I am so pleased to share the news of a forthcoming publication from one of my favorite historical mystery authors. Tessa Arlen’s Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, A Woman of WWII Mystery Book 1, will be released on November 4, 2019. The first novel in a new series, it promises to be an entertaining mystery for you to get lost in for a weekend while drinking tea and nibbling on scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream.
After enjoying all four books of Arlen’s Lady Montfort Mystery Series, which are set in a Downton Abbey-esque country manor house in Edwardian England, I was interested to learn that the next mystery series would take place twenty-six years later during WWII. Featuring a courageous, young woman doing her bit during the war as a Air Raid Warden, she is the front line for her sleeping neighbors against the Blitz in her small English village. Here is further information from the publisher on the new book, and an exclusive excerpt from the author for your enjoyment.
Summer 1942. The world has been at war for three long and desperate years. In the remote English village of Little Buffenden, Poppy Redfern’s family house and farmland have been requisitioned by the War Office as a new airfield for the American Air Force. As the village’s Air Raid Warden, Poppy spends her nights patrolling the village as she tries to ease her neighbors’ fears about the “Friendly Invasion” and what it means to their quiet way of life.
When two young, popular women who were dating American servicemen are found strangled, Poppy quickly realizes that her little town has been divided by murder. The mistrust and suspicion of their new American partners in the war threaten to tear Little Buffenden apart. Poppy decides to start her own investigation with the help of a charismatic American pilot and she soon unearths some chilling secrets and long-held grudges. Poppy will have no choice but to lay a trap for a killer so perilously close to home, she might very well become the next victim…
I was halfway across the yard when the distinct aroma of a freshly lit cigarette drifted toward me on the night air. In the time it took to register that I was not alone in this hedged-in dark place a strong hand clamped down on my shoulder and jerked me backward. My helmet went flying as a grip of iron tightened on my upper arm. Adrenalin prickled up the backs of my legs and my heart bounded up into my throat. Only one thought flashed into my mind: German paratroopers –we had been invaded!
I resisted a panicky impulse to struggle free and run for safety: after the blood, toil, and tears of the last three years I would go down fighting –or he would. I moved sideways into him, caught hold of his belt and slid his weight over my hip to land him heavily on the ground. There was a satisfying grunt of pain and surprise from my German paratrooper.
I had been more startled than scared when he had grabbed me in the dark, but now my legs felt as useless as wet wool. Run, I told myself, run fast! I spun on my heel, praying that I could out-distance him and sound the alarm before he came after me. I was almost through the wicket gate when I heard a string of profanity: “Goddam it . . . goddam it to hell …” blasphemy gave way to cruder Anglo-Saxon epithets of the kind no one I know uses. I recognized the accent immediately and it wasn’t German.
I turned back to my attacker and in the dull light of my blackout torch, I saw a man in American uniform getting to his feet. Now it was my turn to curse. And I chose my old school friend Lucy’s brother, Ted, as the target for my damns and bloody hells. On a wet spring break from school, he had taught us five basic judo moves, one of which I had played out just now with exemplary dedication to his instruction.
The American straightened up, spanking dust off his uniform trousers as I walked back to him my cheeks flame-red with embarrassment: apologies stuttering from my lips. “I am so …”
“Whoa, whoa, hold it, son,” he was laughing as he lifted both arms in mock surrender. “I thought for a moment our airfield was under attack. I had no idea how well trained the local Home Guard was.”
“I’m just the local air raid warden. Look, I’m most frightfully sorry . . .” He reached out a hand and turned my torch toward my face. I heard a low whistle. “Well, I’ll be damned, I can’t believe I was just thrown by a girl – who taught you judo? Are all Englishwomen this feisty?” I took back my torch and, in its light, I watched him pick up his cap and slap it against his thigh before putting it back on his head. It took him a while to get it set the way he liked it. It’s interesting how male vanity emerges in the most unlikely situations.
“Get you in action and England wouldn’t need help from us to win this war.” He tugged the peak of his cap a little to the right and then gave me his full attention. “What did you say you were doing here?”
Indignation washed away embarrassment. Why, for heaven’s sake, hadn’t he asked me what I was doing here before launching in with the heavy-handed rough stuff?
I drew myself up, “I’m assuming you are American Army Air Force?”
He said something about the name and number of his fighter squadron. “We call our wing the ‘Midnight Raiders.’”
“Oh really? Then I would have thought you would know something about a blackout. The study window of this house is leaking light, which can be seen quite easily from up there.” I waved a hand at the night sky in case he didn’t know where it was.
He closed the distance between us. He was tall, over six feet, but all Americans are tall, aren’t they? It was difficult to see his face under the peak of his cap: the closest feature in my line of vision was his mouth: smiling widely over teeth of film-star, white, evenness.
“Perhaps we had better introduce ourselves. I’m Lieutenant,” he pronounced his rank as lew-tenant, “Griff O’Neal.” (p 16-18)
- “History, suspense, and an appealing heroine…” — Kirkus Reviews
- “Arlen deserves several thumbs up for this one… A fine start to a new series.” — Booklist
- “Vivid settings and high emotions keep the suspense at fever pitch, but it’s the characters that make Arlen’s series kickoff such a stunner.” — BookPage
- “Absolutely smashing! Arlen pens a dynamite beginning to a new series, filled with wartime suspense, skillfully wrought emotions and a liberal dash of romance. Readers will fall in love with clever and quirky Poppy Redfern and the colorful villagers of Little Buffenden, as well as their dashing new neighbors—the American Airmen.” — Anna Lee Huber, bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mysteries
- “This engaging mystery introduces an intrepid new sleuth in Poppy Redfern and draws us into the lives of a small English village, upturned by war and the unexplained murders of two young women. I was enamored by the story and the residents of Little Buffenden from the first page to last. Three cheers for Poppy!”— Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Me No Questions, A Lady Dunbridge Mystery.
- “The enemy doesn’t stand a chance with courageous Poppy on patrol. You’ll love this character so much you’ll want her as your best friend. I know I do! I can’t wait for the next Woman of WWII Mystery! ” — Alyssa Maxwell, author of the Gilded Newport Mysteries and a Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries
Tessa Arlen was born in Singapore, the daughter of a British diplomat; she has lived in Egypt, Germany, the Persian Gulf, China, and India. An Englishwoman married to an American, Tessa lives on the West Coast with her family and two corgis.
Did you notice the dog assisting our brave heroine on the book cover? That’s Bess, Poppy’s trusty Welsh Corgi. Too cute! A dog, a handsome American Airman, a gutsy heroine, and a murder mystery set in an English country village. That should put any Anglophile in a British murder mystery stupor.
Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders (A Woman of WWII Mystery Book 1), by Tessa Arlen
Berkley (November 5, 2019)
Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (320) pages
Cover image courtesy of Berkley © 2019; Excerpt Tessa Arlen © 2019; Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com