Sphere is publishing Jessica Fellowes’ debut novel The Mitford Murders this September, a book it says will be "a major rights focus" for Little, Brown at this year's London Book Fair.
Fellowes is the author of five official tie-in books to Downton Abbey and niece of its creator Julian Fellowes. Her debut novel kicks off a new series of the same name, each to be a Golden Age-style murder mystery based around a real-life crime and set amid the Mitford household.
The deal for the book, revealed at the Hachette Showcase (6th March), was negotiated on behalf of Fellowes by Caroline Michel at PFD, for Sphere to publish in hardback, audio and e-book on 14th September 2017.
The first novel in the series takes place between 1920-22 in the lead up to Nancy Mitford’s first London season. The unsolved case in book one is that of Florence Nightingale’s goddaughter, Florence Nightingale Shore, who was found murdered on a train in 1920 having last been seen with a "man in a brown suit".
Sphere's Ed Wood explained the concept behind the series: “The continuing fascination with the Mitford sisters – whose history entwined with that of this country for decades – makes their households the perfect backdrop for wonderfully escapist, character-driven murder mysteries. I couldn’t have hoped to have found a better writer than Jessica, who couples expert historical knowledge with sprightly, gripping writing to curl up with. At a time when the modern world can feel bleak, The Mitford Murders is a blissful escape.”
Fellowes' Downton Abbey tie-ins have sold more than half-a-million copies on UK Bookscan. She is also former deputy editor of Country Life and columnist for the Mail on Sunday; and has written for publications including the Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Sunday Times.
"This is my tenth book but my first novel,” she said. “I’m so grateful to Ed Wood and Little, Brown for giving me the opportunity to publish The Mitford Murders, which incorporates both my love of the 1920s and a fascination for crime psychology.”