Hey everyone, I recently found this author and I did something totally not like me. I sent her a message through her website http://caasbrey.com/. She replied! She has a new book coming out and we would love for you to give it a read. P.S. You won’t have to wait long for the next books to come out. Pre-order and they’ll magically show up on your reader. 😉
Where are you from?
Ha, not always an easy question to answer. I was born in the Far East lived most of my formative years in Scotland and have worked all over the world. I now live in England. I’m in the process of moving to York.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always wanted to write, but life got in the way, as it does for so many women. I was laid up with an injury and was on enforced bed-rest while they bolted my leg back together. I missed playing music and felt the need to do something else creative when my old ambition came creeping back.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose when people wanted to read my work and enjoyed it. Getting a publisher was a challenge. Many told me that they didn’t take Westerns, others that it wasn’t Western enough. The books are hard to fit into any distinct category. They are historical mysteries set everywhere the Pinkertons actually worked. They are 19th century American Mysteries. I was lucky to find a home for the stories at Prairie Rose Publications.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
That would be either the Pope or the Queen – on a protection duty. When the Pope visited Scotland I was the police officer at the bottom of the aircraft steps. We then moved with him into the city. As a fun aside, the glass-covered vehicle he used was nicknamed the Pope Mobile by the press. The crowds were all still there when we returned to the airport in the Pope mobile without him. We stood in full uniform waving flowers out the top to cheering crowds as we drove the full length of Prince’s Street in Edinburgh (the big main street in Scotland’s capital city). The crowd cheered us and waved flags as we passed. Only a Scottish crowd could hail a car full of police officers like that. Great fun.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation.
What inspired you to write your first book?
History has always held a draw and the colourful stories of the older female officers piqued my interest, making me look even further back.
The very first women in law enforcement had been in France, working for the Sûreté in the early 19th century. They were, however, no more than a network of spies and prostitutes, the most infamous being the notorious ‘Violette’.
The first truly professional women in law enforcement worked for the Pinkerton Agency, and they were trained by the first female agent Kate Warne, an ex-actress and an expert in working undercover. Kate Warne was an expert at disguise, adopting roles, and accents. She was said to be daring and able to pass her characters off, even in close quarters. In the only known photograph of her she is dressed as a man. This was a skill set my childhood had prepared me to understand.
These women were fully-fledged agents, with their skills being held in high regard by Alan Pinkerton who once said, “In my service you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.” I started to wonder why one of the female agents couldn’t be a Scottish Immigrant. After all, Alan Pinkerton was one. He came from Glasgow. Being a Scot in another land is something I know well and they say you should write what you know.
How long did you spend researching before beginning your book The Innocents?
Copious amounts. The Innocents has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. My work has taken me all over the world, but working in the USA and visiting the places where these women worked deepened my passion for finding out more about how they lived. I also researched the tools and equipment available to them at the time. Connections to police and Home Office experts allowed me to research the birth of forensics with people who knew their subject intimately.
I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up used as disguises in the book began to flourish right around the period the books are set in as lighting improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary stuff previously only lit by candles. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it.
What is different about your books and the new release in particular?
My female Pinkerton is a real detective, with real-world skills, and she is nobody’s sidekick. She’s as flawed as she is skilled in that her life is empty after family tragedy and she she fills the void with work and is afraid of connecting with people as that might open her up to more loss. She finds she is drawn to Nat Quinn, a charismatic and clever criminal, and the feeling is mutual. His criminal skills also dovetail perfectly into hers to make a perfect team to investigate murder in the first book. However, they had a temporary truce, which is over by the time they meet again in book two.
The second book was actually written some time ago but it somehow chimes perfectly with the current political climate with it’s themes of the children of immigrants being demonised for political purposes and the damage that does to both people and society at large. It becomes clear that Jake’s P.T.S D. was caused by his traumatic childhood, and that his fractured family led him and his nephew Nat into a life of crime.
We also get to see how brave the real women were who did this job back in the 19th century a well as some of the early forensics available at the time.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
‘The Innocents’ is most definitely part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but people have asked me to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books through the characters and the dangers they face. The third book is written and out this November. I’m currently writing the fourth.
She raised her head and looked straight into his eyes. “Because I’m doing everything in my power to stop that happening to you or anyone else.”
“You expect me to believe you?” he bellowed.
“Yes. It’s the truth, and deep down you know it. I’ve been here for months, and I had nothing to do with you turning up. You know how you chose which bank to rob and I had no influence on your choice.”
Jake gazed into her rich, cinnamon eyes, so full of earnest determination. He trembled as his emotions engulfed him. Confusion mixed with his fury, his mind unable to define which path he should take. His face drained of color before he snarled his reply. “I don’t know anythin’ about you anymore.”
He stepped forward and grasped her dress at the throat with one strong hand, visions of Nat’s crumpled body floating around his head, mingling with memories of his sister’s blood filling the troughs and cracks between the cobblestones flooding back from his childhood. Never again, not if he could help it, but a germ of uncertainty wormed into his mind that prevented him from making the ultimate move. “Tell me why you’re with McCully.”
She hesitated, struggling to speak against the tightening fabric of her dress crushing her windpipe, her nails dragging at Jake’s tight wrist as she stared into his cold, blank eyes. His pupils narrowed as his mind gave in to the haunting horrors of the past. His mind shut down, playing only the fears, and blocking out the here and now until he was lost to reality and to the harsh effect of his throttling grasp as his hand twisted the cloth even tighter.
“Jake!” They both turned at the sound of beating hooves as Nat galloped into the clearing on a sweating horse. He took in the scene and dropped from his horse before he walked over to them, maintaining eye contact with Jake all the way. “Jake, I know about McCully. Let her go.” Nat’s voice remained steady and composed as though he was calming a skittish horse.
Jake ignored him, lost in the nightmare of his youth. Nat frowned and took in the furious man before him. He had seen Jake like this before, during the war, when they had come across the remains of a family decimated by a marauding party. One straggler had still been there, taking his time with an unconscious thirteen-year-old girl. Jake Conroy had descended into a spiral of ferocity. There was little point in trying to reason with him when he was like this. He was running purely on emotions and nightmarish traumas from his childhood, so Nat had to depend on the decent essence at the man’s core. He knew Abi was struggling for air, but he also knew she’d be dead by now if Jake Conroy really meant to kill her. His best tactic was to distract Jake and bring him back to reality, leading him away from his fractured past and toward the man he had become. Experience had taught Nat that telling Jake what to do would enrage him more. Jake wasn’t reasoning. He was emoting.
Nat’s gaze turned to Abigail’s before he returned to Jake. He raised his eyebrows in query. “Did she tell you she was handing us over to McCully?”
“She didn’t have to!”
Abigail’s face was turning puce but Nat was in no hurry. “What did she say?”
“She lied. What do you expect?”
Nat put his weight on one leg as he hooked his thumbs in his belt and continued. “So? How you gonna kill her then?”
Abigail punched at Jake’s arm in desperation as she dropped to her knees, able to suck no more than a tiny amount of air.
“You gonna strangle her with your bare hands? Not sophisticated, but it’ll get the job done I suppose.”
Jake turned his chilling gaze back to the woman writhing at the end of his arm before Nat drew his attention back to him again. “A shot to the head would be quicker. Want me to do it?”
Abigail’s eyes watered as she choked and struggled against Jake’s grip, while Nat’s brown eyes drifted over to her, drawn by her fight for life.
“There’s a river over there. How about drowning? Drowning’d work.” Nat pondered and seemed to think the better of it. “No, you’re right. Too wet. Or hanging maybe? What about hanging? One thing’s for sure. I wouldn’t do it that way.”
Jake snorted in frustration.
“We both got knives. No, I guess you’ve thought it through. Far too messy.” Nat examined Jake’s grip before looking straight into his face. “Maybe both hands and put them right around her throat? That fabric’s starting to tear.” He toyed with the grass with the toes of his boots for a few seconds before he spoke again. “Or a rope? You want me to get you a rope?”
Jake Conroy exploded at his annoying partner. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud! You know how to do everythin’ better, don’t ya?”
Jake threw Abigail aside and strode over to Nat, facing him down, irritated beyond belief at his constant criticism, while Abigail lay on her side gasping for air and ineffectually trying to crawl away. Nat gave Jake a satisfied nod and shook his head with a smile of relief. He grabbed his uncle by both arms and smiled a life-affirming grin. “No. Now that you ask. I don’t want either of us to do it. It took you a while, but we got there in the end.”
Nat led Jake over to a tree and pushed him to a seated position. “Take a minute. I’ll see to her. It’s all fine, Jake. We’re all safe. Relax. Breathe, and sit still. You were strangling her.”
Nat watched Jake’s empty eyes fill with both humanity and confusion. “I never! I just grabbed her.”
“You were twisting the collar of her dress, Jake. It got so tight she was going bright red and dropped to her knees.”
Jake paused, his missing memories confounding him. “No. I just grabbed her. I wanted answers. I would never—”
Nat patted his arm. “You got her real winded. What you saw wasn’t what you were doing. It was like Kansas again. You haven’t been like this for years. I know what came over you. I found out about McCully.” He glanced over at Abi pushing herself to a sitting position. “She’s fine. Sort yourself out while I get to the bottom of this.”
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