Search Sue's Blog

Tuesday 19 December 2017

DULWICH DODGY DEALINGS - an interview with Alice Castle

My guest today is my dear friend and fellow-author Alice Castle, whose second novel The Girl in the Gallery is released today by Crooked Cat Books.  Alice has the same initials as the great Agatha Christie, and having read her first book (Death in Dulwich), I can assure you that the resemblance doesn't end there.

Welcome, Alice!  

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

The first novel-length book I wrote was an early attempt at a whodunit, called Buckle My Shoe, about two young mums trying to solve crimes with toddlers and pushchairs in tow. I soon realized why so few crime fighters take their kids to work!

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
Who is The Girl in the Gallery?

What was the inspiration for this book?

My storyline is inspired by Dulwich Picture Gallery itself – it’s stuffed with amazing art, but the building itself is very unusual, too. At its heart is a mausoleum, containing the dead bodies of the original collectors in marble coffins, on display to the public. Weird and quite creepy! I have always thought it would be a brilliant setting for a murder mystery.

Did you do any research for the book?

I did loads of research. I love Dulwich Picture Gallery so this was no chore! I went to lots of exhibitions and had plenty of lunches in the restaurant, and the café outside. Gosh, it was hard work ;) I also read a lot on the life and times of Sir John Soane, the architect who designed the extraordinary building.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I’m not at all a morning person, but for some reason I do my best writing first thing. So I write until I run out of words, then turn to my day jobs – I’m the editor of a lifestyle website, I edit other people’s novels and I write freelance articles for newspapers and other publications.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

I usually look wildly round the room where I write – the kitchen. It’s a miracle all my characters aren’t called Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I tend to have a firm idea in my head about the nature of the crime and about a side issue that will keep intertwining with the main plot. But I like to allow my characters some wiggle-room so they can dash off in unexpected directions if they like.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

I’ve always been an avid reader and I love crime fiction. My favourites are PD James, Val McDermid, Janet Evanovich, Simon Brett, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, Raymond Chandler… the list goes on and on!

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

The best part of the writing process is always the moment when the plot clicks and you know you are on the right track and the words start to pour. It’s a great feeling. The worst is definitely editing my own work, very slow and painful. I’d much rather do the ironing, and I really hate ironing.

(Er - what's "ironing"...?)

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

It’s a very special moment when the book is out there, like having a new baby. I feel quite protective of it and only hope people will like it and want to take it home.

Is there a message for the reader?

I try not to be preachy, but there are themes which I hope most parents will already be thinking about. The most important message, in this book and the first in the series, is that there is such a thing as justice.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Keep going! It’s not always easy, but if you’re really a writer, you won’t have any choice anyway.

What can we expect from you in the future?

My third book in the London Murder Mystery series, Calamity in Camberwell, is due out in 2018. Can’t wait!

Neither can I, Alice!  Thanks for calling by today, and I hope the book flies for you!


Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Dulwich…

It’s a perfect summer’s morning in the plush south London suburb, and thirty-something Beth Haldane has sneaked off to visit one of her favourite places, the world-famous Picture Gallery.

She’s enjoying a few moments’ respite from juggling her job at prestigious private school Wyatt’s and her role as single mum to little boy Ben, when she stumbles across a shocking new exhibit on display. Before she knows it, she’s in the thick of a fresh, and deeply chilling, investigation.

Who is The Girl in the Gallery? Join Beth in adventure #2 of the London Murder Mystery series as she tries to discover the truth about a secret eating away at the very heart of Dulwich.


Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European best-seller which sold out in two weeks.

Alice is currently working on the sequel to Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series. It will be published by Crooked Cat next year and is entitled The Calamity in Camberwell. Once again, it features Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a top mummy blogger, writing DD’s Diary at
She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.


  1. Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Sue, it's been such fun and I LOVE your point about my initials being the same as the great Dame Agatha's – that's made my day X

  2. Just the truth, Alice! And thank you for being my guest!