Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guest Post by Ellen Larson, author of 'In Retrospect'

In Retrospect

Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself. The year is 3324. In the region once known as Turkey, the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders. Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans work secretly to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology. When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert their control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection. Merit, though reinstated to her old job by the despised Rasakans, knows she is only a puppet. If she refuses to travel back in time to identify Zane’s killer, her family and colleagues will pay the price. But giving in to Rasakan coercion means giving them unimaginable power. She has only three days to make this morally wrenching choice; three days to change history. As the preliminary investigation progresses, Merit uncovers evidence of a wider plot. How did the Rasakans defeat the technologically superior Oku? Why did the Oku surrender prematurely? How did the Rasakans discover her true identity? Merit realizes she will only find the answers by learning who killed the traitor, General Zane. In Retrospect is a good old-fashioned whodunit set in a compelling post-apocalyptic future.

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I wrote In Retrospect when I was living in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. I had a job as a publications specialist for a USAID project on economic development—specifically, on agricultural development in the Middle East. Every day I would descend from my fourth floor flat in the leafy town of Maadi and be driven, along with my seven colleagues, north to Cairo and then across the Nile to the Agricultural Research Center in the district of Giza. As in Giza pyramids.

It was a lovely place to work. Modern brick and glass building surrounded by fifty hectares of test plots, a green and brown checkerboard of crops such as sorghum, rye, winter wheat, and the ever present faba bean. No Egyptian cotton, which turns out to be uneconomical to grow, as it occupies the land for two of Egypt’s three growing seasons, and is labor intensive.

Since almost every document produced by the section of NARP I worked in went across my desk, I learned a lot about the range capacity of the arid sheep pastures of the Sinai, rain-water collection systems on the Mediterranean coast, and the pros and cons of various grape trellis systems. I got to travel to the Delta, where most of Egypt’s farm land is located, and down along the Nile, where the rest of it is found in two narrow bands less than a mile wide on either side of the river.

In Retrospect is set in Turkey, a country I visited during my fifteen years in Egypt. And though the story depends upon the geography of Turkey (notably the famed Straits of Bosporus), the agricultural and pastoral detail, the Eucalyptus trees that grow along the river, and the references to the scent of jasmine in the night all come from my experiences in Egypt.

Thank you, Egypt. I miss you.


Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. She has sold stories to AHMM (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp and is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil, featuring a sleuthing reporter. Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (Carefully crafted whodunit -PW starred). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she developed a love of different cultures. She is editor of the Poisoned Pencil, the YA mystery imprint. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude. Visit her at

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Pump Up Your Book and Ellen are teaming up to give you a chance to win 1 of 5 ARC's of In Retrospect!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Five winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one of five ARC copies of In Retrospect
  • This giveaway begins January 14 and ends on January 31.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on February 1, 2014.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
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