A Stranger’s House Blog Tour: A Perfect Day in Cambridge

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Clare Chase’s gripping crime novel A Stranger’s House is out in paperback today and to celebrate Clare is kicking off her blog tour by sharing her ‘perfect day’ in Cambridge – the city where the novel is set. Keep your eye out for a few of these locations when you’re reading the book! 

To celebrate the paperback launch of A Stranger’s House, my first Cambridge-set mystery, Choc Lit invited me to share my idea of a perfect day in the city. This is actually quite a tough call – there’s plenty to fill at least a week! However, here are a few highlights. If you ever head over in my direction, you might like to give them a go!

Breakfast at Clowns

Okay, it hasn’t got quite the same ring to it as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it’s where I’d start! Everyone refers to Clowns as a Cambridge institution, and as far as I’m concerned it is, so feel free to believe the hype! It’s a quirky, cosy family-run Italian café on King Street. The coffee’s great and there’s a lovely range of things to eat throughout the day and late into the evening, all very reasonably priced.

Clowns Cafe (1024x563)

The University

It’s everywhere in Cambridge: from the academic departments and colleges, to a range of university-owned museums and galleries. On a sunny day, I’d probably wander round a college or two – but most charge unless you’re a member of the university or a Cambridge resident, so it’s worth picking and choosing. King’s College is hugely impressive of course, but I also love St John’s.

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You can see the Bridge of Sighs by visiting St John’s College, or by punting underneath it!

Further out of town, Churchill College is well worth a visit. The main buildings are modern and brutalist – which may or may not be to your taste! – but the grounds have a variety of sculptures – including by Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth – and the chapel has stained glass windows by John Piper. Confession time – I met my husband at a college bop at Churchill, so I will always have a soft spot for it!

The university’s Botanic Gardens are also lovely on a sunny day, and perfect for anyone with young children who want to tear around. There’s a good café there too, so you can refuel.

In wet weather I’d choose Kettle’s Yard – but be warned, it’s currently closed for building work. When it’s open, it consists of a serene and beautiful house full of lovely furniture and decorations, as well as artworks by the likes of Alfred Wallis, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. It’s far more than a museum though – you’re allowed to go in, sit down and relax with a book! Next to the house is a gallery – very light and bright with high ceilings. Until it reopens, I’d take in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. It’s home to countless curiosities from around the world, including a soaring totem pole. (And a Balinese mask donated by my grandmother!)

Lunch

After all that walking I’d visit The Eagle pub on Bene’t Street for a rest. It’s famous as the hostelry where Watson and Crick celebrated after working out the structure of DNA, but it’s also home to the RAF bar, with its graffiti-covered ceiling. The words were written using wax, lipstick and charcoal by World War Two airmen. The place is full of atmosphere, with good food and beer too.

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Ceiling at The Eagle pub.

 

Punting

After lunch, I’d go punting. When I say, I’d go punting, I actually mean I’d persuade someone else to punt me. The punt is a flat boat, with a pole that you use to push yourself along and then to steer, by angling it like a rudder. I’m damned if I can get it right. If you haven’t got a willing volunteer in your party, you can hire a chauffeur punt, and be regaled with Cambridge history as you relax and let a professional take the strain.

Punting at Clare College Bridge (1024x768)

Countryside

Cambridge is a city, and it’s crammed full of restaurants and all the shops you’d expect. However it’s actually quite a small place, and if you want a county walk, complete with cows, horses and the like, you can head off along the river. One direction will take you towards Ely, the other towards Grantchester. The latter is do-able in a day and you can go and peer at the Old Vicarage, the former home of the poet Rupert Brooke. The village’s Orchard Tea Rooms are also wonderful, with a timeless feel and idyllic gardens.

Cow by the Mill Pond

You get cows in the centre of town too!

 

Quirky Cambridge

I’d also make time to simply stroll around and soak up the atmosphere. There are plenty of quirky sights around the city. The centre is quite swanky and pricey but if you want a more alternative feel, try Mill Road.

Paymobil Man (769x1024)

Evening

I’d round off the day with a meal out, and in town, the options are vast. On this occasion, I’ll plump for La Margarita, a lovely Italian restaurant on Bridge Street (as visited by Ruby and Nate my latest Cambridge mystery, One Dark Lie)! But the Fort St George, by the river on Midsummer Common, is also atmospheric – a grade II listed timber-framed building with a cosy interior. When Ruby takes a break from her work in A Stranger’s House she escapes there for chips!

Fort St George (1024x768)If I had any energy left I’d take in a show. The Footlights would be fun; I’d see if I could spot the comedy stars of the future!

So – that’s my ideal day. If you read A Stranger’s House, I hope you enjoy the descriptions of Cambridge, and if you visit the city, have a wonderful time!

A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase is now out in paperback. For buying options, click HERE

For more on Clare, follow her on Twitter: @ClareChase_

Visit her website: www.clarechase.com

Introducing a new imprint: Death by Choc Lit!

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Last week, we released the first book on our ‘Death by Choc Lit’ crime imprint; A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase. Today on the blog Clare introduces the imprint and talks a little bit about the ‘ingredients’ that went into the making of the first Death by Choc Lit novel …  

Death by Choc Lit? What flavour of novel is that?

I feel very honoured that the publication of my latest novel, A Stranger’s House also marks the launch of Choc Lit’s new imprint, Death by Choc Lit: gripping, edge-of-your-seat reads.

The tagline got me thinking about crime, mystery and suspense fiction, and the vast range of stories that fall under that banner. I know that all Death by Choc Lit titles will promise a healthy dose of suspense, but beyond that, the specific ingredients will vary. A Stranger’s House is a murder mystery, and within that, here’s my particular mix:

A developing relationship

I know you’d expect this from a Choc Lit title! Ruby, my heroine, has been through a rough time with her ex-partner, Luke, and she’s cautious about any new emotional entanglements. However, the intensity of the situation she finds herself in throws her feelings into confusion. And the person who stirs her interest is holding back a momentous secret.

A location with more to it than meets the eye

I chose to set this book in Cambridge, and have written a follow-up, featuring the same characters, that’s also set in the city. I’ve lived here for over twenty years now, and the place fascinates me. It’s achingly beautiful at times, and there’s something constantly melancholic and nostalgic about it. I think it’s because of the high proportion of students. If you stay and become grown-up in the city, you’re always conscious of the passing of time, and lost youth! Cambridge is also a place of contrasts. You get choirs singing Elizabethan madrigals from punts on the river, whist drunks deal drugs on the commons. It’s a small city too, and secrets travel fast. A high proportion of residents work for the university (I used to myself), and there are lots of connections you might not expect.

A mystery to unravel

I like stories where I’m presented with information that could, in principle, allow me to guess the identity of the villain. There are plenty of clues to work on in A Stranger’s House, so the book’s ideal for anyone who likes to indulge in some armchair sleuthing!

A tense climax

I’ve always loved books that mix the detective element with a gradual rise in danger, leading to a life-or-death climax before the action’s over, so that’s the format I follow in my novels.

Crime fiction can be gritty, dark and violent, and of course it can also be humorous and cosy. My novels tread the line between the two. I’m a big fan of Elly Griffiths’ books, and love her balance of life and relationships with sleuthing and suspense. I belong to the Crime Writer’s Association, and they ask their members to rate their offerings on a profanometer, and a platelet counter! I can say that my book is very low on bad language, and there’s no focus on the gore. To me, it’s the characters’ motivations and the mystery that are interesting, and the suspense and relationships that add the spice.

A Stranger’s House is now available on Kindle. Click on one of the links below to purchase.

Amazon UK    Amazon US    Amazon AU    Amazon CA

For more on Clare, follow her on Twitter @ClareChase_ or check out her blog.

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