Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death is a comedy crime caper set in the West Country’s goriest market town where crucifixions are executed near the pretty town square with its tea shops. However, even MB Vincent, the new crime author behind the book, has a double life. A wife and husband team pens what seems like a cross between the Vicar of Dibley and Midsomer Murders. She is romantic fiction writer Bernadette Strachan who writes as Juliet Ashton and Claire Sandy. He is composer Matthew Strachan. They work at opposite ends of their dark house and meet in the shadowy middle to write about Jess. We asked them more about the book and how this works.
This is the debut outing for Jess Castle. Who is she?
Jess Castle PhD is a historian and a lecturer who doesn’t quite fit in at Cambridge, so she goes home with her tail between her legs to Castle Kidbury, only to find she doesn’t quite fit in there either.
What drives her to get involved in solving murders?
She’s nosey, bored, and it annoys her father, his Honour Judge James Castle QC. To the surprise of them both, Jess turns out to be quite the detective.
Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death is described as cosy crime, but there’s crucifixions and all sorts of gore. Discuss!
Into every life a little rain must fall. It’s true, the murders are gruesome, but the backdrop is most definitely cosy.
You’ve written women’s fiction as Bernadette Strachan (real name), Claire Sandy and Juliet Ashton. Now you’ve turned to a double life of crime. Why’s that?
Let me answer that (Matthew)! As Bernie’s husband I watched her create all these worlds and wanted to gatecrash the creative fun.
You seem to be having a lot of fun with what you describe as a cross between Midsomer Murders and the Vicar of Dibley. There’s a cop shop at the end of Margaret Thatcher Way – love it. How do you get the right balance of humour and suspense?
I think we found that balance by writing for ourselves. We love comedy, horror and thrillers in equal measure, along with soaps – the more absurd the better. Castle Kidbury is home to all these.
There’s a hint of romance for Jess too. Are you expecting you will lure your romantic novels’ fans over to the dark side?
It’s only a hint, mind. All are welcome to Castle Kidbury, the goriest market town in the West Country, with farmers’ market every Thursday.
You write as MB Vincent together. How does the process work?
We plan each book together in detail and we write alternate chapters. Then we review each chapter together to make sure the author’s voice is consistent. We each have the power of veto! We never, ever, ever argue. At all.
Any more cases for Jess?
Yes! This is the first in a trilogy. So you can look forward to spending more time in Castle Kidbury.
Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death is published by Simon & Schuster UK on October 18. Watch out for our review.