My Favourite Things

(Chatting to Annette of Sincerely Book Angels blog – the place to find excellent reviews of books people like to read! Find her here: http://sincerelybookangels.blogspot.co.uk/)

Food Savoury and sweet:
I like a proper roast beef dinner with all the works and one of the few puddings that never lets me down is a pavlova. Even if it collapses you can just pile cream and fruit on top and hide the mistakes!

Drink

I drink gallons of tea but it has to be ‘proper’ English tea, not fruit or herbal or Earl Grey. And not what my Granny called ‘shamrock tea’ ie made with only three leaves¬

Film

Roman Holiday because I saw it with my mum when I was quite young and Sense & Sensibility (the Emma Thompson one) because it’s pretty well perfect. And it has Alan Rickman – can’t ask for more!

Book

A very old one, ‘Pillars of the House’ by Charlotte M Yonge, published in 1873. I was brought up on her books and I love them and when we moved to Hampshire I was thrilled to discover that she lived all her life about three miles down the road from me.

Author

That’s a hard question, I have dozens. Charlotte Yonge, as above, and Angela Thirkell. Newest best author is Jodi Taylor whose ‘Chronicles of St Mary’s’ series is right up there too.

Character

Too hard! Felix Underwood from the Yonge book and Mr Markham from Jodi Taylor’s books

Song

When the Carnival is Over by The Seekers

Holiday destination

Years ago we had a few days’ stopover in Fiji. It was magical and we did a short cruise round the islands. There was white sand, a coral reef, blue sky and a turquoise sea and I remember thinking that at that moment I was completely happy.

Animal

Cats. We’re between cats at the moment.

Person

I’d probably better say it’s my husband!

Place to write

In my untidy study
Season

I love to be warm but I have a Christmas Eve birthday and there’s something about winter and all that anticipation.

Tradition

Still with the Christmas theme, we always have a Chinese takeaway here in the early evening of Christmas Eve, for the whole family

Inspirational quote

I’m not sure I have one but when it comes to romance I quite like quoting my late mother’s slightly cynical: ‘Don’t waste time looking for a knight in shining armour, find one whose armour isn’t too rusty, and polish him up to suit.’

Thing in the whole world

Has to be my family, of course, but also history and all things historical.
Thanks to Annette and her Book Angels for a chance to work out what actually are my favourite things!  http://sincerelybookangels.blogspot.co.uk/
In other news – I’m getting over my accident pretty well, thanks for all the concern. And the paperback of The Art of Murder will be out soon – I’ll blog about it, of course!

A FREE BOOK – DOWNLOAD IT TODAY!

I thought the paperback edition of The Art of Murder would be the next excitement but I was wrong. My new publisher, Endeavour Press, has it on offer as a FREEBIE from first thing today, Monday, 24th to Friday, 29th October. Bargain!the-art-of-murder

I’m not used to this, my previous publisher didn’t go in for this kind of thing and when the first book Scuba Dancing came out eBooks hadn’t arrived so you didn’t get free promotions. It’s all new and slightly terrifying, so much so that Liv (younger daughter) has now set me up on Twitter @nicolasladeuk and I have practically no idea what to do with it. Time will tell.

Anyway, the publisher has asked that I plug the free download all over social media so I’m doing my best, even though – as a nicely brought-up Englishwoman of a certain age I’m cringing to think of shouting: Download my Book. Now! (The saving grace is that as it’s a freebie it’s not actually touting for a sale, so slightly less pushy.)

The book features a couple of Winchester’s most historic places. This is Wolvesey Castle, photo from English Heritage’s website. A fascinating place, much loved by Harriet!

WOLVESEY: OLD BISHOPS PALACE Aerial view 26506_021

WOLVESEY: OLD BISHOPS PALACE Aerial view 26506_021

The other place that gets a mention – and a visit by Harriet and Sam – is the tiny church of St. Swithun-upon-Kingsgate. Not to be missed on a visit to Winchester.stswithuns

Do download the book while it’s free (24th-29th October) and if you like it, please tell your friends and maybe add a review to the lovely ones it’s collecting so far:

‘I spent a pleasant rainy Sunday morning in bed being chilled by the absolutely nasty – and yet so realistic – village characters Ms Slade populates her books with. Cousins Harriet and Sam are delightful amateur sleuths, however, the well drawn characters who share a weekend art school with them are not so nice. Secrets and motives abound and I didn’t figure out “whodunit” before the denouement. If you enjoy classic British crime fiction the Harriet Quigley books will be sure to provide you with an enjoyable read.’

‘If you love a good murder mystery with an Agatha Christie feel, you’ll love this book.’

 ‘If you like the type of mystery that has a group that come together at a venue, including a killer and lots of suspects, you will enjoy this book. It is a cosy mystery, but not silly with it. I did enjoy it, and read it through quickly as I really wanted to see what was happening. It was a little different and the characters certainly made you feel some emotion.’ 

 ‘I’ve always loved this style of writing. Fast flowing with many different characters. Each one with a different tale to add to the growing mystery. If you are like minded with a need to be creative you may think twice about joining an art group, after reading this brilliant book. It is one thing to wield a paint brush, while being creative on an art weekend, but to be plotting murder, well that’s a masterpiece.’

‘Having read the previous Harriet Quigley Mystery, I had high expectations of this novel. All I can say is that they were surpassed, I love the characters of Harriet and Sam, they work well together and have a believable, non-romantic, relationship. Drawn into the story and wanting to know ‘whodunit’ I read this in one sitting – which meant I didn’t put the book down until the early morning! Still my lack sleep was well worth it and I cannot recommend this author highly enough.’

In other news, I’m recovering from the accident I described in my last post. Walking without crutches unless I’m out somewhere crowded, in which case I like to have a crutch handy – it makes people give me a wide berth and hopefully they won’t knock me over! The concussion is a lot better and I’m reading again, which is a relief!a 

Whoops!

The Art of Murder had only been out for a couple of weeks, and I was gearing up to do more promotion, when I managed to fall off a patio and end up in hospital for ten days with concussion and an emergency hip replacement (of what had been a perfectly good hip!) people-on-crutches-clipart-walking-crutches-vector-yh9hzq-clipart

(That’s a free clip art picture – it says! hope that’s right)

Scroll forward a couple of weeks and I’m coming along, walking – mostly with crutches but sometimes without (if there’s someone nearby for reassurance). The bang on the head seems ok and the hospital let me out after daily ‘obs’ so they were happy. It’s just slowly, slowly, from now on for a couple of months.

While in hospital I had family and friends a bit worried because not only was I refusing chocolate (!) but I couldn’t be bothered to read. Both serious symptoms in my case. What I didn’t realise was that the concussion was playing tricks and yes, the hospital food wasn’t brilliant, but it probably wasn’t dowsed in sugar as I insisted it was. Not sure how that explains turning my nose up at chocolate though!

After a week I began to think I might feel like reading and felt a slight tingle – bit like Matthew in Downton Abbey when he realised his paralysis wasn’t permanent. My tingle led me to reread The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelley which was as lovely as I remembered. After that I reread the final Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, and now I’m pottering happily along, rereading old friends, though not tackling anything new.

I need to get back to promoting The Art of Murder soon and will be looking for any blogger who loves English cosy mysteries and who might like to read mine – set in Winchester and with lots of history and a few messy, murderous bits!

The paperback will be the next excitement and then I hope I’ll be back to normal.

If anyone reads Harriet Quigley’s third adventure and fancies putting a review up on Amazon, that would be lovely – but I really just hope people will enjoy it.  Had some nice reviews so far, including this short and sweet one: If you love a good murder mystery with an Agatha Christie feel, you’ll love this book.’the-art-of-murder

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Murder-Harriet-Quigley-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LZ4I4PB?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

 

THE ART OF MURDER

the-art-of-murderFinally, after my previous publisher ceased trading, here we are again and this time with Endeavour Press. The Art of Murder is the third book to feature retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her faithful, if long-suffering, clergyman cousin, Sam Hathaway. Set in Hampshire, as are all my books, this rather messy murder takes place in the heart of the city of Winchester and there’s plenty of local history and nods to real historic sites.

‘A weekend art course at an upmarket B&B near Winchester’s historic cathedral is bound to be relaxing and fun… 

But not when man-crazy Linzi Bray, Chairman of the local art group, is in charge and the house is full of people who loathe her.
Accidents start to happen – in a ruined castle, in a fast-flowing river, in a peaceful garden.
There’s a stalker – or is there?
And there are far too many dead insects, as well as a vandalised Porsche and a pond full of blood.

It’s not the first time former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her cousin, the Reverend Sam Hathaway, have been embroiled in a mystery, but this time they’re baffled at the “spiteful game” that seems to be being played.

And then somebody else dies and the games all stop.’

‘The Art of Murder is perfect for avid crime mystery fans – with festering secrets, potential motives and the opportunity for sweet – or spiteful – revenge.’
It’s out as an e-book now and will be followed soon by a paperback which will be fun – haven’t had one of those for a while!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Murder-Harriet-Quigley-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LZ4I4PB

It’s only £2.99, so do try it! And if you like it, tell your friends – any Amazon reviews will be gratefully received.

 

 

Time Travelling in Winchester

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I tend to forget that the title of this blog suggests that I post an occasional bit of info about Winchester, so today’s effort is all about that ancient and beautiful city that happens, so conveniently, to be about six miles from my front door. Not only that, it’s well supplied with history, mystery, coffee shops and other delights where I can potter around and call it Research. So today I’m into architecture which, in a city that was thriving before the Romans arrived and rechristened it Venta Belgarum, it’s virtually impossible to avoid noticing.

A few weeks ago I was mooching around town when I spotted that the sky had turned black. Not in a biblical watch-out-here-comes-damnation kind of way, more of advance warning that it was going to bucket down. I wasn’t far from the Cathedral so I nipped in there and sat and read my Kindle not far from Jane Austen’s tomb. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind in the least. While in there I took a look at my favourite statue of all time, the man in the crypt (Sound II) by Anthony Gormley (pic). You weren’t allowed in though for once the floor was completely dry, but you could stand and stare, which I do – frequently. It’s a fabulous piece of work and never more so than when the crypt floods and the statue is up to its knees in water.Sound_II_revisited

After dropping into the Venerable Chapel and rather cold-bloodedly sitting in the exact spot where I murdered someone in ‘A Crowded Coffin’, I realised the rain had stopped so I went off in search of more history. Not hard to find but a favourite of mine is the interior of what used to be an antiquarian bookshop, Gilbert’s. The interesting feature here is the C15 framed interior – 15C interior gilbertsbookshop(This is an old picture from the Web, I’m rubbish at photography). Sadly, the books are long gone and it’s now an upmarket furniture and homewares emporium.

Now I was on a mission (I don’t get out much) and it was lunchtime so I ambled into Godbegot House (nothing to do with God, it means ‘good bargain’) . It’s now an Ask Pizza place and I don’t like pizza but for the sake of geekiness I had a cheesy mushroom starter.Photo and info can be found here: http://www.cityofwinchester.co.uk/history/html/god_begot.htmlGodBegot2

I finished the week of architectural wanderings by taking the Resident Engineer out to lunch on his birthday at The Chesil Rectory, which claims to be the oldest building in Winchester. Lunch was fabulous and as the loos are upstairs I was able to snoop around up there to my heart’s content. Info and photo here: http://www.chesilrectory.co.uk/about-us/the-building/chesilrectory

I’ve now started to look more closely at the buildings and it’s clear that if you scratch any red-brick façade you’ll find a mediaeval gem behind it, so if anyone’s interested in Winchester, this is an informative site: http://www.cityofwinchestertrust.co.uk/trust/pubsquare/desc1.shtml

Other news, ‘Murder Most Welcome’, my first Charlotte Richmond Victorian mystery seems to be available as an e-book at only £1.79 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Most-Welcome-Nicola-Slade-ebook/dp/B00CCTWQXQ/ref=la_B0034Q1G8W_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412275207&sr=1- This is the book that a reviewer described as ‘one of the most entertaining novels I’ve ever read…’  The second and third books in the series, ‘Death is the Cure’ and ‘The Dead Queen’s Garden’ are also at a lower price.  (NB if anyone has read and enjoyed my books I’d be hugely grateful for an Amazon review or two – they do matter. Mind you, I’d rather not have anything under 3 stars!)

And you might notice I’ve changed my profile picture. This is a rare one in which I don’t look as though I’m about to bite, or as though a cobra has reared up in front of me. The reason for the cheerful grin is that it was taken at a posh champagne reception and I was feeling no pain!

Heroes: Part deux (or possibly Trois)

sheriff-of-nottingham-the-sheriff-of-nottingham-25662758-462-260

(We’ll get to Alan Rickman later on…he is relevant, I promise…)

 Somewhere in the annals of this mixture of history, mystery and blatant self-promotion is a post about a hero – Captain Lawrence Oates, to be precise. I’d link to it but I still haven’t worked out how to do that. Elsewhere there’s a post about an early crush of mine, Marcus Aquila, hero of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s iconic novel, The Eagle of the Ninth.

I meant to write about more of my fictional and historical heroes and was all set to do a post about the most important one of all, when blow me down! They went and dug him up! Yup, along with hundreds of thousands of other people who read Josephine Tey’s (also iconic) detective story, The Daughter of Time, I fell in love with Richard III and have never been persuaded that he killed the princes. Don’t get me wrong, he was a general at the age of eighteen and I’m sure he killed lots of people, it was a bloodthirsty time, but Tey’s argument is that Richard was a sensible and practical man and that killing the boys would be contrary to his character – and not at all sensible.

 Anyhoo, I’m not here today to witter on about Richard, I have his picture on my landing and it’s been there for more than thirty years, so he knows whose side I’m on. No, today I’m going to write about a man who has been on the periphery of my hero worship, so to speak, for a long while and it’s time I took a look at him properly.

 I’m talking about Henry of Blois. There, you knew that, didn’t you? No, I hadn’t heard of him either until I began to read Ellis Peter’s famous series about Brother Cadfael, which is set in the English Civil War (that’s the first one; we’ve had two officially and lots more equally bloody ones that didn’t qualify for the official title).

 The thing about the Cadfael books is that they’re set in the 1130s-40s which is The Anarchy, so-called, ‘when God and His Saints slept’ and the Civil War raged across the land. Here’s the potted history: The problem was that when William the Conqueror’s son King Henry I died, his only heir was his daughter Matilda (sometimes known as Maud). Shock! Horror! A woman couldn’t possibly rule England, especially as it was less than seventy years since the Battle of Hastings and although the Normans had a firm grip on the country, it could still all go pear-shaped. And everyone knew women’s brains would boil if they had to think about anything serious. Step forward Stephen of Blois, nephew to King Henry, handsome hunk, all round good egg, and – most importantly – a chap. And right behind him was his younger brother Henry, the subject of this post. Henry of Blois, the Prince Bishop of Winchester, grandson of the Conqueror as was his brother the new king, and I suspect the one who inherited his grandpapa’s brains.

 Now, I wouldn’t want you to think I know anything at all about this, by the way, it’s all gleaned from the Cadfael books and Wikipedia, but all the evidence shows that Henry was intelligent, cunning and political – for a start he survived until he was in his early seventies, which was no mean feat in those days. This is what Wikipedia says about him: As Papal Legate (and Bishop of Winchester), Henry of Blois was the most powerful, and possibly the wealthiest, man in England when his brother was unavailable.Before and after his elevation to Bishop, Henry of Blois was an advisor to his brother Stephen and survived him. He engineered hundreds of projects, including villages and canals, abbeys and smaller churches. He was most proud of his contributions to the greatest developments at Glastonbury Abbey long before the destructive fire of 1185. Unlike most bishops of his age, Henry had a passion for architecture. He built the final additions to Winchester Cathedral and Wolvesey Castle in Winchester, including a tourist tunnel under the cathedral to make it easier for pilgrims to view relics. He also designed and built additions to many palaces and large houses including the castle of Farnham, Surrey[5] and began the construction of the Hospital of St Cross at Winchester. In London he built Winchester Palace as a residence for the bishops of Winchester.

Are you keeping up? Not only was he a millionaire and a power in the land, he was a sensitive soul: Henry was also enamoured of books and their distribution. He wrote or sponsored several books including the Antiquities of Glastonbury, by William of Malmesbury, his close personal friend. He sponsored the Winchester Bible, the largest illustrated Bible ever produced. It is a huge folio edition standing nearly three feet in height. This Bible is still on display at Winchester, although it was never fully finished. His production of the Winchester Psalter, also known as the Blois Psalter, is preserved in the British Library and is considered a British National Treasure.

See? Definite hero material and modest with it, William of Malmesbury described him, saying, “Yet, in spite of his noble birth he blushes when praised.”

The reason I’m taking an interest in him is that I’ve recently had a poke around his Winchester home, Wolvesey Castle, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wolvesey-castle-old-bishops-palace/  It’s free to wander about in and is close to the Cathedral and the heart of old Winchester, definitely worth a visit.

Henry blotted his copybook by going over to the other side but took against his cousin Matilda, considering her arrogant and greedy so he switched sides again – and seems to have got away with it, which argues considerable charm and cunning! (Incidentally, Matilda was ‘allowed’ to be queen for a short time, crowned in Henry’s own cathedral of Winchester but sadly she got above herself and started behaving like a ‘She-King’! The nerve of the woman! So they did a deal so that Stephen was back on the throne but at his death the crown would pass to Matilda’s son, Henry of Anjou, who became Henry II of England – read all about him in the Ariana Franklin novels featuring her female doctor, Adelia Aguilar. And find out about Matilda in the excellent tv series, http://www.amazon.co.uk/She-Wolves-Englands-Early-Queens-DVD/dp/B008OH0OFW)

Anyway, back to Prince Henry. Being incurably frivolous and flighty I can’t help seeing him as Alan Rickman’s  wily, charming and incredibly sexy Sheriff of Nottingham to King Stephen’s blond, beefcake and slightly thick Robin Hood aka Kevin Costner. And because you can never have enough pics of Rickman in his prime, here he is again: alan rickman

And one small bit of promo – A Crowded Coffin is still on offer at the Amazon Kindle shop at the bargain price of 99p until 5th September. Tell your friends!

I’ve gone all electronic!

I’ve gone all electronic!

As of now all my books are available as ebooks. Robert Hale Ltd publish beautifully-produced hardbacks but they’re not into paperbacks so I’m delighted that my books are now available electronically as I hope to gain a whole new readership this way. Please tell your friends!

So, if you fancy a bit of holiday reading I can offer a very unusual romantic comedy or four cheerful cosy mysteries – the choice is yours!
kindlecoverScuba_PFM_5JA distinctly unusual romantic comedy: ‘Written with humour & deep sensitivity’ (Anita Burgh)

Charlotte Richmond Investigates… Victorian mysteries featuring a young widow who just can’t help stumbling over corpses.
MMWcoverfinal

‘Well-paced and witty read from start to finish, and one of the most entertaining books I have ever read.’ Karen Wintle, Historical Novel Review

DITCcoverfinal

‘Like a more modern and resourceful Lizzy Bennet, or perhaps a touch of the Heyer heroines’  Geranium Cat book blog

The Harriet Quigley Mysteries… set in historic Winchester and featuring retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley and her cousin, the Rev Sam Hathaway
MFcoverfinal_original

And finally, most exciting news of all, I’m extra delighted to learn that Harriet and Sam’s second adventure, ‘A Crowded Coffin’, has been chosen for Amazon Kindle’s Summer Special promotion – so it’s only 99p until 5th September!
ACrowdedCoffincover

I’d be enormously grateful if people would pass this on via Facebook and Twitter, etc, and I will of course do the same for other authors!

You can find out more about my tentative dip into electronic publishing in this interview on the Robert Hale blog: http://halebooks.wordpress.com/tag/nicola-slade/

Foundation Stones

 

My little shack...

My little shack…

 OK, I’m just kidding – my house is just a tad less grand than Windsor Castle, but since my last post in which I wrote about the houses that have inspired my various books, I’ve realised that I really do have a ‘thing’ about houses and that they’re fundamental to almost everything I write. 

If you nip over to my website, www.nicolaslade.com , and click on Short Stories, you’ll find three of my short stories that were originally published in the magazine, My Weekly. In each one of them you’ll find that a house is a significant factor in the story. These stories are illustrated with appropriate photographs chosen, and in some cases taken, by my best friend’s husband, the talented and very patient Keri Thomas, who designed and runs my website and who set up my blog – his fabulous photos form the banner at the top of the home page of this blog and give a real taste of Winchester.

 The first story, A Managing Woman, is about a nun at the time of the Reformation in England and the house that is built from the priory she was sent to.  The photographs accompanying the story are all taken in and around Winchester while the turreted gateway is Titchfield Abbey, once the home of Shakespeare’s Earl of Southampton. Find out about it here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/titchfield-abbey/history-and-research/

 The Tower House was one of the first stories I ever sold to My Weekly. It’s dear to me because it was that rare phenomenon, a story that wrote itself! I sat down at the computer without the germ of a story in my head and half an hour later, there it was. Magic!  The picture is one that Keri took of a local Edwardian house that I’ve always rather coveted, though I don’t envy them the frequent road accidents outside the house that regularly demolish the lamp post situated by their fence. It’s on a crossroads and my elder daughter is one of many who found herself eyeballing the lamp post after some idiot failed to notice the Halt sign and wrote off the daughter’s car (though thankfully not the daughter!)

 The third story, My Dear Miss Fairfax, is written as a series of letters and each letter is illustrated by an appropriate photograph. However, the plantation house at the end of the story is a patchwork of houses I saw in St Lucia and in South Carolina, so sadly there’s no photograph.

At the moment I’m juggling two works-in-progress and again both feature significant houses; I’m clearly a house snob!  One of them is a large Arts & Crafts house of the kind that you still find in Winchester, mostly turned into flats or guest houses these days, so I’ve been prowling around looking over fences to cherry-pick interesting features. Sadly, I plan to despoil my house by having a murder there – I’m about a third of the way through that one, so we’ll see…

The other book I’m fiddling around with is all about a house, or rather, all about the place where the present-day house now exists. The book is about the women who have lived there over the centuries and the sixteenth-century house, along with the previous dwellings on the spot, is the focal point for their stories. So far it’s historical and contemporary, but not (yet) a murder mystery, though there do seem to be quite a lot of dead people, so who knows! About a quarter of the way through though I keep divagating off to other places.

Needless to say I’m always up for a tour of a house – any house, from semi to stately and from castle to cottage. You name it, I’ll be there mentally arranging my furniture in it and – almost certainly – redecorating and changing the curtains!

 

Murder in the House!

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The Resident Engineer accuses me of watching programmes like Escape to the Country and Location, Location, Location solely so I can scream abuse at the wannabe house hunters. I admit that there’s some truth in this: you’ll get some picky woman sniffing at a fabulous house and saying, ‘it’s not to my taste’. The proper answer to this is to yell, ‘We’ve seen your house, you have no taste!’ I love the way Kirstie Allsopp tries, and so often fails, to disguise her feelings!

 However, I am genuinely interested in houses and like most women, can’t resist a chance to poke round in someone else’s, a trait shared by my female friends and family, particularly the daughters who, like Kirstie, are liable (as I am), to suggest knocking down walls at the drop of a hat. Mind you, we can do this confidently because the Resident Engineer is a whizz at d-i-y and particularly likes bashing down walls.

One of the joys of being a writer is that you can provide your characters with houses of all shapes and sizes and price range to fit any pocket. This is great for someone who was brought up in a red-brick semi; lived as a newly-wed in a terrace house near Uxbridge that had walls so thin we used to watch television with the sound down just so that we could laugh at the elderly brothers next-door as they screamed abuse at Jeux Sans Frontieres; a 60s house in Surrey, and now a relatively new house – it means I can let my imagination soar. It also means I can have ideas above my station, see my post Class and the Cozy Mystery (which you could see if I knew how to do the link!) So there are no peasant hovels in my books, just yer everyday castle or manor house – so much more spacious when it comes to murdering the unwanted guest.

My most recent mystery, A Crowded Coffin, has a house at the centre of the story and the lovely book blogger, Geranium Cat, had this to say about it: ‘Not listed in the Dramatis Personae is the Attlin family’s farmhouse, although you feel it should be there; once known as the Angel House, Locksley Farm Place dates back centuries, perhaps to a Roman villa on the same site. The author conveys the sense of the house’s age and antiquity seamlessly, as Rory learns its history and explores its nooks and crannies, and the reader is left with an impression of great solidity and warmth which permeates the whole book, transforming it from just another murder-mystery into an intimate experience.’

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe house in my book was inspired by Stokeshay Castle, near Ludlow, but along the way I vandalised it so comprehensively that there isn’t the slightest resemblance, apart perhaps from the great hall, though my version also has echoes of the Brethren’s Hall at St Cross Hospital, Winchester. This was the inspiration for Trollope’s ‘The Warden’ and a great place to visit – where else are you given free bread and ale?

 My first contemporary mystery, Murder Fortissimo, has a large Edwardian house inspired partly by a small hotel in Wales – sadly I can’t remember where it was, while Harriet’s cottage in a pretty Hampshire village could be any one of thousands round here. It’s a good job I made her comfortably off though, as house prices in this neck of the woods are terrifying.

My historical mysteries, featuring Charlotte Richmond, are set in a village just outside Winchester and the manor house she stays in when she arrives is a patchwork of real and imaginary buildings, but in the forthcoming third Charlotte book, The Dead Queen’s Garden, a neighbouring house is a late C18 mock Norman castle, definitely inspired by Penrhyn Castle in North Wales,but on a much smaller scale. (Here’s the cosy Great Hall at Penrhyn)penrhyncastlegreathall I based the garden in the title on Queen Eleanor’s Garden at Winchester Great Hall but again, I’ve altered it to suit my requirements.

I also plead guilty to strewing corpses round these stately homes, just for my own amusement… because I’m worth it! (To quote an advert that also makes me scream abuse at the television!) (I’m very intemperate, perhaps you can tell?)