The Bookshop Murder offers “cosy crime” set in Sussex

Merryn Allingham’s latest novel The Bookshop Murder comes inspired by her local bookshop. Much Ado Books in Alfriston, just a few miles from where the author lives.

Merryn Allingham
Merryn Allingham

Keeping with a Shakespeare title, Merryn has given her own fictional bookshop the name All’s Well.

The Bookshop Murder has been published by Bookouture and is available from Amazon, Kobo, Nook etc.

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Merryn explains: “I’d been writing a crime series set in the 1950s with my protagonists finding danger and death all round the world, but in lockdown I felt the need to read something gentler, something based closer to home.

“One of the books I chose was labelled a cosy crime and I enjoyed it so much that I went on to read several more in the genre. It made me keen to write my own—a cosy crime series based in the 1950s, an era that fascinates me—and in Sussex. I’m hoping that what I found interesting will appeal to many others in this beautiful part of the world.

“I’m not quite sure why I chose to set the first murder in a bookshop, but when I did I had Much Ado, the wonderful shop in Alfriston, in the back of my mind.

“My fictional village is actually in West Sussex and my description of the All’s Well – yes, even the title was influenced by the shop – is a little different from Much Ado, though it owes much of its quirkiness to the place.

“Having chosen a bookshop as my murder scene, Flora, the young bookshop owner became one of my amateur sleuths and Jack, a reclusive local crime writer, the other. As I got to know them both, theirs turned out to be a sparky relationship but one that worked.

“The Bookshop Murder is the first in the Flora Steele Mysteries. The second book is already on its way, entitled Murder on the Pier.

“I have written in a variety of genres but always historical fiction. Bringing the past to life has been a passion for me in whatever genre I’ve written, and over the years I’ve moved between Regency romance, Victorian timeslips and wartime sagas, all of which had a mystery at their heart. It was only a matter of time, I guess, before I went over to the dark side completely first with The Tremayne Mysteries series that has my sleuths travelling the world, then with this cosy crime series set in rural Sussex.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems and at grammar school there were short stories that I never dared mention. Creative writing was definitely not encouraged!

“And I kept on writing through the years, but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. I had some success with a few short stories, but the genre never felt quite right for me. When work pressures eased and my children left the nest, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel.

“It had to be popular fiction, I was quite definite about that, but I hadn’t a clue how to begin. For the last 30 years my background had been academic research and teaching. Then one morning, I woke up and the idea was there. I would start where I felt most comfortable—in the Regency with a book along the lines of Georgette Heyer, whom I’d read and reread a hundred times since my teenage years. I was fortunate to have my first book accepted and wrote several more Regencies before feeling I needed to move on, experiment on a larger canvas and add mystery to the history and romance. Several Victorian/Edwardian timeslips followed, then a mystery/saga series set in the Second World War and, finally, as the books gradually grew darker, it was only a small step into the world of crime.”