One of our recommended books for 2020 is A Child Lost by Michelle Cox

A CHILD LOST

A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel


A spiritualist, an insane asylum, a lost little girl . . .

When Clive, anxious to distract a depressed Henrietta, begs Sergeant Frank Davis for a case, he is assigned to investigating a seemingly boring affair: a spiritualist woman operating in an abandoned schoolhouse on the edge of town who is suspected of robbing people of their valuables. What begins as an open and shut case becomes more complicated, however, when Henrietta—much to Clive’s dismay—begins to believe the spiritualist’s strange ramblings.

Meanwhile, Elsie implores Clive and Henrietta to help her and the object of her budding love,

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A spiritualist, an insane asylum, a lost little girl . . .

When Clive, anxious to distract a depressed Henrietta, begs Sergeant Frank Davis for a case, he is assigned to investigating a seemingly boring affair: a spiritualist woman operating in an abandoned schoolhouse on the edge of town who is suspected of robbing people of their valuables. What begins as an open and shut case becomes more complicated, however, when Henrietta—much to Clive’s dismay—begins to believe the spiritualist’s strange ramblings.

Meanwhile, Elsie implores Clive and Henrietta to help her and the object of her budding love, Gunther, locate the whereabouts of one Liesel Klinkhammer, the German woman Gunther has traveled to America to find and the mother of the little girl, Anna, whom he has brought along with him. The search leads them to Dunning Asylum, where they discover some terrible truths about Liesel. When the child, Anna, is herself mistakenly admitted to the asylum after an epileptic fit, Clive and Henrietta return to Dunning to retrieve her. This time, however, Henrietta begins to suspect that something darker may be happening. When Clive doesn’t believe her, she decides to take matters into her own hands . . . with horrifying results.

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  • She Writes Press
  • Paperback
  • April 2020
  • 408 Pages
  • 9781631528361

Buy the Book

$16.95

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About Michelle Cox

Michelle Cox is the author of A Child LostMichelle Cox is the author of the multiple award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard series as well as Novel Notes of Local Lore, a weekly blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. She suspects she may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, has resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting herself back there. (Her books have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and many others, so she might be on to something.) Unbeknownst to most, Cox hoards board games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. Also, marmalade.

Praise

“Once again, Cox delivers the passion and intrigue of Henrietta and Clive with a story that leaps right off the page. A Child Lost is a true thrill.” ―Paperback Paris

“…vivid descriptive prose and historical accuracy.” Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the significance of the title. What specific themes are accordingly emphasized throughout the novel? Who are the lost children?

2. Do the characters seem believable to you? Who and which of their predicaments do you relate to the most?

3. Did any parts of this book make you uncomfortable? Why?

4. Do you think that Clive was justified in trying to limit Henrietta’s activity?

5. Do you think that Clive was justified in employing Fritz to have essentially been a spy of Henrietta from the very beginning?

6. Do you think Henrietta was foolish to explore Dunning on her own?

7. Is Gunther a believable character?

8. Do you think Rose really loves Stanley, or is she using him? Is her storyline too dark?

9. Did you guess who the killer was before the end?

10. Do you think the depiction of Dunning Asylum was too dark, or not dark enough? Was it realistic?

11. What do you think of Madame Pavlovsky? Is she believable? Do you think she is a fraud?

12. Did any of the storylines change your opinion of this time period?

13. If you were to write fan fiction about this book, what kind of story would you want to tell?

14. If you were casting this as a movie or a mini-series, who would you select for the prime roles?

15. What do you predict to be next for Clive and Henrietta?

Interviews

1. What authors who have inspired you:

As a kid, I enjoyed Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden), Jerry West (The Happy Hollisters), Louisa May Alcott, LM Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables), Catherine Cookson, and JRR Tolkein.

Later on, in college, I became enthralled with Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, both great character writers.

From there I moved onto Anthony Trollope, whom I think, btw, is one of the most underrated English writers, and Jane Austen. There’s a lot of subtlety in Trollope and Austen, which I think I needed to be older to understand and appreciate.

2. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

No, not really. I didn’t ever see myself writing fiction. I never had the courage to be a writer, though I was a great essayist. In college, I briefly considered a career maybe as a journalist, but it sounded too scary and difficult. Believe it or not, I decided to try to be a doctor because I thought it sounded easier than being a writer. (Turns out, this might actually be true.)

Eventually, medicine went by the wayside, and I ended up following my real love and got an English Lit degree. It wasn’t until much later in life, however, that I decided to challenge myself to try to write creatively.

3. How is your mystery series different from all the others out there?

My mystery series is different in a couple of ways. First of all, I’d like to call it progressive, in that some of the story arcs continue to develop across the series. There is a mystery of sorts in each one that wraps up at the end, but each book always ends on a little bit of a cliff hanger in terms of what’s going on between the characters.

Secondly, it’s a very hard series to shelve in terms of genre. There’s obviously a strong mystery feel to it, but it has various romantic threads running through it, as well. Book clubs and book store owners tell me that they would call it solid historical fiction. So who knows? It’s won over forty awards so far in all three genres, so I think that says something. Personally, like to call it “Downton Abbey meets Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

 4. What is writing schedule?

My process is to get the kids on the bus at 6:50 am, and then grab a cup of coffee and march up to my office. I allow myself a quick glance at my email, but I’m not allowed to respond or do any social media until I work on whatever manuscript I’m in the middle of for at least an hour. Sometimes, I’ll write past the one-hour mark, but usually I stop at that point and switch over to marketing and promotion tasks until 2:30 when my kids bang through the door. At that point, I have to take off my writing hat and go back to being a mom. After dinner, I usually put in another couple of hours responding to email, etc. It’s a really long day, but I love it.

5. Do you write every day?

Yes. Every. Day. There are a few exceptions, I guess—major holidays or days I have to get up at 3 am for a flight or something like that. But writing daily is the secret to writing success. You have to show up and write every single day, even if you end up deleting most of what you’ve written a few weeks or months later. You can’t just wait until you feel inspired because that’s never going to happen. It’s like exercise; no one ever feels inspired to work out (well, I don’t, anyway). It’s something you just make yourself do.

6. What’s a little-known fact about you?

I survived a tornado when I was two years old. Our house was completely destroyed, but the story goes that my aunt saved me and my baby brother as we were sliding across the floor by grabbing us each by an arm and running with us to my grandmother’s cellar next door. It was definitely like something straight out of The Wizard of Oz.

7. What are you reading now?

I just finished Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton, which was amazing. Set in the 1970s in Memphis, it is an achingly beautiful coming-of-age story. Fullerton’s prose is almost lyrical and is pitch-perfect. Highly recommend.

8. Lightning round:

Favorite dessert: Any! Okay…probably ice cream. Or cake. Carrot cake.

Dogs or Cats: Cats (though I don’t own one!)

Woods, city, or quaint small town for vacation: Quaint small town

Back to basics camping or luxury hotel with room service: Luxury hotel

Book or a movie for entertainment: Book

Show me or let me do it: Let me do it

What do you do during windshield time: Check email

Nap or work on a plane: Work!

Aisle or Window: Aisle

First thing you do in the morning: Weigh myself

Something that makes you unique: I was born without wisdom teeth

Something you wish you had done in high school: Studied writing and literature more

Something you wish you didn’t do in college: Waste time taking calculus.

Place you’d love to visit someday: Scandinavia

Something no one knows you can do: Bale hay

The perfect day off would be: Visting Chatsworth House and grounds in Derbyshire, England

What podcast(s) do you listen to regularly: Write-minded by Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner

Essay

The True Story Behind The Henrietta and Inspector Howard Series . . .

 When I decided to write a murder mystery, thinking this would somehow be appealing to an agent (don’t laugh), I found myself struggling for a kernel of an idea to get the story started. In desperation, I finally turned to my stack of stories that I had collected from my days working in a nursing home on Chicago’s NW side and eventually chose to model my heroine, Henrietta Von Harmon, on one of the residents whom I had the fortune to have met. Almost daily, Adeline Schneider would remind me that once upon a time “I had a man-stopping body and a personality to go with it!

Adeline Schneider was one of those residents who still had a lot of life in her despite her eighty-one years. She loved to follow me around the nursing home, telling me stories about her colorful life in Chicago in the 1930s and ‘40s as a drop-dead gorgeous bombshell. I borrowed much of her details and then crafted a story around it, having to invent the murder, the circumstances, and, of course, the handsome inspector . . .

But here are the bits that are true:

 *Family History: Adeline’s father, Lester Von Freudenthal, was originally from Alscace-Lorraine where he (like Henrietta’s father, Leslie Von Harmon) claimed the family had been aristocratic barons, thus the “Von” in their name. Also true (as in the novel): Adeline’s great-grandfather eloped to Chicago with his bride and settled in Logan Square.

*Jobs: All of the jobs listed in the novel are real jobs that Adeline herself worked at. Her extreme beauty got her jobs when the rest of the country was out of work during the Great Depression. Like, Henrietta, however, Adeline was virtuous and was constantly getting fired for slapping an owner or a manager for trying to feel her up.

*Neighborhood Boys: Like Henrietta, who is dogged throughout the novel by the love-struck Stanley Dubowski, Adeline told me about the little rag-tag band of neighborhood boys who used to follow her. They knew that she was a “nice girl” and often therefore waited by the El station for her to get off from her late-night jobs so that they could follow her home at a distance to make sure that no harm befell her.

*Burlesque: At nineteen years old, Adeline saw an ad in a Chicago paper for an usherette at a burlesque theater and went to audition. Like in the book, the line of eager women wrapped around the block. Many of the novel’s details about Henrietta’s audition are taken exactly from Adeline’s experience, including having to show off her legs and bottom on stage in order to get the job. As in the novel, the theater maintained a strict “no touching” policy between the girls and the crowd, with burly ushers doubling as bouncers to throw out any man that crossed the line. Girls were required to go to the bathroom in pairs for safety’s sake.

*Lesbians: Adeline soon discovered that most of the usherettes or dancers at the theater were lesbians. Though she did not share their sexual orientation and warded off their initial advances, she was eventually befriended by them. One of them, Didi, became her best friend and protector and tried to shield her from some of the more risqué situations that were occurring at the “lesbian parties” Adeline was subsequently invited to, which, she said, were boring because “everyone just sat around and made out.”