Monday, May 6, 2019

Blog Tour Q&A with Christine Trent, Author of A Murderous Malady

Please join me in welcoming the fabulous Christine Trent to Let Them Read Books! Christine is touring the blogosphere to celebrate the release of the second book in her Florence Nightingale mystery series, A Murderous Malady, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about crafting a mystery series around this pioneering historical figure!

For fans of Charles Todd and Deanna Raybourn comes Christine Trent’s second Florence Nightingale mystery.

Cholera has broken out in London, but Florence Nightingale has bigger problems when people begin dying of a far more intentional cause—murder.

The London summer of 1854 is drawing to a close when a deadly outbreak of cholera grips the city. Florence Nightingale is back on the scene marshaling her nurses to help treat countless suffering patients at Middlesex Hospital as the disease tears through the Soho slums. But beyond the dangers of the disease, something even more evil is seeping through the ailing streets of London.

It begins with an attack on the carriage of Florence’s friend, Elizabeth Herbert, wife to Secretary at War Sidney Herbert. Florence survives, but her coachman does not. Within hours, Sidney’s valet stumbles into the hospital, mutters a few cryptic words about the attack, and promptly dies from cholera. Frantic that an assassin is stalking his wife, Sidney enlists Florence’s help, who accepts but has little to go on save for the valet’s last words and a curious set of dice in his jacket pocket. Soon, the suspects are piling up faster than cholera victims, as there seems to be no end to the number of people who bear a grudge against the Herbert household.

Now, Florence is in a race against time—not only to save the victims of a lethal disease, but to foil a murderer with a disturbingly sinister goal—in A Murderous Malady.


Hi Christine! Thank you so much for visiting today! What inspired you to make Florence Nightingale the protagonist of a mystery series?

Three factors came together as the inspiration for this series:  my agent, my mother, and my local hospital.

I was in the middle of my Lady of Ashes mystery series about a Victorian undertaker when my agent asked me to think about a new mystery series, something still Victorian but a different take on the era.

My mother had been a nurse for many years and even into retirement had held on to her nursing license.  She was very proud of having earned it.  It occurred to me that Florence Nightingale was a Victorian figure, and it would have been homage to my mother to write about the great nursing reformer.

My mother was also chronically ill and spent a lot of time at our local hospital’s infusion center getting blood transfusions.  I noticed that the center’s director had a framed photograph of Florence on the wall of her office.

That sealed the deal.  I knew it was meant to be that I would write about Florence Nightingale.

My mother was very excited about the idea, as was the infusion center director.  My agent loved it and who got right to work on it.  Unfortunately, mom died before my agent sold the series to my wonderful editor at Crooked Lane Books.

I like to think that mom would have been very proud to hold this book in her hand.

What kind of research did you do to bring the details of medical care during this time period to life?

I am fortunate that I have had several opportunities to travel to England, and twice I have made visits to the Old Operating Theatre in London—a wealth of information about medicine of the time.
The Operating Theatre (operating or emergency room) is found in the roof space of an English Baroque Church and it is quite a climb to get up there. At first glance this placement seems bizarre.  It makes more sense when it is realized that the wards of the South Wing of St. Thomas' Hospital were built around St. Thomas' Church.

Placing the Theatre in the Herb Garret of the Church provided a separation from the ward. It gave a separate entrance for students and afforded a measure of sound proofing.  It was also approximately at the same level as the women's surgical ward which aided the transport of patients to the theatre.  The Theatre was purpose built to maximize the light from above, with a large skylight. Although not heated or ventilated, it provided an ideal, albeit small, area for demonstrating surgical skills.
The Theatre is full of interesting (and scary!) implements, medicines, and furnishings that might have been in a hospital during Florence’s day.  There is also, of course, an operating theatre where students could sit in tiered bench seating in a semi-circle around the operating bed to watch a surgeon at work.

The Old Operating Theatre, London

I also have reproduction copies of Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals, which provide great insight into her own thoughts on patient care at the time.

Have you learned anything about Florence Nightingale that might surprise readers?

Florence was not as “modern” as most people would like to believe today.  Although she absolutely turned nursing and hospital care upside down, there were many issues of the day of which she didn’t particularly approve.

For example, the women’s suffrage movement started in the late 1860s in Great Britain.  Florence felt that women’s pressing need was the availability of good employment, not a spot in the voting booth.  It irritated her that she had a desperate need for nurses—and they could be relatively well-paid—but she would look out her window and watch employable women march around demanding votes.

Florence also believed in “character tests” for nurses.  A woman had to prove herself above reproach—not just technically competent—to be a nurse under Florence’s watchful eye.  Florence was able to maintain such rigorous entry requirements for a long time, but they no longer exist.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing this series?

As described above, not everything about Florence is palatable to today’s reader.  Thus it is a challenge to write about her in a way that is honest yet doesn’t repel the reader.  However, there is so much to admire about Florence—who was a one-woman wrecking crew against the medical establishment, Parliament, and the British Army—that I really love sitting down with her every day.

What does a typical day in your writing life look like?

I would love to tell you that I brew a pot of coffee, check e-mail for 20 minutes, and then go head down for the next six or seven hours.  Instead, it’s more like this:

  1. Make a pot of coffee. 
  2. Unload the dishwasher.
  3. Feed howling cats.
  4. Wonder what I should make for dinner.  Flip through cookbooks and finally take out meat to thaw.
  5. Sit down at computer.
  6. Remember that I need to do laundry.  Go start load of laundry.
  7. Return to computer and check e-mail.
  8. Decide to check Facebook.  Waste a minimum of an hour.
  9. Open up my manuscript.
  10. Washer signals it is finished.  Go switch laundry to dryer.
  11. Return to computer and bring up the manuscript page.
  12. Remember that there are a few things I need to buy on Amazon.  Go to Amazon.
  13. While I’m on Amazon, might as well look at Ebay and a few other favorite sites.
  14. Bring up the manuscript again.  It’s time to get to work!  Write a paragraph.  Realize I need to research a particular medical instrument from the 1850’s.
  15. Go Googling for another hour.
  16. Bring up the manuscript again.  Really, it’s time to put some serious effort in.  Where was I?  Oh yes, Florence and the medical instrument.
  17. Phone rings.  Spam call.  Sigh.
  18. Cats start relentlessly badgering me for a snack.  Go to the kitchen and drop some food so they will be quiet.
  19. Back to the manuscript.  Write a few more paragraphs.
  20. It’s 5pm.  Time to start dinner.
  21. What happened to the day???

What are you working on now?

My agent is currently shopping a new project that I am simply going to say for now is Top Secret!  It is way different from anything else I have ever written.  Fingers crossed that on my next visit I’ll be able to tell you all about it!

I’m also completing work on an anthology with Susanna Kearsley, C.S. Harris, and Anna Lee Huber.  Featuring a cursed pocket watch’s travels through the centuries, Sourcebooks will be publishing THE DEADLY HOURS sometime in 2020.

Finally, I’m also quite busy on the board of the Historical Novel Society’s North American Conference, coming up June 20-22, 2019, at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center.  Your readers might like to know that on June 22, we will have a Readers Festival where the public can mingle with their favorite historical authors, who in a variety of sub-genres (mystery, romance, military fiction, etc.).  There will also be a huge book signing of 100+ authors.  Book store available on site.  Only $10 to attend, $5 advance purchase.

About the Author:

Christine Trent is the author of the Florence Nightingale Mysteries, the Lady of Ashes historical mystery series, about a Victorian-era undertaker, and three other historical novels. Christine’s novels have been translated into Turkish, Polish, and Czech. She writes from her two-story home library, where she lives with her husband, four precocious cats, a large doll collection, entirely too many fountain pens, and over 4,000 catalogued books.

Learn more about Christine at You can also follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.

A Murderous Malady is on a blog tour!


  1. Loved this interview! Thank you so much for hosting Christine's blog tour, Jenny! We appreciate the support.

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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