#SIMTalksWithMiriam

Last year Alice Castle brought her character, Belinda MacKenzie to Letters from Elsewhere. Today, she’s back to talk about… let’s see…

AliceCastle1It’s such a pleasure to be here on Miriam’s blog today. I was really pleased when she asked me to contribute a post. I was offered the choice of Israel, Misunderstandings or Social Anxiety. As I’ve never been to Israel and I always try to avoid misunderstandings, I’m going to talk about the main character in my London Murder Mystery series, Beth Haldane.

Beth is a single mother in her mid-thirties, with a bad habit of stumbling across corpses. She also suffers from a crippling variety of social anxieties. Indeed, she barely gets through a scene in any of the five books I’ve written so far without hiding behind her fringe, blushing, stuttering or prevaricating in some way. She has the sort of nerves that all of us get, from time to time – except that she seems to suffer from them constantly.

As you’ll have gathered, Beth is a bit of a fish out of water. This is particularly true in Dulwich, the posh suburb of south London where I’ve set most of the action in my books. The other mums she meets at the school gates are mainly of the ‘yummy’ variety – they have tiny jobs, big handbags, cars the size of tanks and spend their days ferrying their children to afterschool activities like ballet and extra maths classes, meeting up with friends to moan about their au pairs. It’s a highly competitive, highly polished world, where appearances mean everything.

Death in Dulwich by Alice CastleBeth, on the other hand, has bills to pay, deadlines to meet and, until sudden death throws her together with a certain tall, handsome policeman, in the shape of Detective Inspector Harry York, she is struggling with it all alone, following the death of her husband. She, unlike many of her contemporaries, has real worries. Her anxieties are not just social, she has trouble making ends meet.

Beth also feels insecure. Over the course of the series of books, we find out more about why this might be so. But, from the start, we are aware that in a world of sleek, Amazonian women who spend plenty of time in the local beauty parlours, Beth stands out, for all the wrong reasons. She is short, scruffy, poor and earnest. And she cares, very much, about abstract concepts like justice, right and wrong, that seem to pass many of the other residents of Dulwich by.

When I was thinking of what type of heroine I’d like at the heart of my mysteries, I considered many different foibles – amateur sleuths always seem to have them. Miss Marple disguises her forensic intelligence behind that harmless-old-lady facade, Hercule Poirot has his little grey cells. I wanted my character to be an underdog, so that we would root for her against the well-heeled, smug types she comes across, but at the same time I didn’t want her to be a spineless jelly, jumping at her own shadow.

Well, I needn’t have worried. Beth popped into my mind whole, and has been wreaking havoc in Dulwich and the surrounding area ever since. She is a mass of contradictions, cripplingly shy yet daring when she has to be, kind to a fault but also able to give as good as she gets against those bullying playground mums. She prevaricates endlessly, yet has a passion for sorting things out. And she worries, constantly. But at heart she always knows what must be done, in the interests of justice, to ensure that Dulwich remains a safe place for her boy – and for us all.

Alice Castle's London Murder Mystery Series

Beth sounds like the kind of woman I’d like to meet. But I’d keep away from those corpses! Thank you so much for telling us about her, Alice.

Death in Dulwich has just been released as an audiobook and is available here.

Death in Dulwich, The Girl in the Gallery, Calamity in Camberwell, Homicide in Herne Hill and Revenge on the Rye are available from Amazon here, if you’re in the UK. Otherwise, search for ‘Alice Castle’ on your Amazon.

Read Alice Castle’s blog here or here.

Say hello to Alice on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Letters from Elsewhere

A rather scary-looking person has just joined me here. She’s called Belinda MacKenzie and she’s brought her letter to heroine Beth Haldane – heroine, that is, of Alice Castle’s series of crime novels. Let’s see what Belinda wants to say to Beth.

Dear Beth,

I can’t believe I’m having to write to you. I’d like to say that you’re beneath my notice. The truth is that you always have been, up until recently, and not just because you’re such a titch. Honestly, I’m the last person in the world to make personal comments, but don’t you think a simple pair of heels would help? But no, it’s flats. Every. Single. Day. And the way you dress, in those drab colours, anyone would think that you want to be ignored. Well, I’ve always tried to oblige you on that front. But, when there was all that business over at Wyatt’s, somehow there you were, in the thick of it. It’s the best school in Dulwich, so what they were doing employing someone like you, I can’t imagine. But I suppose the archive office is the sort of dusty place you thought you could hide away in.

Somehow, and don’t ask me how you managed it, you got yourself into the middle of quite a nasty business, and almost ruined the reputation of Wyatt’s into the bargain. Luckily, the headmaster, Dr Grover, managed to sort all that out. I’d hate there to be a stain on the place’s reputation, as my two boys, Billy and Bobby, are bound to be going there – did I mention it’s the best school in Dulwich?

And then, I couldn’t believe it but there you were, somehow, in the thick of the next awful scandal to hit Dulwich. Well, the Picture Gallery is just the sort of place that someone like you would poke around in. But those poor teenage girls. Well, they’d gone off the rails. Not like my own daughter, Allegra. What? No, I don’t know what she’s up to every minute of the day, she’s in such demand, like her mother, some people might say. When you’re popular, you have to spread yourself thinly. Not that you’d know that. But, even though she’s out a lot, I know I can absolutely trust her, one hundred per cent. And if her clothes sometimes smell of cigarettes, well, some of her friends will experiment. Same goes for alcohol. She tells me that some girls are knocking back the booze, but my Leggy? Oh no. I don’t have any worries at all on that score.

I’m wondering how we’ll get on, Beth, now that our sons are sharing a tutor as the Wyatt’s entrance exam approaches. Well, my boys don’t really need it, but I decided to be kind to you when someone else dropped out. As you’d know, if you’d ever put any effort into your boy’s schooling, it’s not easy to get an appointment with the best exam coaches. And, let’s face it, your kid needs all the help he can get. But he’s no competition to my two, so that’s fine.

And I’m beginning to find myself intrigued by you, I must admit. That way you have of seeming to shun the limelight, yet falling into adventure after adventure… it’s rather clever. Maybe I could pick up a tip or two from you. In any case, I’ll be watching you closely in future. Oh yes, Beth Haldane. I’ve got my eye on you.

With warmest wishes,
Belinda

Ahem. I’m glad I’ve never had to deal with anyone like Belinda.

Apparently, Belinda MacKenzie is the terrifying Queen Bee of the Village Primary School playground and nemesis of single mum amateur sleuth Beth Haldane. Beth, star of cosy crime whodunits Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery, stumbles on a murder on her first day at work and has to clear her name.

About Death in Dulwich

Alice Castle - Death in DulwichAlready described by reviewers as ‘murderously good fun’ (author TP Fielden), a ‘keenly observed page turner … highly recommended’ (Amazon) and ‘well-written, engaging and fun,’ (author Jo Blakeley), Death in Dulwich is the story of thirty-something widow Beth Haldane.

Beth 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 ….

Buy Death in Dulwich here.

About The Girl in the Gallery

Alice CastleTheGirl In The GalleryJust when you thought it was safe to go back to Dulwich…

It’s a perfect summer’s morning in the plush south London suburb, and thirty-something Beth Haldane has sneaked off to visit one of her favourite places, the world-famous Picture Gallery.

She’s enjoying a few moments’ respite from juggling her job at prestigious private school Wyatt’s and her role as single mum to little boy Ben, when she stumbles across a shocking new exhibit on display. Before she knows it, she’s in the thick of a fresh, and deeply chilling, investigation.

Who is The Girl in the Gallery? Join Beth in adventure #2 of the London Murder Mystery series as she tries to discover the truth about a secret eating away at the very heart of Dulwich.

Buy The Girl in the Gallery here.

About Alice Castle

AliceCastle2Before 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 best-seller which sold out in two weeks.

Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series. It will be published by Crooked Cat next year and is entitled The Calamity in Camberwell. Once again, it features Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary at www.dulwichdivorcee.com.

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

Links to Alice:

Author website            Facebook page            Twitter

Today is launch day for the second of Alice Castle’s novels featuring amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane. Here to tell us more about it is the author herself. Over to you, Alice!

Alice CastleTheGirl In The GalleryThanks so much to Miriam for hosting me today. It’s a great pleasure to tell you a little about my book, The Girl in the Gallery. It’s a cozy crime whodunit, the second in my London Murder Mysteries series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel too.

The story is inspired by Dulwich Picture Gallery, a wonderful place which is stuffed with great art. It’s not the paintings that gave me the idea for the story, though, but the building itself, which is very unusual. At its heart is a mausoleum, containing the dead bodies of the original collectors in marble coffins, on display to the public. Weird and very creepy. I have always thought it would be a brilliant setting for a murder mystery.

 It was a great pleasure doing the research for the book. As well as going to lots of exhibitions, I read up on the life and times of Sir John Soane, the architect –  and had plenty of lunches in the Gallery’s restaurant as well.

The book features my single mum amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane, who’s already been called a ‘modern Miss Marple.’ I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan so I loved this description. One of the reasons I decided to set my series in Dulwich was because, to me, it feels like a contemporary equivalent of St Mary Mead (Miss Marple’s village) in that everyone knows each other – or thinks they do. But the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places, as Beth discovers.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the book.

The Girl in the Gallery by Alice Castle

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Dulwich…

It’s a perfect summer’s morning in the plush south London suburb, and thirty-something Beth Haldane has sneaked off to visit one of her favourite places, the world-famous Picture Gallery.

She’s enjoying a few moments’ respite from juggling her job at prestigious private school Wyatt’s and her role as single mum to little boy Ben, when she stumbles across a shocking new exhibit on display. Before she knows it, she’s in the thick of a fresh, and deeply chilling, investigation.

Who is The Girl in the Gallery? Join Beth in adventure #2 of the London Murder Mystery series as she tries to discover the truth about a secret eating away at the very heart of Dulwich.

About Alice

AliceCastle1Before 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 best-seller which sold out in two weeks.

Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series. It will be published next year and is entitled The Calamity in Camberwell. Once again, it features Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary at www.dulwichdivorcee.com.

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

Author website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: The Girl in the Gallery  Death in Dulwich, Hot Chocolate