Monday, 12 February 2018

#6 #Monday Meanders with Alice Castle

Good Morning Monday!

That means it's time for some more #Monday Meanders. Today, I welcome back my lovely author friend Alice Castle who is going to tell us about her favourite places. Having read her wonderful writing, I can see why she chooses to base her novels where she does. I'm getting to know the locations quite well indeed, and should I ever be in the vicinity I'll definitely be looking over both shoulders and sideways as well, but I'll let her tell you where it is and why.

Welcome again Alice! 

(An early p.s. of sorts - I'm so glad the hunky policeman Harry York gets a look-in again! )

Thanks so much, Nancy, for having me on your blog today for a Monday Meander and giving me a chance to explain why I set my books in south east London.

Alice Castle
There’s a simple explanation. I was walking through Dulwich Village one day, passing the white picket fences, bustling cafes and stunning Georgian houses, when it suddenly struck me that this was the perfect spot for a murder.

(Oh, Alice- how true! I went looking for a lovely image of Dulwich and I found the perfect one which I've tagged on at the end) 

This isn’t a confession to a crime. It’s a declaration of my intent to commit a whole series of shocking killings. But, before you dial 999, I’m just a writer. While I hope you’ll be on the edge of your seat, you’ll definitely live to tell the tale.

In Dulwich, you have the closed circle of suspects, the affluent lifestyle and the beautiful surroundings that made Agatha Christie’s St Mary Mead such a promising hotbed of turbulent emotions. A murder in an apparently tranquil setting is a seismic shock, a blow against the natural order of things that cries out to be solved by a gifted amateur sleuth. The twist is that Dulwich, for all its village feel, is also firmly part of contemporary London, not far from the meaner streets of Catford and Peckham. So as well as the sort of motives Miss Marple would recognise, I’ve introduced modern themes like incest, anorexia, cyberbullying and white collar fraud.

Dulwich College -  Wikimedia Commons
Once I’d had the idea of updating Golden Age crime for a new audience, writing Death in Dulwich and its sequel, The Girl in the Gallery, has been pure pleasure. The books reflect my love for the area, thanks to years living in Dulwich, with my children at schools rather like the ones which play such a large part in the stories. The books are stuffed with characters that I hope fellow Dulwich devotees will recognise affectionately, and either wish they could share a cappuccino with in Gail’s, or would swerve to avoid outside Tomlinson’s.

My single mum detective, Beth Haldane, is the sort of person you might well see at the gates of a school like, say, the Dulwich Hamlet. But, though at first sight Beth seems a typical Dulwich yummy mummy, it’s not just her precarious financial situation that keeps her aloof from the pack. Her love of puzzles, insatiable curiosity and a fair dash of reckless bravery lead her into situations from which I would certainly hang back. Luckily, she has Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Harry York dogging her footsteps, keeping her safe and failing to act on the developing spark between them.

My first book, Death in Dulwich, centres on Beth’s new job as archivist at Wyatt’s, the most prestigious of the (fictitious) Endowment Schools set up by the swashbuckling Sir Thomas Wyatt in the seventeenth century and still going from strength to glossy strength today.

The second instalment, The Girl in the Gallery, is inspired by the extraordinary Dulwich Picture Gallery, one of my favourite places in the world. As well as the wonderful art collection, I’ve always found the building itself fascinating. It was Sir John Soane’s favourite creation, and it doesn’t take much to see why. The mausoleum at the centre of the Gallery has always exerted a morbid fascination for me, seeming to cry out for a starring role in a whodunit, and I’ve been happy to oblige.

My third mystery, Calamity in Camberwell, features Beth battling against the world again. One of her friends has disappeared. Why does no one else take her absence seriously? It’s down to Beth to sort the situation out. If you want a job done, ask a single mother with a million things on her plate. Though the book ventures over to the magnificent Georgian terraces of Camberwell Grove,  Dulwich, as ever, remains at the heart of the book. For her fourth outing, Beth will be venturing down Half Moon Lane into Herne Hill but she’ll be slipping back to the village for the school Nativity play – and the inevitable cappuccinos with friends.

It’s been a joy to plot these books and to weave in the local landmarks I know and love so well. I hope Dulwich residents will forgive the mounting body count, kick off their shoes, get snuggly on their sofas and have fun too, reading about the sort of things that couldn’t possibly happen in Dulwich, darling.

You can BUY  Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery from Village Books, Dulwich Books, Herne Hill Books, Clapham Books and Amazon, via and

Alice - Dulwich is indeed a place of inestimable history and for many residents it was mostly a happy one. However, there was one poor guy who loved living there...but... (it's easy to google his story.) excuse is that I've been fascinated recently by all sorts of historical engravings. 

Thank you for popping in today, Alice. I do have The Girl in the Gallery in my Kindle queue and I'm truly looking forward to reading it.  It's looking like I'll have to get my skates on (or maybe a new pair of reading glasses and more hours in the day) if number 3 is in the offing. Best wishes with your future writing. 


1 comment:

  1. Hi Nancy, thanks so much for having me here today and I absolutely love that engraving! I'd read about poor old Matthew the hermit before but the illustration definitely adds an extra frisson to the tale :)


Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)