Today’s coffee shop guest is Alice Castle, author of Death in Dulwich which comes out on September 6th. I so enjoyed reading this cosy crime novel which is the first in a series (see my review on the Katy’s bookshelf page) so I really wanted to know more about Alice – I have an Author Q&A for you but first here’s a bit about the book:
Thirty-something widow Beth Haldane has her hands full – she has a bouncy nine-year-old son, a haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and a ton of bills to pay. She loves her little home in plush south London suburb Dulwich, but life here doesn’t come cheap.
That’s why she is thrilled to land a job as archivist at top local school Wyatt’s – though she has an inkling the post is not what it seems and she doesn’t think much of her new boss, Dr Jenkins, either. Then, on her first day at work, Dr Jenkins is brutally murdered. Beth finds the body, and realises she is the prime suspect, with means, opportunity and a motive.
Beth has no choice but to try and clear her name, bringing herself into conflict with the police and the school. But who is the real culprit? And is the cause of the killing a horrifying secret buried deep in the school’s past, or does evil lurk behind the comfortable façade of daily Dulwich life?
Beth grows in confidence during her dogged pursuit of the murderer and, by the end of the book, is ready for any adventures that may come her way. Which is just as well, because there’s trouble brewing at the Dulwich Picture Gallery ….
You can buy Death in Dulwich here
Who is your favourite crime writer?
This is really difficult, as I have loads of favourites and it’s really hard, actually impossible, to pick just one. I read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories as a teenager during a bout of flu, I just couldn’t get enough of them and I’m still a huge fan of Arthur Conan Doyle. At the same sort of time, I started reading Agatha Christie and also fell in love with Georgette Heyer’s whodunits – there aren’t many of them but they are great.
From there it was a straight progression to Margery Allingham and Dorothy L Sayers. I then flirted with slightly harder-edged, more contemporary crime, like Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs, before deciding I liked my crime cosy rather than with a cruel edge.
I’ve also loved discovering Scandi noir crime, Italian crime and French crime, and love the mean streets of American noir as well, but my heart is probably at home in England, in a small village, with a few of the usual suspects, preferably including a vicar with a dodgy past and a few unexpected cousins popping up. Yes, I’m looking at you, Agatha Christie. She had a phenomenal output of stories, some of which are a bit formulaic, but there are some real gems amongst them.
What about your favourite film?
Some Like it Hot – it isn’t a whodunit but there is certainly an element of danger in our heroes’ flight from the mob and the comedy is irresistible. Marilyn Monroe is at her most luminous and Jack Lemmon’s last line is a classic. I’m also a huge fan of the Ridley Scott film, Bladerunner, which combines romance, tragedy, sci-fi and a detective story in a slick futuristic dystopia.
At the moment I’m not eating sugar, after a brush with cancer, but I love making cakes and my favourite is probably coffee and walnut, though I am also a sucker for all types of chocolate cake.
[Alice talks about the cancer diagnosis in her blog http://www.dulwichdivorcee.com. She promised herself that if she got through the illness she would write a novel so this book is a celebration of life as well as a cracking murder mystery.]
Who is your favourite fictional villain?
Probably the chilling Ripley from Patricia Highsmith’s tour de force The Talented Mr Ripley. I remember dropping the book in shock at one point, full of genuine horror as the true psychopathic dimension of Ripley’s character revealed itself for the first time.
If you could change the ending to any book which one would it be?
If I could change any ending, it would be irresistible to just add the words, ‘to be continued…’ to the last page of Pride and Prejudice. I’d love to know how Elizabeth and Mr Darcy got on!
I would too! If you could be any fictional detective who would it be?
I’d rather like to be one of Raymond Chandler’s world-weary but dauntless detectives, negotiating the big city armed with only a dry wit and a sharp trenchcoat.
If ‘Death in Dulwich’ was made into a TV series who would you cast in the main role?
Gosh, I’d love to dream of my cosy crime books being made into a series. My heroine, Beth Haldane, is in her thirties and is a single mum, so I’d have to pick an actress who had that slightly frazzled edge but still managed to be appealing – an English Emma Stone would be fine!
What gave you the idea for the book?
I’ve always loved whodunits and I’d been toying with various ideas for a while when the plot of Death in Dulwich came to me and I decided to take the plunge and start writing.
And finally why Dulwich?
I lived in Dulwich for four years after returning to the UK after nearly a decade in Brussels. It’s a beautiful corner of south east London with a distinctive village feel. It would be too much of a stretch to compare it directly with St Mary Mead, Miss Marple’s stamping ground, but it has similarities.
It is a small place where everyone knows each other, and each other’s business! I thought it would work well to ground my story in a real place but, of course, to write about fictional events and characters. Other books in the series will focus on other areas of south London but Dulwich will always be Beth Haldane’s home.
Thanks Alice – I hope the book is a huge success.
Alice Castle lives in South London with her two children, two stepchildren, two cats and husband. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for nearly a decade. Her chick lit novel, Hot Chocolate, sold out in two weeks. Her second book, Death in Dulwich, is the first in the London Murder Mystery series. The next book, The Girl in the Gallery, will appear in early 2018. Alice also runs one of the UK’s top 500 parent blogs, at http://www.dulwichdivorcee.com, and you can find her on Twitter at @DDsDiary.