The Shadow of Memory, book four in Connie Berry’s exciting Kate Hamilton mystery series, releases on May 10. Eileen Curley Hammond tracked her down amidst the execution flurry associated with the launch. For where to find Connie, virtually and otherwise, click here: https://connieberry.com/events/.
ECH: Connie, I read on your website that Kate is planning her wedding to Tom. Has her soon-to-be mother-in-law come around, or is she still trying to thwart their plans?
Connie: No, Liz Mallory has not come around. If the wedding does take place and the rector asks, “if anyone has just cause,” etc., all eyes will definitely be on Tom’s mother. Actually, the “plans” for the wedding aren’t getting very far because Kate has yet to face the thorny problem of where the couple will live. She is perfectly happy to move to England. After all, her mother is now happily married, and her children have lives of their own. Even her antiques business rests in the capable hands of her best friend, Charlotte. But Kate has no intention of moving into Tom’s house in Saxby St. Clare. The lovely period farmhouse comes complete with a thatched roof, an inglenook fireplace, an Aga cooker, a beautiful garden, and a resident mother-in-law, Liz, who is still planning her overthrow. Liz can’t afford to buy a place of her own, and Tom isn’t going to put his mother out on the street, so this is a dilemma. How will it be resolved? That remains to be seen.
ECH: We know you love antiques; are there any special connections to ones you are featuring in this book?
Connie: Since my parents were dealers, I grew up with antiques — in our house as well as in the shop they owned. My father loved Chinese antiques and antiquities. My mother loved oil paintings. That’s why a recent article on art forgery caught my eye. In 2010, a gorgeous Frans Hals painting, “Portrait of a Man,” was sold by Sotheby’s to a collector in New York for $10 million. Subsequent scientific testing proved the painting was a forgery, connected to a French art collector, Giuliano Ruffini. Ruffini is connected to a least four other forged “old masters” as well: a Venus attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder, a copy of a Pieter Bruegel, and now a painting of St. Jerome, attributed to the circle of Parmigianino. Dozens of other forgeries by the same unknown artist may hang in private collections and galleries around the world. The question that interested me is what would someone do to own such a painting, and what would someone do to conceal the fact that it is a fake?
ECH: The Shadow of Memory dips into Vivian Bunn’s past. What made you decide to center the book around a sixty-year-old mystery?
Connie: A theme in all the Kate books is the impact of the past on the present. In Vivian’s case, her past has returned to touch her here — and threaten her life. First, she is reminded of the few brief days she spent in 1963 with young Will Parker, now a retired criminal inspector found dead in the church graveyard in Long Barston. Since Parker had a paper with her name and address on it, it’s clear he had come to the village to see her. But why? Was he killed to prevent that meeting? But second, Vivian learns that the abandoned house they explored in 1963 held a deadly secret — if only she can remember what that secret was before she becomes the next victim.
ECH: Sounds fascinating. Would you care to share a preview?
Connie: Love to.
Kate is back in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, contemplating her future (if she has one) with D. I. Tom Mallory. Meanwhile, Kate and her colleague Ivor Tweedy have been asked to auction off a fine collection of antiques at Netherfield Sanatorium, a former Victorian insane asylum on the Suffolk coast, currently being converted into luxury townhouses and flats. Among the antiques is a fifteenth-century painting attributed to the Dutch master Jan Van Eyck. But when retired criminal inspector Will Parker is found dead, Kate suspects the halls of the sanatorium housed more than priceless art.
Kate is surprised to learn Will Parker was her friend Vivian Bunn’s first boyfriend. They met in 1963 at a seaside holiday camp near the sanatorium when they, along with three other young teens, explored an abandoned house where a doctor and his wife had been found dead under bizarre circumstances. Now, when a second member of that childhood gang dies unexpectedly, and then a third, it becomes clear the teens discovered more in that abandoned house than they realized.
What was the deadly secret they unwittingly found? When Kate makes a shocking connection between sixty-year-old murders and the long-buried secrets of the sanatorium, she realizes that time is running out for Vivian — and anyone connected to her.