For the past few days I have been trying to find time to read Radha Vatsal's debut novel, A Front Page Affair. Things have come up that have been poaching on my reading time. I got home from work at 9:15pm...took my shower and then buckled down to read. I finished 10 minutes to midnight so technically still part of Mystery Monday!
A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR
(A Kitty Weeks Mystery: #1)
Written by Radha Vatsal
MAY 1, 2016; 336 Pages
Genre: mystery, historical, fiction
(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY in exchange for an honest review.)
It is 1915, New York and the latest headlines in the paper scream about the sinking of the Lusitania, as well as, the shooting of J.P. Morgan in his mansion. Capability "Kitty" Weeks wants to be a journalist and write big headlines for newspapers. Currently, she is assisting the Editor of the Lady's Page on writing about fashion, gossip and parties. While on her next assignment, to a Fourth of July party, Kitty ends up in the middle of a murder in high society.
Kitty jumps into the case to prove her worth as a journalist but doesn't realize all that goes into trying to follow the clues. In this case the clues are leading to a bigger picture as the war in Europe is trying to break the American's neutrality. As Kitty delves deeper into who killed Hunter Cole she also gets herself closer to danger.
Two things right off the bat - what a gorgeous cover! It is a cover that will make you pick this book up. The other thing that you will notice a chapter into the novel is that Vatsal has done her research. The setting of the book is wonderfully done. While the main characters and story is fictional, much surrounding the fiction is historical fact. There are few people and events I have highlighted and want to Wikipedia and Google about later. I enjoyed this book but the mystery ran a bit away from me. It started off like a cozy historical mystery and went into a bit of espionage like Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope series. I am wondering if the series will be more of a mystery or intrigue. I enjoyed the characters in the novel but they still seem a bit aloof to the reader. I feel like we get more about history and war that we lose out on the feeling the characters. I do like the characterization of Kitty, as it is a very realistic view of a young woman trying to find herself and her way. I see great potential for this character growing, and can see this series getting tighter. Often at times with the first book in the series, as well as being a debut, it shows a glimmer what is to come. I am sold and will be patiently waiting for the next book. Oh, and the other thing I found interesting - in a good way - there was no in your face love story/interest. We meet a young woman finding herself, and Vatsal sticks to that!
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Radha Vatsal was very kind in answering several of my questions. I thought I would share some of her insights with you!
I was inspired by the now-forgotten action film heroines of the 1910s. (You can read more about them in my article for TheAtlantic.com.) I was drawn to the 1910s through my study of silent cinema at Duke University. It was the first time I understood how rapidly American culture and society changed during that period.
2. Did you use any of your own background for the character of Kitty?
What we both have in common is coming to America for the first time in our teens. She comes to New York to join her father when she’s 19. I came to attend boarding school in Connecticut when I was 16. Also, I think we’re both curious and we never give up once we get an idea into our heads!
3. Not only is your first novel historical but it is also a mystery. Is historical mystery a genre you yourself read? (if yes, may I ask what authors have influenced you?)
The mysteries I read most are set in the past because that’s when they happen to have been written. I love anything by Agatha Christie and also Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White, and Dickens’s Bleak House.
4. On the cover of your novel it says this is a Kitty Weeks Mystery...will this be a trilogy or series?
This is the first in a series. I hope to bring Kitty through the World War I years and up to the point that women got the right to vote in 1920. But until we get there, there’s more about the1910s and Kitty’s life on my World of Kitty Weeks Tumblr.
5. Had you already planned out your next few books while writing the first?
I’m almost done with book two, and have a rough idea for book three. I love the characters and the time period, so the ideas just seem to flow.
6. Having been born and raised in India for 16 years - will you be setting any of your books in India or having characters of Indian ancestry? (I ask this questions as I was born and raised in Canada but my parents are from India originally. I have started to gain an interest in seeing more Indian characters.)
I may refer to what’s going on in India during the period, and introduce characters visiting from India. But I would also like to introduce Chinese characters, as well as African-Americans. The US, and especially New York, was a melting pot during the 1910s so there’s no shortage of diverse backgrounds to include.
7. Did you always want to write? What influenced you to write a book?
I always wanted to tell stories and at first I thought I might go into filmmaking. When I decided to tell this story, I thought it was too complicated for me to put into a screenplay, and the more I developed it, the more I realized it would be easier for me to write as a book.
8. Is/are there any historical figures or authors from this time period (early 20th Century) that you admire?
I love Henry James and admire Edith Wharton, but my true passion goes a bit earlier—back to Dickens, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell.
9. How much of your own views on women and suffragettes go into the book?
I try to keep my own views out of the book and focus on what Kitty might have thought. It’s hard sometimes, but I don’t think she would automatically have had the same progressive views as we do now. I try, as much as possible, to understand the world from her perspective.
10. While readers are awaiting your next book...are their any other books you would recommend?
Recently, I finished watching Narcos on Netflix and then read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s nonfiction News of A Kidnapping, about Pablo Escobar’s kidnapping of journalists in Colombia. It was excellent!
Radha Vatsal is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Mumbai, India and has a Ph.D. from the English Department at Duke University. Her debut novel, A Front Page Affair, comes out this May from Sourcebooks Landmark. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend her on Facebook.
k (My Novelesque Life)