One of the great joys of reading is discovering new authors. Last week while on Twitter, I had the opportunity to receive a copy of a new book from Pamela Dorman Books author Erin Kelly. Her first novel, The Poison Tree, was publishing the following week, and Erin was going to be doing a reading and signing at the Barnes & Noble store a few blocks from my apartment.
Erin's enthusiasm for books, and mysteries in particular, was apparent from the moment she stepped up to the podium and started talking about her book. She said "my favorite books have a body count", and she recounted her love of Agatha Christie, whose book The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is the one Kelly holds dearest. She humorously called it "a gateway drug" to other mystery books. She also names Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca and Donna Tartt's A Secret History as inspirations.
She spoke of her fascination for the possibilities that the genre of mystery holds, and for her first novel, she wanted a protagonist for whom death would be shocking- no police officer, no pathologist. Her main characters are college students. They are on "the cusp of adulthood", celebrating their "last hurrah" before responsibilities take over.
She calls The Poison Tree a coming of age novel and a murder mystery in reverse. In her novel, we know from the beginning who committed the murder, and must read on to find out who the victim(s?) were. I like that unique concept.
Kelly read from the book, and if there is an audio version, she should be the reader. She reads with gusto, and it is apparent from the way that her face lit up and she became most animated that Biba is a favorite character. Her lilting British accent is charming, and it called to mind a scene from the movie Love, Actually, when the British Colin is in a bar in Milwaukee and he holds three lovely ladies in thrall with his accent. (Anyone get this reference? Anyone?)
During the Q&A, she expanded upon the themes of her book. She believes that everyone has secrets that they are afraid others will find out, something in their past that they fear will come back to haunt them. She also thinks that everyone's dirty little secret is that they both despise and love their own parents. Hmmm, that sounds intriguing to me.
I like to ask authors who they are reading, and she likes Tana French (I loved her novel Into the Woods), Nicci French (no relation to Tana), and Ruth Rendell, especially her early novels written under the name Barbara Vine. She also said that she loves TV procedurals, like CSI, but doesn't like graphic gore on the written page. I agree with her on that point.
Kelly said that she daydreamed the novel for six years, and she finished it after she had her baby. She has written for the UK versions of Elle, Marie Claire, and Glamour, and she has gotten rave reviews for this, her first novel, called an "atmospheric psychological thriller", and it has moved to the top of my TBR list. Ms. Kelly is definitely an author to watch for a long time to come. I'll post a review soon.