Why Mysteries? Why Winchester? And why, for that matter, a blog at all?
I love mystery stories. I also love history and historical novels, so it’s no surprise I now write Victorian mysteries. Why Winchester? It’s a lovely place, the ancient capital of King Alfred’s Wessex – it’s a perfect setting for my books.
I love mystery novels, the cosier the better. I practically cut my teeth on Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver stories, fell headlong in love with Albert Campion, Margery Allingham’s enigmatic sleuth, and – after a long courtship – took to Lord Peter Wimsey in a big way. Along the way I’ve been on nodding acquaintance with M Poirot and admired Miss Marple and a host of others, including Brother Cadfael, Deaconess Theodora Braithwaite (D M Greenwood’s clerical sleuth), and Ruth Dudley Edwards’ uproarious Baroness Jack Troutbeck.
If there’s a lot of history in a book or it’s set in a time gone by, I’ll give it a go, which is how I came to love and collect the Falco books by Lindsey Davis. If it’s also funny, that’s even better – take a bow one of my all-time most loved authors, Charlotte Macleod, author of the Professor Shandy mysteries, and the Sarah Kelling Boston stories.
Given the above, it’s no wonder that I took to writing cosy mysteries of my own, and that – so far – two of my published novels are set in mid-Victorian England. My leading lady, Charlotte Richmond, arrives in Hampshire in 1858, in ‘Murder Most Welcome’ (pub.Robert Hale Ltd) and continues her adventures in ‘Death is the Cure’. Readers have been kind enough to find Charlotte amusing, so I’m hoping to write more about her.
Why Winchester? It’s a lovely place, the ancient capital of King Alfred’s Wessex and the place where poor, doomed Prince Arthur was born to Henry VII and his Plantagenet bride, Elizabeth. Winchester is the home of the famous Round Table and the Hospital of St Cross which inspired Anthony Trollope to write ‘The Warden’, while Winchester Cathedral is at the heart of the city and numbers many famous ‘inmates’, notably St Swithin and Jane Austen; it also has a walk-on part in my novel, ‘Murder Fortissimo’.
I live about five miles outside the city and count myself fortunate to be able to potter round the ancient streets as Jane did, and John Keats, musing about autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness, let alone Trollope and the weather-wise saint. Alfred the Great has a statue here and later the famous and fearsome Henry of Blois, prince bishop and grandson of William the Conqueror, ruled the city. With all this history on my doorstep, setting my novels in and near Winchester seemed the most sensible thing to do.
My most recent mystery, ‘Murder Fortissimo’, is a contemporary novel: still cosy, still cheerful, still set not far from Winchester and again, the Cathedral itself has a part to play. And this brings me to the third Why at the beginning of this post. Why a blog? I’m slow to adapt to new technology but with the publication in paperback of ‘Murder Fortissimo’ by Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Library, I’m hoping to reach even more readers who love Cosy Mysteries as much as I do.