The First Two Pages: Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

In February of this year, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced that Martin Edwards had won the Diamond Dagger—the highest honor in British crime writing, conferred to writers whose careers are marked by “sustained excellence” and who “have made a significant contribution to crime writing.” Not only has Martin made such excellent contributions, but he’s done so in several different ways—as a novelist, as a short story writer, and as a scholar too—and this honor is the latest in a series that includes several CWA awards (the Dagger in the Library, the Margery Allingham Award, the Short Story Dagger), the H.R.F. Keating Award, an Edgar Award, an Agatha Award, two Macavity Awards, and the Poirot Award. He’s also served as both president and archivist for the Detection Club.

Last year, Martin kicked off a new series set in 1930s England with Gallows Court, and the follow-up, Mortmain Hall, was published in England in early April and will appear in a U.S. edition in September. (I ordered my copy of the new book through Book Depository and received it the day before it’s official publication—a simply beautiful edition. The U.S. edition, by Poisoned Pen Press, is also available for pre-order now as well.)

The opening page of Mortmain Hall is quick to catch readers’ attention—since it starts with the book’s epilogue, last things first! But as Martin reveals in his thoughtful and extensive essay here (combining his skills as both craftsman and historian), there’s some tradition of starting with epilogues and many reasons in his case for doing so, even if that wasn’t his original plan.

Like so many other writers, Martin found all of his book events cancelled amidst the continually unfolding pandemic crisis. I’m glad to host him here today and help spread the word about his terrifically entertaining new novel, and I’m grateful to him—ever the perfectionist—for submitting such a comprehensive and enlightening discussion of his craft choices. I learned a ton from reading his essay, and I’m sure my fellow readers and writers will too.

Find out more about Martin Edwards and his work at his website and do follow his blog as well, always enjoyable and informative.

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.