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Our guest today is Victoria Thompson, author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series and the Counterfeit Lady novels.  Her latest Gaslight Mystery, Murder on Trinity Place, released on April 30.

Party like it’s 1899!

So I was working on ideas for Murder on Trinity Place, the 23rd book in the Gaslight Mystery Series. The series started in 1896, and after 22 books, we were approaching the end of 1899, so I thought it would be fun to show the turn of that century. Were people as excited about it as we were in 1999? It turns out they weren’t (which is a different blog post).  Where do I go from there?

Got Milk?

By this time, I had an idea for how to start Murder on Trinity Place, even if it wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. The murder would happen on New Year’s Eve, and I decided the victim would be a man whose legitimate business might be a cover for some sort of illegal activity.  I consulted a few of my writer friends (I knew they would help because it’s always easier to come up with ideas for other people’s books).  My good friend, Susanna Calkins, suggested that milk wagons could be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes when not actually hauling milk. What a perfect idea!  (such a perfect idea, as you will see, that I ended up dedicating the book to her.)

 And then the magic happened.

I started researching what milk delivery was like around the turn of the last century, and I discovered all sorts of things about milk that I’d never dreamed of. Did you know that at one point in time in New York City, they had “milk wars”? Did you know that in mid-Nineteenth Century New York City, half of the children died before the age of five?  Half of them! And why? Mostly from drinking contaminated milk. Yikes. This was serious stuff. This is why writers love doing research. Truth is often much more interesting than anything you could make up yourself.

 “Never cry over spilt milk, because it may have been poisoned.” –W.C. Fields

When the owner of a dairy is found murdered, Frank and Sarah Malloy are asked to solve the case by their very superstitious neighbor, Mrs. Ellsworth, because the victim is the father of her new daughter-in-law. (Can we all take a moment here to lament the fact that the English language has no easy way to describe your relationship to your child’s in-laws? “My daughter-in-law’s parents” is so unwieldy.  But I digress.)  Since Mrs. Ellsworth once saved Sarah’s very life, they cannot refuse, and they begin an investigation that leads them to some very surprising places.

Milk has long been a staple of the American diet.  What are your memories of drinking it as a child? Do you remember home delivery? Do you like milk? Hate it? Are you allergic?  Are you surprised to learn that at one point it time drinking it could actually be dangerous?

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Murder on Trinity Place

9780399586637 The devil’s in the details when a respected man is found murdered near historic Trinity Church, in the exciting new novel from the national bestselling Gaslight Mystery series…

As 1899 draws to a close, Frank and Sarah Malloy are ready to celebrate the New Year–and century–at Trinity Church when they notice Mr. Pritchard, a neighbor’s relative, behaving oddly and annoying the other revelers. When Frank tries to intervene and convince Pritchard to return home with them, he refuses and Frank loses him in the crowd. The next morning Sarah and Frank are horrified to learn Pritchard was murdered sometime in the night, his body left on Trinity Place, mere steps from the incident. Frank and Sarah must search Pritchard’s past for a link between the new crimes…and old sins.

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Victoria Thompson is the bestselling author of the Edgar and Agatha Award nominated Gaslight Mystery Series and the Sue Grafton Memorial Award nominated Counterfeit Lady Series. Her latest books are Murder on Trinity Place and City of Secrets, both from Berkley. She currently teaches in the Master’s Degree program for writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.