Guest Post with Giveaway ~ Familiar Motives by Delia James


            It’s impossible for the reader of mystery and crime fiction these days and not to notice that the girls are having trouble.  They’re gone.  They’re on trains.  They’re seduced by mass murderers.  They are stuck in fancy apartments with bad pasts.  Killers and victims are upstairs, downstairs, and in my lady’s chamber, and occasionally in a numbered cabin.  The girls are trapped by lives that oppress and confuse them.  Their friends and family die in droves.

            As a trend in mysteries, this emphasis on ordinary women as perpetrators, victims and escapees, isn’t new.  It’s the return of a portion of the genre that was popular just after World War II, another time of great change, great confusion, and great frustration.  Back then, the sub-genre was called “domestic suspense,” or “domestic noir.”  The stories revolved around women’s lives, usually their home lives, and one of it’s greatest practitioners was Elizabeth Sanxay Holding.

            You’ve probably never heard of her.  I sure as heck had never heard of her.  That is, until I picked up Sarah Weinman’s fabulous anthology of classic suspense by women; Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives.  

            Now, I am a writer and a reader of cozies. I love them and the whole range of the gentler side of mystery fiction, including the venerable English village and country house mysteries, and of course, give me anything featuring a cat and a bookstore.  But I also love classics, and gothics, and stories of women (and their families) behaving unexpectedly, and badly.  So this collection seemed right up my alley.  While I enjoyed a lot of what I found in Troubled Daughters, it was Holding’s “The Stranger in the Car” that sent me running (okay, it was a fast walk), back to the bookstore and demanding “Who is this?” and “WHERE’S THE REST OF HER STUFF!”

            In Holding, I met a woman from the past writing about women who were confined, dismissed, belittled, and thrown into situations where — if they really had been what the men around them thought they were (and sometimes, what they tried hard to be) — they would collapse and expire.  That is not what Holding’s women do.  Sometimes they discover themselves in their danger.  Sometimes they simply reveal their true selves, as tough, intelligent, capable, and sometimes very, very sneaky, human beings.

            Holding wrote across the spectrum of thriller and mystery.  She is best known for domestic suspense, like The Old Battle Axe (a personal favorite), in which an overlooked spinster witnesses a very strange murder.  Then there’s The Blank Wall, where a housewife finds a body in a pond and tries to shield her family from the trouble it will cause.  There’s also The Innocent Miss Duff, which contains one of the best portrayals of the self-deception of an addict that I’ve ever read.  

            But Holding wrote a lot.  She dabbled in psycho-drama a la Patricia Highsmith with work like The Obstinate Murderer (dated, but still interesting) and the exotic-location thriller Speak of the Devil.  If I have a real favorite among Holding’s work, it’s Speak of the Devil, and it’s all because of the main character, Miss Peterson.  

            Like all fans of cozies, I love the person of the female amateur sleuth.  She’s a smart, busy, independent person who gets caught up in the crime when she’s on her way to doing anything but solving a murder.  That’s Holding’s Miss Peterson, but Miss Peterson’s got an edge.  In fact, if I was playing the casting game, I’d go straight for Lauren Bacall.  

            When we meet her, Miss Peterson is sailing to Havana on her own.  She’s restless, and looking for a change.  She has a full, active life that she feels no compulsion to explain, or justify, not even to the reader.  She speaks a number of languages, a fact she does not necessarily advertise, and is clearly very over qualified for the job she ends up taking.  Oh, and she goes around armed.  All of this would make her an unusual point of view for a modern novel, never mind one published in 1942.  Add to this that she is very much in charge of her own love life, and her own personal safety, and you’ve got something really special.

            I’m happy to say that here in the future, Holding’s work is relatively easy to find.  There are some good reprints out, and if you don’t happen to have a good local used bookstore a lot of the rest is available via Amazon.  So, if you’re a fan of those missing girls, and/or Daphne DuMaurier, and/or Patricia Highsmith, and/or Dorothy Sayers, and/or Agatha Christie and/or…

            Well.  You get the picture.   


Guest post provided by the publisher.

Series: A Witch's Cat Mystery (Book 3)
Publisher: Berkley (October 3, 2017)
Genre: Cozy Mystery
ISBN-10: 045147659X
ISBN-13: 978-0451476593
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository


A new witch and her feline familiar get their fifteen minutes of fame in this enchanting mystery in the national bestselling series…

After learning that she comes from a family of witches—and adopting a familiar named Alistair—artist Annabelle Britton has made beautiful Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her home. Together with her coven, this good witch is trying to put a stop to magic and murder most foul.

When Anna takes Alistair to see local veterinarian Ramona Forsythe, they meet the most famous cat in town: Ruby the Attitude Cat, spokes-feline for a pet food brand. But then Ramona turns up dead, and Ruby goes missing. It seems like the murderer used magical means, so it’s up to Anna and Alistair to catch a killer and cat-napper as only a canny cat can.

Thanks to the publisher I have one (1) copy of Familiar Motives to give away.

Giveaway open to residents of the US only.
Giveaway ends on October 20th

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Winner will have 48 hours from the time of notification to confirm their win or another winner will be chosen.

Born in California and raised in Michigan, Delia James writes her tales of magic, cats, and mystery from her hundred-year-old bungalow home.  She is the author of the Witch’s Cat mysteries, which began with A Familiar Tail. When not writing, she hikes, swims, gardens, cooks, reads, and raises her rapidly growing son.


Witch's Cat Mysteries





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  1. penny knowlton says:

    Would love to read.  I love cozy mysteries.

  2. Mysteries & Crime Thrillers are my favorite genre. Now that gardening season is over, I have time to read again! I'd love to get my face into this one!!


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