Eastbourne writer offers classic whodunnit with a modern twist

Eastbourne crime writer Shelia Bugler sets out to write a classic whodunnit with a modern twist with her latest book The Lucky Eight.

Sheila Bugler author photo (credit Justin Griffiths-Williams)
Sheila Bugler author photo (credit Justin Griffiths-Williams)

Five years ago, a horrific airline disaster made headlines around the world. On the anniversary of the fatal crash, a number of those who were spared gather to mark the occasion. But by morning, Nick Gilbert, a celebrity chef and one of the party, lies dead.

Detective Rachel Lewis leads the investigation, but within days another survivor is stabbed to death. It seems certain that a killer is targeting the lucky eight.

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Clodagh Kinsella recovered from the injuries she sustained in the crash, but lost her sister that day. The bereavement shared by Clodagh and her sister’s husband led them to a romance of their own.

Yet lately, Clodagh knows something isn’t right. As the noose tightens on the group and Rachel comes across more questions than answers, it’s only a matter of time before Clodagh will have to face the consequences of a mistake she made before the plane went down…

Sheila, who grew up in a small town in the west of Ireland, said: “I have wanted to write for years about a group of people that have survived a plane crash. What really interested me is the bond that would be formed by these people that have survived such a traumatic event, and that is what I wanted to explore. Through that I started to read a lot about PTSD and associated conditions and discovered that particularly with plane crashes, there is also a thing called post-traumatic growth; some people that survive plane crashes turn their lives around and become very successful. But obviously I couldn’t have all my characters doing that, so it is a mix. Also I grew up reading Agatha Christie and I really wanted to write a book that was a bit more a classic whodunnit.

"I thought about setting it during lockdown and having them in a hotel but in the end I just didn’t feel that that was realistic enough. There have been quite a lot of novels set on remote islands and so I felt that that too had already been done. I just wanted to write a modern twist on a classic whodunnit, set in a modern setting with lots of contemporary references. The other thing is that with a classic whodunnit, you have got a dual narrative, the narrative that the reader sees that tells the stuff that is happening, but also the narrative that goes on underneath. I wanted a plot that was full of twists and turns but twists and turns that the readers could have seen. I didn’t want a big twist just for the sake of it.

“I tried to set it in Ireland and then I tried to set it in London, but London didn’t work. London was too big, and so, I don’t know why, I just couldn’t really break away from Sussex. The first crime happens in Seaford and most of the rest of the novel takes place around Brighton and Worthing.” And she names the locations with their real names: “Location is important in detective fiction. Some writers write about fictional towns, and I just think why? Why don’t you use a real place?”

Sheila moved to Eastbourne in 2013, the same year her first (of seven now) novels was published: “I grew up in the west of Ireland by the sea and we were living in London. I wanted my children to have my teenage experience of living by the sea, and Eastbourne was one of the few places that was commutable to London. We love it here.”