Bells, especially half-muffled bells symbolizing death, are something of a theme in my latest Monastery Murder, so much so that my working title for the book was “A Muffled Tolling.” But in order to write about bell ringing, as with everything else I write about, I had to experience it first. So high on the agenda of my research trip, was a session with the Oxford Society of Change Ringers.
The Rev. Peter Groves, Rector of St. Mary Magdalen’s in Oxford, had kindly helped me with research for earlier projects and at my request he put me in touch with the society that regularly rings at St. Mary Mag’s. Simon Bond, their leader, gathered ringers Kirsty, Helen, Mark, Stephan, and Rozy and brought a selection of muffles to demonstrate for me high in the ringing chamber of the tower.
Having read Dorothy L Sayers’ classic The Nine Tailors, I was familiar with the concept of bells changing places in the ring according to a numerical pattern, but seeing the intricacies performed in front of me was dizzying. My non-mathematical brain could never follow that, no matter how much it delighted my ears. With Simon’s careful tutelage, however, I soon got the feel of the downward pull, then letting the rope slip back through my hands on the upward swing, while holding to the sally (fuzzy grip at the end of the rope). And I was able to pick out the variance in sound on the bells Simon had half-muffled— just as Felicity, standing on an Oxford street corner was able to do.
When Antony arrives in Oxford with a group of students he is cool to the news that Felicity has forged an uneasy friendship with his sister Gwen, whom he hasn’t seen for years. And any family reconciliation is further complicated by Antony’s obligation to rush to the bedside of his dying uncle in Blackpool.
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of the clerical mysteries The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
Donna, you gave me just enough information to make me want a lot more! Getting a lesson on bell ringing must have been quite a treat. I hope you will tell us more about the bells another time. I have always loved murder mysteries and this one sounds excellent. Best wishes with its release.
Donna Fletcher Crow has kindly offered an eBook of A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, (mobi or pdf) as a giveawayand the giveaway is international. Thank you, Donna. We want to hear your share in the conversation so leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight on September 1, 2014. Good luck to all.