We’re thrilled to have here today Kate Hamilton from Connie Berry’s new traditional mystery The Art of Betrayal. Kate is an antiques dealer and appraiser, in her mid-forties, living currently in the village of Long Barston in Suffolk, England.
It is a pleasure to have Kate Hamilton with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so much for this interview, Kate. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
KATE: There is the small matter of my age. I’m either 45 or 46, a detail my author has never pinned down. I suspect it’s because she’s neglected to give me a birthday, which I consider unfair and unfeeling. I love parties. And cake.
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?
KATE: I must admit Connie knows me pretty well. After all, she and I share a lot in common. We were both born into southern Wisconsin’s Norwegian-Danish community, and we both grew up in the high-end antiques trade. We had fathers we loved and were blessed with intelligent, wise mothers, who’ve been both our trusted confidants and advisors. Both of us are curious by nature, and we’ll often go to great lengths to straighten out mysteries and illogicalities. As you might imagine, that sometimes gets us into trouble.
Early on in our relationship, Connie subjected me to an Enneagram test. Not surprisingly, I turned out to be an Investigator, which is the role I’ve been playing recently. I came to England to visit my daughter last Christmas (she’s a student at Magdalen College, Oxford), and I ended up solving a series of deaths connected with an Anglo-Saxon treasure trove dug up on the estate of Finchley Hall, a crumbling Elizabethan stately home owned by Lady Barbara Finchley-fforde. According to my Enneagram, I’m alert, insightful, and curious. I need to understand why things are the way they are, so I ask questions and test assumptions. I’m reluctant to rely on the opinions and ideas of others. At my best, I notice details and patterns others miss. At my worst, I can become scattered and fearful.
At the moment, I’m running an antiquities shop on Long Barston’s High Street while the owner, my friend Ivor Tweedy, recovers from bilateral hip-replacement surgery. I think Connie has done a good job of describing the affection I feel for this small village in rural Suffolk—and for the people I’ve come to care about.
With that said, however, I do feel Connie sometimes shares more of my private thoughts than I’d like—my relationship with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory, for example. We met almost a year ago on a snowy road in the Scottish Hebrides. I suspect Connie’s readers knew I was in love with him before I did. Is that fair?
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
KATE: Detective Inspector Mallory might tell you my strength is noticing details others miss and seeing patterns in seemingly unrelated facts. But I’d say my strongest trait is loyalty. The reason I get involved in solving murders isn’t (as some suspect) because I make a habit of stumbling over bodies, but because I can’t sit by and allow people I care about to be hurt. In Scotland I got involved in a bizarre murder case because my late husband’s best childhood friend was falsely accused. Last Christmas when a young museum curator was found dead in a lake in Finchley Park, Lady Barbara Finchley-fforde asked me to clear the name of the initial suspect, her missing son. At the moment, I’m looking into the death of a reclusive widow who came into Ivor’s shop to consign a Chinese pottery jar from the Han-dynasty tombs of Imperial China. Ivor’s reputation is at stake, not to speak of his bank account. The jar has gone missing, and insurance won’t pay.
KATE: As much as I hate to admit it, my worst trait is nosiness. What can I say—I’m an Investigator. When things don’t make sense, I simply have to find out what’s really going on. That gets me in trouble when I’m caught snooping or when I ask the wrong person the right question.
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?
KATE: What an interesting question! My choice would be Carey Milligan, although she’s twenty years younger than I am, and we don’t look much alike. I don’t have her adorable dimples, for one thing. And she usually lightens her hair, so I’d have to insist the producers dye her hair dark brown and give her blue contact lenses. Carey and I are about the same height—5’ 7”—but I admit to having a little more weight on my frame than she does. What I like most about Carey is her energy, wit, and vulnerability. She’s a versatile actress, known for costume dramas. I loved her as Edith Pretty in The Dig and as Daisy in The Great Gatsby, so she can play a range of ages. She does a brilliant American accent, too.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
KATE: At last I can say without hesitation that I do. When Detective Inspector Tom Mallory and I first met on Scotland’s Isle of Glenroth, I thought he looked like a monk—all right, a dishy monk. It took me some time to let my guard down enough to find out if I really liked him. I don’t risk my heart easily. This is no doubt traceable to my history of losing people I love. I lost my brother Matt, my hero, when he was eleven and I was five. He was a Down Syndrome child and suffered from congenital heart problems. When I was seventeen, my beloved father was killed in a car crash on Christmas Eve. Three years ago, my first husband, Bill, a Scottish transplant to the U. S., died in a boating incident, leaving me with two teenagers to raise.
Tom gradually worked his way into my heart—which is a problem. Of all the eligible men in the world, why did I have to fall in love with a man who lives on the other side of a great big ocean? Will we ever solve the problem of two careers on two very different continents? I can’t say. For now, though, I’m enjoying spending as much time with him as I can.
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
KATE: Without giving away any spoilers, I’d have to say about mid-way through the book. None of my so-called theories had panned out. The only clues I had made no sense. A young woman showed up on my doorstep in the pouring rain, pleading for my help. The National Trust’s decision to take on Finchley Hall was delayed, putting my friend Lady Barbara in a financial bind. Ivor’s recovery from hip surgery hit a brick wall. And to cap everything else off, Tom’s mother Liz (definitely not my fan) produced a gorgeous blonde, the spitting image of his dead wife. Since throwing in the towel wasn’t an option, I had no choice but to persevere.
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
KATE: I wouldn’t trade places with anyone right now. Even if Tom and I don’t know where we’re going, I’m sticking around to find out. If I had to choose someone I definitely would not want to be, however, my answer would be Professor Markham, a retired university lecturer who’s writing a scholarly volume on the history of East Anglia before the Norman Invasion. Ivor sold him a translation of The Little Domesday Book, part of the so-called “Great Survey,” a census record of men, land, and property ordered in 1085-86by William the Conqueror. I delivered the volume to the professor and realized he paid for the book with money that should have gone for things like food. Professor Markham lives in the Essex village of Hatfield Broad Oak, in a demi-detached row house stuffed with mismatched furniture, lamps with exposed wiring, tottering piles of scholarly journals and magazines, and an ill-tempered gray cat who took an instant dislike to me. Professor Markham lives in the past. Literally. On his desk is a circular file of Anglo-Saxon and Early Norman names—the equivalent of an eleventh-century Rolodex. These long-dead people are his closest companions. I love history, too, but I don’t want to live there.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?
KATE: I like a happy ending where justice is served and all the loose ends are tied up. The world should be a place where truth and goodness triumph and evil is shown up for what it is. In the real world, that doesn’t always happen. But in the world of fiction, where I live, it can and often does. Exactly how is Connie’s problem. I was just happy to be of assistance. For now, the ending of The Art of Betrayal is my secret. To find out, you’ll have to read the book.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?
KATE: Please, just give me a birthday! Everyone deserves a birthday—even fictional characters. And—oh, yes—please, no high towers or slick rooftops next time. And definitely no spiders.
Thank you for this interview, Kate Hamilton. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
KATE: You will. Connie is just finishing up a new adventure to be titled The Burden of Memory, which will be released sometime in 2022. A few surprises are in the works. That’s all I’m allowed to say.
Thanks so much for inviting me to visit Beyond the Books! I had a great time and look forward to being with you again sometime.
Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie. You can learn more about Connie and her writing at her website www.connieberry.com.
American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. Kate is thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. This fiendishly complex case pits Kate against the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history, the spring floods, a house with a tragic history, and a clever killer with an old secret. It’s up to Kate to unravel a Celtic knot of lies and betrayal. You can find The Art of Betrayal wherever good books are sold.