Invitation to Die – Helen Smith
Publisher – Thomas & Mercer
Release Date – 14 May 2013
Rating – 3/5
Source – Sent over by the author, Helen Smith… thank you!
Twenty-six-year-old Emily Castles is out of work… again. So when famous romance author Morgana Blakely offers her a job helping out at a conference in London, Emily accepts. Just as eagerly, American blogger Winnie Kraster accepts an invitation from Morgana to attend as a guest, not realizing she has, in effect, accepted an invitation to die.
As a cast of oddball characters assembles at the conference hotel, grievances, differences, and secrets begin to emerge. When Winnie goes missing, and then is found murdered nearby, Emily begins to suspect that someone involved with the conference is responsible. Could it be one of the organizers, one of the authors, a member of the hotel staff, or even the supplier of the chocolates for the conference gift bags? Emily teams up with guest speaker and eccentric philosophy professor Dr. Muriel to find out.
What do you think of book bloggers and their place within the publishing process? Are they a “necessary evil” or do they provide worth?
I love book bloggers! They’re an invaluable resource for readers and, because they are willing to review a much wider range of books than most newspaper critics, they are incredibly helpful to writers, too. Book bloggers build trust with their readers over a long period of time. When they recommend a book, their readers know whether or not they’ll like it. Book bloggers have been very good to me over the years, providing many honest reviews of my books. They certainly provide worth.
Do you read reviews of your books on blogs, Amazon, Goodreads etc? If so, how do you deal with negative reviews?
I do look at the reviews, particularly when a book has just been published and I want to know how it’s being received by readers. Many readers will post a review on Amazon or Goodreads based on their personal tastes and whether or not the book has met their expectations, rather than assessing the book on its merits, which is what a professional reviewer or a book blogger would do, so it’s best not to take those kinds of reviews to heart. When I see a negative review on one of those sites I remind myself that not everyone can like every book. What’s important is that the person leaving the review has been kind enough to buy the book and give it a try. I’m always grateful for that!
Where did you get the inspiration for Invitation to Die?
For the past couple of years I have I hosted an event called The Literary Cabaret at the Bloomsbury Festival – I invite authors to read from their work and intersperse the readings with songs and music from our house band. It’s great fun! It gave me the idea of setting a book in Bloomsbury because it has a great literary heritage. In a traditional mystery like Invitation to Die, you need to bring lots of disparate characters together and keep them in one place. Last year I attended a mystery writers’ convention called Bouchercon in the US and thought that writers would make good suspects, especially if the victim was a blogger who had left poor reviews of some of their books. I didn’t want mystery writers in my story – they would all try to solve the crime! Instead, I decided to bring some romance authors together for a conference in Bloomsbury and have a murder take place there. I thought there would be plenty of opportunity for humour in a story like that.
Is there more in store for amateur sleuth Emily Castles?
Yes. I have just finished the second full-length novel in the series. It’s called Beyond Belief and it’s set in Torquay. Emily and Dr. Muriel attend a conference of philosophers, psychologists and self-professed sceptics, as well as mediums, hypnotists and TV psychics who have gathered in Torquay to discuss the nature of belief. Celebrated magician Edmund Zenon offers £50,000 to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal that weekend. When a psychic predicts that a murder will take place, Emily is hired to investigate.
Who was your favourite character to write in Invitation to Die?
Oh, that’s a difficult question to answer. I can honestly say that I like all of them. I love Emily and Dr. Muriel, my two main characters. But I also enjoyed writing about the romance novelists who are all larger than life. In fact, I find it difficult to write villains because I end up liking all my characters. And as for putting any of them in jeopardy… that’s tough, too!
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m writing the third full-length Emily Castles mystery. It’s set at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Emily is hired to work for an experimental theatre company. She finds herself in danger as the distinctions between real life and performance begin to blur.
And finally, a question I can’t help but ask everyone! Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”). What would be your six word story for your life so far?
The secret of life is this: