Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Blog Tour Excerpt + Giveaway: A Murder by Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe


Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover & eBook; 326 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

When a brutal murder threatens the sanctity of the Elizabethan court, it’s up to a hot-tempered spy to save the day.

The court of Elizabeth I is no stranger to plotting and intrigue, but the royal retinue is thrown into chaos when the Queen’s youngest and sweetest lady-in-waiting is murdered, her body left on the high altar of the Chapel Royal in Whitehall Palace. Solving the murder will require the cunning and savvy possessed by only one man. Enter Nicholas Holt, younger brother of the Earl of Blackwell—spy, rake, and owner of the infamous Black Sheep tavern in the seedy district of Bankside. Nick quickly learns that working for the Queen is a mixed blessing. Elizabeth—salty-tongued, vain, and fiercely intelligent—can, with a glance, either reward Nick with a purse of gold or have his head forcibly removed.

When a second lady-in-waiting is slain at Whitehall, the court once again reels with shock and dismay. On the trail of a diabolical killer, Nick and his faithful sidekick—an enormous Irish Wolfhound named Hector—are treading on treacherous ground, and only the killer’s head on a platter can keep them in the Queen’s good graces.

“Captivating… Fans of Fiona Buckley’s Ursula Blanchard and Kathy Lynn Emerson’s Rosamond Jaffrey will be delighted to add Wolfe to their reading lists.” ―Booklist

“[A] promising series launch… Fans of Elizabethan historicals will be satisfied.” ―Publishers Weekly

“An excellent series kickoff by Wolfe that cleverly highlights both the mystery and the many ills of Elizabethan times.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“In vivid passages, Suzanne Wolfe’s novel brings to the reader the light and dark of Elizabethan England, its squalor and splendor, filth and riches, intrigues and delights.” ―NY Journal of Books



Her mind wandering, she recalled the one event in her brief sojourn at court that had fulfilled all her romantic expectations. The lavish ball given annually by the queen at Hampton Court to celebrate the anniversary of her accession to the throne on 17 November 1558. The sumptuous ballroom had blazed with the flames of a thousand beeswax candles, shimmering off the gorgeous rainbow of jewels worn by the ladies and, most of all, by the queen herself. Cecily had been dazzled, so much so that Mary had had to give her an elbow to remind her to lift the queen’s cloth of gold train from under her feet so that Gloriana Regina did not faceplant on the gleaming floor in front of the entire court. Once safely settled on her throne, Elizabeth had dismissed the ladies-in-waiting to dance. Only the countess remained by the queen’s side, scowling in disapproval as the women ran joyously into the whirling, stamping, fray.

“Just look at the old battle-axe,” Mary hissed into Cecily’s ear as she dragged her onto the dance floor. “She looks like she just sat on one of those monstrous long hairpins she wears. She can’t bear anyone to have any fun. Bah!”

Cecily giggled then blushed to the roots of her hair as a young man gave her a low bow. Mary blew him a kiss but moved on, dragging her friend with her.

“That’s Sir Hugh,” Mary said. “You need to watch out for him. He thinks he’s God’s gift.”

Cecily glimpsed a hump-backed man standing in the shadows. His face was pale and his clothes dark. The deformity of his back made his head twist up at an angle so that he appeared to be craning his neck forward. His dark eyes were fixed on Cecily, an enigmatic smile on his lips. “Who’s that?” she asked, shivering despite the tremendous heat of the room.

“The Spider,” Mary said. “Sir Robert Cecil. He runs the spy network for Sir Francis Walsingham.”

It was a chilling reminder that beneath the glitter and pomp of the court moved dark, dangerous currents. Currents, Cecily knew, that could kill. She looked hastily away and saw a dark-haired man leaning nonchalantly against a wall with his arms folded and a sardonic expression on his face. He seemed to be watching the Spider. When he caught her looking at him, he winked. Cecily smiled back, the threat of the spy-master forgotten.

The rest of the night passed in a frenzy of dancing. Cecily lost track of how many courtiers she danced with, but when Sir Walter Raleigh took her hand to lead her into a Galliard she was so overcome with awe that her legs almost refused to hold her up until a stocky man in plain attire, a soldier by the look of him, cut in and whirled her away from the dashing explorer. Only one partner displeased her—a man dressed in sulfurous yellow who ogled and smirked at her the whole time and whose hands felt like dead fish. 

The love note she had longed to receive at the ball had indeed finally appeared that very morning, but in the most unlikely of places and it smelled more of tallow than of roses.

As the most junior of the ladies-in-waiting, she had taken up the rear of the little procession following the queen as she swept out of the chapel after matins, a blazing comet at the head of a rainbow-hued tail of velvet and silk which rustled like a summer’s breeze over the tiled floor. Eager to catch the ear of the queen before her never-ending round of audiences with foreign ambassadors and meetings closeted with Baron Burghley and the Privy Council in Star Chamber, the ladies and gentlemen of the court pressed thickly into the aisle behind Cecily, pushing and shoving, occasionally stepping on the back of her gown causing her to stumble. It was in the crush at the door when the queen stopped to speak to someone and her ladies milled about waiting for her to proceed, the countess moving irritably among them to chivy them into some order, that Cecily felt someone slip something into the pocket of her skirts. Fishing it out, she saw a tiny rolled piece of parchment. Heart fluttering like a trapped bird, she scanned the faces around her but no eyes were fixed on her with veiled yearning, no lips discreetly kissed the tips of fingers. Courtiers began to fall back as the queen moved on, her ladies following. Tucking the note back into her pocket for safe-keeping, Cecily hurried after them.

Cecily had to wait until the queen had broken her fast and stomped off to her first audience before she had a chance to read the note. She asked the countess permission to go to the privy set in an alcove off the staircase leading to the royal apartments.

“If you must,” the countess replied, as if a call of nature were a deplorable flaw of character.

Once she had drawn the curtain across the doorway, Cecily extracted the scrap of paper from her sleeve and, with trembling fingers, unfurled it. There was just enough light from the barred casement window set high in the wall for ventilation for her to read the words written there:

Meet me in the chapel after compline at midnight. Come alone. Tell no one.
Signed, A heart-sick admirer.

About the Author:

Suzanne M. Wolfe grew up in Manchester, England and read English Literature at Oxford University, where she co-founded the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. She served as Writer in Residence at Seattle Pacific University and taught literature and creative writing there for nearly two decades. Wolfe is the author of three novels: A Murder by Any Name, The Confessions of X, and Unveiling.

Thirty years ago, she and her husband, Gregory Wolfe, co-founded Image, a journal of the arts and faith. They have also co-authored many books on literature and prayer including Books That Build Character: How to Teach Your Child Moral Values Through Stories and Bless This House: Prayers For Children and Families. Her essays and blog posts have appeared in Image and other publications. She and her husband are the parents of four grown children. They live in Richmond Beach, Washington.

For more information, please visit Suzanne M. Wolfe’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

A Murder by Any Name is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 3 hardcover copies of A Murder By Any Name! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Murder By Any Name

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