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Sara Sheridan is an historical novelist who writes two different kinds of books. One is a series of cosy crime noir mysteries set in Brighton in the 1950s – Brighton Belle - and the other is a set of novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers and adventurers (1820 - 1845) – The Secret Mandarin and Secret of the Sands. Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she has been nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She received a Scottish Library Award for Truth or Dare, her first novel, and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. An occasional journalist and blogger, Sara appears on BBC Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent and blogs for the Guardian and the London Review of Books. She is a twitter evangelist and a self-confessed swot. Sara sits on the Committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland where she lives and also on the board of the UK-wide writers' collective '26' and took part in the acclaimed 26 Treasures project in 2010 at the V&A, in 2011 at National Museum of Scotland and in 2012 at the Children's Museum, Bethnal Green. She is a member of the Historical Writers Association and the Crime Writers Association. Sara also mentors for the Scottish Book Trust. More information can be found at www.sarasheridan.com and she can be found on Twitter at @sarasheridan. She lives in Edinburgh with her family.
Author photo © Martin Melecis
Below is a Q&A with this author
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
I never intended to be a writer though as it turns out I think I'd been gearing myself towards writing for years. It wasn't until I had to find something that I could work from at home that I thought I might try to write a book and lo, I had an English degree and was inspired by history and had all these stories that just flowed out of me. My parents were a huge inspiration and my History and English teachers from school too.
2. What keeps you motivated as a writer?
I love story – it's word-heroin. It's the same thing, really, that keeps me motivated as a reader. That feeling of being caught up in the middle of a narrative and nothing outside of that fiction existing. You can multiply that by ten if you're writing rather than reading it.
3. Do you have a routine when you’re writing (i.e. silence, a particular genre of music, only working in the morning, only working in your underpants?)
I often work in bed but that is more about just getting on with it as soon as I open my eyes! These days I write wherever I am and that might be at a book festival or on a plane or in a library – I switch my brain into the story and I just go. I also like the café up the road – coffee on tap is a great resource for a writer!
4. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a writer?
Eyes down, specs on, sleeves up and Go!
5. What’s the best experience you’ve had while writing a book?
When I dream about it. I don't write magical realism but that's what all my stories become when I dream about them. It's like being a stick of rock – the words go all the way through.
6. Where would you like to be right now, anywhere in the world?
Well as I am writing this in bed I can't say In Bed Writing, so I suppose I'll say somewhere sunny, reading (which is my other love).
7. If you could swop lives with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
That's difficult because most characters don't have happy lives and that's what makes them interesting. I wouldn't want to be my heartbroken 1950s detective, Mirabelle Bevan or one of the slave girls, Farida and Zena from Secret of the Sands but if I could be a bloke (why not?) I'd love to be John Murray (who is a real-life character – a pre-eminent Scottish publisher from the early 1800s) because he ran an amazing literary salon. Strangely I'd also like to be one of my recent crime victims – Rose Bellamy Gore. She goes missing in London Calling in the most fantastic frock!
8. If you weren't a writer, what would your 'dream' occupation be?
I'd probably be an antiques dealer. I'm obsessed by history and I love objects – I always research part of a period through its artefacts whether they're in a museum or a car boot sale. I'd love to do that for a living or maybe (if I was indulging my swotty side) I'd work in a museum – which is almost the same thing.
9. If your book was a film, who would you cast for the lead character?
I always hoped Hermione Norris would want to be Mirabelle if there was a TV adaptation of the Mysteries (fingers crossed)
10. Which authors do you particularly admire?
I have wide-ranging admirations. Agatha Christie for her sense of drama, the American writer TC Boyle whose historical descriptions are so vivid you can taste the era off the pages, Bill Bryson for his narrative voice, Susannah Clarke for her sense of magic, Joseph O'Connor for his ability to communicate story, William Goldman because he's quirky and yet accessible. Gosh, I'm getting quite excited just making this list.
We loved the first in this post WW2 series, Brighton Belle, and the second adventure is even better with a satisfyingly complex plot bubbling over with period detail. Mirabelle and Vesta go up the line to London to solve the case of a missing debutante after a childhood friend of Vesta’s is held by the police. Nostalgic, atmospheric, well written, crime fiction with a fantastic central character - ex Secret Service office girl Mirabelle Bevan. Highly recommended. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'I read the script for London Calling in one sitting at my kitchen table over the course of a single evening. Sara just pulled me into the world of wintry post-war London, seedy jazz clubs and a missing heiress. During editing Sara and I had many conversations about everything from car models and radio shows to rail travel, pies and shoes. No detail is too small for Sara, she really is obsessed with getting things absolutely right for the period of London Calling. As a result her writing evokes the early 1950s impeccably, creating wonderful atmosphere and the perfect background to Mirabelle Bevan, a deeply engaging woman with a past.' ~Alison Rae, Managing Editor, Polygon
The ‘Mirabelle Bevan Mystery’ series continues to maintain the same convincing atmosphere and assured quality, yet with each book the author skilfully delivers a refreshingly different read. ‘British Bulldog’ is set in the early 50’s, a year after ‘England Expects’ and the Second World War still holds a formidable grip on Mirabelle’s life. As Mirabelle walks through the streets, you feel as though you are pacing alongside her, the 50’s comes to life and allows you to experience a Brighton, London and Paris from the past. The war years cast a daunting shadow, particularly over the women in this novel, haunting and tormenting thoughts and feelings. The background investigation hooks your interest, and when the action kicks in, it does so with a ferocious intensity. This is wonderful escapism and an extremely readable, intriguing blend of history, action and mystery. ~ Liz Robinson
A classically arresting mystery, overflowing with good old fashioned pluck, courage and perseverance. The third in the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries, this can also be read as a vintage standalone novel. In a bygone era, Mirabelle and her feisty cohort Vesta often outpace their male companions and are far ahead of their time. This is such an authentic read, Brighton in the early 50’s is as much a character in the book as the investigators themselves. The author acknowledges how frustrating research and inquiries can be with the last piece of the jigsaw often remaining just out of sight. With some formidable detective work as well as some particularly perilous moments, this is a first rate read. ~ Liz Robinson
May 2015 eBook of the Month. The ‘Mirabelle Bevan Mystery’ series continues to maintain the same convincing atmosphere and assured quality, yet with each book the author skilfully delivers a refreshingly different read. ‘British Bulldog’ is set in the early 50’s, a year after ‘England Expects’ and the Second World War still holds a formidable grip on Mirabelle’s life. As Mirabelle walks through the streets, you feel as though you are pacing alongside her, the 50’s comes to life and allows you to experience a Brighton, London and Paris from the past. The war years cast a daunting shadow, particularly over the women in this novel, haunting and tormenting thoughts and feelings. The background investigation hooks your interest, and when the action kicks in, it does so with a ferocious intensity. This is wonderful escapism and an extremely readable, intriguing blend of history, action and mystery. ~ Liz Robinson Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series:1. Brighton Belle2. London Calling3. England Expects4. British Bulldog
A classically arresting mystery, overflowing with good old fashioned pluck, courage and perseverance. The third in the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries, this can also be read as a vintage standalone novel. In a bygone era, Mirabelle and her feisty cohort Vesta often outpace their male companions and are far ahead of their time. This is such an authentic read, Brighton in the early 50’s is as much a character in the book as the investigators themselves. The author acknowledges how frustrating research and inquiries can be with the last piece of the jigsaw often remaining just out of sight. With some formidable detective work as well as some particularly perilous moments, this is a first rate read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... Post-WWII England was a fascinating time. Buttoned-up, seedy, glamorous, rationed ... Sara Sheridan nails the era, and who wouldn't root for her cool and enterprising heroine, Mirabelle Bevan, and sidekick Vesta Churchill as they battle corrupt masons and solve a murder or three.' - Alison Rae, Managing Editor, Polygon
March 2013 eBook of the Month. We loved the first in this post WW2 series, Brighton Belle, and the second adventure is even better with a satisfyingly complex plot bubbling over with period detail. Mirabelle and Vesta go up the line to London to solve the case of a missing debutante after a childhood friend of Vesta’s is held by the police. Nostalgic, atmospheric, well written, crime fiction with a fantastic central character - ex Secret Service office girl Mirabelle Bevan. Highly recommended. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'I read the script for London Calling in one sitting at my kitchen table over the course of a single evening. Sara just pulled me into the world of wintry post-war London, seedy jazz clubs and a missing heiress. During editing Sara and I had many conversations about everything from car models and radio shows to rail travel, pies and shoes. No detail is too small for Sara, she really is obsessed with getting things absolutely right for the period of London Calling. As a result her writing evokes the early 1950s impeccably, creating wonderful atmosphere and the perfect background to Mirabelle Bevan, a deeply engaging woman with a past.'Alison Rae, Managing Editor, Polygon
One of our Great Reads You May Have Missed in 2012. Brighton Rock mixed with Charlotte Gray and a twist of Agatha Christie make for the perfect recipe in this new post WW2 crime series. Mirabelle Bevan worked for the secret service during the war and thinks her surveillance and detection skills won’t be needed again but the disappearance of her boss makes them invaluable. Good writing and excellent research make for a really enjoyable read. Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series:1. Brighton Belle2. London Calling3. England Expects4. British Bulldog
An excellent novel set in Arabia in the mid 1800s. Based to some extent on fact, but with believable fictional input, the book ties in a strong set of characters, both English and Arab, who are three dimensional and solid. The contrast of eastern and western culture is very well portrayed. Written in the present tense to give the narrative an immediacy and pace, the first third of the book deals with the lives of slave traders and their captives, one of whom is the beautiful Abyssinian Zena and then to the expedition to Arabia by Lieutenant James Wellsted who goes to the rescue of two captured Englishmen in the desert. His future lies ahead in the shape of the slave girl Zena, who he comes to own. Their adventures together and subsequent parting hold the reader’s attention, for the love story becomes integral to the plot - a sense of it being risky adding another dimension to the action packed tale. The subject matter is not frivolous and Sara Sheridan shows that she is a great story teller as she takes us through the pages. A great read.
About to get married, Mirabelle and her fiance retired Superintendent Alan McGregor are torn about where they will settle but when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes up to buy a secluded house on the banks of the Firth of Forth, they submit to getting permission from the local landlord. But that permission comes at a price and when a nun dies in mysterious circumstances at the Little Sisters of Gethsemane Convent nearby they are drafted to uncover what happened.
'Compelling, fascinating . . . A cracking good read' Val McDermid 'Dazzling, original, full of wonderful characters' Katie Fforde 'Beautiful . . . Every sentence is a gift' Miranda Dickinson 'Highly recommended' Fiona Valpy 'A seductive, sensory romp' Ambrose Parry 'Beguiles in all the senses' Sarah Maine *** Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches? It's the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV's impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower - an event that only occurs once every few decades. When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband's aunt Clementina, she's determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant's impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation. Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don't last long in this Enlightenment city . . . And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences. 'Perfectly paced, romantic and full of intrigue. A truly wonderful story' Vikki Patis 'A vibrant, evocative novel about female friendship, empowerment and transformation' Nikki Marmery 'A fascinating and beautiful evocation of Edinburgh. I didn't want it to end' Elisabeth Gifford 'A seductive and sensual novel from a writer at the height of her powers. Captured my senses, and my heart' Essie Fox 'Immersive and engaging. A cleverly crafted novel offering a heady mix of secrets, intrigue, skulduggery and romance. I couldn't put it down!' Anita Frank 'Historical fiction at its best, full of atmosphere, with beautifully drawn characters and a thoroughly intriguing story' Frances Quinn 'Evocative and sumptuously imagined. I was intoxicated! A feast for the senses, The Fair Botanists is dazzling' Celia Reynolds 'There's no enlightenment without enlightening women, and Sara Sheridan gives us two great ones to reckon with in Belle and Elizabeth. The Fair Botanists gives us a glimpse into the complex life of Edinburgh in the 1820's with joyous female characters at the heart of the story' Annie Garthwaite
Scottish Highlands, 1958 Britain is awash in Cold War anxiety as Mirabelle Bevan heads for the Highlands on a holiday to visit Superintendent Alan McGregor's family. More glamorous than she expected, the Robertsons welcome her with open arms and an array of cocktails, but she has scarcely arrived when the body of an American fashion buyer turns up brutally murdered, plunging the local village into disarray and sending shockwaves around the close, Highland community. Mirabelle can't resist investigating, but what she finds lays the limitations of her feelings for McGregor bare and calls into question the loyalties of all those around her from the Robertson's housekeeper Mrs Gillies to the family of the dead woman. What started as a relaxing break in scenic surroundings soon spirals into a week fraught with danger. As the press descend on the Robertson's Highland estate, it rapidly becomes clear that things are not as black and white as they first appeared and Mirabelle can't count on anyone . . . Praise for Sara Sheridan: 'Sara Sheridan never fails to surprise. Unfailingly stylish, undeniably smart, Miss Bevan is destined to bring the exploits of the past to the best-seller lists of the present' - Daily Record 'Beautifully realised vivid characters, both heroes and villains, the atmospheric Brighton setting and plot that zipped along at a lovely pace left me in no doubt that Sara Sheridan and Mirabelle Bevan are a crime force to be reckoned with' - Goodreads 'Beneath that prim exterior lies a fearless, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal. One part Nancy Drew, two parts Jessica Fletcher, Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot' - Sunday Herald
The official TV tie-in to accompany the ITV drama scripted by Andrew Davies The World of Sanditon delves behind the scenes of Sanditon, giving you the inside scoop on Jane Austen's unfinished masterpiece, adapted for television by Andrew Davies. Produced by Red Planet Pictures, ITV's Sanditon series tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming and slightly wild Sidney Parker. Written by Emmy and BAFTA-Award winning writer Andrew Davies, the series brought Austen's story to life and this book will allow you to go behind the scenes of the cast and crew, exploring the world that Austen created and offering fascinating insights about the period and about the real-life heartbreak behind her final story. Readers will also have access to location guides, interviews with the cast, and in-depth historical information by esteemed author Sara Sheridan.
Brighton,1957 Mirabelle Bevan can't resist a cry for help, be it the little girl at a seaside sanatorium who is getting bullied or the strange behaviour of Uma, the Indian nurse who is looking after her. Intrigued she soon finds herself drawn into a spider's web of connections between an upmarket brothel, local priest Father Grogan, a man's body washed up on Brighton beach and a missing nursing sister. Attracted to handsome police doctor, Chris Williams, Mirabelle is determined to finally put her love affair with Jack Duggan behind her and recover from the betrayal of Superintendent Alan McGregor, but the police force in Brighton is undergoing a sea change that keeps leading her back to the sanatorium at the epicentre of a spate of brutal killings. And very soon it becomes apparent Mirabelle is in much more danger than she realises... 'With sharp blows delivered for gender and racial equality, Sheridan's story builds to a chilling climax' Daily Mail
For most of recorded history, women have been sidelined, if not silenced, by men who named the built environment after themselves. Now is the time to look unflinchingly at Scotland's heritage and bring those women who have been ignored to light. Can you imagine a different Scotland, a Scotland where women are commemorated in statues and streets and buildings - even in the hills and valleys? This is a guidebook to that alternative nation, where the cave on Staffa is named after Malvina rather than Fingal, and Arthur's Seat isn't Arthur's, it belongs to St Triduana. You arrive into Dundee at Slessor Station and the Victorian monument on Stirling's Abbey Hill interprets national identity through the women who ran hospitals during the First World War. The West Highland Way ends at Fort Mary. The Old Lady of Hoy is a prominent Orkney landmark. And the plinths in central Glasgow proudly display statues of the suffragettes who fought until they won. In this guide, streets, buildings, statues and monuments are dedicated to real women, telling their often unknown stories.
Brighton 1956 When Mirabelle's on-off boyfriend, Superintendent Alan McGregor, is taken off a gruesome murder case because the key suspect is an old school friend, Mirabelle steps in to unravel the tangle of poisoned gin, call girls and high stakes gambling that surrounds the death. It isn't long before McGregor's integrity is called into question and Mirabelle finds herself doubting him. So when a wartime hero's body turns up on the Sussex Downs, she is glad that McGregor is caught up in a mystery of his own as Brighton's establishment closes ranks. Mirabelle is in a dangerous situation though and she doesn't have McGregor watching her back on this one. And when the dead man on the Downs turns out to have been a member of a deadly thrillseekers club, related to the earlier murder, Mirabelle is determined to uncover the truth and free the innocent people who are bearing the brunt of the cover up. As her relationship with McGregor reaches breaking point, she has to draw on all her wartime experience to stand up for what she believes in - even if it means their relationship may not survive. 'With sharp blows delivered for gender and racial equality, Sheridan's story builds to a chilling climax' Daily Mail 'This consistently impressive series is a kind of hard-boiled cosy , combining an emphasis on atmosphere and the lives of the recurring characters with a stern eye for post-war strugges against inequality and deference' Morning Star
A disgraced woman. A faraway land. A forbidden love... An unforgettable tale set in Victorian London and 1840s China from a shining, young historical talent.Desperate to shield her from scandal, Mary's brother-in-law, the ambitious botanist Robert Fortune, forces her to accompany him on a mission to China to steal tea plants for the East India Company. But Robert conceals his secret motives - to spy for the British forces, newly victorious in the recent Opium War. His task is both difficult and dangerous - the British are still regarded as enemies by the Chinese and exporting tea bushes carries the death sentence. In these harsh conditions Mary grieves for her London life and the baby she has been forced to leave behind, while her fury at Robert intensifies. As their quest becomes increasingly treacherous, Robert and Mary disguise themselves as a mandarin and man-servant. Thousands of miles from everything familiar, Mary revels in her new freedom and the Chinese way of life - and when danger strikes, finds unexpected reserves of courage. The Secret Mandarin is an unforgettable story of love, fortitude and recklessness - of a strong woman determined to make it in a man's world and a man who will stop at nothing to fulfil his desires.
1955. When Mirabelle Bevan is rescued from a fire at her home on the Brighton seafront she's lucky to escape unharmed - but the blaze takes the life of her neighbour, Dougie Beaumont, a dashing and successful racing driver living in the flat above. It soon becomes clear that this was arson, raising questions about the young man's death that Mirabelle can't resist investigating further. With her curiosity piqued and on the trail of a potential killer she finds herself taking on the mysterious world of Fleet Street with its long lunches and dodgy deals as well as the glamorous motor racing world at Goodwood. It gradually becomes clear to Mirabelle that Dougie Beaumont's life was not as above-board as it first seemed and that this talented man had many secrets, hidden when he was alive by his international lifestyle where he was constantly on the move. Then, when a second shocking murder takes place, Mirabelle's pursuit is frustrated first by Dougie's well-connected and suspicious family and then by the official investigation - led by her would-be lover Superintendent McGregor. With the help of her colleague at McGuigan & McGuigan Debt Recovery, Vesta, and some of her ex-intelligence service connections, Mirabelle discovers the dark secrets of the glamorous racing driver have ramifications far beyond the English coastline.
Chocolate. Smuggling. Secrets and Lies. Brazil and London 1824. Charged with a mission by the Empress of Brazil, celebrated writer and the toast of Georgian London, Maria Graham sets off for England with the Brazilian civil war at its height. Newly widowed and a woman travelling alone, the stakes are high and when she accepts roguish smuggler Captain James Henderson's offer of passage on his ship, she gets more than she bargains for...Henderson is on a journey of his own, back to his childhood home in Covent Garden. Onboard Maria discovers both a dangerous secret concealed in a chocolate bar and an irresistible attraction to the mysterious captain. But falling in love with a smuggler is almost unthinkable for a woman of Maria's social standing. Though Henderson tries his utmost to abandon his life of crime and forge a new identity as a London gentleman, he is caught in a dangerous tangle with a deadly aristocratic smuggling ring. The only chance he has to save himself and prove worthy of Maria is to unmask the gang and break free from their clutches, but will it be enough?On Starlit Seas is a breathless tale of adventure, love and chocolate set at the height of the British Empire.
'Feisty, intelligent and charming' James Runcie, author of the The Grantchester Mysteries 1951, Brighton. With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Whitehall secretary) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel. 'Beneath that prim exterior lies a fearless, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal. One part Nancy Drew, two parts Jessica Fletcher, Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot' Sunday Herald
Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot' - Sunday Herald 'I was gripped from start to finish' - Newbooks magazine 'Unfailingly stylish, undeniably smart' - Daily Record 'A crime force to be reckoned with' - Good Reads 'Plenty of colour and action, will engage the reader from the first page to the last. Highly recommended' - Bookbag The first three Mirabelle Bevan thrillers in one omnibus edition, plus a teaser sample for British Bulldog, the fourth book in the series. BRIGHTON BELLE 1951. Brighton. With the excitement of the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Secret Service) thinks her skills are no longer required. After the death of her lover she moves to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job as a secretary at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when confronted by the case of Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee, Mirabelle discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from the pretty insurance clerk down the corridor, Vesta Churchill, Mirabelle follows a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns, betting scams and corpses to a dark corner of Austerity Britain where the forces of evil remain alive and well. ENGLAND EXPECTS Set during the summer heatwave of 1953, England Expects finds Mirabelle and Vesta investigating the seemingly unrelated murders of a racing journalist and a cleaning woman. Their searches lead them through Brighton Pavilion's crumbling passageways to the quad of a Cambridge college and finally into the shady underworld of Brighton freemasonry. And, while not on the murder trail, Vesta has to make some difficult decisions about her personal life. LONDON CALLING 1952, Brighton and London. When 17 year old debutante Rose Bellamy Gore goes missing in a seedy Soho jazz club the prime suspect is black saxophone player, Lindon Claremont, the last person to be seen talking to her. Under suspicion, Lindon heads straight for Brighton and his childhood friend, Vesta Churchill who works with ex-Secret Service office girl Mirabelle Bevan, now in charge of the McGuigan and McGuigan Debt Collection Agency. When Lindon is taken into custody the two women dive into London's underworld of smoky night clubs, smart cars and lethal cocktails to establish the truth. BRITISH BULLDOG - TEASER CHAPTERS British Bulldog sees Mirabelle on the trail of an RAF pilot who went missing during the war and mysteriously never came home. Her search takes her to Paris where she discovers an espionage operation smuggling secrets out of Russia. Her investigations also uncover some unwelcome truths about her wartime lover Jack and the true nature of his intelligence work in France.