Mystery & Mayhem with Author Julia Thomas
As Julia slips into the rhythm of writing, music and color conjure mood and setting in her creative mind. Vivaldi’s rich and complex composition, Winter from Four Seasons and the color scarlet, as rich as blood, played in her mind as she spun the story of Penhale Wood. Both are fitting backdrops for Julia Thomas’s intense new mystery.
Julia and I had a conversation on the eve of Penhale Wood’s publication, and I was reminded that Tulsa’s literary community is fortunate to claim so many talented authors, Julia among them. She began her professional writing career crafting literary fiction, but found the market was saturated. Julia and her husband, author Will Thomas (another jewel in Tulsa’s crown), had worked together often researching for his Victorian mysteries. She found that she had a real affinity for English mysteries, but didn’t want to encroach upon Will’s writing territory. So Julia set out to write for her own satisfaction, and the product was The English Boys, recipient of a starred review and Debut of the Month for Library Journal in July 2016. Most writers who experience rare debut praises are faced with a unique kind of terror – what to write next? Julia didn’t miss a beat, and with Penhale Wood she has again received advanced praise and starred reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal. Readers can rest assured that she is hard at work on new material that will keep us engaged in thrilling mysteries for seasons to come.
I asked Julia about her reading tastes, what she is enjoying now and which books and authors have influenced her. She is an eclectic reader – mysteries, literary fiction, classics, and contemporary translations are part of her reading history and in her reading queue. She is enjoying a translation of a French thriller and international best seller titled Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan. Recently she has been reading mystery writers Clare McIntosh and Ruth Ware, author of The Woman in Cabin 10. Not only are Julia’s impeccably researched novels set in the UK, it’s no surprise that two English authors, A.S. Byatt and Ian McEwen, have had a strong influence on her writing. In fact, the opening of The English Boys is Julia’s nod to her favorite Byatt novel, Possession. Certainly readers will recognize their inspiration in her deftly crafted and elegant prose.
The classroom has been Julia’s laboratory for many years. As a teacher she has the opportunity to influence young lives with the added bonus of having a front row seat to observe human nature and behavior. Julia’s classroom is a microcosm, a distillation of the most basic ingredients for human interaction and community. And she takes it all to weave fiction about the complexities of being human and the dark places our deepest emotions can take us.
To give you a taste of Penhale Wood, I’ve included my review of the mystery. Please mark your calendar for July 12th, 7:00 p.m. at Mainline Art & Bar. Magic City Books will be there to launch Julia’s new mystery. Books will be available for purchase, and Julia will stay for a signing after the presentation. You won’t want to miss this great new read.
Review for Penhale Wood
An evocative title and cover whet the reader’s appetite for a tale as dark and chilling as a twisted path through a winter forest. The tragic disappearance and murder of three-year-old Sophie Flynn has investigators stalled for answers, and the case has become as cold as the winter nights in the novel’s Cornwall setting. Sophie’s mother, Iris, has spent a year in the depths of grief. The events surrounding her daughter’s death don’t add up, and she is determined to find justice, no matter the cost. She risks her ties to family and her own safety to return to the scene of the crime and demand her daughter’s case be re-examined. Iris is unrelenting as she persuades DCI Rob McIntyre to use unconventional means to find the truth about Sophie’s death. McIntyre is vulnerable from his own complicated and solitary life when Iris turns up on a lonely Christmas Eve to implore him to help her. Together they go down the rabbit hole to find answers in a plot packed with breathtaking twists and turns. The conclusion of this taut psychological thriller is satisfying, yet leaves room for the reader to ponder future outcomes. Detective McIntyre and his on-the-spot colleague, DS Dugan, make a solid sleuthing pair. Readers can hope for another case featuring these engaging characters.
Submitted by LeeAnna Weaver