LIES AND DECEPTION by Laraine Stephens, feature
LIES AND DECEPTION by Laraine Stephens, feature
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The Big Thrill Discusses LIES AND DECEPTION with Laraine Stephens

Book Cover: LIES AND DECEPTIONMelbourne 1925. Jasper Fitzalan Howard is found stabbed to death in his room at The Hotel Windsor. In a bizarre twist, he is clutching a tarot card, the Ten of Swords, in his right hand. Initially, the police identify him as a wealthy investor and a cousin of the Duke of Norfolk. However, while investigating the murder, Reggie da Costa, The Argus’s celebrated crime reporter, uncovers a web of lies and deception surrounding Howard’s carefully constructed façade. It seems that Howard has engaged in swindling wealthy businessmen whilst blackmailing their wives, giving Reggie a host of suspects for the murder. Enlivened by what he discovers, Reggie embarks on a crusade to rid the city of confidence men and ‘snake oil’ salesmen, while tracking down a killer.

Laraine Stephens recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest historical thriller, LIES AND DECEPTION.

Author Photo: Laraine Stephens

Laraine Stephens

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

The subject matter of ‘Lies and Deception’ – confidence men and women and ‘snake oil’ salesmen – has such relevance today. Although my novel is set in 1925, the themes cross the years: the tendency for men and women to fall victim to swindlers and conmen, because they are too trusting or have a desire to make easy money.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

The idea for ‘Lies and Deception came from a most unusual source. I was visiting historic Port Arthur Penitentiary, in Hobert Tasmania, which had a travelling exhibition from the Sydney Crime Museum. It was called ‘Mugshots’, featuring criminals from the 1920s who were photographed before they went to trial. The unique feature of the black and white photographs was that the subjects were allowed to pose, rather than the standard head shot. Talk about attitude!

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

Reggie da Costa is the archetypal newspaperman: driven, ambitious, after a good story. He knows the criminal underworld as well as he knows the shape of his ‘Ronald Colman’ moustache. In that way, he mirrors other crime reporters and investigators. But I wanted him to act as a foil to the grim nature of the cases he reports on. He dresses with style, loves his red and silver Minerva motorcar, and enjoys the finer things of life. We can laugh at his foibles but admire his expertise.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

It’s a coincidence that poison pen letters have made it to the movies (Wicked Little Letters), but I got there first! I’m working on The White Feather Murders.
When the Poison Pen column in The Truth newspaper shames five members of the public, exposing their hypocrisy and lies, it barely raises a ripple of interest. But when three of them end up dead, each clutching a white feather, The Argus’s senior crime reporter, Reggie da Costa, feels compelled to investigate why someone wants them dead. Can Reggie unmask the Poison Pen and bring a murderer to justice?


Laraine Stephens lives in Beaumaris, a bayside suburb of Melbourne, Australia. With an Arts degree from the University of Melbourne, a Diploma of Education and a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship, she worked in secondary schools as a Head of Library. On retirement, Laraine turned her hand to the craft of crime writing. She now has a six-book contract with Level Best Books. Laraine is a member of Sisters in Crime (Australia), the Australian Crime Writers Association, the Crime Writers Association of the UK and ITW.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.