I’m delighted today to introduce you to Tessa Harris, who many of you may already know through her Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mysteries. Tessa’s latest book, The Sixth Victim, is the first book in a new historical mystery series, the Constance Piper Mysteries: published by Kensington tomorrow (30th May) in hardback and for kindle, this looks like the first of a series that many might enjoy.
London’s East End, 1888: When darkness falls, terror begins…
The foggy streets of London’s Whitechapel district have become a nocturnal hunting ground for Jack the Ripper, and no woman is safe. Flower girl Constance Piper is not immune to dread, but she is more preoccupied with her own strange experiences of late.
Clairvoyants seem to be everywhere these days. Constance’s mother has found comfort in contacting her late father in a séance. But are such powers real? And could Constance really be possessed of second sight? She longs for the wise counsel of her mentor and champion of the poor, Emily Tindall, but the kind missionary has gone missing.
Following the latest grisly discovery, Constance is contacted by a high-born lady of means who fears the victim may be her missing sister. She implores Constance to use her clairvoyance to help solve the crime, which the press is calling “the Whitechapel Mystery,” attributing the murder to the Ripper.
As Constance becomes embroiled in intrigue far more sinister than she could have imagined, assistance comes in a startling manner that profoundly challenges her assumptions about the nature of reality.
She’ll need all the help she can get – because there may be more than one depraved killer out there…
I’m delighted to welcome Tessa as my guest, to tell us more about the real Whitechapel characters who inspired The Sixth Victim.
As an historian and journalist I love to base my stories on real events and real people. It therefore follows that in my new series, The Constance Piper Mysteries, set in London’s East End in the late 1880s, I’ve featured several of the actual characters who lived in Whitechapel during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. They’re a diverse and fascinating bunch, from completely different backgrounds, all living in this small, but notorious area of London. Here we meet my favourite five:
George Lusk: A builder and decorator, he was a self-made man who became chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. Mr Lusk and his fellow members wanted a reward offered for information leading to the killer’s arrest, but the publicity he received attracted unwanted attention. Convinced that a strange man was watching his house, in October 1888 Lusk asked for police protection. Later that month he received a parcel. In it was part of a human kidney and a note that has become known as the “From Hell” letter. Terrifyingly its author claimed that the organ belonged to victim Catherine Eddowes, whose kidney was removed in the attack, and that he’d fried and eaten the other half.
Samuel Barnett: An Anglican minister and social reformer, he and his wife, Henrietta were pioneering social reformers in the Whitechapel area, improving housing and education for the poor. They went on to found Toynbee Hall. The couple also established university settlements, where richer students could live alongside much poorer people ‘to learn as much as to teach; to receive as much to give’, as Samuel put it. In The Sixth Victim Constance’s mentor Emily Tindall, is one of several young women from Oxford University who came to live and teach in Whitechapel.
John Troutbeck: He was the Westminster coroner who presided over the inquest into the “Whitehall Mystery” which features in my novel. He had a reputation for taking the law into his own hands and particularly hated journalists.
Mary Jane Kelly: The most horrifically mutilated of all Jack the Ripper’s victims, her story reflects the tragedy of many women who walked the East End streets at the time. Widely thought to be the killer’s fifth and final victim, she was born in Ireland, but married a Welsh miner who was killed in an explosion. She spent a long spell in Cardiff Infirmary, but from then on it’s thought she had to resort to prostitution. By 1887 she was living in Spitalfields with a porter at Billingsgate fish market. Unlike the other Ripper victims she rented a room, which she apparently often shared with her less well-off friends who slept in doss houses. The fact that she had a room also played into Jack’s hands. He was able to mutilate her dead body without fear of interruption.
Detective Sergeant Albert Pearce: DS Pearce was the model for Detective Constable Hawkins, whom we first meet assigned to the case of the “Whitehall Mystery” in my novel. Pearce belonged to the Metropolitan Police’s ‘H’ Division at the time of the Ripper Murders. He was young, intelligent and good-looking! We’ll meet him again in the next book.
Fascinating, Tessa – wishing you every success with this new series.
About the author
Tessa Harris is the author of the acclaimed Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mysteries, including Secrets in the Stones and The Anatomist’s Apprentice. A graduate of Oxford University with a History degree, Tessa has also been a journalist and editor, contributing to many national publications such as The Times and The Telegraph. She has also acted as a literary publicist for several well-known authors. Readers can visit her website.