Moody, Susan (Elizabeth Howard)
Moody, Susan (Elizabeth Howard)
(Susannah James, Susan Madison)
PERSONAL: Born in Oxford, England; married Walter F. Bertsch, 1961 (deceased); married John Moody, 1973; children: (first marriage) two sons; (second marriage) one son. Education: Open University, B.A. 1978.
ADDRESSES: Home—Oxford, England. Agent—Peters, Fraser, and Dunlop, Fifth Floor, The Chambers, Chelsea Harbour, Lots Road, London SW10 OXF, England.
CAREER: Writer. H. M. Prison, Bedford, England, creative writing tutor, 1983–85.
MEMBER: International Association of Crime Writers (permanent British representative), Crime Writers Association (vice chair, 1988–89; chair, 1989–90).
CRIME NOVELS, EXCEPT AS NOTED
Penny Black ("Penny Wanawake" series), Fawcett Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Penny Dreadful ("Penny Wanawake" series), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Penny Post ("Penny Wanawake" series), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Penny Royal ("Penny Wanawake" series), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Penny Wise ("Penny Wanawake" series), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Penny Pinching ("Penny Wanawake" series) Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Playing with Fire, Macdonald (London, England), 1989, published as Mosaic, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Penny Saving ("Penny Wanawake" series), Joseph (London, England), 1990.
Hush-a-Bye, Macdonald (London, England), 1991.
Takeout Double ("Cassie Swan" series), Headline (London, England), 1993.
House of Moons, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1993.
Grand Slam ("Cassie Swan" series), Headline (London, England), 1994.
The Italian Garden, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1994.
Death Takes a Hand, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, Maine), 1994.
King of Hearts ("Cassie Swan" series), Headline (London, England), 1995.
Misselthwaite (sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1995, published as Return to the Secret Garden, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1998.
Doubled in Spades ("Cassie Swan" series), Headline (London, England), 1996.
Sacrifice Bid, Headline (London, England), 1997.
Dummy Hand ("Cassie Swan" series), Headline (London, England), 1998.
Falling Angel, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1998.
UNDER PSEUDONYM SUSANNAH JAMES
A Distant Shore, New American Library (New York, NY), 1981.
Lucia's Legacy, New American Library (New York, NY), 1984.
Love over Gold, Bantam Press (London, England), 1993.
(Under pseudonym Susan Madison) The Color of Hope, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
(Under pseudonym Susan Madison) The Hour of Separation, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of short fiction to various periodicals and anthologies, including Classic Christmas Crime, 1998, and Murder on Deck, 1998.
SIDELIGHTS: British crime writer Susan Moody spent approximately ten years in Tennessee, where she became interested in the racial tension so prevalent in the nation at that time. This experience is reflected in the heroine of her first crime series, Penny Wanawake. Penny is the daughter of Lady Helena Hurley and Dr. Benjamin Wanawake, the permanent ambassador to the United Nations for the small nation of Senangaland. Moody describes Penny as six feet tall with a darkblack complexion and beaded cornrows, an appearance that, while memorable, causes Penny no end of difficulties when she is attempting to remain inconspicuous for the purpose of undercover work. Penny lives a jet-set life, maintaining a cover as a professional freelance photographer, and moving in wealthy circles. Other characters in Penny's world include Barnaby Midas, a jewel thief and conman whom she is dating, and Antonia Ivory, the director of the R. H. Domestic Agency and the tenant of Penny's London townhouse. Over the course of the novels, Penny practices her detective skills as she solves various kidnappings and murders, often among her friends and family members. Moody depicts her heroine as a strong, liberated woman throughout, allowing Penny the occasional affair despite her long-standing relationship with Midas, and allowing her to remain comfortable with her single status, even when Midas begins to press for marriage.
Moody's second series of detective novels centers around Cassie Swann, a bridge expert who supports herself by playing and teaching the game. Cassie solves mysteries she stumbles upon during card games and tournaments, starting with three dead bodies discovered around a table in the middle of a bridge game. In subsequent volumes, Cassie solves several other murders, as well as turning her attention to the cold case of her own father's mysterious and still unsolved death twenty years earlier. In a review of Grand Slam for Publishers Weekly, a contributor remarked that "earthy Cassie, with her wry sense of humor and lust for life, has a powerful appeal." Emily Melton, reviewing Death Takes a Hand for Booklist, commented that Cassie "faces real-life difficulties with a wonderfully ironic sense of humor."
In addition to her mystery series, Moody has written a number of stand-alone novels, including Mosaic, a suspense novel that centers around Frances Breet, the daughter of a French mother and American journalist father, the latter of whom has recently been assassinated. The story follows Fran through a romance with a mysterious former British soldier and his sudden disappearance and murder, an event that leads her to seek out his killer.
Another of Moody's stand-alone works is Misselthwaite, which was published in the United States as Return to the Secret Garden. Intended as a sequel to Frances Hodgson-Burnett's classic children's novel The Secret Garden, Misselthwaite follows the now-grown characters Mary, Colin, and Dickon as their relationships develop into a love triangle. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that the book, "though evocatively written, seems contrived," and noted that only after the second generation of characters is introduced does the story echoes the magic of the original. The reviewer added as the book progresses, "the theme of karma across generations finally gives the story a raison d'etre." The novel was shortlisted for a Romantic Novelists' Association award in 1995.
Moody has also written several novels under the pseudonyms Susannah James and Susan Madison. Love over Gold, written under the James pen name, was inspired by a television advertising campaign. The Color of Hope, written under the Madison pseudonym, recounts the struggles of a family as they attempt to cope with losing their daughter in a boating accident.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, fourth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Booklist, April 1, 1994, Emily Melton, review of Death Takes a Hand, p. 1426; February 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of King of Hearts, p. 994; April 15, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Doubled in Spades, p. 1410.
Publishers Weekly, June 7, 1991, review of Mosaic, p. 56; March 7, 1994, review of Death Takes a Hand, p. 57; June 9, 1995, review of Grand Slam, p. 59; November 27, 1995, review of King of Hearts, p. 55; February 10, 1997, review of Doubled in Spades, p. 70; January 5, 1998, review of Return to the Secret Garden, p. 65.
Clare Library Web site, http://www.clarelibrary.ie/ (February 23, 2005), "Susan Moody."
ContemporaryWriters.com, http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (February, 23, 2005), "Susan Moody."
Fantastic Fiction Web site, http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (February 23, 2005), "Susan Moody."