A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
When I was first planning my fourth Murder Most Unladylike Mystery, the book that is now called Jolly Foul Play, I got two messages from two people who I don’t think were colluding with each other. They both said essentially the same thing: you need to write a murder at a fireworks display!
It would have been a good idea if one person had suggested it, but the fact that two of my friends were telling me the same thing seemed like fate. I like to start plotting my books with a single set-piece image – for Murder Most Unladylike, it was a body lying on the floor of a dark gym, and for First Class Murder it was a man breaking down a train door to find a corpse on the carpet – and the image of fireworks exploding in the night sky while a murder crept up behind an unsuspecting victim, murder weapon raised, was the perfect trigger for my imagination.
Jolly Foul Play will be published in March 2016, but it takes place on bonfire night (for non-UK readers, this is the night of 5th November, when British people celebrate the failure of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605) – and so this week is the perfect time to reveal some more about it.
And since the book also features letters between my narrator Hazel and her friend and fellow detective Alexander (you may remember him from First Class Murder), I knew the perfect extract – the first letter Hazel writes to Alexander after the discovery of the body.
So, what happened at Deepdean School for Girls on the night of the 5th November, 1935? Read on to find out a bit more . . .
You’ll never guess what happened – or perhaps you will, because I think it really is true what you said once, that mystery follows us around. There’s been another murder at our school. Or at least, someone has died.
The facts in the case are these. The new Head Girl – the horrid one I’ve told you about – was found after our Bonfire Night fireworks display near the bonfire, her head bashed in and a rake lying next to her. It looked like an accident – but all the same, we think that it wasn’t an accident at all. The grown-ups are sure that Jones the handyman simply left the rake lying about, and Elizabeth stepped back onto it by mistake, but we don’t believe that. We think someone hit her on purpose. You see, everyone hated Elizabeth – so anyone at Deepdean would have a motive to kill her.
But here is the interesting thing: almost none of us girls, or the mistresses, could possibly have done it. All of the girls were lined up on the sports field in year order, facing the fireworks, and the Mistresses and Jones were standing in front of us, where we could all see them. No one could have moved from their rows without being noticed. The only girls – the only people – who weren’t standing where they could be seen were the five Prefects. They were all behind us, near Elizabeth. They were supposed to be stoking the bonfire, and watching us, but any of them could have slipped over to where Elizabeth was (it was quite dark, apart from the light from the bonfire), and killed her. It’s dreadful, because the Five were supposed to be her best friends – but now that Elizabeth is dead, none of them are acting as though they are sad about it at all. In fact, they are all behaving terribly suspiciously.
Do you see why I think we may have a new mystery to investigate? The other girls in our dorm, Kitty, Beanie and Lavinia, will help me and Daisy – but I wish it would be useful to have the Junior Pinkertons on the case as well. Will you and George help as well?
Ask any questions and I will try to answer.