Monday, December 10, 2012

The Twelve Clues of Christmas: Rhys Bowen

My Christmas Crime Fiction list is on its way. So many titles that I will have at least 5 posts arranged alphabetically by author. This year I decided to add to the festivities with some guest posts by authors of Christmas mysteries. First up is the illustrious Rhys Bowen whose latest Royal Spyness novel is entitled The Twelve Clues of Christmas. Thanks, Rhys, for stopping by.


I was born with a wanderlust. I’m told that the first time I was taken to the beach I walked out into the ocean, wearing only my sunhat. The family waited to see what I’d do, then had to rescue me when the waves came up to my neck. I’m sure I was trying to find what lay on the other side of that water. As children my brother and I could choose where we went on Sunday outings. He chose the zoo or the science museum. I always chose London Airport. In those days there was an observation tower and I would stand there, straining to catch a first glimpse of a plane coming from India or South Africa. It seemed overwhelmingly exciting and romantic and I couldn’t wait to leave home and travel the world myself.

When I was twelve I bullied my parents into letting me stay with friends in Vienna. They put me on a train in London, and I made my own way across the Channel and then overnight by train—arriving quite safely and without incident. As a teenager I dreamed of driving to Australia in a bubble car (a small motorbike contraption with a hood over it that was popular in those days). When I got there I planned to write a book about it called Around the World in a Bubble. I tried to persuade a friend to come with me. Luckily she refused. I don’t think the Bubble would have managed the Himalayas.

But during a gap year, I worked in Germany, then studied in Freiburg and Kiel. I spent three months wandering around Greece with a backpack. And after I was secure in my job at the BBC in London, I fulfilled that Australian dream and went to work for Australian Broadcasting. Luckily I married a man who worked for an airline, and we’ve been traveling ever since.

But what is the saying—“You can never go home again.”

That has now come back to haunt me. Once you leave home, you never really belong anywhere again. I’ve lived in California for forty years, and I love many things about it. But there are things I miss about England. The quiet pace of life in a village, the traditions, the passing of the year as seen in the countryside. When I go home to visit I am the outsider, looking in on a world I no longer inhabit. I find this is especially true at Christmas time. I have such fond memories of the simple, non-commercial Christmas of my childhood. . I remember making the pudding, dropping in silver charms. Singing carols around the village. Being invited in for hot mince pies. Playing silly family games on Christmas day.

Perhaps Christmas is equally commercial in England these days. I know that stores now open on Boxing Day and I’m sure there are the same awful commercials luring us to “put a Lexus under the tree.” So what I’m longing for is not a place, but a time. And this year I’ve been able to visit it. My latest Royal Spyness novel, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, recreates my ideal Christmas in the English countryside—all the food, traditions, games that I longed for. So now, when I want to go home to my childhood, I’ll just re-read my book. I’ve even included recipes and rules for games at the back. (Of course, my ideal Christmas didn’t include all those bodies…..)

Rhys Bowen writes the New York Times bestselling Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries. She has won multiple Agatha, Anthony and MacAvity awards and her latest book has received starred reviews. She is a transplanted Brit who divides her time between Northern California and Arizona. You can visit her online at, on Facebook, on her blogs and


Rhys Bowen said...

Thank you for inviting me to come and guest-blog, Janet.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.


marja said...

Ah, yes, my husband and I were just talking about what things used to be like yesterday. I, too, miss so many things. However, you're right, we can't go back. Too bad. I'm looking forward to this book.
Marja McGraw