April 04, 2013

(Giveaway) Beverly Swerling, author of Bristol House | Armageddon, Facts Behind the Fiction

Please welcome the author of Bristol House to HF-Connection!
See the end of the post for Giveaway information!

April 4th 2013 by Viking Adult
In the tradition of Kate Mosse, a swiftly-paced mystery that stretches from modern London to Tudor England

In modern-day London, architectural historian and recovering alcoholic Annie Kendall hopes to turn her life around and restart her career by locating several long-missing pieces of ancient Judaica. Geoff Harris, an investigative reporter, is soon drawn into her quest, both by romantic interest and suspicions about the head of the Shalom Foundation, the organization sponsoring her work. He’s also a dead ringer for the ghost of a monk Annie believes she has seen at the flat she is subletting in Bristol House.

In 1535, Tudor London is a very different city, one in which monks are being executed by Henry VIII and Jews are banished. In this treacherous environment of religious persecution, Dom Justin, a Carthusian monk, and a goldsmith known as the Jew of Holborn must navigate a shadowy world of intrigue involving Thomas Cromwell, Jewish treasure, and sexual secrets. Their struggles shed light on the mysteries Annie and Geoff aim to puzzle out—at their own peril.

This riveting dual-period narrative seamlessly blends a haunting supernatural thriller with vivid historical fiction. Beverly Swerling, widely acclaimed for her City of Dreams series, delivers a bewitching and epic story of a historian and a monk, half a millennium apart, whose destinies are on a collision course.

BRISTOL HOUSE.10 Armageddon

The thing about writing a thriller – whether historical or contemporary – is that there is never any shortage of material. There are, unfortunately, endless numbers of people willing to slaughter any number of other people to bring about their particular version of the future.

BRISTOL HOUSE riffs on two such power plays. One occurs when Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. For that to happen the Pope had to annul Henry's first marriage. Because the pope of the time was a political disaster (and there is no record of any papal discussion of the religious merits of Henry's claim) things went from bad to worse. Eventually Henry not only married Anne, he broke with Rome and established himself as head of the Christian church in England.

That drastic alteration to the English way of life was not achieved without a struggle, but the king held all the cards. The Smithfield fires filled London with the smell of bubbling human fat and slowly roasting flesh. While at Tyburn (today the busy junction of Oxford Street and Bayswater Road), those who objected to Henry's claim were first hung, then cut down while still alive. Next the victim's stomach was slit open and the guts extracted. Finally the heart was cut out, the head hacked off, and the body cut into four parts and briefly boiled so it wouldn't rot too quickly. The head was displayed on the city walls, while the quarters of the body were tacked up in places chosen to deliver a message: No one defies Henry and lives.

If you were very lucky, and Henry wanted you dead but not necessarily to suffer, you were beheaded. Usually on the grounds of the Tower of London. Frequently, however, the job was botched and the executioner just kept hacking away and the victim died slowly and torturously. So sometimes, as a real act of mercy, the king went out of his way to be sure the executioner was able to do the job in one stroke. In the case of wife number two, Anne Boleyn, Henry just wanted to be rid of her – no male heir, and besides someone else had taken his fancy. They sent to France for a particularly adept executioner. (Incidentally the daughter Anne produced for him would go on to be Queen Elizabeth I, one of the strongest monarchs England has ever had, but hey, Henry couldn't know that. And what do you think he'd have thought if someone had been able to tell him what science now knows, that it's the father who determines gender… )

Fast forward to the 21st century, to the Middle East, where death and destruction have been the norm since long before Henry VIII. In Jerusalem there are thirty-five acres on the top of a man-made hill for which men have been willing to die for over three thousand years. Jews and Christians call that precious real estate the Temple Mount, the place where ancient Jews offered sacrifice to the one God, and where later Jesus Christ went to worship. Half a millennium after that it was claimed by Muslims, for whom it's also a supremely holy site known as the Haram al-Sharif.

There's nothing ecumenical about this three-way patrimony. It's been a recipe for disaster for centuries.

In the novel, which takes place in both contemporary and Tudor London, Si Cohen, an English rabbi, tells Annie Kendall, an American historian, that there are crazy people on either side of the argument. There's the likes of Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, who claims there never was any Jewish temple, first or second, built on the site. (There may never have been any kingdom of Israel or Jews in Jerusalem in Ahmadinejad's version of history.) Then there are the Jewish rebuild-the-temple-at-any-cost-in-blood-or-treasure fanatics. Busy breeding the proper kinds of cattle for sacrifice (it must be a pure red heifer), and growing special kinds of flax from heirloom seed so they can weave the correct linen for the priests of their Third Temple.

In the 90's, in his efforts to broker a peace both sides could live with, Bill Clinton came up with an idea for an elevated walkway of some sort (God knows what it would have cost us to build it) that would give people in the newly created Palestinian state access to their holy places, while allowing the Israelis to claim the undivided city of Jerusalem as their capital. Even that enormous stretch didn't work, but simply talking about a two-state solution was apparently enough to tip some Israeli radicals over the edge.

In 1995 Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who said he had to talk peace with his enemies because there was no need to discuss it with his friends, was shot to death by an Orthodox Jew, a young man who despised the notion of a Palestinian state. Which event occurred during a rally to support the peace process.

It later came out that one high profile right winger whom everyone thought they knew all about was in reality a Shin Bet undercover operative. The agent was tried for having failed to prevent Rabin's assassination, but the court decided he'd known nothing about it.

Bring it on, says the thriller writer.

Personally, I think we write about such things as a kind of charm against them happening.

Beverly will also be guest blogging for:
Cheryl’s Book Nook, Cheryl Koch
Booksie’s Blog, Sandie Kirkland
The Novel Life, Stacey Millican
2 Read or Not 2 Read, Marcie Turner
Maurice On Books, Jean Lewis
Book Matters, Teri Harman
Giraffe Days, Shannon Badcock 
Devourer of Books, Jen Karsbaek
Thoughts in Progress, Pamela Purcell

To enter for your chance to win a copy of Bristol House, please leave a comment for the author with your email address so that we may contact the winner.

Plus 1 entry for each daily Facebook or Twitter share, please leave the link to it!

Open to USA followers of HF-Connection, no P.O. Boxes. 


  1. Wow, what a great guest post! If the writing is any indication on how wonderful the book is, I think we're all in for a real treat!

    I, too, have always felt like the Tudor reign under Henry VIII was like a thriller/horror novel. You never know who's gonna get the axe and even after you think the crazy person is done killing everyone...he keeps going.

    Thanks for the post and the chance to win! Looking forward to reading this one!

    I follow via GFC (Lara Frame)

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  2. This novel looks incredible! I tend to enjoy dual time periods in historical fiction. The Tudor era is just chock full of intrigue and scary stuff--a perfect setting for this novel :).

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    marykate dot sullivan711 at gmail dot com

  3. I have read and loved all of the "City of...." books. Bristol House has been on my wish list ever since I first read about it. So anxious to read it. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. This does sound like a great read. The juxtaposing of the time periods coupled with the occult mystery would be a sure thing for me. Thanks for offering a copy please enter my name in the draw.

  5. I love this post! I am always amazed (and not in a good way) the grotesque lengths some so called devout people will go to get what they want or believe is theirs to begin with. I cannot rationally think of any reason for the cruelty and blood shed that our world has seen in the name of religion, which you would hope would be about peace and love. Anyways, I can definitely see how human nature would give lots for a thriller writer to write about :). I can't wait to read this book, it sounds really good!

  6. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/candc320/status/320185264788078592.

  7. so need to read this!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  8. shared on www.facebook.com/cyn209

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  9. Sounds like such an intriguing book. I'd love to read it.

    mchapman (at) windstream (dot) net

  10. I wonder if there will ever peace. Certainly not in my lifetime. I would love to read this. Thanks. I hope I'm not too late...if I am. Oh well...
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  11. Congrats to Lara!!
    List Randomizer

    There were 10 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

    Timestamp: 2013-04-15 16:12:21 UTC

  12. I hope the giveaway is still open! I'd love to win this book. I love the mix of thriller/mystery with historical. Thanks!

    libraryofmyown at gmail dot com

    I also shared on Twitter


Got something to say? Share your thoughts!