They had all received a personal invitation, but where was their host? The guests stole glances at each other, a few exchanged pleasantries, as they gathered in the study. It was only after the door was closed firmly behind them that they noticed the shadowy form on the floor. Some held back, while others approached the scene with increasing dread. There was no denying it; a murder had been committed. The year was 2013, and there on the ground before them lay an author’s body of work. More grisly still, the corpse was missing pieces.
A hidden door in the wall flew open, startling the guests and eliciting screams that soon died as none other than the author herself, Donna Fletcher Crow, strode into the room. She studied each of them in turn. They began to squirm beneath her inscrutable gaze. Finally, she gave a brief nod and spoke.
“First, I don’t want anyone to be alarmed. This,” she pointed to her late Career, “was inevitable.”
“But what happened?” someone asked.
“Who did this?” cried another.
Fletcher Crow held up a hand. “All your questions will be answered in time. I have solved this mystery, and the murderer is in this room.”
A gasp issued from the midst of the accused. All in a row they stood—Graduations, Births, Deaths, Emigration, an Ordination…even a Church Plant. Surveying the suspects arrayed before her, Crow shook her head. She remembered thinking, when my children are grown and gone, there will be more time for writing. But the ensuing years had become busier still. The many family events contributed to stretching a year’s sabbatical from writing into a decade-long absence from publishing.
Not just any decade. The author shuddered. The years 2000 to 2010 had ushered in the technological age of publishing. The business she remembered no longer existed. In its place, she faced a digital enigma.
“But,” Births broke in, “it couldn’t have been us who killed your career. We’ve been far too busy.”
“I have an alibi,” Deaths added, “and witnesses.”
Pulled from her thoughts of the past, Fletcher Crow faced a row of defensive faces, all except two.
Emigration tossed her long, chestnut hair. “That’s not fair! I helped you.”
Ordination stroked his beard, deep in thought, and Fletcher Crow turned to him. “You have something to add?” she asked.
He frowned. His gaze dropped to the corpse in front of him. “It occurs to me that your late career always looked like you. It reflected who you were. But now,” he looked from the corpse to the author and then back. “After ten years…there’s barely a resemblance.”
“Indeed,” Fletcher Crow replied. “An astute observation.”
Ordination beamed at the praise, then quickly recovered his usual reserve.
“But,” she continued. “We’ll return to that later. First, I direct you to an important piece of the puzzle—my fling with Nonfiction.”
Church Plant shook her head. “Must we become so personal? And in mixed company?”
“And honestly,” said Graduations, removing her spectacles. “There was nothing wrong with it. Seasons of Prayer: Praying Through the Church Year. I liked that book.”
“Yes, well, so did many others.” Fletcher Crow couldn’t suppress a smile. She supposed the occasional humble brag wasn’t her worst sin. “So, I thought, why not write books about my other interests? I wrote one about religious pilgrimages through Britain and another about English Christian mystics.”
“I told you I helped,” Emigration muttered.
“Those sound compelling,” Ordination intoned.
The author nodded. Then, a wry smile. “I loved them. My agent loved them. Publishers said a polite, No, thank you.” Her gaze slid away. A shrug. “You must understand, I never quit writing. They just quit publishing me.”
She paused. Her mouth curved into a slow smile. “That’s when I hit upon a plan. I would do this!” She pointed with a dramatic flourish at the dismembered corpse of her career, a gleam in her eye.
The calm of death settled over the suspects, then Births gasped. Being a naïf, he was the last to comprehend her meaning. “It was you!” He started to cry.
Church Plant patted his back. “There, there. It’s all part of the plan.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Graduations said. “There may be more to this than meets the eye.”
Ordination nodded. “My thoughts exactly. For example, why take pieces from the remains?”
“No respect,” Deaths muttered, shaking her head.
Fletcher Crow had no desire to scare them, but there was no turning back now. What was done, was done. “Yes, I freely admit it.” There was almost a note of triumph in her voice. “I cannibalized the parts.”
Births’ eyes widened. He screamed and made a break for the door, but the author blocked his path. “It all goes back to something my father told me,” she said to him, in a soothing tone.
“It always does,” Ordination whispered to Graduations, who nodded sagely. Fletcher Crow ignored them both, gently leading Births back to the group.
“Father always said,” she continued. “You never learn anything that you don’t use sometime in your life.” She lifted a chin at Ordination. “You are correct. The career lying here no longer reflects who I am. Just as the publishing industry has changed, so have I, and we must move with the times. Twitter, Facebook, blogging—they’re actually rather fun, once you get the hang of them.”
Fletcher Crow stepped back and rapped on the hidden door. “You can come out now,” she called.
At that, a vibrant cast of characters crowded into the room, clerics of every kind, monks, nuns, beautiful acolytes, shadowy dark-robed figures and Victorian lords and ladies. Behind them strode academics and recognizable literary figures like Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, even Shakespeare—each of them a character in one of Crow’s three British mystery series.
A fondness she always felt for her characters bloomed inside her. “Everything I’ve experienced and learned over the years has resulted in the career I have today. My mystery novels reflect who I am now. I’ve melded together pieces from my past career, research and travel through Britain from my unpublished nonfiction, and all the varied, marvelous lessons that each of you family events have taught me over the last decade.”
One of the characters, a determined young woman, stepped forward in barely restrained excitement. “Tell them about one of our first reviews…”
The author demurred. “Felicity, I couldn’t.”
“Then I will.” Felicity straightened her shoulders like an actress preparing to deliver her lines. “The reviewer said it was a sweeping, page-turning quest—in the steps of St. Cuthbert—through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance.”
“Impressive,” said Graduations.
The author nodded enthusiastically. “At a time of life when many of my peers are retiring, I’m still writing what I’m passionate about,” she said. “The beautiful thing is, I’ve never been busier or happier.”
Felicity wasn’t finished. “There’s more, my favorite part… In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.”
The author’s cheeks colored, but she maintained her composure. “Yes, well…” she paused. “The simple truth is, while I was proud of my nonfiction histories, I always felt they needed something more. If I felt that way, I knew my readers would, too. This phase of my career reveals my journey toward sacramental worship, my continued longing for revival in England and my love of mysteries.”
Ordination cleared his throat, but Fletcher Crow held up a hand. “If I can beg your patience for one final statement? When I think about where life has taken me and my current work, I often think of P.D. James. She said one of the greatest joys of writing a mystery is to bring order out of chaos.” The author’s face creased in a hopeful smile. “And that seems to me to be a very Christian thing to do.”
“To be clear, though,” Ordination pointed to the body on the floor. “You’re saying you are responsible for that?”
Fletcher Crow shrugged, while the gleam in her eye remained. “But of course. To commit murder is, always, the primary role of a mystery writer.”
Take Aways for Reviving a Career from Donna Fletcher Crow
Keep files of your notes, even when you can’t write.
Wherever you are in life can be used in your writing.
Write from your passion.
Never stop writing.
Drink tea…lots and lots of tea.
An All-Consuming Fire, book 5 in the Monastery Murders
A Christmas wedding in a monastery- what could be more idyllic? And Felicity has never been happier, in spite of her over-bearing mother who wants to turn the whole event into a royal affair and Antony's worries over the television series he is narrating on the English Mystics. Then Felicity takes on responsibility for directing an Epiphany pageant for Kirkthorpe's wayward youth. At least, most of the vexing disruptions occurring on the filming locations are miles away from the Community of the Transfiguration. Until the threats move closer. Close enough to threaten Felicity's life. Will the murderer stalking the Yorkshire Moors shatter the joy of Felicity and Antony's Christmas wedding?
Where Love Begins, book 1 Where There is Love
Catherine Perronet's world is shaken when she learns Charles Wesley is engaged to marry another. After all, Catherine's initials were on the list John Wesley gave to his brother listing acceptable matrimonial candidates.
And that's not all that's wrong in Catherine's world. As teacher at a Methodist Society school in London, she sees her brother beaten while preaching in the open air, her favorite pupil forced to leave school because of his family's poverty, and a prisoner receive his death sentence in Newgate Prison. Catherine undertakes the joys and hardships of a circuit-ride preaching tour to Canterbury where a French invasion threatens then must face the terrors of the Great London Earthquake before coming to an understanding of the gentle calling God has for her.
The Flame Ignites, The Elizabeth and Richard Mysteries, the prequel
How did it all begin? Before Elizabeth and Richard's terror-filled mystery week in the Rocky Mountains . . . before murder accompanied their honeymoon . . . before the life-changing English summer when death stalked the Jane Austen Trail . . .
October 1984, the New England hillsides are ablaze with red-gold autumn. Elizabeth is beginning her academic career, and Richard is stuck in the family business. They should be able to help each other with their work, but their meeting strikes sparks and raises old ghosts.
Donna Fletcher Crow brings a lifetime love of English literature and history as well as intensive research to all of her fifty novels. The award-winning Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England, an Arthurian epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She also authors The Lord Danvers Mysteries. A Tincture of Murder is her latest in these Victorian true-crime novels. The Elizabeth and Richard Mysteries are her literary suspense series
including A Jane Austen Encounter. An All-Consuming Fire is the fifth of Felicity and Antony’s adventures in the Monastery Murders. Donna and her husband of 52 years live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 14 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener. To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go
to: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com. Follow her on Facebook at: Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History