Monday, 25 February 2008

The Arsenic Labyrinth


Today is the official UK publication date for the paperback edition of The Arsenic Labyrinth, my third Lake District Mystery. It’s a book that gave me a good deal of pleasure for a number of reasons.

I’ll talk another day about the process of researching the story-line and background material. From a crime fan’s perspective, I enjoy combining, every now and then, the contemporary mystery and characters with plotting elements usually found in books of the past. So I used a ‘dying message’ clue in Eve of Destruction and I’ve tried my hand at ‘locked room mysteries’ in several short stories. In The Arsenic Labyrinth, I introduced a family tree - in fact, two family trees, showing the lines of descent in two families, the Inchmores and the Cloughs, whose contrasting fortunes are relevant to the plot (but in saying this, I’m not really giving much away at all!.)

When I was hunting for information about arsenic labyrinths, I came across an website for an art gallery in Falmouth which was running an exhibition of work by local artists, including a series of etchings and oil paintings by the talented Bren Unwin. I was very taken with a limited edition black and white lithograph of a rather spooky arsenic labyrinth. And now one of them hangs on one of our walls at home, a reminder of a book that was so much fun to write.

9 comments:

harriet said...

Sounds great -- looking forward very much to reading it!

Juliet said...

A wonderfully atmospheric print - it would have looked good as a book jacket!

Maxine said...

Thanks for the tip, I am purchasing this weekend. Family trees have always fascinated me -- I recall poring over Rogue Herries and Forsyte Saga as a child.
The recent "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" had two family trees, the reader sees one at the start of the book (but this is a bit of a cheat, as its omissions are the key to the mystery), and one integrated into the text at the stage when the information contained in it had to be revealed to the "reader identifier figure".

Martin Edwards said...

Juliet, I admit that from the moment I saw the print, I really wanted to acquire it!

Maxine, I share this fascination. One day, I'd like to write a story in which the family tree is even more central to the mystery than is the case in The Arsenic Labyrinth. I've never got into genealogy, but I can certainly understand why it is so popular. Years ago, I came up with the idea of a 'family tree detective' but never got very far with it and I think someone else has beaten me to it now...

Juliet said...

My favourite 'family tree' book is The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. I've read it several times but it's such a huge fat paperback that with all the turning backwards and forwards to the family trees (I'm very, very bad at holding that kind of info in my head while reading), my copy is in a very sorry state indeed, with pages falling out all over the place.

Genealogy is the closest a lot of people get to being an actual real-life detective - easy to become completely obsessed, I imagine.

Martin Edwards said...

Juliet, here is a terrible confession. I bought The Quincunx a long time ago, having been impressed by another, much shorter Palliser (Betrayals, I think it was)- but the sheer size of the book put me off from starting it. I take it I've been missing out big time?

brooksideelaine said...

ahve just read The Arsenic Labyrinth will be posting about it soon

Juliet said...

I think you might have been, yes. Give it another go before it goes in the Oxfam bag! It is a Big Read, certainly, but on the other hand, if you enjoy Dickens and Wilkie Collins I think you'll find it a real page-turner and it won't take you as long to get through as you fear. There's enough in there to make it well worth re-reading to pick up on clues and bits of pastiche one missed first time around, in my view (though maybe this just shows how careless a reader I am!). Although I have never quite 'believed' in the denoument, I still find it an immensely satisfying curled-up-in-front-of-the-fire-at-Christmas kind of treat. In fact, apropos a recent blog post of my own, it is one book I have literally 'read to pieces'! I'm amazed (but given the BBC's recent efforts, somewhat relieved) that it's never been adapted for television.

Martin Edwards said...

Juliet, you've persuaded me. I am a great fan of Dickens and Collins - in fact, I once wrote a 'locked room' mystery (actually a 'locked brothel' mystery) in which they both investigated a baffling crime. So I will fast-track the book up the to-read list...