I am delighted to be kicking off The Death Chamber by
Publication Date: April 5th 2018
‘Lesley Thomson is a class above’ IAN RANKIN
‘A wonderfully eerie London setting, unique characters and a chilling plot… Lesley Thomson is one of our leading crime writers.’ ELLY GRIFFITHS
‘This is gloriously well written crime fiction. Thomson creates a rich
and sinister world that is utterly unique.’ WILLIAM SHAW
and sinister world that is utterly unique.’ WILLIAM SHAW
Queen’s Jubilee, 1977: Cassie Baker sees her boyfriend kissing another girl at the village disco. Upset, she heads home alone and is never seen again.
Millennium Eve, 1999: DCI Paul Mercer finds Cassie’s remains in a field. Now he must prove the man who led him there is guilty.
When Mercer’s daughter asks Stella Darnell for help solving the murder, Stella see echoes of herself. Another detective’s daughter.
With her sidekick sleuth, Jack, Stella moves to Winchcombe, where DCI Mercer and his prime suspect have been playing cat and mouse for the past eighteen years…
Getting to know the character interview
Lesley Thomson talks about her character Stella Darnell – cleaner and detective
Can you describe your character?
Stella Darnell is 49, six foot tall with dark hair. She has a remarkable sense of smell, identifying odours and scents right down to the brand of say, perfume or cleaning fluid. She’s single, living in the house left to her by her dad left when he died with her poodle Stanley where she spent her first seven years before her parents separated. She’s a woman of action, is rational relies and logic and is calm in a crisis. If you wanted a chat about how you’re feeling Stella would go a bit vacant and, seeing it as a cure for all ills, would likely offer you a cleaning shift.
What is their job role and where do they work?
Stella would probably say she’s a cleaner and also a detective. When she left school at 18, Stella ignored the police application form her Met Detective dad gave her and started Clean Slate, a cleaning company now in two rooms over a mini-mart in Shepherds Bush, London and as we speak looking for larger office space. Stella has hundreds of clients including the Met Police and Kew Gardens. She still cleans especially deep cleaning, her passion. In The Detective’s Daughter, finding an unsolved case of her dad’s attic, she sets out to solve it. By the time we meet Stella in The Death Chamber, she’s added cold case investigations to Clean Slate’s services.
Where did the original idea of them come about?
Like a detective, a cleaner enters a chaotic scene and restores order. I wanted to write about a character who backs into the business of solving murders. My first title for The Detective’s Daughter was ‘The Unwilling Detective’ and to some extent Stella’s still unwilling. Being a detective has involved her in a level of subterfuge (going undercover) that given she’s stringently honest doesn’t come easily.
In addition she has grown up with some animosity to the police because her detective father was frequently absent on a case and cancelled birthdays and access weekends. But for all this, Stella grew up learning about cadaver dogs and when rigor mortis sets in, she has detection in her blood. Stella’s cleaning mantra is Stain by Stain, easily transferable to the business of solving murder.
What makes them original?
Is Stella original? I think that’s for others to decide. To me she’s unique but then we all are, aren’t we. There are few cleaners out there offering detective work along with vacuuming and polishing and fewer still who have teamed up with a London Underground tube driver who talks to ghosts as he drives his train through 19th century tunnels on the dead late shift.
What makes them tick?
Cleaning every time. Give Stella a mop and bucket or a cross contamination sanitizer and she’s away. Although Stella is not immune to love…
What is their biggest fear?
Stella is too rational to feel much fear. She isn’t given to anxiety. As the stories progress she lets more people into her life and recognises that, after dad’s sudden death, she’d hate anything to happen to them. For someone who solves murders she’s not great at talking about death, but even this she confronts. As we meet her in The Death Chamber, she’s volunteering at the local hospice.
If you and your character met in real life, do you think you’d get on?
I might like Stella, she’s reliable, honest and loyal, you know where you are with her. I appreciate that in people. But I think Stella would find me hard going. I’m rubbish at cleaning and, a stickler for the truth, I’m not sure she’d know what to make of someone who spends their days making up stories. I think within minutes I’d be hiring Clean Slate to do my cleaning and then we’d do just fine.
Who would you like to see play them if your books were made into a film or TV show?
This changes every time I see an actor I like. The most recent is Nicola Walker. She has played complex, socially awkward characters and would do Stella proud. Another fine actor is Gina McKee, she too has an inner strength that comes off the screen that would work for Stella.
How many books do you have in the series so far?
The Death Chamber is number six – at this point the series spans a period of five years in Stella’s life.
What’s in store for them next?
In The Playground Murders (out in 2019) Jack and Stella will be dividing their time between London and Whitstable, a little town on the Kent coast where a woman was brutally murdered. We will go back in time and meet Stella’s dad Terry as he investigates a high profile child murder.
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and the series has sold over 750,000 copies. Lesley divides her time between Sussex and Gloucestershire. She lives with her partner and her dog.