Crime file – Death in Dulwich

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:

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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

Author Q&A 

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.

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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.

Favourite cake?

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.

 

IMG_5557About Alice

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.

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Published today – Social Anxiety Revealed by Miriam Drori

IMG_5817Today’s guest post is from Miriam Drori, co-author of The Women Friends: Selina (see my review on the Katy’s bookshelf 2017 page of this website). But Miriam is here to talk about her non-fiction book on social anxiety which is hot off the press. Over to you, Miriam!

The Song that Speaks to Me
Paul Simon wrote a lot of lines that I’ve identified with. Lines like: The problem is all inside your head, she said to me. Or: People talking without speaking.
But no song has spoken to me as much as: Something so Right.

I was nineteen when I first heard it, trying to become an adult but missing the tools I never acquired due to social anxiety, trying to make sense of thoughts I assumed belonged to no one but me.

And Paul Simon sang, “I’ve got a wall around me you can’t even see.”

Yes, that’s it! I thought. That’s exactly how I am.

And yes, that’s why people can’t get through to me and I can’t get close to them. I often sang the song to myself and felt comforted that someone else understood that feeling. I didn’t sing it to anyone else, as I was embarrassed about the feeling. Thirty years later I discovered social anxiety and realised that a lot of people feel the same way. What a shame it took so long.

Being alone with such thoughts is lonely and isolating.

Discovering the name has made a big difference to me and also led to the creation of a book, Social Anxiety Revealed. The book isn’t just my story, but rather many stories told via anonymous quotes from others who experience or have experienced social anxiety.

It’s intended not just for people who have social anxiety. It’s just as relevant for anyone who knows someone who might have it. It’s not a self-help book, although it does contain a few tips. It simply explains what social anxiety is – all aspects of it.

This book has awakened interest from many sources. It’s going right, and I’m determined not to be confused and say I can’t get used to something so right.

Thank you Miriam – I love those songs too and can identify with that feeling. The book sounds great. Good luck with it – I hope it’s a huge success.

IMG_5818About Miriam
Miriam Drori is the author of a romance, Neither Here Nor There, and co-author of The Women Friends: Selina, the first in a series of novellas based on a painting by Gustav Klimt. She is married with three adult children and enjoys folk dancing, hiking, touring and reading.
Miriam sees the publication of Social Anxiety Revealed as an important step in fulfilling an ambition that began in about 2003: to raise awareness of a condition that’s very common yet little known.
She has struggled with social anxiety for the past fifty years, although for thirty-five of those years, she didn’t even know the name of it or that a name existed. Only recently has she come to the conclusion that she shouldn’t have been struggling at all, but rather making friends with it.

In order to introduce this book and as a place for discussions with readers, Miriam has begun a blog that’s devoted solely to the topic of social anxiety: http://socialanxietyrevealed.wordpress.com Everyone is welcome to visit and comment.

Links for the Blog Tour
Miriam Drori can be found all over the Internet, including:
Miriam’s website and blog, Facebook Author Page and Twitter @MiriamDrori.
Social Anxiety Revealed is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook formats http://mybook.to/socialanxietyrevealed.

 

The tragedy of Sant Anna di Stazzema

Today is the anniversary of the one of the worst war crimes in Italy – the massacre at Sant Anna di Stazzema, a small mountain village in the Lucca province, Tuscany, during the Second World War.

On 12th August 1944 the SS killed 560 people in Sant Anna and the surrounding villages, most of whom were women, children and elderly.  The youngest victim Anna Pardini was only 20 days old but eight pregnant women were also killed with their unborn babies.

As the novel I’m writing deals with a secret connecting Villa Leonida to a wartime reprisal massacre I visited St Anna as part of my research. The museum there tells the story of what happened on that day.

It’s not a feel-good experience and if you’re only spending a few days in Tuscany on holiday it probably won’t be top on your list of places to go for a fun day out but for me, seeing how remote and inaccessible the village was really brought home how ruthlessly thorough the retreating German army was.

They had to go so far out of their way to get to such a tiny place and didn’t leave until they had killed everyone they could find although they could see the village was undefended. Many of the victims had been evacuated to St Anna to avoid the Allied strafing of the coastal plain.

The best way to get there is from the coast side, off the A12 following the signs from Pietrasanta or Forte dei Marmi which is the route the German army would have taken. You can also reach it by taking the road from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana across the marble mountains, the Apuan Alps. It is stunningly scenic but involves soaring climbs and dizzying turns so definitely not recommended if any of your party gets car sick.

(I took that route once by mistake, unaware that my husband had set the satnav to ‘avoid motorways.’ With four moaning teenagers, a stuck CD and a plane to catch, it wasn’t a comfortable journey!)

We visited the museum with our eleven year old son and it was very moving to see the photographs of all the children who died and some of the victims’ belongings that were found with some of them including a doll and some steel bands that the fascist government handed out to women in exchange for their wedding rings. Eight siblings from one family, aged from a few months to fifteen years, died along with their mother. The first hand accounts by survivors make harrowing reading.

IMG_1596Early in the morning the soldiers arrived in Sant Anna, having being told about some partisan activity in the area.

Many of the men had moved up into the hills in the belief that the soldiers wouldn’t harm innocent women and children but they were mistaken.

People were mostly either shot or burned to death in buildings when hand grenades were thrown in.

130 people were taken from the houses in Sant Anna, the primary school (now the museum) where about 50 evacuees were living and the neighbouring village of Il Pero and rounded up in the little square in front of the church at the centre of the village.

A survivor, writer Manlio Cancogni (who died in 2015), recalled: “They almost snatched them from their beds. They were half dressed, their limbs drowsy with sleep. Everyone was thinking they were going to be moved from those places to others…”

A pastor who was among the evacuees pleaded with the SS to spare their lives but when he saw there was no way he was going to be able to persuade them he knelt down with the villagers and prayed with them as they wept. After a few minutes the Germans loaded the guns and fired. There were no survivors.

Their bodies were burned on a bonfire made from furniture that had been ripped from the church. The SS sat there eating their lunch as the bodies burned.

IMG_1617They then moved on to surrounding villages so some people who had escaped and run to hide there had to go through the experience a second time.

Enrico Pieri was ten at the time and lost all his family except for an uncle, an aunt and another uncle who had been sent to Germany. He and the children of another family hid under the stairs when the Germans came and started shooting. But the soldiers set fire to the house and the children had to escape. They hid among some beans for hours. When they eventually crept out and went back to the house in the afternoon they found everyone dead.

“I have decided to forgive,” he said at 78 years old, “but I will never forgive the evil ideology behind it. I’ve stopped hating because hatred doesn’t solve anything. Because that period was a period of real hatred between people from the same village, the same family. Hatred is what led to the destruction of humanity – almost.”

Although a part of me feels uncomfortable visiting places like this just as it does the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam as though it’s intruding on other people’s grief, the historian in me thinks that only by facing up to these past events and keeping the memory alive can we stop them happening in future.

What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear your views.

To find out more visit http://www.santannadistazzema.org

 

It’s Publication Day for Barnabas Tew and the case of the missing scarab

I am so thrilled that Columbkill Noonan has just stopped by with her debut novel, hot off the press – “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab”, a “weirdly wonderful” Victorian detective caper. Sounds right up my street!

It has been described by Nathan Robinson, author of “Devil Let Me go” as “fast-paced as it is thrilling, as funny as it is original; feels like an old-school caper”.

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A day in the life of Barnabas Tew
When Barnabas lived in Marylebone, life was as it should be: dull, predictable, and, above all, orderly. His days were passed much as those of any other proper British detective of good, if middling, social standing.

He’d rise early in the morning (as only ne’er-do-wells stayed in bed past seven, in Barnabas’ opinion). He’d have a nice breakfast of some bland, boiled something-or-other, served by his landlady. Then he’d perhaps spend a few minutes reading the paper before welcoming his assistant, Wilfred, and then opening his doors for a proper day of work.

(Of course, there was little traffic through those doors, because Barnabas, whilst an earnest and hardworking man, was also not terribly good at detective work; indeed, his clients were just as likely to suffer an untimely death as to have their cases solved, despite Barnabas’ best efforts to prevent such tragic and terribly upsetting occurrences.)

Barnabas, like any good Victorian detective, likes things just-so. Breakfasts ought to be had on time, gardens ought to be properly kept and carefully tended (by a gardener, of course, since once mustn’t get one’s hands dirty), people should be neatly and properly dressed in clothing appropriate to their station in life. Everyone must always do their duty, at the proper time and in the proper way. But, to Barnabas, the most important rule of all is that one must always be polite, no matter the circumstances.

Then, suddenly, once day, everything changes.

Barnabas, together with Wilfred, is unexpectedly (and most unpredictably) whisked off to the Egyptian underworld to solve a case for Anubis, the God of the Dead. Here, things are not orderly, not even in the slightest; gardens are decidedly unkempt, nothing is predictable, and people do not dress according to British laws of fashion. Indeed, not everyone even has a proper head, as Barnabas discovers almost immediately when he comes face-to-face with Anti, the ferryman to the Land of the Dead (who has, distressingly, the head and wings of a falcon).

Barnabas, of course, is very confused by his new surroundings (and, if truth be told, more than a little distressed, as well). Still, he has been given a duty to do, which means that he will perform it to the best of his ability, bizarre circumstances or no. And, despite the strange things that happen to him, or the odd (and sometimes unsavory) characters that he meets, he still strives to maintain a degree of decorum about him, because one must never be impolite, no matter whom, or what, one is dealing with.

“Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is now available on Amazon at myBook.to/Barnabas

IMG_5542About the author
Columbkill Noonan had an M.S in Biology (she has in turn been a field biologist, an environmental compliance inspector and a lecturer of Anatomy and Physiology). When she’s not teaching or writing she can usually be found riding her rescue horse Mittens, practising yoga (on the ground, in an aerial silk, on an SUP board, and sometimes even on Mittens) or spending far too much time at the local organic vegan market

 

Connect with Columbkill:
Blog: http://www.columbkill.weebly.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan
Twitter: @ColumbkillNoon1

 

Crime File – it’s publication day for The List by Graham H Miller

Today is launch day for The List, a debut thriller by fellow Crooked Cat author Graham H Miller. I love the cover and it looks a fantastic read.

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DS Jonah Greene returns to work with something to prove after three months of stress-related sick leave. He is transferred to Coroner’s Office and his first body is a homeless man who froze to death overnight.

What should be a straightforward case takes an unexpected turn when DS Greene is handed a list of seven names, written by the dead man. He investigates the names on the list and slowly discovers a tale of greed and murder which stretches back to the mid-nineties. His career, his marriage and his life may be threatened, but he will not give up until he has found the truth and brought the guilty to justice.

Welcome to the coffee shop Graham. Congratulations on the book – I can’t wait to start reading. What was it that attracted you to crime writing?
In part it was purely pragmatic. I have a head full of ideas, spanning reincarnation stories, historical, paranormal and cross-genre. I also have a cryptic crossword kind of brain. So I thought I should focus on a genre that you can explain to a future publisher or agent really simply.

If I say to people “this is a crime novel” immediately they understand what I’m offering. I like the intellectual challenge of constructing the plot. You need a fine balance where the reader can’t guess the ending, but when they get there it seems obvious in hindsight. I wrote The List so that if it’s read a second time there’ll be lots of clues that can be picked up once you know the ending.

Do you have any writing plans for the future?
At the moment I’m being disciplined and working on Jonah Greene book 2. It’s all plotted out and is comfortably over 20,000 words so its going well.

In the future, well I had a “Harry Potter moment” where a character sprung fully formed into my head. Pretty soon she was joined by a mentor and I’m very tempted to write a novel with two main characters, the new detective and her mentor.

She also has a nemesis now as well as several gruesome murders to solve. This project is just a swirling pot of ideas without much structure at the moment. And all that is on the back burner until Jonah Greene is well established.

It sounds like you have plenty to keep you busy. Best of luck with the launch!

JOIN GRAHAM AT THE ONLINE LAUNCH PARTY ON FACEBOOK TODAY

https://www.facebook.com/events/246857489132376/?notif_t=plan_edited&notif_id=1500037393993021

You can buy the book here

Shirt Bio

I sent Graham a message recently asking if I could have a short bio but as usual my fat fingers got the better of me and I found I had asked for a ‘shirt bio’ instead. Being a very obliging person he sent me what I’d asked for.

Graham: There’s actually a story there – when I was 14 my brother brought home a copy of Ace of Spades by Motorhead. I became a lifelong fan and was shaken when Lemmy died at the end of 2015. A few months back I had to stock up on the t-shirts that I usually wear so I bought five different Motorhead shirts which I wear nearly every day.

Thanks Graham, perhaps I should ask all my visitors this question 😀 And now for the actual bio:
IMG_5458Graham H Miller has been writing since his teenage years when he had a scenario printed in a role playing magazine. Since then he’s written articles, guest posts and a book on pagan subjects. His brain is always at work, with more ideas than time. He is a house-husband proudly perpetuating the stereotype by writing books while his three boys are at school. He has two blogs that are erratically updated – one about life as father to three special boys and the other covering his thoughts on writing and the publishing process. His interests include prehistory, classic cars, anything Viking and learning Welsh. Fascinated by everything, he lives in South Wales and is older than he thinks he is!

Find out more on Graham’s website

Amazon author page

Facebook

@grahamhmiller

Crime file – Angela Wren

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Those of you who love detective novels and stories set in France are in for a treat with this new novel by Angela Wren. Over the last 18 months or so she has been writing the sequel to her very popular novel Messandrierre which will be published on July 5th and is here to tell us about it. Welcome back to the coffee shop Angela, what can I get you today?

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog. Coffee would be great please. Black and weak is fine, thank you.

Here you go! I love the cover of your new book. Would you mind telling us a bit about the story?

Merle, like its predecessor, Messandrierre, is set in the Cévennes in the south of France. The title of this story is a real French word, unlike Messandrierre, which is a corruption of the name of a real place. It means blackbird, but it is also used as a girl’s Christian name and as a surname. Capitaine Mathieu Merle, being one famous, or perhaps more accurately, infamous holder of the surname. Mathieu Merle (1548-1587) was a Huguenot captain who was feared during the religious wars in France. But he spent some time in Mende, the préfecture city of the département of Lozère. A city that features in the story and where my fictitious suburb of Merle is located.

In Messandrierre, the story followed Jacques as he unravelled a police investigation into the mysterious disappearances of travellers to the tiny village of Messandrierre. At the end of that story, Jacques had a decision to make and his love interest, Beth Samuels, had some serious thinking of her own to do.

Merle begins a few months after the end of the first book and…

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

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The old city of Mende

EXCERPT
Here is a little taster from the very beginning of the story:

 

It was the tightly scrunched ball of paper that captured the attention of Magistrate Bruno Pelletier. His trained eyes swept around the room, only glancing at the naked body in the bath, and came to rest once more on the small, ivory-white mass, challenging and silent against the solid plain porcelain of the tiles. He stepped over the large pool of dried blood, iron red against the white of the floor, and, with gloved hands, he retrieved the object. Carefully prising the paper back into its customary rectangular shape, he stared at the contents and frowned as he read and re-read the single six-word sentence printed there.
‘Je sais ce que tu fais.’
After a moment, he dropped it into an evidence bag being held open for him by the pathologist.
all hallows’ eve, 2009

It sounds amazing. I’m off to get my copy. Thanks Angela!

Merle is published on July 5th and is available for pre-order on this universal link Merle

Find out more or get in touch here
website   Facebook   Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Publication Day

 

Seeing my little book go out into the world last Thursday felt similar to watching my children go off to school on their first day – I was excited but anxious.

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But just as Leo came out of school grinning from ear to ear back in 2010 my book’s first day went off much better than expected. I have been amazed and so pleased with the reviews it has received so far including

“Dark, intense and gripping beyond belief. I was swept along with this tale of lies and betrayals”
Linda, Books of All Kinds

“An amazing story with a reverie effect I couldn’t break away from”
Laura, Page Turners’ Nook

“Full of surprises, twists and turns and I just couldn’t get through the pages quick enough”
Dee-Cee

“Everything I hoped it would be and more”
Misti Nash

“A perfect psychological thriller”
Like Love Do

IMG_5060Thank you so much to everyone who pre-ordered the book. The winners of the draw were Jane Bwye (£10 Amazon gift card), Awen Thornber (paperback of Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings) and Steve Johnson – no relation, I promise! (Prosecco and chocolates)

During publication week I took part in a blogtour to promote the book. I’d never done anything like that before but it was brilliantly organised by Emma Mitchell with a full schedule of Q&A interviews, character posts and excerpts.

I am so grateful to all the bloggers who were involved in the blog tour and everyone else who has helped spread the word about the book by sharing, retweeting etc. I am very lucky to belong to a great community of Crooked Cats whose support has been invaluable.

IMG_0069The online launch party was a lot of fun. Thank you to everyone who took part. Much virtual champagne was consumed and I was thrilled to have these amazing authors contribute book prizes for the competitions. Congratulations to the winners!

Lazy Blood by Ross Greenwood won by Sheila Howes
183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan, won by Awen Thornber
No Safe Home by Tara Lyons, won by Elizabeth Holdak
Walking Wounded Anna Franklin Osborne won by Tara Lyons
A DCI Bennett book by Malcolm Hollingdrake won by Beverley Hopper
Shadows by Conrad Jones, won by Elaine Fryatt.
Surprise book signed by Emma won by Dee Light
Sue Barnard won a copy of The Silence

The paperback will be officially launched next Thursday morning, 22 June at the Ascot Writers Summer Book Event in Sunninghill, Berkshire with real bubbly this time rather than the virtual kind! We’re also celebrating the launch of two other books by local authors – Tessa Harris, author of the Thomas Silkstone series whose book The Sixth Victim (Kensington) is the first in a brand new series of fascinating Victorian crime stories – and Tracy Corbett whose story The Forget Me Not Flower Shop (Harper Collins) is the summer romance novel everyone’s talking about.

DesignThere will be other writers to meet, signed books to buy and a second-hand book sale to raise money for the Grenfell Tower fire victims. Entry is of course free – we’d love to see you there!