, bonfires were lit all over the city which has celebrated the fateful day every year on Nov 5th since the creation of the Observance of 5th November Act, also called the Thanksgiving Act, a few months after the event with bonfires, fireworks, and the traditional tossing of a straw Guy Fawkes effigy onto the bonfire.
As soon as I read about the holiday, and its history, I knew it was the perfect backdrop for a murder. As gruesome as it seems, I also knew that having a real body substituted for the straw effigy of Guy Fawkes was the perfect way to discover the body.
Yes, this is how the mind of a mystery writer works. We’re always looking for where to hide or discover the body. You can only imagine my ideas for the English tradition of the holiday cracker, which is essentially a Christmastime party favor that when pulled apart makes a load cracking noise and is usually stuffed with a small toy or paper hat or perhaps a murder weapon? We shall see.
I hope you enjoy COPY CAP MURDER as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, it is a delight to visit my favorite hat shop across the pond.
COPY CAP MURDER, a Hat Shop Mystery by Jenn McKinlay, Berkley Prime Crime Mass Market, January 5, 2016, $7.99.