Joyce Cato discusses the origin of travelling cook Jenny Starling

Deadly Stuff by Joyce CatoJoyce Cato was born in Oxford and went on to work as a secretary before becoming a full-time writer. She returns this month with the latest offering in the Jenny Starling series.

Here, she discusses what made her write such a character.

Having created my own version of an ideal professional police detective in the Hillary Greene series (written under the name of Faith Martin) I found myself yearning for the more nostalgic, classic-style country-house mysteries of the golden age of English crime fiction. Like a lot of readers, I devoured every Agatha Christie novel I could find, from my early teens on, and never forget the delight to be found in coming across a previously unread Dorothy L Sayers or Edmund Crispin.  So, having read everything I could find from that period, I thought, why not write my own!  (Not that I would ever presume or dream to be counted in such esteemed company, naturally!)  Hence Jenny Starling was born – after all, a cook who travelled to country houses and other prime whodunnit destinations, she was just asking to become an amateur sleuth.  Add a dash of humour and a little more modern-day thinking to the mix, and the travelling cook mysteries were born.  And I can only hope that readers have had as much fun reading them as I have had writing them.

Jenny is the only child of a famous celebrity chef, and an eco-warrior mother, who went their separate ways during Jenny’s formative years.  She learned her culinary arts at her capricious Daddy’s knee of course, but also attended a local catering college, where she spent most of her time teaching her tutors how to make a proper Dundee cake.   Her tall, Junoesque figure attracts plenty of male attention, but now firmly in her mid-twenties (or so!) she is dedicatedly single, and likely to remain that way.  Her unrivalled sense of humour and steady head allow her to cope with most of the slings and arrows that outrageous fortune cast her way (usually in the form of murderous mayhem) and her moral compass keeps her (mostly) on the straight and narrow.  Although she doesn’t see herself as a detective, her clever mind and instinctive knowledge of human nature certainly helps her whenever she’s called upon to give the long-suffering local constabulary a helping hand.

– Joyce Cato

Praise for the Jenny Starling series

‘Joyce Cato has created a wonderful protagonist in Jenny Starling.’ – Mystery Women

‘Jenny is an attractive, intelligent Rubenesque heroine, and the cast of characters above and below stairs are captured affectionately and wittily’ – Euro Crime

‘[a] tenacious cook, with a razor-sharp mind’ – Oxford Times

This is the fifth book in the Jenny Starling series:

Birthdays Can Be Murder

A Fatal Fall of Snow

Dying for a Cruise

An Invisible Murder

Deadly Stuff by Joyce Cato is scheduled for publication on 30 April 2014


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