The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.
After many years living and working in different parts of Europe I am now settled in a rural Andalucía with my Spanish husband. Ten years ago I gave up a safe and successful career in international education to become a full-time author. It was a big risk but I also write school textbooks, which cushioned the blow.
The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?
The lockdown in Spain has been pretty drastic, we may not leave the house except for essential shopping or to walk the dog. I have a horse that needs feeding and grooming so I am able to get out into the fields every day, but nobody is riding out. To be honest, the routine is not so different to my normal daily life: writing keeps me very busy. I do miss occasional trips to Málaga to meet up with author friends for a gossipy lunch, though.
The CRA: Tell us about your most recent book.
Private Lives is the second story in the Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery series, although it can also be read as a stand-alone. During World War Two, retired policemen were called back to replace younger men who had joined up. Dumpy, grumpy Bob Robbins is one such man. In this story he is enjoying a few days’ leave in North Devon when he becomes involved in a murder on a derelict farm. An elderly farmer lies injured then a young man is shot in the chest. Bob rushes to help, but the farmer has vanished, and there is no weapon in sight.
Bob reports the incident at Bideford police station then learns he must investigate the crime himself. Not being as young and fit as he was, Bob asks for the assistance of a bright young police recruit, Laurie Oliver. They stay at Peony Villas, an odd sort of guest house run by an ex-West End diva named Jessamyn Flowers. A group of travelling players are also in residence, and Bob and Laurie soon find themselves caught up in a web of scandals, secrets and homicide.
The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?
This is cosy crime with a sinister twist and a dash of dark humour. Most families have secrets, and as Noel Coward says in his 1933 play ‘Private Lives’ “very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives”. Small rural communities are aware of, or share, many family secrets, which they may discuss among themselves but not with outsiders. Sometimes there are dark, unpleasant things going on behind closed doors that nobody is aware of at all.
Crime fiction readers enjoy identifying clues, trying to solve the mystery or crime before the detective. In this story, almost everyone has a secret, but who is guilty of what exactly, and why?
The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?
I’m reading Matthew Booth’s excellent book When Anthony Rathe Investigates. I love the way the separate short stories connect, and his atmospheric settings and sharp dialogue.
The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?
A big family get-together outdoors.
Find out more about JG Harlond and her books on the CRA website.