Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Historical Novelists' 4 Day Book Fair April 12-15

Introducing:  Spy Island

A Girl. A Deserter. An Island full of spies.

Spy Island is an historical spy thriller for the adventure-lover in you. Prepare to be carried away to a tropical island with its potent mixture of suspense, romance, intrigue, and a delightful assortment of island characters who will cast a spell over you. 

If you can imagine a tropical Danish sugar colony during the Great War replete with German spy characters, Old World Danish characters, colorful West Indian characters, Irish sailor characters, blazing Luger pistols, a mad Voodoo Queen, and a daunting & resourceful heroine, then you have a good picture of Spy Island.

Abby Maduro is an adventurous island girl who saves the life of a mysterious stranger who has washed ashore on her Caribbean island. Despite the danger, Abby shelters Erich Seibold, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past, in the basement of her house. Soon, friendship and love blossom between the unlikely pair, even after Abby learns that Erich is a deserter from a German U-boat. When the island's German Consul, Lothar Langsdorff, discovers Erich's true identity, he blackmails him into committing sabotage and murder. Erich is hunted down and thrown into prison, forcing Abigail to risk everything to save his life, but with Langsdorff and his spy ring still on the loose, Abigail relies on her wits, bravery and a little island magic to save her tranquil island from a dangerous German spy. Spy Island is a historical spy thriller for the adventure-lover in you. Prepare to be carried away to an exotic tropical island with its potent mixture of action, suspense, romance, and delightful island characters who will cast their spell over you. 

Danish gendarme with trusty revolver and sword in a tropical Danish colony circa 1916.
The office of Assistant Policemaster Peter Larsen juts out from the interior walls of Fort Christian into the courtyard—like a tiny fortress within a fortress—and boasts an enormous wooden desk, a filing cabinet, and a rotating fan whose loud whirring drowns out the din of the prisoners. The policeman knocks on the door and waits for permission to enter.
Larsen, a middle-aged bureaucrat with a curly mustache and wearing a white, single-breasted tunic, sits upright at his desk, composing a letter in elegant Danish longhand. The only other objects that occupy his prominent desk are a large police registry book, an inkwell, and a copy of the Tidende. Hanging on the walls behind him are pictures of King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine, who gaze down on the proceedings with the proper noblesse oblige.
"Chief Larsen," says the policeman, jingling his keys. "A girl came here sayin' she brought food for de no-name prisoner. Says she wants to see him."
"If it's food she brings, you may show her in," says Larsen without bothering to look up. The policeman snatches a jagged key off a hook on the wall and says, "Dis way, Miss."
I trail the policeman through the courtyard, attempting to avert my gaze from the hissing prisoners as I search for any sign of Erich. We halt in front of a cell in the prison's southern wall. With my heart beating wildly in my chest, I peer through the bars, hoping that at last I will see Erich. When my eyes finally adjust to the darkness, I make out its sparse furnishings: a metal bed, a thin, dirty mattress, a yellowed, threadbare sheet, a porcelain receptacle in a corner, a pile of cigarette stubs on the floor. Sitting on the bed with his back to us is a silent, sulking prisoner.
"Put that basket down and run along," says the policeman. "Dese prisoners are a violent, rowdy bunch."
"Please Sir, I have to see this man. He has no family to bring him food. I must give it to him myself. I'm the only person he trusts."
"You have five minutes and no more, then be on your way," he commands, inserting the key in the lock and calling out, "Hey Kaiser man, you have a visitor."
When the prisoner turns around, my relief is boundless. Although his face is obscured by the shadows, I have no doubt that it's Erich. As soon as he sees me, Erich bolts upright and starts toward us, but the jailer holds up a huge, powerful hand.
"Not so fast, Kaiser man," he yells. "Stop right dere. Talk from ovah dere."
The policeman turns and retraces his steps through the courtyard, leaving us alone for a few precious minutes. With the door ajar, I slip inside Erich's cell and throw my arms around him.
"Erich! I thought I'd never see you again. Are you alright?"
"I’m fine," he says, with a mixture of shock and relief. "And what about you? How the devil did you manage to get in here?"
"I have my ways," I say. "I did what anybody would do under the circumstances. I had to see you again, no matter what. What are they going to do to you?"
"They're charging me with espionage, but only after they hand me over to the Allies for interrogation. We might as well say goodbye now, Abby. I'm sure I'll never see you again."  
I hiss in his ear. "Listen carefully. I'm going to get you out of here. Just do as I say…we've no time to lose."
"What? You must be crazy!"
"I'm quite serious," I affirm, pulling out the gendarme uniform. "This is our only chance. Put it on quick. The outside gate is still unlocked and there's only one policeman on duty right now. Larsen's in his office daydreaming and if you hurry, you might be able to slip through the front gate. I calculate you have about two minutes."
Erich's eyes go wide as he assesses the uniform. He tears off his clothing and pulls on the uniform with a ferocity I have never seen. First the jacket, carefully fastening all of its buttons as he mutters, "This is the craziest thing I've ever heard" and then the trousers. Finally, he replaces his shoes. He smooths back his hair, tops it off with the cap, and lowers it until it almost conceals his eyes.
"If they catch me, they'll shoot me. You realize that, don't you?"
"Shhh!" I caution. "He's coming back." 

Danish sailors and naval marching band parading down a street
in Fredericksted,  St. Croix, 1916

Charlotte Amalie, once an important sea port in the Danish West Indies
 looking just like it did during Danish times.
Typical island scene as painted by Danish artist Hugo Larsen ca. 1904-07
Danish gendarmes and police posing in front of portraits of King Frederick VIII and Queen Louise
Fort Christian, the site of a suspenseful prison breakout scene in Spy Island
Another gorgeous painting by Hugo Larsen
The National Bank of the Danish West Indies, the site of a tense scene with a mad Voodoo Queen.
Important Danish officials and sea captains await the final lowering of the Dannebrog at the side of Fort Christian.
Post Office Square, just in front of the Grand Hotel

Aerial photo St. Thomas Harbor and Hassel Island © Don Hebert
Here is a link to the kindle version of Spy Island. Treat yourself today!


  1. Thanks for taking part, Sophie.

    Intriguing plot and great location. Love the images , so many oldies. The excerpt was fab: setting the scene of the great escape, but what next? I think my 2013 TBR pile has reached three stacks! ;)


    1. Thanks for hosting us, Francine. Having a virtual book was a great idea and so much fun. Writing scenes like this jail breakout scene was challenging but immensely rewarding. Naturally I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I must warn the readers they will be on the edge of their seat!

  2. Sophie, thanks for this - it is set in a time and place I know very little about and the invitation to find out more is very compelling!

    1. Hi Richard,
      Thanks so much for stopping by. If you would like to take a visual tour of all the landmarks that appear in the novel, feel free to watch this Charlotte Amalie walking tour. It's a real feast for the eyes:

  3. Love the pictures that you included!

    1. Hi Yangsze,
      What an unexpected honor to have you stop by my blog. I am really speechless. I am somewhat familiar with your forthcoming historical novel, The Ghost Bride, because your Literary Agent, Jenny Bent, posted your query letter as an example of what a truly great query letter should look like. I was so taken with it, that I must have read it 5 or 6 times. It was lyrical, compelling, and above all, mystical; it draws the reader in right away.

      Since your book is not available to purchase until August, I just entered the Goodreads giveaway and if I'm one of the 50 lucky winners, I will read it and then I'd love to do an interview with you about what inspired you to write The Ghost Bride. It certainly sounds like an incredible story! From one former Boston girl to another former Boston girl: Congratulations!!

  4. love the images that go with this post - enjoyed the read, thank you