3 February 2021

Special Guest Post by Helen Hollick, Author of A Mirror Murder

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker 
– and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

A Mirror Murder is my first cosy mystery – a genre that emulates the lighter police murder mysteries shown on TV, Midsomer Murders and Colombo rather than the more serious Morse or Lewis. I had been thinking about branching out into a different genre for some while, and not wanting to read anything similar to what I usually write (historical Arthurian, Saxon eleventh century or pirate-based nautical adventure) I turned to murder-mystery for my Kindle entertainment. I loved Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers series in particular, but a couple of other authors did not impress me quite so much. “Could I do better?” I wondered.

I had also wanted to write something where I could use the quite a few years of experience working in a public library in Chingford, a North London suburban town on the edge of Epping Forest and Essex, where I was born and lived until I married in 1981. Believe me, a lot goes on behind the scenes in a library! (Although I don’t recall any murders!) 

In my historical and nautical novels I try to be as accurate as I can where research is concerned – get the facts wrong and an author soon has readers complaining on Amazon. But I found it just as hard to ensure I got things right for 1971 as I do when writing about my Captain Jesamiah Acorne’s adventures in 1719! It’s amazing to recall that, although only fifty years ago, we had no mobile phones, no personal computers, no internet! 

Most houses only had one TV (black and white – colour was only just coming into use) and one telephone, which in our case was a party line shared with a nextdoor neighbour – so calls were far from private! (Ooh! Now there’s a good idea for a murder mystery, a murder overheard!) Our phone was in the hall, near the front door, and I recall sitting on the stairs whispering to my boyfriend and hoping my parents couldn’t hear!

I enjoyed ‘meeting’ my new characters; Jan Christopher, her love interest, DC Laurie Walker, her uncle and guardian DCI Toby Christopher, and her Aunt Madge. I am also looking forward with some great excitement, to discovering what adventures befall Jan and co in future episodes of The Jan Christopher Mysteries. Book Two is already under way A Mystery of Murder.

The telephone rang at five-thirty shortly after Uncle Toby had got home. Aunt Madge answered it. I heard her voice from my bedroom upstairs, where I was bashing out the words, on my battered old typewriter, of another chapter for my potential best seller science fiction novel. 
  “Hello? 5785.” A pause. “Jan! It’s for you, dear.”
  I ran down the stairs and took the receiver from her, waited a moment while she wandered back into the kitchen – obviously listening. I heard her whisper something to Uncle Toby. Not for the first time, or last, I wished we had more than one telephone in the house, or that this one wasn’t in such a very public place in the hall. If I wanted to talk privately (which I’d never had any reason to), I would have to use the public telephone box outside the telephone exchange down the road.
  “Hello?” I said tentatively. I rarely received phone calls, not having many friends with any need to contact me.
  My heart sank to my pink, furry, mule slippers as I heard DC Walker’s voice. This was it; he had changed his mind. Was phoning to say our planned evening out was off...
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About the Author

Helen and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farmhouse through BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show. First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction. She is currently writing more Voyages for the Sea Witch series and the next in the Jan Christopher Mysteries series. She has other ideas for other tales – and would like the time to write them! Find out more at Helen's website: www.helenhollick.net and find her on Facebook and Twitter: @HelenHollick


  1. Going on a tour with another writer is fun, but when it's another historical fiction writer who's also switched, you know you're going to be with somebody who 'gets' research.
    I set one of my Roma Nova books in the 1970s and Helen is dead right – your own memory is not enough. But this is where the historical fiction writer's techniques are so valuable.

    1. *laugh* especially when you reach 'older age' and you can't even remember why you went upstairs!

  2. Thank you Tony for being the host today ... I think what struck me most are the things I _don't_ remember from the 1970s - this was when we had the Three Day Week when power cuts were scheduled, but I hardly remember them - I'm guessing because we didn't have so many electrical gadgets back then, so didn't have much to miss! (Only 1 Tv to a household, for instance, no computers or mobile phones...)

    1. You are always welcome Helen - I remember those power cuts, when we always had to know where to find candles and matches!

    2. The power cuts will feature in a future Jan Christopher mystery - several members of the public couldn't understand why they couldn't continue to select books just using their torches ... believe me working in a library with no lights on isn't fun! (But super for locating a fictional murder!)


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