By J. H. Bográn
In GUILT TRIP, antique dealer Griff Tripp is preoccupied with a problem he won’t share with his partner and adoptive granddaughter Lina Townend. To cheer him up, she encourages him to join an amateur theatre group premiering the play CURTAIN CALL. Lina is pursued by a sinister businessman who won’t take no for an answer when she refuses to work for him. Then apparently innocent pranks at the theatre turn nasty, and Lina wonders if the play’s title might be a terrible omen…
Author Judith Cutler recently agreed to answers some questions about her latest novel:
Can you tell us a bit about your main character?
Lina Townend is the illegitimate daughter of Lord Elham, who lives in a stately home in Kent (the one I used to live in, actually – I had to build Bossingham Hall especially for him). He made no effort to support her or her mother, and when her mother died, Lina ended up in foster care. Her only decent foster mother was a friend of Griff Tripp, an actor turned antiques dealer, who saw things in Lina that no one else had. He took her in, educated her and has now made her his business partner. They’d both have liked him to adopt her formally as his daughter, but she was too old for this to happen legally. However, no father and daughter could be closer, which irritates Lord Elham profoundly. While Griff has taught her a great deal about the trade, and she has become an expert china restorer, she has brought to their business a hidden extra – she is a diviner, capable of picking out valuable items without knowing why. Currently a great deal is falling on her shoulders as Griff is unwell and her boyfriend is away working for Interpol.
I know the book’s a mystery, but what can you tell us about the main antagonist? Without giving him/her away, of course.
A ruthless, clever person who appreciates Lina’s qualities.
Nicely done! How did you prepare, in terms of research, for this book?
I love antiques myself, in an entirely untutored way. Occasionally in different books a middle-aged woman appears at Tripp and Townend’s stall at some fair or other asking about spectacle cases: that woman is me. I love them and their personal link to people in the past. Apart from that I go to antiques fairs, watch the many TV programmes about antiques and depend too on standard textbooks and the internet. As for Griff’s illness, that was all too personal: my dear lovely husband Edward Marston had the same symptoms. Thank God he lived to tell the tale – will Griff?
GUILT TRIP takes place behind the curtains of a play; do you have any experience in theater?
Edward used to write for the theatre, and I’m sure you’re aware of the wonderful series he wrote set in the Elizabethan theatre. I’m involved at the most grass-roots level – our village hall, and also in the village school where I’m a member of a group enacting bowdlerised Bible stories once a week.
Five different series is an impressive record. How do you keep the characters separated in your mind?
Well, some of the series have, alas, drawn to a halt, so technically I don’t have to worry about them – though I do sometimes wonder what happened next in the characters’ lives. But when I’ve got two series to write alternately, as I have now (there’s another Detective Superintendent Fran Harman mystery coming out in the UK in August, later in the year in the US) I simply write about the friends I’m engaged with at the time. You don’t get confused about real-life acquaintances, so you don’t with your creations. However, here’s a spoiler for you: Lina makes a guest appearance in BURYING THE PAST.
I found this little piece of advice in your website: Happy reading – but be careful if you read in the bath. I can’t resist asking what prompted it.
I addressed it to my electronic book readers. I know from experience you can drop a paper book into the bath and that it will survive, but I’m not sure about a Kindle. Have you tried it yet?
Some of your books are being released (or re-released) in ebook form. When will the entire collection be available?
The sooner the better! Please write to my publishers and demand to see them in the new format!!! Seriously, plans are in train – it’s just a matter of waiting. Some of my Lina fans have complained they’re not yet available in large print, but that’s in hand too. My mother was visually handicapped and I understand the need for the format.
Any plans to travel to this side of the Atlantic?
Yes. Edward is Guest of Honour at Bouchercon in 2014, and I shall come along as his baggage handler. I hope I get a chance to be on a panel too, because I love meeting readers.
What are you currently working on?
The next Lina mystery, probably called GUILT EDGED. And I’ve got a short story working its way to the surface of my mind too.
Can you share some early reviews?
‘Intriguing… An enchanting mix of murder and antiques.’ ~Publishers Weekly
‘Judith Cutler is…one of the best of current British mystery writers.’ ~Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Give us a glimpse into your life.
Apart from writing, I lead a busy life, as you can see in the piece in my website about my working week. Some days I’m knackered, but my grandma said it was better to wear out than rust away.
Judith Cutler has won several short story competitions, including the Critical Quarterly and the Birmingham Magazine prize. However, she is better known for several series of novels featuring strong women such as Fran Harman (more of her cases are in the pipe-line) and Josie Welford. Antiques dealer Lina Townend, featured here in her fifth adventure, is still growing in confidence – one day she’ll be as tough as her predecessors.
Judith lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, fellow crime-writer, Edward Marston.