Someone has been killed at The Alnwick Garden – in a murder mystery written exclusively for the attraction by award-winning author Ann Cleeves.
The writer, famous for her DI Vera Stanhope novels, has penned the special piece, which will be staged next month.
And the Come Die With Me event takes place just over a week after she launches her new book, The Seagull; the eighth novel in the Vera series.
The murder mystery event will be set in The Alnwick Garden’s Poison Garden and Ann, who lives in Whitley Bay, says she was delighted to write the piece.
She said: “There are four suspects. They have been invited mysteriously to the Poison Garden and they are locked in, then somebody dies. One of those four people must have done it, and it is up to the audience to work out who has done it.
“Vera won’t be there to solve this crime, so we need the audience to become the detectives.
“It is not a really complicated plot – it is a bit of fun really.
“The Garden was such an inspirational place to set the murder mystery and the suspects are all characters from my new book, The Seagull, although it won’t have helped if you have already read it.”
The fact that Ann has written a murder mystery exclusively for The Alnwick Garden is somewhat fitting, considering the town has been used frequently for filming of the hit ITV adaptation of her Vera books.
She said: “It is such a beautiful area and I know the cast and crew love filming up here.”
Brenda Blethyn stars as Vera in the television drama series and Ann believes the actor plays her famous detective perfectly. “She captures my Vera – with wit, humour and competence.”
The murder mystery piece isn’t the first time that Ann has used Northumberland and the North East for inspiration. Her bestselling and acclaimed Vera series is famously set in the region – sweeping across the rural villages to the rugged coastline with its post-industrial backdrop.
And her next novel, The Seagull, is no different, partly set in Cleeves’ beloved home town of Whitley Bay.
The book focuses on police corruption deep in the heart of a community, and on fragile, and fracturing, family relationships.
A cold case takes Vera back in time and very close to home – forcing her to dig deeper into her late father, Hector’s, murky reputation.
Vera must confront her prejudices and unwanted memories to dig out the truth, as the past begins to collide dangerously with the present.
A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper – and Vera played a part in his downfall.
Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. He tells her that Marshall is dead, his body buried close to St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay. However, when a search team investigates, officers find not one skeleton, but two.
Reflecting on the book, Cleeves said: “I love the fact that this book is set in Whitley Bay. It was such fun to write.”
The Seagull is being published by Macmillan on Thursday, September 7, in hardback, priced £16.99.
The Come Die With Me murder-mystery night takes place from 7pm on Saturday, September 16. Tickets are £55 per person, which includes a signed hardback book of The Seagull and a two-course meal of either chicken or The Alnwick Garden Parcel, and sticky toffee pudding. To book, visit alnwickgarden.com
The murder mystery is one of a number of crime-related events to take place at The Garden on September 16.
At 2pm, the Garden will host Deadly Explorations in Nature; a guided tour of the Poison Garden by forensic expert Professor Lorna Dawson and professor of forensic pathology James Grieve.
This is followed at 4pm by an event called Murder She Wrote, The Facts and Fiction in Crime-writing.
This will give people the chance to find out what happens when forensic science and crime-writing collide, with a talk from Ann, Lorna and James about the facts and fiction behind crime writing.
Deadly Explorations in Nature and the Murder She Wrote events are each priced £15 per person, or there is a combined ticket at £25 per person. Booking is essential. Visit www.alnwickgarden.com or call 01665 511350 option 1.