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Crime Writer Spotlight - Sharon Rowse

Deceptions, lies and shades of grey are overarching themes for Sharon Rowse, this month's Crime Writer Spotlight author. Sharon's Klondike Mystery series is set in the 1890's and provides a fascinating glimpse of history from a crime writer's perspective.

Without further ado, here's Sharon!

I’ve been thinking about deceptions and lies, and how they interweave throughout my novels, while I watch the grey rainclouds scud by outside my study window. You know, it had never occurred to me before how much I might be influenced by the weather. Living in Vancouver, I'm very familiar with every tint and layer of grey - we Vancouverites live with all of them from November through April. And as a writer - and sometime artist - I love all those changeable greys. Most of the time, anyway.

There's something wonderful about writing in my study when it’s pouring out, with the cat curled up on the desk beside me and a steaming cup of coffee at hand, writing myself out of the latest corner I’ve painted myself into. Or again in the spring when the trees are greening and the air is soft, but it's just grey enough that being inside writing feels like a treat instead of a punishment.

I also love writing the subtle texturing and shadings of gray that bring my characters and their time to life. All my characters seem to have layer on layer of interwoven motive and motivation, and few of them, or the situations they find themselves in, are who or what they seem at first glance. Everyone lies - even the trustworthy Emily Turner, when she has to - some more effectively and more cleverly than others.

Of course, for my Klondike Era Vancouver series - The Silk Train Murder and The Lost Mine Murders - some of this duality is attributable to time and place. Vancouver in 1899 was an interesting mix of rough frontier and progressive city complete with electric lights, telephones, a popular Opera House and a thriving business sector. Attitudes were still very Victorian, particularly towards women, and social mores were constricting. It’s an era where so much was changing so quickly that personal standards were often in conflict with societal ones, creating a vacuum where deception and fraud could thrive.

Granville's friend Sam Scott is lying by omission in order to stay true to his own values, and that lie may mean Scott's death for a murder he didn’t commit. George Gipson, who conned miners out of their claims in the Klondike and has no scruples at all, has set up in Vancouver as a respectable businessman. Granville is determined to expose him as a fraud, if Gipson doesn't manage to have him killed first.

Emily, the independent-minded youngest daughter of a very Victorian father, has a strong sense of fair play, but she resorts to subterfuge and white lies in her quest to aid Granville in avoiding Gipson's traps and clearing Scott's name. In an inflexible culture, Emily is trying to carve out a role for herself that still meets her moral code.

In The Lost Mine Murders, Granville has finally found his place, and a new role for himself as a PI. Emily is struggling to become a typist, and trying not to admit to herself that she loathes it. She leaps at the opportunity to assist Granville with his case once again, even if it takes a white lie or two to get out of class. But the book revolves around deception on a grand scale, as Granville and Emily race to find the legendary Lost Mine and then uncover who really owns it before the next ambush proves fatal.

And in book three? Ah, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that Granville takes on a case where he must find the missing heir to an English earldom, who has vanished into the Canadian wilderness after perpetrating what appears to be a massive real estate fraud on some very unforgiving types. Emily, of course, gets drawn into helping him.

Each of the characters operates within their own shades of grey, and sorting out the interactions and confusion this creates is, for me, one of the pleasures of being an author. So I guess this means I have to stop complaining about the lack of sunshine lately …

Sharon Rowse is fulfilling a lifelong dream in publishing two mystery series set in Vancouver. The Arthur Ellis-nominated The Silk Train Murder, set in 1899, captures the romance of the silk trains that raced across North America. Death of a Secret features artist-turned investigator Barbara O’Grady in a twisting tale of old secrets, lies and treachery. Also available are: The Lost Mine Murders, Death of a Threat and Death of a Lover.