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Mason, Sarah J. 1949–

MASON, Sarah J. 1949– (Hamilton Crane)

PERSONAL: Born December 18, 1949, in Bishop's Stortford, England; daughter of Jack (a schoolteacher and former naval officer) and Margaret (a former naval officer) Mason; married William G. Welland (a metallurgist and welding engineer), February 28, 1976. Education: University of St. Andrews, M.A., 1972.

ADDRESSES: Home—3 Church View, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire EN10 7AB, England. Agent—("Miss Seeton" series only) Curtis Brown, 28/29 Haymarket, London SW1 4SP, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Mystery writer, 1983–. Also worked as a library assistant, librarian and information officer, temporary secretary, and office manager.

MEMBER: Crime Writers' Association, Society of Authors.

WRITINGS:

MYSTERY NOVELS

Let's Talk of Wills, Collins (London, England), 1985, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Death on Her Doorstep, Chivers (London, England), 2003.

"MISS SEETON" MYSTERY NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM HAMILTON CRANE

Miss Seeton Cracks the Case, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1991.

Miss Seeton Paints the Town, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1991.

Hands Up, Miss Seeton, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.

Miss Seeton by Moonlight, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.

Miss Seeton Rocks the Cradle, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.

Miss Seeton Goes to Bat, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.

Miss Seeton Plants Suspicion, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.

Starring Miss Seeton, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.

Miss Seeton Undercover, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.

Miss Seeton Rules, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.

Sold to Miss Seeton, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.

Sweet Miss Seeton, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.

Bonjour Miss Seeton, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.

Miss Seeton's Finest Hour, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.

"TREWLEY AND STONE" MYSTERY NOVELS

Murder in the Maze, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.

Frozen Stiff, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993, published as Deep-Frozen Death, Thorpe, 1999.

Corpse in the Kitchen, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993, published as Corpse in the Case, Thorpe, 1999.

Dying Breath, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1994, published as Murder from Memory, Thorpe, 1999.

Sew Easy to Kill, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1996.

Seeing Is Deceiving, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1997.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A pseudonymous novel (not a mystery) set in England during World War II.

SIDELIGHTS: Sarah J. Mason is a prolific author of mysteries set in small English villages. She made her debut in 1985 with Let's Talk of Wills, which revolves around the activities of ninety-year-old Kate Keepdown. When the elderly woman invites her relatives to celebrate her birthday, they vie for her fortune and crimes ensue. While acknowledging some flaws, commentators also praised this work. Myrna Feldman, writing in Armchair Detective, found the novel occasionally "humorous" and "surprising," yet she also noted what she considered to be "far too many coincidences and red herrings" and was disappointed with the resolution. Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews commentator considered the narrative to be "overstuffed with motives, characters, coincidences and cutesy names" but discerned much writing talent as well. In Publishers Weekly, a critic noted the work's "considerable atmosphere" and "quirky characters," deeming the novel a "promising debut."

After publishing Let's Talk of Wills, Mason began to write series "whodunits." Under the pseudonym Hamilton Crane, Mason took over writing installments for the "Miss Seeton" series in 1991. This series was created by Heron Carvic in the 1970s; after his death in 1980 it was in hiatus until it was reprised in 1990 by Hampton Charles, who wrote three volumes before Mason took over. These mysteries take place in the village of Plummergen, in Kent, England. There Emily Dorothea Seeton, a spinster and retired art teacher with clairvoyant talent and the ability to put on paper what she has witnessed, finds herself involved in sleuthing. Several reviewers noted that Mason, adhering to the meandering style of Heron Carvic, excels at portraying English village life—though sometimes to the detriment of the plot. They noted that Miss Seeton is often on the periphery of what amounts to a small mystery, and the clues to solving the riddle do not always add up, so that the reader has no chance of solving the mystery on his or her own.

Mason's original "Trewley and Stone" series, begun in 1993 and published under her own name, features Detective Superintendent Trewley and his female partner Sergeant Stone. A one-time medical student with a black belt in judo, Stone provides a contrast to the more typical provincial British detective.

Mason once told CA: "The first mysteries I read and enjoyed were, of course, by Agatha Christie—whose plotting abilities I greatly admire. The inspiration to try writing for myself followed reading The Moving Toyshop, by Edmund Crispin, which showed me that it was possible to entertain readers by making allusions to shared knowledge with no relevance to advancing the plot—mysteries could be FUN. This approach led to my first published book, Let's Talk of Wills, a whimsy that entertained my editor by naming almost all the characters after characters Shakespeare mentions in passing, without ever bringing them on stage. Sadly, none of the reviewers (or readers) picked up on the joke, so I was chided by one for using 'cutesy names.'

"My pseudonymous career as Hamilton Crane also began with the same editor at Collins Crime Club, who recommended me to the agents for the Heron Carvic estate when they were looking for another author to succeed Hampton Charles (the HC initials were mandatory—Hamilton was my hall of residence at St. Andrews, and Crane seemed appropriate to follow Heron). I later learned that the editor hoped a few Miss Seeton books would encourage a little more discipline in my writing—she had rejected several manuscripts since Let's Talk of Wills—but neither she nor I expected demand to result in so many titles by Hamilton Crane that they left me little time for writing anything else."

More recently, Mason added: "A satisfactory fifteenth manuscript by Hamilton Crane proved elusive, ending Crane's career and freeing me for other work: a final (non-series) mystery novel, and a long-contemplated move away from mystery fiction."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Armchair Detective, summer, 1987, Myrna Feldman, review of Let's Talk of Wills, p. 306; winter, 1997, p. 97.

Booklist, August, 1986, p. 1665; December 15, 1996, p. 710; October 15, 1997, p. 391.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1986, pp. 1251-1252; March 1, 1994, p. 248; August 1, 1994, p. 1024; September 1, 1995, p. 1229; October 1, 1996, pp. 1426-1427.

Library Journal, September 1, 1986, p. 219; December, 1996, p. 151.

Publishers Weekly, July 11, 1986, review of Let's Talk of Wills, p. 58; March 14, 1994, p. 65; September 26, 1994, p. 56; September 4, 1995, p. 55; September 30, 1996, p. 64; July 21, 1997, p. 187.

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