Today I’m delighted to feature mystery writer Lesley Thomson, whose novels have been described as ‘Midsomer Murders for grown ups’. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010 and her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller. The resulting series, the latest of which is The Distant Dead, has sold over 750,000 copies. Her newest novel The Companion, was published this week and is a standalone thriller and set in the Sussex Downs and by the sea.
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London but now divides her time between Sussex and Gloucestershire. She lives with her partner and her dog.
Over to Lesley:
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
First off is Schubert’s Trout Quintet. My parents loved classical music – my mum played the piano, and when I was little I’d request it at bedtime. The piece is in my DNA.
I loved watching Mum play Beethoven’s Pathetique. I’ve given that to Jack Harmon’s mother in my novel The Detective’s Daughter. Long after Kate Rokesmith’s death, the music sheets are open on her piano as if she might return, place her fingers on the keys, and begin to play.
Never having followed the rules, I’ve always loved David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel. I’d have it on my ‘walk-on’ music!
I Love Your Smile by Shanice makes my spirits soar. I feature it in The Companion and used it as the soundtrack for my #Unboxing video – an author tradition on receiving copies of the newest novel which is an extraordinary experience.
From an endless list, I’ll go for Kate Bush’s Under the Ivy. I included this towards the end of A Kind of Vanishing – it perfectly expressed the scene. I played it on a loop as I wrote.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
My laptop to write on.
If no electricity, then my notebook and pen. I love notebooks and can never resist buying a new one. It’s almost a stationery fetish…
BBC Radio Four – I lived in Australia in my twenties. This being long before the internet, my parents sent me cassette tapes of The Archers, Desert Island Discs and Woman’s Hour.
What would I do without The Archers? I listen every day and sometimes I listen again. I’m chuffed that the wonderful Richard Atlee, who plays Kenton Archer, reads the audiobook of The Companion.
Our ramshackle poodle, Alfred. Although one day I’ll have to…
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
Be happy with who you are.
Know it will turn out fine.
I think that covers it!
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
Ooh, well, tricky one:
One thing people don’t know about me is I’m pretty private.
I like a high hedge/fence in the garden.
I’ve put a fake birthday date on social media – which is also private.
When I read novels, I have to scoff treats, chocolate, biscuits – madeleines at the moment. And when writing, I crave food I’ve included in a scene. Toni Kemp in The Companion likes Snickers bars. I’ve had a few of them in the last year 😊
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
I’m in the lucky position of having achieved enough to be content.
From a child I wrote stories and growing up, dared to form the ambition to publish a novel. I’ve written twelve. I never dreamed one of these would be a number one bestseller, so when The Detective’s Daughter got there, I was over the moon.
Contentment is really all I want to achieve. Actually, I’d tell my younger self that too.
Many thanks for joining me today Lesley. I enjoyed your eclectic mix of music and I had not heard that particular Kate Bush track before, and I love discovering something new. I haven’t listened to The Archers for years. It used to be a regular listen for me as my late mother in law was a fan and I had to keep up to date to discuss it. How brilliant that ‘Kenton’ is reading your audio-book. I do remember him. I’m with you on a high hedge, although I share far more than is good for me on here, that’s my choice, but when I want privacy – I want privacy. Bizzarely, given that I asked the question, I’m always delighted when my last question doesn’t always elicit a full list. I’m always happy to know that someone is content, and that is something we could well do to appreciate when we’re younger. Enjoy your achievements and I’ve no doubt that The Companion will be added to your list.
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
The Detective’s Daughter Series 1-8
The Detective’s Daughter (1)
As winter closes its grip on snow-bound London, a cleaner determines to solve the case that her detective father never could. A Kindle number one bestseller.
It was the murder that shocked the nation. Kate Rokesmith, a young mother, walked to the banks of the Thames with her three-year-old son. She never came home.
For three decades, the case file has lain, unsolved, in the corner of an attic. Until the detective’s daughter, Stella Darnell, starts to clear out her father’s house after his death…
Ghost Girl (2)
Seven cryptic photographs. A decades-old case. Can one woman find a killer?
Before his death, Terry Darnell was a famous detective. His daughter Stella, a cleaner, has inherited his methodical mind. She has also inherited a strange case file: seven photographs of empty streets. Why did her father keep them for so many years?
One photo dates from 1966, to a day when a young girl witnessed something that would haunt her forever.
As Stella scrubs away at the truth, the events of that day begin to haunt her too…
The Detective’s Secret
They will learn the city’s secrets. They will learn who plans to kill…
A man has jumped in front of a late night train. Stella Darnell, a cleaner who solves crimes, suspects it’s murder. Now she’s stirring up the past with questions that no one wants to answer.
Jack Harmon, a driver on the Tube, has a new home at the top of an old water tower, with a perfect bird’s eye view of London. If he watches through binoculars, he will learn the city’s secrets. He will learn who plans to kill…
The House With No Rooms (3)
A woman lies dead on the ground. A girl watches from the shadows. What did she really see?
The summer of 1976 was the hottest in living memory. A lost little girl, dizzied by the head, stumbled upon a deserted museum. She thought she saw a woman lying dead on the ground. But when she opened her eyes, the woman had gone.
Forty years later, cleaner and detective Stella Darnell is investigating a suspected murder in the Botanical Gardens at Kew. Working methodically, stain by stain, she is drawn into an obsessive world, and towards a killer who has never been caught…
The Dog Walker (5)
Stella and Jack must reawaken the secrets of the past in order to solve the mysteries of the present.
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage and disappears.
Twenty-nine years later, Helen’s body has never been found. Her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.
The Death Chamber (6)
For forty years, someone has got away with murder…
Forty years ago, seventeen-year-old Cassie Baker took a shortcut home from a small Cotswolds village, and was never seen again.
Twenty years later, Cotswolds police found Cassie’s remains while searching for another missing teenager, Bryony Motson. Bryony’s body was never found.
Now Stella Darnell, cleaner and private detective, has decided to find out what happened to Bryony. She knows her investigation will be dangerous. Because, for too long, someone has got away with murder. Someone who will do anything to keep it that way…
The Playground Murders (7)
Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed for ever.
The case of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in an empty playground, haunted Hammersmith police for decades. Not just because the victim would never see her seventh birthday. But because solving the case meant arresting another child on suspicion of Sarah’s murder.
Now, forty years later, cleaner-turned-detective Stella Darnell has unearthed new information about Sarah and her killer.
As Stella pieces together the truth about what happened all those years ago, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…
The Distant Dead (8)
A woman lies dead in a bombed-out house. A tragic casualty of the Blitz? Or something more sinister? Sixty years later, the detective’s daughter unearths the truth… From the number 1 bestselling author of The Detective’s Daughter.
Several neighbours heard the scream of the woman in the bombed-out house. One told the detective she thought the lady had seen a mouse. Another said it wasn’t his business what went on behind closed doors. None of them imagined that a trusting young woman was being strangled by her lover.
Beneath the vast stone arches of Tewkesbury Abbey, a man lies bleeding, close to death. He is the creator of a true-crime podcast which now will never air. He was investigating the murder of a 1940s police pathologist – had he come closer to the truth than he realised?
Stella Darnell has moved to Tewkesbury to escape from death, not to court it. But when this man dies in her arms, Stella, impelled to root out evil when she finds it, becomes determined to hunt down his killer and to bring the secrets he was searching for into the light…
The Detectives Daughter Books 1-8 eBook boxset
Stella Darnell, a cleaner, is the detective’s daughter. When her father died, she discovered old case files in his attic while clearing out his house. Now she has devoted herself to solving crimes that were once thought unsolvable, assisted by her friend Jack, a tube driver.
Follow Stella and Jack’s story with this complete eBook boxset, including books 1–8
The Runaway – A Short Story
Stella Darnell understands that her mum and dad don’t want to live together anymore. But she wishes she didn’t have to say goodbye to her bedroom, or pack her hateful pink suitcase that bangs against her legs. Her mum says she’ll have special weekends just to see her dad – but Stella knows that when her dad is solving crimes, there’s no time for her.
And so, aged seven and a half, the detective’s daughter decides to run away…
In a grand old mansion in the middle of the Sussex countryside, seven people have seen more than they should… The new chilling thriller from Lesley Thomson.
James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys’ day out with his son, Wilbur – even if he was a little late picking him up from the home of his ex-wife, Anna. Annoyed by his late arrival, and competing for their son’s attention, Anna leaves the two of them to their day with the promise of a roast dinner when Wilbur returns.
But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach.
DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats. Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should.
But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets…
Death of a Mermaid
When Freddy Power was eighteen, her father threw her out. Her sin had been to fall in love with a woman. Freddy waited for two decades to be invited back into the family. The summons never came.
But now, in the wake of her parents’ death, Freddy feels the call of home like a siren’s song. The trawlers emerging out of the mist. Fishermen unloading their catch down at the harbour. Her best friend, Mags, exploring the cliffs at sunset.
But when she arrives at Newhaven, after twenty-two years of silence, her brothers and her friends act like strangers. Then Mags goes missing, and old secrets – and old passions – are reignited. Freddy is determined to lead the hunt for Mags – even if it means confronting her past, and facing the truth about her family…
A Kind of Vanishing
From the author of acclaimed thriller ‘The Detective’s Daughter’ A spellbinding mystery of obsession and guilt, this is also the poignant story of what happens to those left behind when a child vanishes without trace. It is the summer of 1968, the day Senator Robert Kennedy is shot. Two nine-year-old girls are playing hide and seek in the ruins of a deserted village. Alice has discovered a secret about Eleanor Ramsay’s mother, and is taunting the other girl. When it is Eleanor’s turn to hide, Alice disappears. Years later, an extraordinary turn of events opens up shocking truths for the Ramsay family and all who knew the missing girl.