Hailed as “an intriguing mixture of mystery, romance, and history” by Lois Duncan, the Alexandra Gladstone series from award-winning author Paula Paul continues as an ominous horseman heralds the emergence of a secret society, hidden riches—and a string of chilling murders.
The Temple of the Ninth Daughter sits on a hill at the edge of Newton-upon-Sea, an aura of mystery lingering over its tall, gray silhouette. Villagers whisper about the treasure housed inside, protected by local Freemasons who are bound by clandestine oaths.Dr. Alexandra Gladstone has no time for such nonsense. Between the patients in her surgery and the rounds she makes with her faithful dog, Zack, her days are busy enough. But Alexandra has no logical explanation when the Freemasons start dying, one by one, with no sign of foul play other than smears of blood on their Masonic aprons. And what to make of reports that a Knight Templar rides through the village before each passing?
After the constable disappears in the midst of the crisis, Alexandra reaches out to her dashing, diligent friend, Nicholas Forsythe, Lord Dunsford, for assistance. Is someone after the treasure, or might a more sinister game be afoot? In order to solve this puzzle, Alexandra must somehow catch a killer who shows no remorse—and leaves no witnesses.
Q: Aloha Paula, and thanks for stopping by! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Alexandra Gladstone?
A: Alexandra Gladstone is a woman in her early thirties in Essex, England, during the 1880s. She is a doctor of medicine, although, being a woman, she is not allowed to use the term “physician.” Her mother died when she was a child, and she was raised by her father, a physician in the small village of Newton-Upon-Sea and by her father’s housekeeper. Her father taught her much of what she knows about medicine, especially about surgical procedures. Although, she attended a medical school in London, women were denied opportunities to attend certain classes, including those about surgical procedures, because it was considered improper for women to view naked bodies in general and nude male bodies in particular. Alexandra took over her father’s practice when he died, and she has met with some resistance by the villagers because of her gender. In spite of that, she has gained enough of the villagers’ respect to maintain a busy and successful practice.
Of course, she must solve crimes in this series, and she uses her intellect as well as her medical knowledge, along with female instinct to help her. Alexandra has never been married, although she has had a lover in the past. No one except her maid, Nancy, knows all the details. Readers learn a little about that in the third book of the series, Half a Mind to Murder, and will continue to learn more as the series progresses. A woman in her early thirties who is still unmarried was, in the 1880s, considered a spinster, although men are clearly attracted to her, especially the Earl of Dunsford who frequently helps her solve crimes.
Q: How much of you is in Alexandra? How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?
A: There is always a little of me in every character I create, even the villains. In the case of Alexandra, I think the part of her that has to struggle against gender prejudice shows more of me than any of her other characteristics. I am old enough to have experienced a sizeable amount of that in my college days and in my early career as a journalist. Sometimes Alexandra’s self-confidence fails her, and that is a trait with which I identify. If I were to meet her, I believe we would like each other, although we would each be shy and reserved.
Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
A: My characters absolutely evolve and change throughout the series. To me, having characters who don’t change in a story is like having a story without a plot. In a series, I believe the change has to come about slower than it might in a stand-alone book, nevertheless, they change. Nicholas (the Earl of Dunsford) becomes more mature, Alexandra becomes more self-confident, and Nancy, Alexandra’s maid, matures and, though she is street-smart, she becomes wise in new ways.
Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life—on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
A: I haven’t consciously thought of doing that. I always want people who annoy me or offend me to have to suffer long lives and learn hard lessons. However, having said that, most of the people who die in the pages of my books, while they may not be exact replicas of people I know, have some characteristic I abhor in real people.
Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
A: The village of Newton-Upon-Sea in the Gladstone series is of my own creation. However, I have done a great deal of research on what a village in Essex in the 1880s would be like. While I have visited England several times, I’ve never been in a village that is exactly like Newton-Upon-Sea.
Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
A: From the first time I saw Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing Mary Phinney on Mercy Street. I thought she would be right for the role of Alexandra Gladstone.
In my fondest dreams Lily James would be Nancy. She was Natasha on War and Peace, Ella on Cinderella, and Lady Rose on Downton Abbey. She is incredibly versatile, and I think could pull off the cunning personality of Nancy.
Maybe Richard Madden for Nicholas. He has the right look, but there is a comic side to Nicholas that could be difficult for some actors.
Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
A: The worst advice is “write what you know.” Wait! Let me explain that. Of course a writer can write effectively about situations or problems and settings with which they are familiar; however, there is much more to it than that. Everything I write involves learning something I didn’t know. One example is in the book Half a Mind to Murder in which one of the themes is the use of vaccinations. While I am in favor of their use, I wanted to learn reasons why some people are not now and were not in the 1880s in favor of their use. Another example is a book I wrote called Forgetting Tommie that is set in modern times in the part of Texas where I grew up. I thought that book would require virtually no research because I know the people and setting so well. I found that was not true. I knew about my relationship with the people and place, but I had to consider how others felt, and that required research into elements of life that had touched other people but not me.
The best advice I have received came in the form of a paperweight given to me by my daughter. It reads: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” That makes me want to keep writing and attempting to get better. It also implies that one must practice and learn from mistakes.
About The Author
Award-winning novelist Paula Paul was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a BA in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist as well as a novelist. Her previous novels featuring Dr. Alexandra Gladstone, including Symptoms of Death, have appeared on bookstore and online bestseller lists. She is also the author of the Mystery by Design series, which she wrote as Paula Carter. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Amazon | B&N