I am really pleased to be part of today’s stop on the blog tour, along with eBook Addicts, for Alice Castle’s book, Death in Dulwich.
Thirty-something single mum, Beth Haldane, has her hands full – with a bouncy young son, a haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own, and bills to pay. She loves her little home in plush London suburb Dulwich, but life here doesn’t come cheap.
She is thrilled to land the post of archivist at top local school, Wyatt’s, though she secretly fears she’s not up to the job. But even Beth couldn’t have imagined how badly things could go, until she discovers a hideous crime and finds herself prime suspect.
Setting out to clear her name, Beth encounters a cast of characters who will follow her through the London Murder Mystery series, proving along the way that the nicest places can hide the nastiest secrets.
Death in Dulwich – #1 in the London Murder Mystery series.
She said a few hellos and fobbed off well-meant enquiries about half term – no, they hadn’t spent it whizzing down a Swiss mountain, like everyone else – when, with relief, she saw her friend Katie waving. Katie was normal. Yes, she did have a lovely husband with a good job (Michael was something important in publishing), and she did only work part-time, but she was passionate about her job as a yoga teacher. She also managed not to nag Beth about her own lack of fitness regime, and she had a lovely normal son, too, who was Ben’s greatest friend. The two women kissed on both cheeks – the basic Dulwich ‘hello’ after any school break – and Beth said quickly, ‘I’d love to catch up but I’ve got to dash…’ ‘I know, I know, first day today. Just wanted to give you this.’ Katie pressed a bulky envelope into Beth’s hand. ‘Now off you go, knock ’em dead. Oh, wait, seen Belinda?’ she nudged, looking over to where a tall woman was holding court with the largest group of mummies. The spring sunshine glinted off perfectly tousled blonde hair and the equally shiny metal clasps of a new handbag, the size of a well-fed toddler. Beth raised her eyebrows at Katie. That bag must have cost more than her monthly mortgage payment. Which was looming. All that was going to get a lot easier, thought Beth as she hurried away from the school, crossing the road at the traffic lights, saying a brief ‘hi’ to a couple of mothers running late, kids straggling behind them like reluctant ducklings. She picked up her pace down Calton Avenue. Normally, she’d admire the pocket handkerchief gardens she passed, but today her thoughts ran in only one direction. Against stiff competition, and much to her surprise, she’d landed the job as assistant archivist at Wyatt’s – in her view, definitely the best school in the area, though the dinner parties of Dulwich chewed this topic over endlessly. The job wasn’t going to solve all her money woes at one stroke, but it was certainly going to help. And what’s more, she loved Wyatt’s and was hoping that Ben might somehow squeak in; she then might possibly be able to scrape together the fees, when he had to leave the Village Primary. He was now in Year Five, the calm before the storm. Year Six was action stations. As soon as the school year started in September, parents all over the UK performed dare-devil contortions to get their children into the secondary school of their choice, fighting catchment areas, dwindling places, and each other. It was life or death stuff, nowhere more so than Dulwich, where there were a huge number of high-achieving, determined parents – each one with a uniquely talented and very precious child – all jostling for a tiny clutch of places in the prestigious Dulwich Endowment Schools. Beth hated the thought of what was to come. But, like any hapless conscript, she was in the thick of it whether she liked it or not. Wyatt’s was the boys’ Endowment school, set in magnificent grounds sprawling alongside London’s south circular road and dating from the sixteen-somethings. The College School was its counterpart – an offshoot of the original foundation, set up 250 years or so later with the newfangled idea of educating girls. The grounds were less impressive, the buildings not nearly as lavish – but the results were terrifyingly good. Both schools were riding high in the school league tables, and together they were the main reason why Dulwich was such a sought-after area. Houses never, ever changed hands here for less than a million. No wonder the local garage only sold Audis. Beth often thought that buccaneering Thomas Wyatt, the schools’ founder, would have thoroughly approved of the affluence of his old stamping ground. In his youth, this Flash Harry made glittering fortunes overseas; his interest in children was apparently confined to fathering, rather than educating, them. But he had returned to his beloved Dulwich just in time to expire, and left the lavish pot of money which allowed the two schools to flourish to this day. Fortunately for Beth. The gates of Wyatt’s said everything they needed to about money, privilege, aspirations, and even education, in squiggly wrought iron, held aloft by immense red brick pilasters. Beth took a breath to steady herself before going in. Groups of boys rushed past her, shining with intelligence, youth, confidence, and the odd pimple. They reminded her of racehorses waiting for the off at the Grand National. She had never felt more of a Shetland pony, dusty after her walk and knee-high to these thoroughbreds, but she dismissed the self-doubt briskly. Yes, she did have a place here, and a very necessary job to do.
Alice Castle lives in South London with her two children, two stepchildren, two cats and her husband. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for eight years. Her first novel, Hot Chocolate, sold out in two weeks and her second, Death in Dulwich, is to be published in September 2017 as the first in the London Murder Mystery series.