So19 GIVEAWAY: Signed AFTER EMILY book and digital collage

I'm so delighted to announce our first Society Nineteen giveaway for the year, inspired by Julie Dobrow's rich and thought-provoking After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America's Greatest Poet. Click here to enter!

To enter, just follow us on Instagram and leave a brief comment on the contest post. Comments on After Emily, the poet herself, or anything else you're inspired to share are welcomed, but it's fine to say "I'm in" or just post an emoji too.

Chosen by random drawing, the winner will receive a signed copy of Julie's book and a signed print of the digital collage I made to celebrate its themes and cover. For more about the book, read my interview with Julie and visit her website. For more on my art, visit my arts blog.

Entries are accepted from 9/15/21 through 9/29/21; the winner will be chosen by random drawing on 9/30/21 and notified via Instagram message. This giveaway is open to US residents only; no purchase is required and there's no need to enter more than once.

Click to be redirected to Instagram and enter

My digital collage, "Blossoming, I"

About the collage and book

Click to buy After Emily


Completed last week, this digital collage celebrates the work and books of Angela Buckley, who writes, blogs and posts as The Victorian Supersleuth. My interview with Angela on her book on Amelia Dyer can be read here; the interview's second half, covering her other books, will appear on So19 this fall.

The background is a vintage photo of the (now defunct) Clappers bridge in Reading. I liked the energy and symbolism of the water, which suggests both the rushing passage of time and the turbulence that crime brings in its wake.The bridge is among the settings in Buckley's book Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farm Murders.

The three images in the magnifying-glass lenses come from Buckley's book covers: the Amelia Dyer cover in the center, part of the cover of her The Real Sherlock Holmes at left, and part of the cover of her Who Killed Constable Cock at right. A semi-transparent image of a circular lens used on top of the book cover bits helps give the magnifying lenses a more realistic look.

The circular motifs above the two smaller magnifying glasses combine a key motivation for crime (money, in the form of a 19th-century half-sovereign coin) and a historic result of criminal activity (the hangman's rope). 

Buckley's initials and her Victorian Supersleuth soubriquet appear in a font called Bleeding Cowboys, which I love for its grungy, grandiose flourishes. An antique wood frame surrounds the whole. The bold blue and gold colors of the piece felt suggestive of police uniforms as well as nicely Victorian to me.

It's so much fun to make art inspired by the generous and talented authors who chat with me on So19. Thanks to Angela and her rich, thoughtful books for providing such great inspiration for this piece.

For more on Angela, visit Visit and for more on me. 

Digital Collage (c) Suzanne Fox 2021.
Book cover images used with author permission.
Vintage public domain photo of the Clappers Bridge
All other images are stock images


I'm delighted to welcome back Angela Buckley for her second interview on So19. We first chatted with "the Victorian Super-Sleuth" about The Real Sherlock Holmes, her biography of detective Jerome Caminada. Since that time, she's been busy on new and fascinating projects. Our talk today focuses on Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farm Murders, her study of one of Britain's most prolific serial killers; our next dialogue will catch up on her other recent books and endeavors. 

Formerly head of modern languages in a large comprehensive school, Buckley has lectured at King’s College London and Oxford Brookes University in languages education and published several books for GCSE French students. She's now returned to Oxford Brookes University as associate lecturer in history, while studying for a PhD. Reflecting the interest in 19th-century crime behind her "Supersleuth" soubriquet, Buckley is currently writing a thesis entitled The Science of Sleuthing: The Evolution of Detective Practice in English Regional Cities, 1838 – 1914. Angela's work has appeared in publications including The Times and The Telegraph, and she's a popular speaker who can be heard on radio, television, and at conferences and events. Check out her website and blog and visit her FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages for more information on her work. All that said, welcome back, Angela! Let's get chatting!

Q. For readers not familiar with the practice, could you talk a bit about Victorian “baby farming”? Who used that service, and why?


Imagine that you’re able to go back in time and savor the sights and sounds, intrigues and innovations, personalities and paradoxes of the period of British history known as the Regency (1811-1820). Even better, imagine that you’re guided by a tremendously insightful, entertaining, and knowledgeable friend. Best of all, perhaps, imagine that your guide can share not only what he thinks about the Regency but what it thinks about itself: its private thoughts as well as its public face, its gossip as well as its speeches, its journals and letters as well as its books and broadsides.

If you can imagine that, what you’re imagining is Robert Morrison’s The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love and Britain Becomes Modern.

Before I describe the book in more detail, a quasi-digression into Jane Austen, whose Persuasion Morrison has treated to an informative annotated edition (see our So19 chat about that book here) and of whom The Regency Years makes excellent use. 

THROWBACK THURSDAYS: Landscape Designer Humphry Repton's Business Card


Business card of Humphry Repton by Thomas Medland, date unknown


Available on August 19 in the UK and December 7 in the US, Kate Saunders’ excellent third mystery, The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden, brings clergyman’s widow Laetitia Rodd into the dramatic and, in 1853, still somewhat disreputable world of the theater. Actor and theatrical troupe manager Tom Transome has left his wife Sarah, once his leading lady, for the much younger Constance Noonan. Mrs. Rodd, a “private detective of the utmost discretion,” is reluctant at first, but when a neighbor asks her to help Sarah advocate for a proper financial settlement, her warm heart makes it impossible to say no. The negotiation is still underway when a corpse is discovered under the stage of Transome’s old theater, which suffered a fire ten years earlier but is now being rebuilt. When the dead man, actor Frank Fitzwarren, disappeared the night of the fire, those who knew him assumed that he had vanished voluntarily. Instead, he was shot in the back of the head. Enraged at their daughter Maria’s romance with Fitzwilliam for secret reasons of their own, both Tom and Sarah had a motive to want him dead—and that’s only one of the myriad conflicts that fracture the family and offer motives for murder. Mrs. Rodd and her sometime investigative colleague Inspector Blackbeard cope with drama in every sense of the word as they attempt to solve Fitzwilliam’s killing as well as the fresh crimes that spring from it.

Saunders’ mystery plot necessarily involves extreme situations, which are grounded by the novel’s sensible voice and solid research. The widowed Mrs. Rodd, its first-person narrator, is a fun and indeed welcome departure from the myriad younger sleuths that tend to populate historical mysteries; even when an assignment brings her into an unfamiliar milieu, as is the case in The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden, her common sense and long experience of human foibles stand her in good stead. (Her worldly and irreverent barrister brother Fred is a delightfully ebullient foil.) Saunders’ depiction of the changing world of 1853 Britain is equally well-drawn. The details throughout are deftly chosen, evoking neighborhoods, fashions, and behaviors that are all being transformed as well as events—such as theater fires—that are all too historically accurate. Broader themes, too, are convincingly rendered. The Transomes, for example, suggest the more exaggerated, boisterous theatrical norms that were beginning to pass away at the time, while their arch-rivals the Bettertons represent the more naturalistic, analytical approach that is beginning to earn actors legitimacy as serious (and socially acceptable) creative artists. This shift and others like it inform The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden, making it a convincing glimpse of a fascinating era as well as a lively and colorful read.

THE SOCIETY REVIEWS: Summer Fiction Sampling

With summer temperatures at sweltering heights and Covid cases spiking again, it's an excellent time to curl up with a cold glass of iced tea read. Below brief glimpse of some of the "nineteenish" novels we're reading this summer.

Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray turn the remarkable life of Belle da Costa Greene into splendid fiction in The Personal Librarian. Greene’s mother changed her surname and that of her children to Greene after her separation from her father, Richard Theodore Greener; from Belle’s teenage years forward, Belle, her mother and her siblings claimed Portuguese ancestry and passed as white in. Greene was in her late twenties when she began her forty-plus years working with the family of J.P. Morgan, serving as Morgan’s personal librarian before spending decades as the first executive director of the Morgan Library. Benedict and Murray capture Greene’s skill at acquiring world-class books and manuscripts for the library and the prominence the work brought her, but they also evoke the tension that comes from living with an explosive secret. The Personal Librarian does justice to Greene’s remarkable gifts as well as to an era in which her race alone was a disqualifying factor.

As a longtime lover of Philip Henry Delamotte’s photographs of Britain’s Crystal Palace, I was especially delighted to see that Jennifer Ashley’s latest Below Stairs mystery using that iconic structure as one of its settings. The Palace has been moved to its second location in Sydenham by the time the novel’s action begins in 1882, but still a spectacular edifice and a storehouse of miscellaneous wonders. As Death at the Crystal Palace opens, wealthy widow Lady Covington finds cook and crime solver Kat Holloway in the Egyptian Court, whispers that she’s being poisoned, and begs Kat for help, adding that she can trust no one close to her. Kat is nonplussed—they have only just been introduced by a mutual friend and the situation sounds unlikely—but she’s both too curious and too warm-hearted not to worry. Kat discovers that the Covington family is roiling with conflicts and motives; when one of them dies after eating dishes intended for the baroness, it becomes all too clear that Lady Covington is indeed in imminent danger. Private investigator Daniel McAdam and Scotland Yard’s Inspector McGregor help Kat clear up the mystery. As always, Kat is a staunch and clever sleuth and the series’ delightfully quirky secondary characters add fun color as well as lively subplots to the intricate main story. (Also, I want Kat as my personal chef. Just sayin'.)

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque,
Todd M. Johnson’s first historical novel, sets a suspenseful tale of legal, courtly, and commercial intrigue in Regency England. Though barrister William Snopes is most passionate about using his knowledge of the law on behalf of the underprivileged, he takes on a case presented to him by Lady Madeleine Jameson, who has invested what is left of her family estate in a merchant brig called the Padget. The ship’s captain, Jameson’s cousin Harold Tuttle, has used the powers granted under a royal letter of marque to seize the cargo of French trading ships sailing in the Indian Sea. But when the Padget returns to England, Tuttle is arrested for piracy, the goods he has amassed are seized, and the letter of marque that proves his operation was legal is nowhere to be found. Published by Bethany House, the novel's inspirational aspects are convincing but subtle, making it enjoyable for both general and faith-centered readers alike. Author Johnson, long a trial attorney himself, does an excellent job evoking Regency legal practice and balancing the novel’s more technical aspects with drama.