This week, I’m thrilled to welcome mystery writer Clare Chase to the blog with her newest release, A Stranger’s House. I had plenty of questions to ask about her and her writing, but first, here are the cover and blurb . . .
What if you were powerless to protect the person you cared about most?
When Ruby finds her partner has done the unforgivable, she has no option but to move out of their home. With nowhere else to go, a job house-sitting in Cambridge seems like the perfect solution.
But when the owner of the property, the mysterious Damien Newbold, is found murdered, Ruby’s new job takes an unnerving turn – one she can’t resist investigating herself.
Ruby’s new boss, Nate Bastable, has his eye on her and seems determined to put a stop to her sleuthing. Is he simply worried for the welfare of a member of staff, or is there something altogether more complicated – and potentially dangerous – at play?
And an excerpt . . .
Ruby arrives in Cambridge, ready to take on her last-minute house-sitting job, and meets her new employer. It turns out he’s not all that he seems…
“Nate Bastable was nothing like I’d expected. I’d never met the owner of a house-sitting business before, but within seconds I realised I’d conjured up a detailed picture of what one would be like, and Nate wasn’t it. He was wearing a charcoal grey shirt – its sleeves rolled up – and scruffy jeans. His dark hair was tousled and, although he was a good few inches taller than me, there was nothing lanky about him. Rough and ready was the phrase that sprang to mind. I’d expected the owner of a house-sitting business to be ready, but ready with polish and a duster, rather than anything else. And if he was going to be rough at all, then I’d imagined this would be with something like a Brillo pad. Nate Bastable was smiling at present, but he looked like someone you’d back in a fight.
For a moment I felt self-conscious, and peered behind him, hoping Steph had made it to River House before me. She’d insisted on coming along to introduce us, which I’d felt was mollycoddling at the time.
At that moment I spotted her, standing in a doorway in the shadows. ‘Ruby!’ She darted forward and hugged me round the middle, since she can’t reach any higher. Not that I’m a giant, only five ten, but she’s four eleven to the top of her bouncy, ginger curls.
After she’d let me go she stood back, and her sympathetic expression hardened slightly. I could imagine why. She doesn’t approve of my black jeans and DMs at the best of times, and probably thought them especially inappropriate for a first meeting with a new employer. I hadn’t compromised on the number of earrings in each ear either. No point in pretending to be something I’m not.
‘I presume you have brought some other clothes with you?’
I took a deep breath – there wasn’t time to count to ten – and twisted slightly so she could see the rucksack on my back.
After a second she seemed to recover enough to do what she’d come for. ‘Ruby, this is my cousin, Nate Bastable. Nate, this is my best friend, Ruby Fawcett. I know she looks like a squatter, but it’s just a front.’
I’d get her for that later.
There was a twinkle in Nate’s blue eyes as they met mine, but then his expression changed, and I had the sensation of being read; as though all I’d been going through was laid bare. To be fair, he probably wasn’t relying on mind reading, thanks to Steph and her motor-mouth. A wave of humiliation washed over me, heating my neck and cheeks. I’d only just clapped eyes on the man, but I was already quite clear I didn’t want him knowing what was in my head. Yet somehow I couldn’t pull my gaze away.”
I’m intrigued already! Welcome, Clare. I always admire writers who can dream up a good mystery. What made you choose to write in the mystery genre?
I’ve been addicted to mysteries since I was a small child and discovered Richard Scarry’s picture book, The Great Pie Robbery! Now, I write the sort of stories I like to read – ones that combine sleuthing, suspense, and a romantic element. My influences include Mary Stewart (I devoured her romantic thrillers as a teenager) and more recently, Elly Griffiths. I love her Ruth Galloway series, and the way she interweaves the drama of her heroine’s career and relationships with the central mystery that drives each book.
I absolutely loved Mary Stewart, too, and I still re-read them from time to time. Feisty heroines, great locations and a mystery to unravel . . . Perfect!
Tell me, what was the initial kernel of an idea behind your latest release, A Stranger’s House?
It was the thought of my heroine, Ruby, house-sitting for a man she’d never met – someone who’s 100% trouble. I wanted to explore the clues she’d get about his character, simply by occupying his empty home. She finds herself in the thick of the emotional mess he’s left behind. When he’s found murdered, she starts to investigate, realising there’s every chance she’s in direct contact with his killer.
A Stranger’s House is Book 2 in the London & Cambridge Mysteries series. Is it a standalone novel? And why London & Cambridge, in particular?
The series has strands set in each city. There are regular London and Cambridge characters, but every new book can be read as a standalone mystery. A Stranger’s House is the first Cambridge instalment, featuring a new crime-solving partnership, Ruby Fawcett and Nate Bastable.
I chose to set the books in London and Cambridge because they’re places that mean a lot to me. I went to university in the capital, and always find the city an exciting place to be. As for Cambridge, I’ve lived here for over twenty years now, and the more I get to know it, the more fascinated I am. It’s such a place of contrasts. You get college choirs singing madrigals by the river whilst drunks deal drugs on the commons. And as it’s a small city, the inequalities are very concentrated.
They’re certainly both interesting cities with lots of scope for a writer! Have you started your next book yet, and if so, can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve got a new London novella in with my publishers that’s an arts-world murder mystery, like my debut.
I’ve also written a Cambridge follow-up to A Stranger’s House, about the unsolved murder of a world-renowned academic. Ruby’s asked to write her biography, and stumbles across clues relating to her death. It’s not long before her insider knowledge puts her life in danger. Needless to say, Nate gets involved!
Where do you do your writing?
We’ve got a study, but it’s tiny, and people keep sneaking things in there when they don’t have space for them in their own rooms. (It’s currently home to two guitars, a chemistry and a woodwork set, amongst other things…) Luckily, I prefer to work at the kitchen table. It’s lovely and light with a view over the garden.
Ha! I write in the attic and I am also surrounded by unwanted stuff that never gets dealt with!
Now, can you tell us something weird and wonderful about yourself?
My author bio mentions two of the places I’ve lived in Cambridge: the house of a Lord and a slug-infested flat! In between those two, I shared a house with four male students. On the day I arrived, I found an unknown man asleep in my bed, and a blow-up skeleton (fully inflated) in the sitting room. The house was otherwise empty. You might think the presence of the man had its upsides, but given that I had my boyfriend with me, it actually created some complications. It was an interesting year of my life, but not one I’d chose to repeat.
It certainly does sound like an interesting year! Thank you so much for visiting, Clare 🙂
YOU CAN BUY A STRANGER’S HOUSE AT THIS UNIVERSAL LINK:
and you can watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/X_6iX0BT3Jo
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Clare Chase writes women sleuth mysteries set in London and Cambridge. She fell in love with the capital as a student, living in the rather cushy surroundings of Hampstead in what was then a campus college of London University. (It’s currently being turned into posh flats …)
After graduating in English Literature, she moved to Cambridge and has lived there ever since. She’s fascinated by the city’s contrasts and contradictions, which feed into her writing. She’s worked in diverse settings – from the 800-year-old University to one of the local prisons – and lived everywhere from the house of a Lord to a slug-infested flat. The terrace she now occupies, with her husband and teenage daughters, presents a good happy medium.
As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.
Clare’s debut novel, You Think You Know Me, was shortlisted for an EPIC award, and chosen as a debut of the month by Lovereading.
You can find Clare at: