Staying in with Decima Blake

Goodness me. Was it really 2016 when I interviewed Decima Blake about her novel Hingston’s Box in a post you’ll find here. I’m delighted to welcome Decima back to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about her latest book.

Staying in with Decima Blake

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Decima and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for the invite.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

To celebrate publication day, I’ve brought along a copy of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers, the second book in the DS Hingston series! Yes, and Pink Pop champagne, if you’d like a glass?

I would. I’m very partial to champagne! Happy publication day for Hingston: Smoke and Mispers. What can we expect from an evening in with Hingston: Smoke and Mispers?

An evening in with Hingston: Smoke and Mispers will make you think twice about eating marshmallows.

Given the three pounds I’ve put on over the festive season I need to think twice anyway! But tell me more.

It will also excite the detective in you. When your feet hit the crowded Piccadilly pavement in Chapter One, you will find yourself close enough to Fortnum and Mason to hear the clock bells acknowledge six p.m. over the rhythm of taxi exhausts, bus brakes wheezing and the clamour that surrounds Hingston on the 1st of December 2012. You can expect deception, murder, magic and historical crimes wrapped up with real-life police procedure and a touch of spookiness.

Hingston: Smoke and Mispers sounds brilliant. Will I see much of London?

Hingston’s investigative race takes you to striking London settings including the British Museum, the Magic Circle Headquarters and Victorian cemeteries. Familiar characters Remi, DCI Smythe and Uncle Zack return, the subplot evolves and there’s a new main character to get to know. Here’s a glimpse into Hingston’s latest case:

Hingston stared at the reams of photographs on the internet that showed inside the iconic West Cemetery at Highgate. The Egyptian Avenue was a popular feature in all seasons. The morning of Wednesday the 5th of December had begun with light snowfall. He imagined the approach of the solitary female tour guide who, at eleven forty-five a.m. set off up the frosty woodland path to unlock the Terrace Catacombs.

The gentle thud of her footsteps, steady, yet not solemn in their pace, were keeping the chill from her toes. Against the silence she was conscious of herself and of the thousands of feet that lay still in the Victorian cemetery. She looked at the names that, over her years at Highgate, had grown lovingly familiar and whose stories she gave life to on afternoon tours. In two hours the cold-penetrated catacombs, mausoleums, monuments and tombs would again be admired for their architectural splendour. Visitors would learn about the funerary symbolism used to remember lost loves long mourned by exquisite stone angels and guarded by loyal pets immortalised in stone.

She looked at the masses of tombstones that were situated in clusters between the trees, far back from the path she ascended. The stones were tilted and were gripped by dense ivy and random undergrowth that twisted around them with a strangler’s hold. It was as if the souls they represented were vying for position, fighting to be remembered.

Scuffing her shoe against the icy gravel, she thought of London’s poor who lay anonymously in common graves beneath the path she trod. She would acknowledge them too on the tour.

She soon came to the broader section of the path that opened out to the left and revealed the two weatherworn obelisks and four lotus columns. They were divided symmetrically by a broad, robust archway and they magnified the entrance to the Egyptian Avenue. She approached the closed iron gates. They were coated in thick black paint to match the sixteen substantial cast iron doors that sealed the vaults that flanked the avenue. The vaults themselves, long unopened, were not solely occupied by the dead; there was evidence of bats. These dark-loving mammals would squeeze in and out of the vaults through small door vents, pushing strands of cobwebs into messy grey clots of fluff that lingered inside the vents and dangled out. They would be quiet now, she knew. The moist, defrosting vegetation and trees that grew above and hung over the avenue held back much of the light. However, when compared to the original tunnel construction (its roof had been removed years before she came to Highgate), she had been able to convince herself that this was a hospitable gloom.

Pulling back the gates, she looked up the avenue and through to the Circle of Lebanon vaults beyond. The sun illuminated the pale stone pediment that faced her and this increased the illusion of the avenue’s great length. She would often pause to admire the drama of the architecture seen from this particular spot at the entrance. It reminded her of the fabled ascent toward heaven’s light, but this morning, her eyes were being drawn from the light toward the unfamiliar shadow that encroached at the left of the exit.

Stood still with her breath trapped inside her pounding chest, she computed the shadow’s human form. The shoulder protruded sharply. The neck was held at a tilt with the face shying away from the daylight. The thickset body appeared of giant stature until she saw the feet drooping down towards the ground…

That is brilliant Decima. I definitely need to add Hingston: Smoke and Mispers to my TBR.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought along a small collection of items. May I place these candles over there and light them, please?

Yes, and shall we turn on my fairy lights?

They’re always a nice touch, so, why not? Hingston would also approve, but you’ll discover there’s limited opportunity for festivity with this case.

Now, this is a postcard of the Egyptian Café that used to stand on the corner of Greek Street in Soho. It’ll be a nice reference for later on. I do like to bring as much realism into my novels as possible (there was light snowfall in London early on the 5th of December 2012, that’s why it’s referred to in the book) and the Egyptian Café was a chance discovery that worked perfectly with this Bakelite telephone and this wonderful blue, shot silk cushion. Yes, these are two of the possessions belonging to a particular character who, many years ago, could have been contacted on 115 Gerrard.

Intriguing!

And lastly, with special authority conveyed to me by Smythe… Yes! He is still sporting that unnatural tan, even now! No, he’s not quite retired yet – will he ever leave the Murder Squad! Oh? Is he still with Remi? I’m going to respond “No comment” to that one! So, with special authority, I’ve brought along exclusively for my evening with you, the “stick man” necklace and the original diary borrowed from the Operation PYROLITE archives. And here… is that very bizarre page that features on the cover of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers.

Wow. That’s all very entertaining. Thank you so much for staying in with me to celebrate publication day for Hingston: Smoke and Mispers Decima. Congratulations. 

Hingston: Smoke and Mispers

As the first door on the Advent calendar is opened, DS Hingston attempts to save the life of a teenager in a crowded London café, but ultimately fails. Seventeen-year-old Leanna Snow chokes to death.

Days later, a girl from Leanna Snow’s school is missing and another misper is found dead: his body hanging within the iconic Egyptian Avenue at Highgate Cemetery.

Working under the bombastic DCI Smythe and alongside Remi, his ex-girlfriend whom he still holds a torch for, Hingston discovers the magic of London this December is dark, deceptive and murderous.

Hingston and the Murder Squad are put to the test with this complex investigation that proves to be as mystifying as being asked by a magician to pick a card, any card, not knowing where you will be taken.

Hingston: Smoke and Mispers is published by Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers today, 27th January 2022 and is available for purchase through the following links:

About Decima Blake

Decima Blake, author of the Hingston series, has a long-standing interest in child protection and is deeply passionate about child victims of crime. Hingston: Smoke and Mispers is the second in the series, following Hingston’s Box which was published in 2016. Decima combines historical research, accurate police procedure and a touch of spookiness to provide readers with an immersive experience as they join Hingston on his race to solve cases involving missing persons and murder. A percentage of royalties are donated to the charity Embrace Child Victims of Crime.

For more information about Decima, follow her on Twitter @decimablake and Instagram or find her on Goodreads.

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