While researching the fourth novel in her popular series about Victorian sleuth and diplomat Lady Emily Ashton, author Tasha Alexander discovered she needed to do some traveling to validate the meticulous descriptions and events she always includes in her works.
So she ended up making three trips to Turkey, where Alexander discovered many things that enabled her to successfully and accurately complete the latest Ashton adventures in the Ottoman Empire and the magical city of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey).
“First, I'd have to say that I was treated so nicely there it was amazing, especially the way that the men responded to me,” Alexander said. “There was a lot more kindness and overall respect than you get in a lot of big American cities. I met some wonderful women there and we became friends. Plus it's such a fantastic city, and has such remarkable history. It was both wonderful in terms of atmosphere and also in terms of information.”
Alexander will be signing copies of Tears of Pearl (Minotaur), the newest volume in the series, Wednesday at Barnes & Noble in Cool Springs Galleria mall.
In Tears of Pearl things have changed considerably in Ashton's life since the conclusion of the previous novel A Poisoned Season. She's now married to Colin Hargrears and they are officially diplomats of the British Empire. They're going on a honeymoon to Istanbul, mixing business and pleasure while visiting the major city in the Ottoman Empire.
But then pleasure and romance give way to duty, when a harem girl is murdered. Ashton discovers that things are different for women here than in England, and also discovers she has more access to information by talking to other harem women.
There’s only one problem — it seems a serial killer is on the loose. As other victims turn up, she and Colin must discover exactly what's behind these murders, and also uncover other conspiracies and details behind a much more complex situation than it seemed.
Alexander, a University of Notre Dame graduate and English major, until recently lived in Franklin, but has now relocated to Chicago.
“I'm a big winter fan, so this is really the place for me,” Alexander said of Chicago. “But I made so many great friends in Franklin and Nashville, and always love coming back to visit them.
"She also truly enjoys combining genres in the Lady Ashton series, mixing tales of Victorian Europe with the more traditional elements of a murder mystery.
“It does pose a great challenge for a writer,” Alexander admitted. “You really have to make sure that the historical details work, because people will really take you to task if the language or the settings aren't accurate. At the same time, mystery buffs want a good and compelling story, and you have to structure things so the clues make sense and the solution fits what you've developed.
“I've always had a passion for both history and mysteries,” she said. “It's been a blessing that the series has been accepted so well and I've already almost completed the fifth one, which I think will be even better than all the others.”
What: Author Tasha Alexander reads from and signs copies of her new book Ears of Pearl
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Barnes & Noble Books, Cool Springs Mall, 1701 Mallory Lane
Cost: Free, open to the public