VALLEY — In their writing debut, Mary Lampe and Rhonda Borders, San Luis Valley authors writing as Lucia Olivia Lampe and RM Vassari, self-published Murder at the Leopard as an e-book this month.
Murder and political intrigue are the key elements in this mystery novel set in exotic and politically tense 13th century Sicily. The violent cataclysm of the Sicilian Vespers massacre is still a year away, but violence is simmering beneath the outward calm of the island capital.
On opening night in a neighborhood tavern, the owner is wrongfully accused of a gruesome murder that occurs outside the business. His wife begins a quest to prove his innocence amid the political and religious turmoil of the era. In an effort to save her husband from the gallows, our heroine encounters four aged Christian Crusaders who share a ghastly secret, and she discovers a spy-ring plotting to overthrow the Angevin King.
13th century Palermo is masterfully and vividly detailed in Murder at the Leopard. The novel’s characters are based upon actual persons described in archival documents.
“The idea of writing a novel was a bit of a wild scheme to capitalize on my doctoral dissertation in Italian history,” said Lampe. “I’m not sure either of us believed we would ever have a finished project, but here it is, and we are mid-way through a second book in the series.
“I lived in Palermo for six months researching the social networks of merchants and notaries in the local archives. I developed a deep affection for the city and its people. The characters in our book are based on real people described in the notarial contracts drawn up by Adam de Citella, who is also a character in the novel. ”
“Both of us are life-long mystery readers and history-lovers,” commented Borders.
“Mary returned from Palermo with passionate descriptions of the era and the characters she discovered in her research. Those great stories gave us the idea to write this story. Some authors have found collaborative writing with a partner to be difficult, but it seems to come naturally to us, as though we operate on the same wave-length.”
The book is the first of three planned medieval mysteries called the Vespers Trilogy. For more information and an excerpt of the novel, go to http://www.murder-at-the-leopard.com. The novel is available for downloading to e-readers and similar devices at a reasonable cost.