Emerson, Kathy Lynn 1947–
Emerson, Kathy Lynn 1947–
(Kaitlyn Dunnett, Kaitlyn Gorton, Kathy Lynn Gorton)
Born October 25, 1947, in Liberty, NY; daughter of William Russell and Theresa Marie Gorton; married Sanford Merritt Emerson (in law enforcement), May 10, 1969. Education: Bates College, A.B., 1969; Old Dominion University, M.A., 1972.
Home—Wilton, ME. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, VA, instructor in English, 1972-73; tutor and counselor in Franklin County Community Action Program, 1974-75; language arts teacher at Wilton Academy, 1975-76; freelance writer, 1976—; University of Maine at Farmington, library assistant, 1979-85, lecturer, 1985-87.
American Crime Writers' League, Historical Novel Society, Mystery Writers of America, Novelists, Inc., Sisters in Crime.
Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth-Century England, Whitston (Troy, NY), 1984.
Making Headlines: A Biography of Nellie Bly (juvenile), Dillon Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.
The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England, Writer's Digest Books (Cincinnati, OH), 1996.
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries: The Art & Adventure of Sleuthing through the Past, Perseverance Press (McKinleyville, CA), 2008.
NOVELS FOR CHILDREN
The Mystery of Hilliard's Castle, Down East (Camden, ME), 1985.
Julia's Mending, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1987.
The Mystery of the Missing Bagpipes, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.
ROMANTIC SUSPENSE NOVELS
Winter Tapestry (historical), Harper (New York, NY), 1991.
Echoes and Illusions (contemporary), Harper (New York, NY), 1993.
Firebrand (historical), Harper (New York, NY), 1993.
The Green Rose (historical), Harper (New York, NY), 1994.
Unquiet Hearts (historical), Harper (New York, NY), 1994.
Sleepwalking Beauty, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
Relative Strangers, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
Love Thy Neighbor, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
Sight Unseen, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.
Tried and True, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.
That Special Smile, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.
"FACE DOWN" MYSTERY SERIES
Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Face Down upon an Herbal, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Face Down among the Winchester Geese, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Face Down under the Wych Elm, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Face Down before the Rebel Hooves, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Face Down across the Western Sea, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
Murders and Other Confusions: The Chronicles of Susanna, Lady Appleton, Sixteenth Century Gentlewoman, Herbalist, and Sleuth, Crippen & Landru Publishers (Norfolk, VA), 2004.
Face Down below the Banqueting House, Perseverance Press (McKinleyville, CA), 2005.
Face Down beside St. Anne's Well, Perseverance Press (McKinleyville, CA), 2006.
Face Down o'er the Border, Perseverance Press (McKinleyville, CA), 2007.
"DIANA SPAULDING" MYSTERY SERIES
Deadlier than the Pen, Pemberley Press (Corona del Mar, CA), 2004.
Fatal as a Fallen Woman, Pemberley Press (Corona del Mar, CA), 2005.
No Mortal Reason, Pemberley Press (Corona del Mar, CA), 2007.
Lethal Legend, Pemberley Press (Corona del Mar, CA), 2008.
ROMANCE NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM KAITLYN GORTON
Cloud Castles, Silhouette Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Hearth, Home, and Hope, Silhouette Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Separated Sisters, Silhouette Books (New York, NY), 1997.
"LISS MACCRIMMON" MYSTERY SERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM KAITLYN DUNNETT
Kilt Dead, Kensington Mystery (New York, NY), 2007.
Scone Cold Dead, Kensington Mystery (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor to anthologies, including Murder Most Medieval, Cumberland House; and More Murder They Wrote, Berkley. Contributor of articles and stories to periodicals, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, D.A.R., First Person Female American, Highlights for Children, Medieval Chronicle, Mystery News, Notes on Teaching English, Primary Treasure, and Renaissance Papers.
Kathy Lynn Emerson is a well-established writer of popular and historical romances, but her greatest success has probably come since the mid-1990s, when she began her "Face Down" mystery series with Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie. The story begins in 1559, when Sir Robert Appleton leaves England for France, where he is to serve as an ambassador for Queen Elizabeth. His wife Susanna—an intelligent, independent woman—remains behind, fully aware that her husband will be unfaithful to her while he is gone. When the steward of the Appleton estate dies a mysterious death, Susanna sets out to solve the mystery. Toby Bromberg, a contributor to the Romantic Times Web site, called Susanna a "shrewdly likeable" character, and called Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie a "sparkling" mystery.
Face Down upon an Herbal continues Susanna's adventures. In this mystery, Lady Appleton has published an herbal manual. At the command of Queen Elizabeth, she travels to Madderly Castle to assist Lady Madderly, who is also working on herbals. When Susanna arrives, however, she learns that a visiting Scottish nobleman has died while visiting Madderly Castle, and that he was found dead clutching a copy of Susanna's book. Once again she determines to sort out the mysterious characters and events that envelop her. A contributor to the Mystery Reader Web site found the plot to be "intricate," yet complained that it was difficult to care about the characters in the story.
Emerson's fifth entry in the series, Face Down under the Wych Elm, finds Susanna defending a mistress of her deceased husband. Constance Crane, accused of being a witch, must rely on Susanna to discover who actually poisoned her supposed victim and why. By story's end, the sleuth realizes that the accusation of witchcraft actually hides an intricate web of greed and lust. Noting that the author "creates an Elizabethan atmosphere by using archaic words … and describing plants and herbal remedies," a Publishers Weekly contributor stated that the volume "begins slowly but ends with an exciting rush." Reviewing Face Down under the Wych Elm in Booklist, GraceAnne A. DeCandido called the work "another intriguing story of the resourceful Susanna and her equally plucky servant and friend, Jennet."
Face Down across the Western Sea puts Susanna on the trail of the murderer of one of a group of contentious Oxford scholars, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth and shepherded by Sir Walter Pendennis to formulate and debate English claims to lands in the Americas. The group pores over maps, firsthand accounts, manuscripts, and other documents in an attempt to stake the greater claim than rivals Spain, Italy, and other European countries. Joining the cast are Sir Walter's handicapped wife and Jennet, Susanna's trusted maid. When Susanna discovers one of the scholars, Martin Calthorpe, dead in his chambers, she has to determine if the death is accident or murder. Calthorpe had recently had contact with two men newly returned from the Americas, which could have been a contributing factor. While she investigates, two more scholars perish. One of them, Owen Merrick, had brought his daughter Gwyn with him, and with her help, Susanna finally tracks down the answers to the deaths and their connection to the quest to claim new territory. "Emerson does a crackling good job of tying in real historical narratives" with the fictional elements of her novel, observed DeCandido in a Booklist review. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "original, beguiling, and eminently readable."
Face Down below the Banqueting House puts Susanna at odds with the odious Brian Tymberly, an agent of Queen Elizabeth's who has arrived at Susanna's home of Leigh Abbey to scout the site for a possible visit by Her Majesty. Facing total disruption by the pending royal visit, and fighting Tymberly to keep him from building a banqueting house in her favorite ancient oak tree, Susanna becomes embroiled in another murder investigation when Tymberly's repulsive manservant, Miles Carter, is found dead below the banqueting house. When others meet a similar fate, Susanna's vivacious maid Grace is a prime suspect, but soon Lady Appleton has uncovered evidence enough to convince her that Grace is not responsible and that the guilty parties are elsewhere. Through it all, Susanna has to cope with her deepening relationship with Nick Baldwin, lord of Whitethorn Manor. A Kirkus Reviews contributor observed that the book is "spirited and studded with wry humor." Emerson's "plot is deft and complex: she is at the top of her form here," remarked DeCandido in Booklist.
In Face Down beside St. Anne's Well, Susanna's twelve-year-old foster daughter, Rosamond, is distraught to learn that her French teacher, Madame Louise Poitier, has been found dead, drowned in St. Anne's Well. Rosamond is deeply suspicious of the circumstances; believing Madame Poitier to be the victim of murder, she asks Susanna to investigate. As the political backdrop becomes more and more volatile, with Tudors and Stuarts in a violent struggle for power, Susanna seeks to extricate the truth from a tangle of lies, emotional passion, and possible treason against the crown. Things become even more complicated when a woman Susanna recognizes as a spy for Catherine de Medici and Mary, Queen of Scots, arrives on the scene, ostensibly to look into Madame Poitier's death. Emerson "steeps her period whodunits thoroughly in Elizabethan-era manners, language, and historical detail," commented Margaret Flanagan in Booklist. Emerson's "great strength as a writer is her portrayal of women, no matter their station in the stratified sixteenth century," observed Judy Harrison in the Bangor Daily News.
Emerson inaugurated a new series of nineteenth-century mysteries, the "Diana Spaulding" series, with Deadlier than the Pen. Set in 1888, the series features newspaper reporter Diana Spaulding, whose cultural events column is always tampered with by her editor, who adds scandalous gossip. In her first outing, Diana is assigned to interview Damon Bathory, a writer of gothic horror stories whose current reading tour has been plagued by a number of murders. Through hardship, frustration, and physical assault, Diana pursues the truth—and the enigmatic writer. Meanwhile, hints of romance blossom between Diana and Dr. Ben Northcote, challenging her still-sharp grief over the death of her husband, Evan. Rex E. Klett, writing in the Library Journal, commented that Emerson's "fascinating historical marks the debut of a lively new series." In the second book in the series, Fatal as a Fallen Woman, Diana has accepted Ben's marriage proposal, has quit her job at the newspaper, and is ready to embark on a happy new life. Family difficulties on Ben's side, including a mentally ill brother and a haughty, overbearing mother, threaten their wedded bliss, but Diana determines that nothing will interfere with the couple's happiness. It is Diana's own troubled past, however, that finally catches up to her; she heads west to Denver after learning that her mother is wanted for murdering her father. Disinherited when she married Evan Spaulding, Diana is unprepared for the shocks and revelations that await her in Colorado—especially the scandalous method her mother has lately employed to earn her living. Emerson "does a superb job of filling in the gaps of the reporter's early life and explaining her husband's death in more detail," noted Harrison in another Bangor Daily News review.
The next two books in the "Diana Spaulding" series are No Mortal Reason and Lethal Legend, the series finale. In the latter mystery, Diana finds herself traveling to Keep Island, across Penobscot Bay, to search for her missing fiancé, Ben, who went there to treat three men who had been poisoned. Once there, Diana joins Ben in the investigation of the death of the local sheriff. They are soon suspicious of an archaeologist and a wealthy man who both seem to want to keep the death quiet to avoid bad publicity. "Lethal Legend is an entertaining late nineteenth century regional cozy," wrote Harriet Klausner for the Best Reviews Web site. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the finale "historically interesting and suitably mysterious."
Emerson, writing as Kaitlyn Dunnett, is also the author of the "Liss MacCrimmon" mystery series. "This series is a lot of fun for me to write because it is set in a fictional version of my own back yard," the author noted on her home page. Kilt Dead, the first book in the series, introduces readers to Liss, a Scottish dancer whose career is ended by a knee injury. As a result, Liss returns to Moosetookalook, Maine, where she begins running her aunt's Scottish emporium while her aunt vacations in Scotland. However, when she finds the body of busybody Amanda Norris in her aunt's store, Liss is surprised to learn that the police view her as their number-one suspect. Looking to clear her name, Liss starts to investigate on her own along with a past high school classmate named Dan Ruskin. While Liss first thought little had changed in Moosetookalook since the years she had been gone, she now learns otherwise. Calling the story "appealing" in a review for the Reviewingtheevidence.com Web site, A.L. Katz added: "The readers also get to learn a little bit about Scotland and Scottish lore as we hear about the things that are sold in the shop." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Kilt Dead "a nice little debut with enough local color and romance to make a congenial addition to the cozy ranks." The next book in the series is titled Scone Cold Dead.
The author has also continued to contribute to her "Face Down" series with Face Down o'er the Border. In this installment, Lady Susanna Appleton is in Scotland searching for Catherine, Lady Glenelg, who is her sister-in-law. Catherine is suspected of murdering her mother-in-law and flees, knowing that she has been framed. Clearing Catherine of the accusations is left to Susanna, who also has to protect her son from the killer. Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, commented that the author highlights "an era in Scotland's history rife with political tensions and intrigue." Referring to the historical mystery as "engrossing," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted the novel's "strong female characters, well-paced plot, seamless dialogue and intriguing historical details."
In her 2008 nonfiction book, How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries: The Art & Adventure of Sleuthing through the Past, Emerson provides tips on writing and selling historical mysteries. The author uses her own books, as well as the writings of other historical mystery writers, to guide the reader in areas such as planning, researching, plotting, and writing. The author includes anecdotes and the advice of other writers, as well as editors and publishers. Booklist contributor David Pitt noted that "budding historical novelists will discover a wealth of helpful tips."
Emerson once told CA: "I alternate between writing contemporary and historical fiction with an occasional nonfiction project for variety. My favorite historical period is the sixteenth century, in which I have set several adult novels. The 1880s have provided background for Julia's Mending and a biography of Nellie Bly, both for young readers. I frequently use family stories as the basis for plot development. Both Julia's Mending and No Mortal Reason incorporate many of the adventures my grandfather had as a young boy. If there is any single theme running through my work, it concerns the dangers of jumping to conclusions about people. My protagonists frequently must learn to be more open-minded and fight unintentional prejudices they discover within themselves."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Libraries, February, 1999, review of Face Down upon an Herbal, p. 61.
Armchair Detective, summer, 1997, review of Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, p. 362.
Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), March 6, 2006, Judy Harrison, "Mystery Writers Emerson Back with One of Her Best," review of Face Down beside St. Anne's Well; May 8, 2006, Judy Harrison, "Emerson's Latest Sees Spaulding Go West," review of Fatal as a Fallen Woman.
Booklist, August, 1996, review of The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England, p. 1874; April 15, 1998, review of Face Down upon an Herbal, p. 1381; May 15, 1999, review of Face Down among the Winchester Geese, p. 1672; January 1, 2000, review of Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross, p. 883; December 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Face Down under the Wych Elm, p. 696; July, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Face Down before the Rebel Hooves, p. 1986; March 15, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Face Down across the Western Sea, p. 1215; March 1, 2005, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Face Down below the Banqueting House, p. 1144; March 15, 2006, Margaret Flanagan, review of Face Down beside St. Anne's Well, p. 30; October 1, 2007, Margaret Flanagan, review of Face Down o'er the Border, p. 34; March 15, 2008, David Pitt, review of How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries: The Art & Adventure of Sleuthing through the Past, p. 15.
California Bookwatch, May, 2006, review of Face Down beside St. Anne's Well.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1997, review of Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, p. 257; March 1, 1998, review of Face Down upon an Herbal, p. 303; June 1, 1999, review of Face Down among the Winchester Geese, p. 837; January 1, 2000, review of Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross, p. 18; March 1, 2002, review of Face Down across the Western Sea, p. 291; February 1, 2005, review of Face Down below the Banqueting House, p. 150; February 15, 2006, review of Face Down beside St. Anne's Well, p. 163; May 15, 2007, review of Kilt Dead; February 1, 2008, review of Lethal Legend.
Library Journal, April 1, 1997, review of Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, p. 133; December, 1997, review of Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, p. 184; June 1, 1999, Face Down among the Winchester Geese, p. 184; March 1, 2000, Rex Klett, review of Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross, p. 128; December, 2000, Klett, review of Face Down under the Wych Elm, p. 195; January, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Deadlier than the Pen, p. 162; March 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Face Down below the Banqueting House, p. 71.
Publishers Weekly, February 9, 1998, review of Face Down upon an Herbal, p. 77; May 24, 1999, review of Face Down among the Winchester Geese, p. 70; February 21, 2000, review of Face Down beneath the Eleanor Cross, p. 68; October 23, 2000, review of Face Down under the Wych Elm, p. 61; February 6, 2006, review of Face Down beside St. Anne's Well, p. 47; June 4, 2007, review of Kilt Dead, p. 32; July 9, 2007, review of Face Down o'er the Border, p. 35; January 14, 2008, review of Lethal Legend, p. 42.
Romance Reader, August 24, 1998, review of Tried and True.
School Library Journal, February, 1997, review of The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England, p. 37.
Small Press Bookwatch, January, 2006, review of Fatal as a Fallen Woman.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1998, review of Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, p. 333.
Best Reviews,http://www.thebestreviews.com/ (January 26, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of Deadlier than the Pen; (April 8, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Face Down beside St. Anne's Well; (June 6, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Fatal as a Fallen Woman; (May 25, 2008) Harriet Klausner, review of Lethal Legend.
Kaitlyn Dunnett Home Page,http://www.kaitlyndunnett.com (July 26, 2008).
Kathy Lynn Emerson Home Page,http://www.kathylynnemerson.com (December 5, 2006).
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (December 5, 2006), Lesley Dunlap, review of Face Down upon an Herbal.
Reviewingtheevidence.com,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (July 26, 2008), A.L. Katz, review of Kilt Dead.
Romantic Times,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (December 5, 2006), Melinda Helfer, reviews of Tried and True, Sleepwalking Beauty, Sight Unseen, Relative Strangers, and Love Thy Neighbor, and Toby Bromberg, reviews of Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie, and Face Down among the Winchester Geese.