Welcome to Desert Island Crime, where each week a bestselling crime writer reveals their top chilling titles. This week, we ask Jessica Fellowes, author of the bestselling The Mitford Murders, Bright Young Dead and The Mitford Scandal what 8 titles she would take with her if stranded on a desert island. Over to you Jessica….
Strangely enough, I have spent every summer holiday on an island, off the coast of Ireland, in a house with no electricity or running water (candles and Calor gas, rainwater butts and open air showers are our luxuries!). So I feel quite well equipped to write about my chosen crime books for a desert island.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Menacing and compulsive, Tartt is a master of multi-layered narratives, weaving suspense and dense characterisation. I spent a semester at a college in New England and though I happily did not suffer the fate of Bunny and his friends, I saw something of the repressed darkness that existed beneath the idyllic red brick university campus life. This feels real.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
This was an extraordinary look at a true crime, a horrifying massacre that left a town divided. Capote came in for a great deal of criticism for the close relationship he developed with the accused, and I’m not sure he managed complete objectivity. But it’s a skilful lesson in turning a real event into a page-turner.
Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer
For a long time, I wanted to be a barrister, a fantasy largely fed by the red-wine drinking, insouciant and irreverent Rumpole. I love the cartoon illustrations of the lawyers, judges and criminals within yet there is a strong message from Mortimer that social injustice must be fought at every opportunity.
Peril At End House by Agatha Christie
In spite of the fact that I write 1920s crime novels, I have come very late to Christie. I was, absurdly, put off by her (completely untrue) reputation as someone who writes puzzles without strong character development. Thankfully, I was put right by the brilliant Sophie Hannah, who recommends this one as a way in to Christie’s oeuvre. Be warned, though, once you start, you can’t stop.
The Firm by John Grisham
Another example of my love of crime from the legal point of view. This is an absolute cracker of a book and no one does page turner better than Grisham, even when he’s cheesy and turning a cliched phrase. Mobs, greedy lawyers and the giant landscape of America – what could be better?
Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon
This is chilling, a story of a missing child in 1980s New York, about a mother who refuses to believe her six year old son has gone. Gutcheon writes this as a thriller but it contains powerful evocations of parental love. At times it is so frightening that I was almost angry with the person who recommended it to me – how dare she put me through this? – but it was worth it. Stick with it.
Agatha Raisin & the Quiche of Death by MC Beaton
This is pure delight, a total froth of a book yet the humour is fresh and funny, the observations of human behaviour spot on. Agatha Raisin is a brilliant creation, strident, nosy, ambitious and, in spite of her best efforts, completely tactless. I think she’s a Mma Precious Ramotswe of the Cotswolds.
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Any writer has something to learn from Leonard about dialogue, and nowhere is he more whip-crackingly smart and funny than in Get Shorty. Set in LA, featuring mobsters and Hollywood greed, this is pure escapism and yet contains gold nuggets of real life truth.
'A glittering, entertaining, perfectly formed whodunnit' ADELE PARKS
The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era. But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana's heart . . .
This wonderful new book in the bestselling The Mitford Murders series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.
PRAISE FOR THE MITFORD MURDERS SERIES
'A lively, entertaining, well-written whodunit' THE TIMES (crime book of the month)
'Exactly the sort of book you might enjoy with the fire blazing, the snow falling. The solution is neat and the writing always enjoyable' ANTHONY HOROWITZ (crime novels of the year)
'Absolute blissikins' THE GUARDIAN
'A must-read series . . . exactly what we all need in these gloomy times. Inventive, glittering, clever, ingenious' SUSAN HILL
'All the blissful escapism of a Sunday-night period drama in a book' THE POOL
'An extraordinary meld of fact and fiction' GRAHAM NORTON
'True and glorious indulgence. A dazzling example of a Golden Age mystery' DAISY GOODWIN
'Keeps the reader guessing to the very end. An accomplished crime debut and huge fun to read' EVENING STANDARD
'This story is drenched in detail and feels both authentic and fun. Curl up in your favourite reading spot and enjoy' HEAT
'Elegant, whipsmart and brilliantly twisty-turny, this Downton-style mystery had me hooked from the first page' VIV GROSKOP
'Full of period pleasure' WOMAN & HOME
'An audacious and glorious foray into the Golden Age of mystery fiction. Breathtaking' ALEX GRAY
'A real murder, a real family and a brand new crime fiction heroine are woven together to make a fascinating, and highly enjoyable, read. I loved it' JULIAN FELLOWES
'Jessica Fellowes' deliciously immersive, effortlessly easy novel has a strong feel for period and a rollicking plot' METRO
'What a captivating crime novel. The instant reassurance of being in the hands of a true storyteller with a feel for period detail makes this a real treat' AMANDA CRAIG
'This is a chocolate soufflé of a novel: as the enthralling mystery heats up, so the addictive deliciousness of the story rises. The sort of book you never want to end' JULIET NICOLSON