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The Truth is a Bitter Pill to Swallow - Featured Spotlight for "A Bitter Remedy"

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Amongst the scholars, secrets and soporifics of Victorian Oxford, the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow…

Set in the shadowy world of Oxford University, an enthralling historical mystery unfolds… Featuring two misfit protagonists, each fighting their own social battle as an academic young woman and a closeted gay man living in Victorian England.


Alis Hawkins

‘An excellent historical mystery dripping with atmosphere that

exposes the chauvinism, misogyny and bigotry of late Victorian

England’ The Times

“Real figures from history rub shoulders with those invented by

Hawkins — and her inventiveness is prodigal.” Barry Forshaw,

Financial Times

‘Fearlessly tackles taboo attitudes of the era, taking aim at misogyny, homophobia, and sexual politics. An excellent addition to the historical mystery canon. Marvellous!’ Vaseem Khan, author of Midnight at Malabar House

Jesus College, Oxford, 1881. An undergraduate is found dead at his lodgings and the medical examination reveals some shocking findings. When the young man’s guardian blames the college for his death and threatens a scandal, Basil Rice, a Jesus college fellow with a secret to hide, is forced to act and finds himself drawn into Sidney Parker’s sad life.

The mystery soon attracts the attention of Rhiannon ‘Non’ Vaughan, a young Welsh polymath and one of the young women newly admitted to university lectures. But when neither the college principal nor the powerful ladies behind Oxford’s new female halls will allow her to become involved, Non’s fierce intelligence and determination to prove herself drive her on.

Both misfits at the university, Non and Basil form an unlikely partnership, and it soon falls to them to investigate the mysterious circumstances of Parker’s death. But between the corporate malfeasance and the medical quacks, they soon find the dreaming spires of Oxford are not quite what they seem…

ALIS HAWKINS is a former speech and language therapist, a founder member of the Welsh crime writers’ collective, Crime Cymru, chair of Wales’s only crime fiction festival, Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU and a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association. She lives on the Welsh/English border in the Forest of Dean.

Alis’s focus is on writing Victorian crime fiction – but not that kind. It’s set in west Wales and Oxford rather than London. There are no serial killers because Alis is keen on representing some kind of real life and most murders are committed by ordinary people. And policemen are mostly nowhere to be seen: if they are in evidence, they’re usually getting in the way.

Her plots are driven by her characters who take any idea Alis might have about the murder at the beginning of the book, and go off with it in whatever direction appeals to them, leaving her to follow, writing furiously. Her readers, who are gratifyingly fascinated by the little-known aspects of Victorian life that her characters investigate their way through, tell her that’s a good thing. Evidently the Crime Writers’ Association agrees because two of her four Teifi Valley Coroner novels have been shortlisted for the CWA’s prestigious Historical Dagger award.

'... a gripping Victorian mystery set in the secretive world of Oxford's colleges where class, language, gender and sexuality are pawns in dastardly power struggles. Into this world of conflicting loyalties and status preservation steps the brilliant Rhiannon 'Non' Vaughan - newly arrived from west Wales and keen to prove that women deserve a place in lecture halls. She's aided by Basil Rice - a mercurial don with his own secrets to hide. Non fights her corner as she fights for justice for a dead man, bringing to light the shadows of the colleges. This novel has it all: a superb plot, characters I fell in love with, and a brilliant insight into a specific time and place, teaching me so much about the struggles and successes of women in education. I can't wait for Non and Basil's next case!' Katherine Stansfield, novelist & poet

A BITTER REMEDY by Alis Hawkins

Canelo | On Sale: 14 Sept 2023 | Paperback £9.99

ISBN:9781804364543, 400 pages

Alis Hawkins is available for interviews or to speak at events.

For further information, please contact Kate Shepherd -

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