Crime writers converge for Shoreham’s Fatal Shore Crime Writing Festival
Following great success in 2022, hosts Elly Griffiths and William Shaw are back with a line-up of top authors on October 14 between 10.30am-5.30pm at the Shoreham Centre. Among them will be Richard Osman, Nicci French, Kate Mosse and Lewes author Lesley Thomson.
Lesley is in print with The Mystery of Yew Tree House, published by Head of Zeus – a murder story influenced by Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, authors she loves and rereads regularly.
Lesley, aged 65, said: “The germ of this idea came from a pill box. These are redbrick structures built close to the coastline to defend Britain from Hitler’s invasion which was daily expected in early 1940. Pillboxes are a familiar sight in the Sussex countryside where I walk my dog. Thick brambles make many of them impenetrable. I did extensive research into the construction of pillboxes and explored many of the ones around where I live. Besides this, I read wartime diaries and newspapers.
"As with any novel, the ultimate purpose of extensive research is to steep myself in the atmosphere of the time. My intention was that this mystery set in a present that is rooted in the past will appeal to others as it did to me. I write what I’d liked to read, stories that recall those moments when, you’re in an old house and become suddenly aware of those who once lived there as if they have only just left the room. The starting point for this story, as with other of my stories, started with a single image. A pillbox and the two diminutive figures following a dog that is chasing a rabbit towards it. Once inside the children find the skeleton of a murder victim.”
Lesley had envisaged writing a crime novel with some Christie Golden Age themes - a country house murder, with the classic elements of a “green back Penguin, a vicar, a grumpy colonel, postmistress and the widow of a pillar of the community to show how a way of life was interrupted by war.” She did extensive research into the wartime era including reading wartime diaries, where she discovered the existence of what is often called Churchill’s Secret Army, made up of men and women who were recruited supposedly into the Home Guard, but in fact placed into a secret auxiliary unit which expected to launch attacks on the invading army.
At the end of the war, these recruits were cut loose without pensions or praise. Having signed the Official Secrets Act they could never divulge what they did.
It is this undercurrent of secrecy that forms the background to the supposedly cosy picture of a village at war in The Mystery of Yew Tree House, Lesley explains.
The book is number nine in The Detective Daughter series: “All my novels look at relationships and between parents and children, partners, families and friends. My plots explore the strong emotions that can lead to murder, treachery, revenge, fear and in this novel greed.”