You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘UK book stuff’ category.

I figured out a good “author outfit” a few months ago, and it’s been trotted out about a dozen times this autumn. Here’s what my peacock blue t-shirt and red blazer have been up to:

I’ve visited with several book clubs, which is always delightful (and usually includes tasty treats and/or flowers, which is very kind!), and did two events with dear friend Sophie Hannah, in St Neot’s and at the Ely Literary Festival. Both events, scheduled well in advance, happened to fall right after the exciting announcement that Sophie’s been given the go-ahead from Agatha Christie’s estate to write a new Poirot novel. Exciting!


As can be seen in my books, I adore Cambridge’s colleges, so it was a real treat to be invited to speak to the university’s “visiting scholars” at Corpus Christi College’s master’s lodge. My second book, The Start of Everything, is partly set at Corpus Christi, so it was especially fitting. What a lovely room!

corpus1 corpus2

Several of the visiting scholars from China (from Nanchang University, Zhejiang University, and Shanghai Lixin University of Commerce) asked to interview me. It was humbling to try to answer their insightful, thoughtful questions, and see their copies of my books bristling with post-its, and the margins full of notes.

china2 china1

That same week that I had the pleasure of chatting with the Chinese academics, an English-language bookshop in Sweden chose The Whole World as its “British Crime Fiction Book of the Month.” Makes me want to start sticking pretty pins in a world map on the wall.


Most recently, I joined in with Heffer’s bookshop’s “Christmas Chrime” quiz evening. The questions could only be answered by the attendees looking at the books of various crime authors or chatting with the authors themselves—good thing we were all there. Lovely to share the evening with Rebecca Tope, Kate Rhodes, Allison Bruce and others. (Thanks for author Leigh Russel for the pic.)


One of the nicest parts of the evening for me was running into two women who had taken a workshop I taught at Lucy Cavendish College two years ago. One of them recalled several things that I had taught and said how much they meant to her. That was really lovely.

Lastly, I must retract my endorsement of the Zebra pen. In a previous post, I said it was the best signing pen in the world. I take it back! Mine has started leaking. I fear my recent signatures are a bit messy!

I’m writing this post having just returned from a week in a student room at Churchill College. Close readers of The Whole World may recall that Churchill is the character Morris’ alma mater. I needed some solitude to work on structural revisions of book three, especially Morris’ point of view.

Now home with family to celebrate birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. Happy holidays!


Thank you, Heffers! What a wonderful shop, and a wonderful evening.



It’s important to me to mark the occasion of  a new book. It’s too easy for the day itself to be nothing remarkable. Suddenly the book is there in the shops, and available online, and hopefully there are reviews popping up. But at home, the day is just as usual. Today my books came out in the UK, and I did laundry. That’s why I’m so glad I had a party earlier this week.

Launch parties have more value than just the evening itself. The process of inviting people is an opportunity to share what’s going on–the pre-release reviews, the excitement–without sounding braggy. You’re offering something (a party!), after all, not just announcing. Sharing an invitation is a lot more tactful than sharing buy links. I do go ahead and share good news and, yes, even reviews and buy links with my non-local friends, but with the party I feel more free.

The party has value after as well, even with those who weren’t able to come. “How did it go?” and “I’m so happy for you!” start lovely conversations that wouldn’t have existed without the party itself.

All that said, the organizing/inviting process is also stressful. I find it helps to send an early invitation 6-8 weeks in advance, then a reminder invitation about 2 weeks in advance. Some people are planners and need lead time; others won’t be able to consider RSVPing until much closer to the date. My preference would be to assume that few will come and then be happily surprised by big numbers, but that could leave the shop unprepared. So, I had to be brutally realistic in my expectations, risking feeling foolish if the numbers were way off. A week before, I was still chasing up RSVPs and feeling frustrated, but it turns out that many of the delayed replies were from friends trying to overcome schedule clashes, which was very kind of them. On the day itself, it turned out pretty much as I had guessed from the start: about 100 adults and 30 kids, which rocks by any standard (especially on a Tuesday night!). I’m very grateful to all who came to share the day.

Also grateful to delightful author Helen Moss, who kindly came to do a talk for the children while I talked to the adults. For my last book party, getting babysitters was a problem for guests. This way, the kids were themselves welcome guests.


I loved talking about the books, and getting laughs and other reactions in all the right places.

I loved being introduced by my publisher and by my favorite bookseller.

I loved seeing all those books! I signed so many that I got a blister on my finger.


Thanks, everyone. It was a good day.

Again, a little late, but I would be remiss to not mention my February London visit. This was my chance to visit my publisher on their own turf, and also to catch up with my old department head from college.

Allison & Busby has beautiful premises, and wonderful people. They made me feel very welcome.

As for lunch with my college department head, she hasn’t changed. Still a grande dame.

It was a good day.



Edited to add: Allison & Busby was (were?) absolutely wonderful at the London Book Fair in April. They supported their authors beautifully, in my case with a big poster, and giveaway booklets containing the first chapters of The Whole World and The Start of Everything (both in one; you flip it over to get the other story). Thanks, A&B!



I can finally share the specifics of the lovely news: The Whole World and The Start of Everything have been picked up by UK publisher Allison & Busby. In June, The Whole World will come out in paperback to accompany the launch of The Start of Everything in hardcover. Hooray!

This is partly thanks to the behind-the-scenes influence of bookseller Richard Reynolds of Heffers, whose crime fiction expertise is legend. He is devoted especially to crime fiction set in Cambridge, and Cambridge is very lucky to have him.

It’s a general principle that all meetings in publishing happen over lunch. Allison & Busby publishing director Susie Dunlop and I met at the cafe in John Lewis in Cambridge, and I was honored that she’d travelled up from London to see me. She said I would know her by the Allison & Busby tote bag she carried. I said she would know me by the new bright pink coat I had just bought at Marks & Spencer. It’s a lovely coat, new for the season, and I should have foreseen that I wouldn’t be the only woman in that packed cafe wearing one! There were about four of us. Ah, well. Susie and I eventually managed to find one another, and fell easily into conversation. She is going to be wonderful to work with.

Susie gave me that tote bag she was carrying, and it was full of a selection of their lovely books. I’m thrilled to be sharing a publisher with Laurie R. King, Jacqueline Winspear, D.E. Meredith, and Jamie Ford. I’m especially enchanted by the cover of D.E. Meredith’s Devoured, with its textured dustjacket and the old map of London printed on the hardcover underneath.

As I finish The Start of Everything‘s launch month in the US, it’s wonderful to have June to look forward to.

I’m a wee little bit late posting this, but I had a great time teaching a crime-plotting workshop at Lucy Cavendish College’s “Women’s Word” lit festival. My angle was the puzzle at the heart of crime novel, based on my puzzle-designing past.

Part of what we did was take the puzzles at the start of two crime stories (one a novel, one a TV episode) and brainstorm solutions. My point was that you don’t need just one good solution, you need lots, because the bulk of your story will be spent cycling through wrong ones. Wrong, yes, but each one still must be interesting.

We started with the puzzle in Sophie Hannah’s “Little Face”: a new mother returns home from an outing and discovers her baby has been replaced by a different baby; her husband, who was home with the child the whole time, claims it is the same baby. These are some of the answers we came up with (and not one was the ultimate answer from the book!):

The second one was from a Jonathan Creek episode, in which a dozen apparently clean, unladdered stockings were found in the rubbish bin. Again, of all the answers we brainstormed, none was the one the show used:

(You can click on the images to make them larger and easier to read.)

Once we’d brainstormed all these potential solutions, we talked about reasons for making one the right answer over all the others, and the kinds of characters we’d need to champion the various wrong answers.

One of the nicest things about Cambridge is the people. All the attendees were creative and talkative, which made for a great class.

From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."