Getting to Know the Character with Zelda Richardson

Jennifer S. Alderson (author of Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery) joins me today to take part in my Getting to Know the Character Interview describing the main protagonist of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series – Zelda Richardson.

Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery

Art, religion, and anthropology collide in Alderson’s latest art mystery thriller, Rituals of the Dead, book three of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series.

Art history student Zelda Richardson is working at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam on an exhibition of bis poles from the Asmat region of Papua—the same area where a famous American anthropologist disappeared in 1962. When his journal is found inside one of the bis poles, Zelda is tasked with finding out more about the man’s last days and his connection to these ritual objects.

Zelda is pulled into a world of shady anthropologists, headhunters, missionaries, art collectors, and smugglers – where the only certainty is that sins of the past are never fully erased.

Join Zelda as she grapples with the anthropologist’s mysterious disappearance fifty years earlier, and a present-day murderer who will do anything to prevent her from discovering the truth. 

Rituals of the Dead is available as pre-order on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Smashwords. Available worldwide as paperback and eBook on April 6, 2018!

Can you describe your character?

Zelda Richardson is the protagonist and thread connecting my series of stand-alone mystery novels. That’s why I named the series the Adventures of Zelda Richardson. This gives me room to play with the direction she and the novels take. She’s a determined, loyal, stubborn, book smart, yet sometimes exceptionally short-sighted woman, who is passionate about art, culture and travel.

What is her job role and where does she work?

In Down and Out in Kathmandu, Zelda was working as a computer programmer in Seattle, Washington before burnout drove her to quit her job and volunteer in Nepal. In book two – The Lover’s Portrait – she is an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum, where she gets embroiled in a restitution case involving Nazi looted art. She’s still in Amsterdam studying art history and museum management in book three – Rituals of the Dead – though now she’s working at an anthropological museum on an exhibition of Asmat bis poles. At the end of book four (my current manuscript-in-progress) she’ll graduate with her master’s degree in Museum Studies and has to get a real job. Though I’m fairly certain where she is going to end up working, I don’t want to spoil the surprise for readers.

Where did the original  idea of Zelda come about?

Novels such as The Beach, Are You Experienced?, and Losing Gemma inspired me to trying writing a travel fiction thriller. My own experiences as a volunteer and solo traveler influenced my decision to set Down and Out in Kathmandu in Nepal and Thailand. That’s when Zelda Richardson was born. She became the conduit through which I could share my adventures in a highly fictionalized form. For example, Zelda volunteers in Kathmandu and shares many of the same experiences I had while on my journey. However, I didn’t have a gang of diamond smugglers chasing after me – that was my fantasy turning my wonderful journey into a dramatic one worthy of a thriller!

When I moved to Amsterdam to study art history, Zelda came along for the ride. Now she’s trying to break into the Dutch museum world and make her living as a collection researcher or exhibition designer – jobs I no longer hold. Somehow she keeps getting involved in hair-raising art crimes and finding dead bodies; luckily things I have never experienced first-hand! 

What makes her original?

Zelda is a student and amateur sleuth, a combination I don’t often see in adult mysteries. I purposely chose not to make her a professor, detective, or art recovery expert because there are already enough great art-related mysteries with those types of main characters. It will be a challenge to keep her original after she graduates from university, but I think readers will be pleased with the direction she heads at the end of book four. 

What makes her tick?

Zelda has a strong sense of justice, is extremely loyal, yet has a fragile ego – this has proved to be an explosive combination! These traits help motivate her actions and decisions throughout the series.

What is her biggest fear?

Failure. Zelda refuses to give up on anything she’s set her mind to doing. 

If you and your character met in real life, do you think you’d get on?

Honestly, I doubt it. I’m fairly certain we would butt heads. Zelda’s background is similar to my own, yet her path and personality are not the same. She’s far more bull-headed and quick tempered than I am, though sometimes I wish I dared to say what Zelda would! 

Who would you like to see play Zelda if your books were made into a film or TV show?

Both Emily Blunt and Jennifer Lawrence have the right kind of personality to play Zelda. I think either actress could turn her into a star. 

How many books do you have in the series so far?

The third book in the series – Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery – will be released on April 6, 2018! This time Zelda is a collection researcher for an exhibition of Asmat art held at an ethnographic museum in Amsterdam. She gets pulled into a historical mystery involving a missing anthropologist, stolen artifacts, and human remains taken from Dutch New Guinea (now known as Papua).

What’s in store for them next?

I am currently working on book four in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. Zelda is once again embroiled in an art-related mystery. Italy and Croatia will feature heavily in this novel about the mafia and art theft. It’s been fun researching the plot! I’m now planning out a research trip to Croatia – one of the perks of writing mysteries strong in location! Readers will have to wait a while for this one to be published as I’m only flushing out the first draft now. Though I think Zelda’s fans will enjoy the next art-related mystery to be solved.

Thanks again for inviting me to your blog, Shell Baker! 
Thank you so much for taking part 

Purchase Rituals of the Dead links:

Amazon CO UK:

Amazon US:



Barnes & Noble NOOK:


Google  Play:

The Goodreads Book page:

And my website:

Author Bio

Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle and currently lives in Amsterdam. Her love of travel, art and culture inspires her on-going mystery series, the Adventures of Zelda Richardson. Her background in journalism, multimedia development and art history enriches her novels.

In Down and Out in Kathmandu, Zelda gets entangled with a gang of smugglers whose Thai leader believes she’s stolen his diamonds. The Lover’s Portrait is a suspenseful “whodunit?” about Nazi-looted artwork that transports readers to wartime and present-day Amsterdam. Art, religion, and anthropology collide in Rituals of the Dead, a thrilling artifact mystery set in Dutch New Guinea and the Netherlands. Learn more about Jennifer and her books on her website:

Social Media:
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