The following is an interview with acclaimed author Vanessa Riley regarding the release of the historical mystery novel, Murder in Drury Lane: A Lady Worthing Mystery, through Kensington. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Riley about her creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, how she approaches each new murder mystery project, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Murder in Drury Lane! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and where do we find fan-favorite sleuth Lady Abigail Worthing in this highly anticipated sequel?
Vanessa Riley: Abigail Carrington Monroe, Lady Worthing, returns from a disappointing trip to Bath to find her home ransacked. She doesn’t know if she’s been targeted as a woman of color who many believe has married above her station or if this horror is due to the husband who’s virtually abandoned her.
For a distraction, the magistrate and her godfather suggest that Abigail go to Drury Lane to catch the latest show. The thespians on stage do not sweep her away, but the screams of murder have her on the edge of her seat. In the play’s last act, a burgeoning playwright is stabbed through the heart. With the assistance of her neighbor and fellow theater box mate, Commander Stapleton Henderson, Lady Worthing investigates who killed Anthony Danielson.
Friendships and morals are tested. Abbie’s search for truth becomes more complicated when she learns the leading suspect is the key vote on the new abolition bill being debated in Parliament. Arresting the Duke of Culver will stop the bill’s momentum and prolong the blight of enslavement.
BD: How would you describe your creative crafting of each new mystery? It’s always thrilling to follow your mystery stories as the reader, but crafting the narrative and staying three steps ahead of your reader is quite the challenge!
VR: Understanding the first murder victim is the key to developing an intriguing read. Who is Anthony Danielson? Who wants him dead? Is the world a better place, at least in the eyes of the murderer, if the playwright no longer lives? How does Danielson view the world? Why is he hated enough that he must die?
By digging into these questions, I can write a suspenseful tale while giving the audience a perspective that even Lady Worthing, our sleuth, doesn’t have.
My process allows the reader to be a few steps ahead of the investigation while ramping up the stakes with unreliable narrators, misconceptions, and lies. I enjoy that my protagonist is still learning. Lady Worthing can make mistakes. Hopefully, they won’t cost Abigail her life or the lives of her friends.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Abigail’s story will connect with and impact readers?
VR: Many of us struggle with the notion of the greater good or what we will sacrifice to achieve peace or a shared sense of purpose. Our circumstances might not be as dire as Lady Worthing’s, but the plight of choosing between no good options feels incredibly familiar.
Exploring Abigail’s relationships with her family and friends and those in her environment is a subtle arc that flows throughout the novel. With every mystery, things evolve just as readers change and grow daily. Everyone has to deal with their emotions in times of stress, and we all ask ourselves what price we will pay for peace or justice.
BD: What makes Kensington the perfect home for Murder in Drury Lane?
VR: Kensington is a great place to be an author. They understand the gaps in the marketplace for diverse storytelling in historical mysteries. Kensington has a vision of the world that’s progressive. They’ve been willing to try new things and give new faces a chance to be a sleuth–a woman of color, a wealthy black woman–who has autonomy, agency, and the ability to navigate a fraught world. I’m thankful that Kensington is giving Lady Worthing a chance. I’d love to write thirty books in Abbie’s world.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
VR: I’m working on the third installment of Lady Worthing, Murder in Berkeley Square. Lady Worthing and her allies will again be placed in mortal jeopardy trying to find a killer. It’s written for Christmas time in 1806. The world is in chaos because of Napoleon’s progress in Russia and a reported assassination in Haiti. A freak winter storm has Abbie stuck with a killer who adores blood-red decorations in white snow.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Murder in Drury Lane and your other work?
VR: My website, vanessariley.com, is my mothership. On this site, I have a wealth of research on the Regency, the latest news on my books, ways to join my newsletter, and all my social media connections. I’m very active on Instagram and would love for you to follow me.