Book Six in the Sensational London Murder Mysteries…
I am beyond thrilled to feature one of my favourite authors (and friends) today on the blog. Alice Castle’s phenomenal cosy crime series has had me, and many others, completely hooked since Book One, Death in Dulwich, when she introduced us to possibly the world’s most loveable sleuth, Beth Haldane. Aka. the girl with the Shetland pony fringe.
Alice’s way with words is hypnotic and full of the most juicy wit and observation. I’m not even a crime reader, but even I cannot failed to be lured into the darker side of Yummy Mummy land, where Alice’s plots take place.
But that’s enough about me. Without further ado, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Alice recently, and today I am excited to reveal some of her writing and plotting secrets.
Enjoy… and then start the series IMMEDIATELY if you haven’t got around to it!
Why do you think the cozy crime genre has such a growing following?
Great question! I think that cozy crime is very appealing because it offers the satisfying puzzle of a traditional whodunit, without the blood and gore that many writers bring to contemporary crime fiction at the moment. Cozies hark back to a gentler era and I think that most people, whatever their politics, would agree we are living through difficult and confusing times at the moment. My cozies are set in contemporary London but they are part of a soothing universe where good and evil are absolutes and where criminals are always caught and punished. One of the tropes of a cozy is that the crime is solved by an amateur, and I think many readers like to feel they are finding their way to the solution at the same time as my single mum sleuth. Being an armchair detective is fun!
I’m not a crime fan per se, but I will always make an exception for your books because they are about so much more than murder; a brilliant melange of so many things: witticism, prose, topically on point, and full of red herrings and laughter. I never quite nail the culprit either. I imagine you have read extensively in your genre, and I’d be really interested to know who you most liken your words to – both inside and outside of cozy crime?
Thank you for those very kind words! Lovely to hear you enjoy the books despite the odd murder and I’m really thrilled to hear you don’t guess whodunnit, that always makes my day. It’s hard for me to know who I would liken my words to, exactly, but I do have a lot of influences. I love the cozy crime writer Simon Brett (who went to school in Dulwich) who has written about two hundred books, including three long crime series, the Charles Paris mysteries, centring on an alcoholic out-of-work actor with the bad habit of tripping over corpses, the Fethering mysteries, about two retired ladies in a seaside town which seems beset with as many intrigues as it has seagulls, and the Mrs Pargeter books, about the widow of a crime boss who has her finger in many pies. I also love Raymond Chandler, whose writing just epitomises jagged brilliance and who also went to school in Dulwich (can you see a theme developing?). I adore the fast pace, wordplay and humour in PG Wodehouse (another Dulwich boy). Aside from these local lads, there are some amazing female criminal masterminds I read and re-read, Agatha Christie of course, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, DL Sayers, PD James, Sue Grafton and Kate Atkinson are all favourites.
Could you ever turn your hand to hard-boiled crime?
I don’t love the gorier end of the crime spectrum. I’m much too squeamish to read scenes of torture or any really gratuitous violence. Don’t tell anyone, but for a crime writer, I’m a bit of a wuss. I also strongly dislike those scenes where the male detective looks down on a naked female corpse in the mortuary and swears vengeance on the male perpetrator, then the rest of the book is a duel between the two men. Those books can be terrific page-turners and there’s a place for everything in crime, but for me it’s just dull when women are reduced to a peripheral role as victims. I do like a psychological thriller and I’m really getting into the genre of domestic suspense at the moment. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is the classic example but there are loads of new books coming out in this area which I’m loving.
Are any of your Dulwich characters (here, I must confess, I am specifically thinking of the yummy mummies!) based on real-life people?
Teehee! Wouldn’t that be naughty? The safest answer is to invite you to come to lovely Dulwich, to hang out with me in a café which may or may not resemble my fictional Jane’s, and overhear an afternoon’s worth of chat – then see what you think!
Now there’s an invitation I can’t refuse, especially after reading about the epic coffee and cake…
What was the inspiration behind book 6, The Body in Belair Park?
One of my inspirations was Belair House, the very beautiful real-life Georgian mansion which is at the centre of the story and is the home of the fictional bridge club that causes so much trouble for Beth and DI Harry York. It’s a really stunning place and I felt it would be an excellent spot for a nice bit of skulduggery. The other inspiration was my newfound interest in the card game, bridge. Bridge has featured in two whodunits which I particularly love, Agatha Christie’s Cards On The Table and Georgette Heyer’s Duplicate Death. I wanted to see if I could write my own that would stand against these two classics – I hope I’ve succeeded.
Do you have to hang out in each of your crime locations for research purposes?
I do tend to know my crime scenes well, as they are usually key to the stories. The Girl in the Gallery was inspired by a particular spot in Dulwich Picture Gallery and my new book, The Body in Belair Park, is also set at a real location. Luckily for me, Dulwich is full of interesting and quirky corners so there are plenty of places where I can leave a dead body.
How long did it take you to write each book in this addictive series?
The length of time it takes to write a story depends on loads of factors. Death in Dulwich took me the longest to write, because I didn’t have a publisher then. Once I was lucky enough to find Crooked Cat, then things speeded up. Now I even have people asking me when the next one is coming out, which is the loveliest position to be in as a writer, and also makes me feel I ought to get on with it!
I’m super excited to hear whisperings of a book 7. Is it true?
That’s so nice of you! Yes, I’m hard at work on book seven at the moment, it’s called The Slayings in Sydenham and I hope it will be out later this year or possibly at the beginning of next year. It’s going well so far.
Will the series keep going to double digits?
I’d like to keep going for as long as anyone wants me to… I’ve always loved long detective series myself. The Agatha Raisin series, by MC Beaton, is stretching on and on and is still great fun. As long as I can keep dreaming up interesting plots for Beth, and as long as she doesn’t mind pushing her fringe out of her eyes for long enough to nail the next culprit, then I’ll keep going.
Did you have the entire series mapped out from the start, or has it been a natural progression?
I had the first six books mapped out and it was really satisfying tying up some loose ends in The Body in Belair Park. But there seems to be a lot more to say, which is something I’m very happy about, so I’m now scattering some more subplots here and there to last me through the next few books…
How has your experience as a journalist shaped your writing?
I think my years as a professional journalist have helped me to treat writing as a serious business. No journalist ever gets writer’s block – or admits it, anyway. And I’m under no illusions – although writing books is creative, it’s also a slog. Mostly I’m just very grateful that I don’t have to worry about the facts any more, now that I’m writing fiction!
What’s next when the series reaches its conclusion? More cozy crime… or a change of direction?
I’m really excited to say I have a new book coming out in November which will be a BIG change of direction – it’s in the psychological thriller/domestic noir genre, so a long way from cozy crime. I’m going to go all tantalising now and say I’m not allowed to tell you anything more about it at the moment, but do keep watching this space! In the meantime, my beloved Beth will be keeping up her investigations in the London Murder Mysteries.
What a carrot dangle to end on! We will definitely be keeping a keen eye on you…
If you’d like to buy The Body in Belair Park, click here to be taken to the Amazon page for your country:
Here’s the blurb to tempt you:
The Body in Belair Park by Alice Castle
Beth Haldane is on the verge of having everything she’s ever wanted. Her son is starting secondary school, her personal life seems to have settled down – even her pets are getting on. But then the phone rings.
It’s Beth’s high maintenance mother, Wendy, with terrible news. Her bridge partner, Alfie Pole, has died suddenly. While Beth, and most of Dulwich, is convinced that Alfie has pegged out from exhaustion, thanks to partnering Wendy for years, Beth’s mother is certain that there is foul play afoot.
Before she knows it, Beth is plunged into her most complicated mystery yet, involving the Dulwich Bridge Club, allotment holders, the Dulwich Open Garden set and, of course, her long-suffering boyfriend, Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Harry York. The case stirs up old wounds which are much closer to home than Beth would like. Can she come up trumps in time to stop the culprit striking again – or does the murderer hold the winning hand this time?
A massive thanks to Alice, and all the best with the rest of the series!
Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.
Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim and also hit the number one spot. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, was published in August 2018, with Homicide in Herne Hill following in October 2018. Revenge on the Rye came out in December 2018. The Body in Belair Park will be published on 25th June 2019. Alice is currently working on the seventh London Murder Mystery adventure, The Slayings in Sydenham. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.
Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com
Death in Dulwich is now also out as an audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07N1VNMLT/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-140657&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_140657_rh_us
Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.