One of the inspirations for Finn’s journey around the Med in Letters to Strabo is Mark Twain’s first commercially successful novel: The Innocents Abroad. I use it with quotes to track Finn’s progress. It’s amusing and well-worth reading. But as I explored this connection further I discovered that the tragedies of Samuel Clemens’s (Twain’s) later life had meaning also for Finn’s own life-journey. The photo above of Samuel with his beloved wife Livy and his three daughters Susie, Clara and Jean (and their cute dog Hash) was taken in the last days of their childhood innocence. Clara on the left, whom he called ‘the sasmill’ because of her unruly spirit outlived Twain by 50 years and secured his reputation. Finn rediscovers her story in Zurich. Susie the eldest died young but the tale of her experiences at Bryn Mawr has an unexpected and disturbing effect on Eve’s friend Eve when they visit Twain’s house in Hartford. And Jean, the brave animal-lover who struggled with epilepsy is an inspiration to him and Eve for her sheer determination and love of life.
The opening of my new novel Letters to Strabo is set at this wonderful house. The protagonist, Finn, is inspired by his visit to Frederic Church’s house called Olana in the Catskills. Travelling in Mark Twain’s footsteps, he falls for the archivist called Eve he meets there…”I won’t try to describe the sunset to you, but it felt like we should be staring at it on our knees.”
Eve to Finn: “I thought of you again today as I was passing Picnic Point. Do you remember that beautiful day?”
One of my challenges when writing Searching For Amber was how to link the two main locations: Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast and Coggeshall in Essex. Amber’s flight from the clutches of the villain Sam Crow was the solution. In researching this I came across the unusual depiction of this crocodile in stained glass half way along the route. Do you know where this is?
Death in Leamington is more than a crime story; it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Set in the genteel Regency town of Royal Leamington Spa, the murder of an elderly foreign visitor sets off an intricate chain of events, surprising literary encounters and one too many unexplained and gruesome deaths. Inspector Hunter and his new assistant DC Penny Dore race to solve the murders, but as the body count mounts and each new lead evaporates; Hunter becomes more and more convinced that there are darker forces involved.
This is a wonderfully crafted piece of literary fiction. Intense, confusing and sensual, it is simply an impressive novel. The description is beautifully crafted and never loses momentum; high quality writing remains throughout. I loved the plot (and personally, I thought it got better as the novel went on), and found it original and captivating.
An immaculately crafted romantic mystery, David Smith does a brilliant job of delivering an intriguing, sometimes amusing and often unsettling story that is both plausible and vivid. A reasonably quick book to read I thought it was extremely well written with superbly nuanced characters that quickly come to life and are easy to imagine in the context of both location and narrative. For readers looking for something special this is the one.