Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Please Welcome Mystery Author Rebecca Yount

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Rebecca Yount
with Rebecca Yount

We are delighted to welcome back mystery author Rebecca Yount to Omnimystery News.

We had the pleasure of talking to Rebecca last year when the third of her Mick Chandra mysteries was published, and now the fourth in the series, The Oracle of Baal, has now been released.

We asked Rebecca to tell us a little more about the setting for her mysteries, and she titles her guest post for us today "Watch Out for the Nettles: Adventures on the Footpaths of England".

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Rebecca Yount
Photo provided courtesy of
Rebecca Yount

When my American friends ask me, "What is the best way to see England?", I invariably answer, "By foot."

There are literally hundreds of thousands of miles of public footpaths throughout Great Britain. These well-traversed routes cut through pastures, hills, moors, mountains, streams, rivers, and private property. There are no trespassing laws in England, a concept that we Yanks simply cannot wrap our heads around. Access to public footpaths is an ancient tradition that is sacred. Predating the Romans, these byways were first cut through the countryside and villages by farmers travelling to markets to sell their produce, livestock, and other wares. Today, we passionate hikers are the fortunate recipients of the paths they created so long ago.

I've never met a footpath I didn't love. Perhaps I'm easy to please, or a cheap date, but my memories of walking them with my husband are truly ones of authentic adventure.

As a child growing up in central Ohio, I longed for adventure — just not the bungee-jumping sort. Late in life I found it on the paths. One never knows what will pop up around a bend. Perhaps a herd of wild ponies; a gathering of swans; grazing sheep too shy to allow you to come near them; a charging bull; the remains of a World War Two pillbox; the ruins of an 11th century abbey; or a houseboat docked on the river, with friendly residents who take the time to stop and chat. If you're really lucky, they may even offer you a pint.

Local authorities are responsible for the upkeep of the foot paths, some doing a better job of it than others. Hikers are advised to dress in layers, even in the summer. One can start out in sunny 72 degree weather only to face a fierce head-butting storm merely 30 minutes into your walk. Also, always carry an ordinance map. They offer the detail that a regular map will not, and it's all fascinating stuff. Once, we happened upon the remains of an ancient Celtic earth fort that we had located on the ordinance, an ancient treasure that was not in the standard tourist guides or designated on the atlas map. Oh, and carry some bottled water and trail mix, just in case you get lost. Don't count on being saved by your cell phone, either. In all likelihood, you'll be too far from a signal to connect.

Hiking the footpaths is not for the faint-hearted. David and I have frequently gotten so lost, we didn't know north from south. Once we followed the sound of a lowing cow, crossed the pasture it was standing in, and eventually found our way back to the main road. Another time, we followed the sound of traffic on the Old Bristol Road to lead us out of a ravine where we were hopelessly trapped.

And then there are the nettles. My introduction to this prevalent and prickly plant was, shall we say, memorable. Hiking a footpath in Kent, we happened upon an 11th century Norman church and the remains of the old manor house to which it had been attached. While exploring these treasures, I was suddenly seized with the urge. As we were in the middle of nowhere and far from modern facilities, I went farther into the field, unaware that it was teeming with nettles. Then I … well, you can imagine the rest. My bottom throbbed for days.

It is believed that the Romans brought nettles with them when they conquered "Britannia" in the 1st century, A.D. Why did they value these nasty stingers? Some historians maintain they planted them along paths and byways to discourage indigenous enemies from effectively stalking them. Others insist that the Roman soldiers slapped their bare legs with nettles to keep themselves awake and alert during long marches (well, that would do it!). Whatever the case, today's English natives boast that cows, sheep, and goats that graze on nettles give the richest milk and cream, and therefore produce some of the world's finest cheeses. In addition, they swear by nettle tea as a panacea for all sorts of ailments, including arthritis, anemia, and certain skin diseases. Nettles are also used to produce soup, dumplings, and pudding, all professed to be very good for us because this "weed" is extraordinarily vitamin rich. Who would have ever imagined that such a vile plant could do so much good? Just be certain that when you walk England's footpaths, avoid them like the plague; otherwise you'll end up at the local pharmacy begging for relief.

Some years ago, when the Russian ambassador to the Court of St. James retired, he regretted leaving England because it was the only country he'd ever been in that had both a pub and a loo "every 40 feet or so." Well, I don't know about the 40 feet, but as one traverses the footpaths, no matter how isolated the environment, there always seems to be a pub within sight. Even on the paths of Dartmoor, pubs are plentiful on that 365 square mile trek.

Remember, England is much more than high tea and Buckingham Palace. First and most importantly, England is OLD. I mean ancient old. If you have ever read Michael Wood's blockbuster book Domesday (later made into a TV series ), you will remember that sites which pre-date the Romans, such as Iron Age and Neolithic, have simply been recycled over the many centuries. Roman encampments, Saxon villages, and Norman towns and forts were simply built over those original locations. Thus, one can practically kick up artifacts, some going back to the birth of Christ. Veer off the footpaths and walk into a small local museum, and you will be dazzled by the range of antiquities on display. We have little of this in America, which is why I have developed a healthy love and respect for Native American history and artifacts.

So over years of peregrinations, David and I have been: chased by herds of cows; mugged by Exeter ponies who have riffled through our back packs, helping themselves to our snacks: pick-pocketed by livestock, losing a compass; soaked to the skin by rain storms so angry that they came at us horizontally, not vertically; stalked by wildlife; and left to wander in dense coppices with no obvious way out.

"Ah, wilderness," as the playwright wrote. "Ain't it grand."

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Rebecca Yount trained from childhood as a concert pianist, is a
published poet, and worked in education reform, but she always nurtured a passion for storytelling. Coming from a family of writers, it wasn’t hard for her to put pen to paper, but it took an actual unsolved murder to give her the idea for her first novel.

For more information about the author and her work, please visit her website at or find her on Facebook.

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The Oracle of Baal by Rebecca Yount

The Oracle of Baal
Rebecca Yount
A Mick Chandra Mystery

"The most puzzling aspect of Rosalinda Evelyn's suicide was that she shot herself in the head with a Magnum 8mm automatic just five hours after having won the Critics' Choice award for beat actress."

In his most bizarre case, Anglo Indian Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector Mick Chandra and his partner, Hong Kong-born Elizabeth Chang, face the challenge of exposing a sex and suicide cult, the Oracle of Baal, which persuades its clients that death is the way to ultimate transformation and eternal truth. But before these vulnerable believers kill themselves, they are coerced into signing over their financial assets to the Oracle's leaders.

The story is carried by a diverse cast of characters: Dr. Solomon Deal, a professor at the University of London who is an expert on cults and cult mentality; Madame Angeline Love, the cult leader, who insists that Baal is only a self-help group; Spencer Arlen, Love's assistant and much younger romantic interest; Susan Evelyn, a victim's daughter, who provides valuable information to Mick about her mother. Finally, Prunella Hamley, who was brutalized by Baal when she attempted to leave the cult. It is Pru who fingers Love and Arlen, bringing them to justice. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format


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