Novelists Andrew Grant and Tasha Alexander, who moved to the Laramie area several years ago, have both continued their respective fiction series with new releases this month.
Alexander’s “In the Shadow of Vesuvius,” published by Minotaur Books, continues her long-running Lady Emily series.
Grant’s “Too Close to Home,” published by Ballantine Books, is the second in a series about an intelligence agent-turned-courthouse janitor. Both books were released Jan. 7.
“In the Shadow of Vesuvius” is the 14th historical mystery that follows Lady Emily Hargreaves through Edwardian England.
This time, Lady Emily is invited to visit a friend spending time in the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii, where excavation work is taking place.
The city was buried under 20 feet of volcanic ash during the eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The ash hardened around all organic remains, which later decayed, leaving voids that archaeologists used as molds to create plaster casts of residents in the last moments of their lives.
As Lady Emily and her friends tour the archaeological ruins, they notice a plaster image that appears to have the sideburns of a Victorian — a dead body hiding in plain sight.
Meanwhile, Alexander takes readers to the ancient world as well. A second timeline takes place in the days leading up to the eruption involving a young slave whose father had recently purchased their freedom.
“It’s always been a place that’s fascinated me,” Alexander said of Pompeii.
As she researched and wrote the book, she was amazed by the fact that Pompeii’s residents didn’t know they lived next to a volcano that erupts every few thousand years.
“These people really had no concept that this was a volcano that might smite them,” she said. “In fact, even when the eruption started, they didn’t know what it was. It was completely shocking to them.”
As Lady Emily undertakes an investigation into the mysterious body, the story of the ancient Pompeii resident comes into play in an unexpected way.
“As I was writing, it gave me chills,” Alexander said.
“Too Close to Home,” Grant’s ninth novel, continues the story of a vigilante hero who goes undercover at a courthouse in New York City to investigate mysterious events surrounding the trial of a man who might have murdered of his father.
Along the way, Paul McGrath sets about righting injustices he discovers while working as the courthouse janitor.
“When you’re the janitor, you can go anywhere and you see everything, but no one notices you,” Grant said. “He’s got the run of the entire building, and he sees things that other people miss. When he sees something that strikes him as being unfair or unjust, he is bound to step in and try to put things right.”
In “Too Close to Home,” McGrath meets an admitted arsonist charged with burning down the house of a wealthy financier who has used legal stock market maneuverings for unjust monetary gain.
“Regardless of what the law says, what is really right and wrong in this situation?” Grant said.
McGrath also makes headway in the investigation into his father’s murder, but not without some surprising discoveries about his family history.
“There are things in his background that he wasn’t aware of, and it changes the way he perceives himself and his family,” Grant said.
He plans to continue the series by taking McGrath deeper into understanding his family and struggling with how to deal with it.
“He realizes that he’s looking at a bit more of a hornet’s nest than he originally appreciated,” he said.
Grant and Alexander moved to a ranch near Tie Siding in 2017 and said they love living in Wyoming, and in Laramie especially.
“We feel like we’re in the place that we’re meant to be, doing the thing that we’re meant to be doing,” he said.