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About the Series

► What can you tell us about Dr Elizabeth Pimms?
Curious, intellectual, tenacious and a touch naïve, from an early age Elizabeth dedicated herself to the exploration of ancient civilisations. Now a skilled archaeologist and knowledgeable Egyptologist, Dr Elizabeth Pimms is a reluctant librarian at the Mahony Griffin Library (a fictional version of the National Library of Australia, with a higher body count).

In the series, Elizabeth contends with ancient murder and family secrets in a world of archaeology, forensic science, libraries, food and cats. As time passes, Elizabeth will face darker challenges in both her daily life and the crimes she investigates.

► Who is the Dr Pimms series for?
Readers who enjoy traditional, historical or archaeological mysteries or forensic crime fiction. Imagine Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series or Kathy Reichs’ TV series Bones crossed withMidsomer Murders. Some readers have drawn comparison with the Alan Grant series by Josephine Tey, the Falco series by Lindsey Davis and the Corinna Chapman series by Kerry Greenwood.

With a warm cosy setting, including Elizabeth’s multicultural family, delicious meals, a rambling house and glorious gardens, the series is suitable for new adult readers and up.

► Which book should I start with?
New readers can start with Book One, Two or Three. The archaeological mysteries are standalone, but beware of changes in Elizabeth’s personal life!


About L.J.

► What approach did you take to writing the series?
I’ve based the series on the classic crime novels of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, where the reader pits their skills against a fictional sleuth, and attempting to solve the mystery before the detective in the pages can. Although the archaeology, ancient history, forensic science and library services I describe in the books are based on significant academic research, I try to keep the detail light and plot moving along so the focus is on the mystery.

► Each book seems to revolve around a woman from history?
Yes. One of my goals in writing the series is to highlight forgotten women from history. In Olmec Obituary we see the ancient Olmec culture of the Mexican basin through the eyes of Ix, a player of the demanding and violent Great Ballgame. I based her character on a 3,000-year-old figurine of a woman who played the game.

Mayan Mendacity explores the society of the ancient Mayans of Guatemala, including their political system, female rulers and practice of human sacrifice. The main character in the historical story, Lady Six Sky, a well-documented figure from seventh century Mayan history (perhaps don’t Google her before reading the book!). This novel also touches on the dangerous path faced by many librarians - including female librarians - in the Mayan Empire.

The third book in the series, Egyptian Enigma, will be released in March 2018 to coincide with Women’s History Month. I’ve written it as a celebration of the mostly forgotten period of Egyptian history when women could participate fully in the realms of academia, business, the military and government. Some aspects of women’s legal and social status in ancient Egypt far outstripped that of many women today.

► What are the underlying themes of your writing?
Everything I write has the same underlying driver – humans are essentially the same everywhere, it's only the details that differ. All humans need to breathe, drink and eat. We all have to balance the instincts of our hindbrain against the emotions of our midbrain and the conscious thoughts of our forebrain. The choices and preferences we express through that balancing process, both as individuals and collectively as societies, create endless cultural variations.

When researching a past culture I ask, ‘How did this group deal with existential angst? Meditation or frenzied human sacrifice?’ ‘How did these people express the fierce, wild side of joy? Exquisite, intricate melodies or ground shaking drumming?’ ‘How did they channel the competitive urge? Sport as ritualised warfare or an intense poetry recital?’

I look at social structure, ritualised roles, creative expression and the relationship of the people with their environment. I do my best to imagine the emotional experience of being human in that other time and place. At the same time I’m aware that I’m looking through a 21st century Western lens at layer upon layer of distorted history and religious, state and gender politics. Nonetheless, I think many human emotions are universally shared and I try to capture that in my stories.

► You’re writing about many locations across the globe. Have you travelled?
I’ve been fortunate to travel widely. I’ve raced an Arabian stallion across sand dunes to the Great Pyramid of Giza; examined hundreds of skulls in the bowels of the British Museum of Natural History; chilled with a boa constrictor in a 13th century underground jazz den in Prague; and climbed into a volcano in Papua New Guinea, nearby teenage boys giggling behind their hands at the cumbersome Westerner. I’ve witnessed a Turkish lovers’ quarrel end in public murder; been kidnapped in Egypt; fallen in love with cholent in Budapest; and bathed in the Çemberlitaş Hamam of ancient Constantinople.

I’ve climbed the Great Wall of China; gazed into the depths of the Grand Canyon; skinny dipped in the streams of Snowdonia; played hide-and-seek in the tropical forests of the Seychelles; and marvelled at the melting pot of cultures in West Africa. I’ve bartered for beads in the drunken parades of New Orleans Mardi Gras; ridden the crush of a 40,000-strong moshpit at Glasgow Hogmany; sipped a Singapore Sling in Raffles; prayed in ancient temples in the outer Hong Kong islands; and cried for the elephants of Thailand.

Living in London I undertook the research component of my ANU PhD in palaeogenetics at the British Museum of Natural History, applying the Arizona State University dental non-metric system featured in Olmec Obituary to over 2,000 Iron Age and Romano-British skulls. I bring my impressions and experiences of these and other places, people and cultures to the laptop whenever I sit down to write.