My Favourite Recipe for Mystery Fiction – A Guest Post by Clare Chase

I’m delighted to welcome author Clare Chase back to the blog with a brilliant guest post about her favourite ingredients for mystery fiction.

But  first, take a look at the striking cover and blurb for her new release, One Dark Lie … 

one-dark-lie-high-resThe truth can hurt, and sometimes it leads to murder …

After becoming embroiled in a murder investigation, Nate Bastable and Ruby Fawcett have decided to opt for the quiet life. But crime has a habit of following them around.

When her work dries up, Ruby finds herself accepting a job researching and writing about Diana Patrick-John, a colourful and enigmatic Cambridge academic. Simple enough. But then there’s the small fact that Diana was found dead in suspicious circumstances in her home – the very place where Ruby has now been invited to stay.

As she begins to uncover Diana’s secret life, Ruby’s sleuthing instinct kicks in, leaving her open to danger and retribution. But can she rely on Nate to support her? Especially when his behaviour has become increasingly distant and strange, almost as though he had something to hide …

Sounds great! And now over to Clare . . .

My favourite recipe for mystery fiction

Thanks so much for inviting me on to your blog, Helen! It’s great to be here again.

As the ebook of my second Cambridge mystery, One Dark Lie, has just been released, and my first, A Stranger’s House, is out in paperback on Tuesday, I thought I’d post about my favourite ingredients in crime fiction.

There’s such a vast range of stories that fall under the crime banner – from chilling domestic noir to cosy mysteries. I read books from across the genre, but I do have a soft spot for certain tropes, and my own writing reflects that.

Couples in crime

I love couples in crime fiction series – from Dorothy L Sayers’ Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey to Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson. I think a developing relationship works really well as an ongoing subplot over several books. I’m quite a fan of slow-burn love stories!

In my Cambridge crime series, it’s writer Ruby and ex-PI Nate who get together to solve the mysteries. During A Stranger’s House they battle mutual attraction and a murderer who gets bolder with every new victim. In One Dark Lie, they’re each working on cases which eventually collide, meaning double the danger for Ruby.

A strong sense of place

I love Rebus’ Edinburgh and Brunetti’s Venice; the settings are almost like extra characters in the two series. The way the locations influence the plots of the books is riveting, and reveals more about the cities concerned with each new novel.

When I was planning my series, I wanted to give my setting a similarly strong role. Cambridge, my home city, was a natural choice. I’ve lived here for over twenty years now, and the place fascinates me. It’s achingly beautiful at times, and there’s something constantly nostalgic about it. I think it’s because of the high proportion of students. If you stay and become mature in the city, you’re always conscious of the passing of time, and lost youth. Cambridge is also a place of contrasts. You get choirs singing Elizabethan madrigals from punts on the river, whist drunks deal drugs on the commons. It’s a small city too, and secrets travel fast. A high proportion of residents work for the university (I used to myself), and there are lots of connections you might not expect. This means it’s realistic for secrets to get into the wrong hands, and for people to know each other’s business. Finally, the stakes are often high here. Academics vie for multimillion pound grants and a place on the international stage, whilst high-tech businesses develop intellectual property worth a fortune. What might someone do to protect their reputation or their livelihood? I find there’s endless inspiration for crime fiction!

A mystery to unravel

I like stories where I’m presented with information that could, in principle, allow me to guess the identity of the villain. Suspense is great, but I enjoy a bit of armchair sleuthing along with it! Critics often talk about psychological crime versus traditional stories where the books focus on plot and are more like a crossword puzzle. I don’t see these elements as mutually exclusive and love novels that focus on the characters’ psyches and motivations whilst also challenging the reader to solve a series of clues. And of course, the mindset of each character forms part of the overall information the reader has to work with when trying to identity the murderer.

A tense climax

I’ve always loved books that mix the detective element with a gradual rise in danger, leading to a life-or-death climax before the action’s over, so that’s the format I follow in my series. I was brought up on Mary Stewart’s novels, and the point in her books where the heroine worked out who the villain was – and usually found he was standing right opposite her at the crucial moment – never failed to thrill!

Crime fiction can be gritty, dark and violent, and of course it can also be humorous and cosy. My novels tread the line between the two. As a reader I hope you get to know the protagonists, victims and murderers in equal measure. To me, it’s the characters’ motivations and the mystery that are interesting, and the suspense and relationships that add the spice!

Thank you, Clare. I wouldn’t know where to start writing a mystery, but I do love reading them! Oddly enough, I was listing to a Wimsey mystery the other week on the radio, and I seem to remember my mother loving them. I agree that setting can be like another character – I’m very fond of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels, in which the Sicilian setting and culture play such a pivotal part – and although I’ve only visited Cambridge once, I loved it and can imagine it would make a great backdrop for a novel. As for Mary Stewart, I discovered those years ago and happily reread them now and again. I still love that mix of vivid description, a feisty heroine and heady danger!  


You  can buy Clare Chase’s One Dark Lie at this universal link :


And if you missed my interview with Clare last March about her previous novel A Stranger’s House, already available as an eBook but due out in paperback this week, you can read it here.


2015-04-30-clare_chase-copyClare Chase writes mysteries set in London and Cambridge featuring crime-solving couples. 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 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.

She lives with her husband and teenage children, and currently works at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

One Dark Lie is her third novel with Choc Lit. Previous titles are You Think You Know Me and A Stranger’s House.

You can find Clare at:

Website and blog          Twitter          Facebook          Goodreads



6 thoughts on “My Favourite Recipe for Mystery Fiction – A Guest Post by Clare Chase

  1. rosgemmell says:

    Really enjoyed this post, Clare, and your books sound exactly the kind of mystery/crime novels I love to read. I too am a great fan of Mary Stewart and I love all the ‘golden age of crime’ novelists, and the Montalbano series on TV though I haven’t read the books. Thanks for this Helen.

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