A New Beer Mystery: Murder by the Barrel by Lesley Cookman

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When the sleepy village of Steeple Martin announces its first beer festival, the locals are excited. Beer, sun and music, what could possibly go wrong?

Beer, sun and music, what could possibly go wrong? But when an unexpected death shakes the village, it’s up to Libby Sarjeant to solve the puzzle. Was it just another rock star death or is there something more sinister afoot?


Lesley, welcome to Island Confidential!  Can you tell us a little about the protagonist of Murder by the Barrel? 

Libby Sarjeant is the eponymous protagonist of my series. She is a middle aged, nosy woman who, after the break up of her marriage moved to a village house in Kent (UK) found for her by some friends. She now lives with her partner, Ben Wilde and helps run the Oast Theatre in the village, Steeple Martin.

How alike are you and Libby?  

I think there’s a fair amount of me in Libby – and certainly my nearest and dearest are certain there is!

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

They’ve certainly evolved. Their lives have changed in the same way as my real life friends’ lives have, and my regular readers love them. They can often tell me of a fact about a character when I’ve forgotten it.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean? 

No! Although I have put someone who REALLY annoys me in a book, albeit with a sex-change. Funny thing was, people who read it afterwards who knew the real person recognised her immediately. I hope she didn’t…

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

My village is imaginary, but very much based in fact. It is in a recognisable part of the county, and I have a map of the whole area on my office wall, with all the main roads, villages and the nearest small town, of which I also have a map on my desk! The pictorial map of my village, Steeple Martin, appears in every book and is on my website.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the characters?

I have no idea! This is regularly discussed on my Facebook page, and readers all have their own pictures of the Libby and the rest of the characters, so I would be loathe to upset those visions! I can see them all in my head, and there’s only one who looks remotely like an actor, and that’s Libby’s partner Ben, who looks uncannily like the actor Paul Freeman!

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

Write what you know. Yes, of course, to a degree, but honestly – how many of us crime writers have actually committed a murder? How many authors have been to Alpha Centauri? Or a school for magicians? These days, we can research most things online, or find the resources to do so. And the best advice? Read a lot! Not that I needed telling – I’ve been reading a lot all my life!

About The Author  

Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign.

The Libby Sarjeant series is published by Accent Press, who also publish her book, How to Write a Pantomime, with a foreword by Roy Hudd.   Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

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#Giveaway: Murder Dancing by Lesley Cookman

>>>win a Kindle copy of Murder dancing by leaving a comment: what is your favorite murder-solving literary duo?<<<

Murder Dancing

Max Tobin brings his all-male dance company to Steeple Martin, with his new ballet Pendle, based on the infamous Pendle Witch Trials, due to be performed at the Oast Theatre. There have been unpleasant incidents during rehearsals in London, and Max asks Libby Sarjeant and her friend Fran Wolfe to look into them. To everyone’s surprise, the seriousness of the incidents escalates until, inevitably, someone is murdered.

While the police look into the murder, Libby and Fran wonder why someone seemed so set against the ballet. Were occult forces at work, or was there a more worldly, personal motive?


Today Leslie joins us with a guest post on cosy (known in these parts as cozy) mysteries. 

First, thank you for hosting me on your blog – I’m delighted to be here.

When I first started writing Murder Mysteries, they weren’t called “cosies” in the UK. Eventually, with the rise of Amazon and the appearance of ebooks, the term came into general use as all books had to be categorised, and my books were never going to bear comparison with any of the grittier stuff.

Luckily, there proved to be a market for this type of story, and particularly the series crime novels. I followed in the great tradition of the Golden Age mysteries, and having read several US published authors, decided that it was a model I could adopt. When my publisher bought the first book – unfinished – she asked if it could be a series, and I delightedly agreed.

So far, there are sixteen full-length novels in the Libby Sarjeant series, one Christmas long/short story and a short story in an anthology. It appears, from the responses I receive from readers, that the main appeal of the books is the characters. One of the most frequent sentences I read is “It’s like visiting old friends.” That delights me, obviously, and I sometimes wonder if I could forget the murders altogether, and just send my little group of main characters off on non-criminal exploits, but one of my most popular characters is my police officer, Ian Connell. When he first appeared, in Book 2 of the series, I never realised how essential he would become. In fact he gets an awful lot of fan mail, mostly asking me not to marry him off!

I think this is the appeal of the series mystery. Each little world is lovingly created and peopled, and as long as the main characters are sympathetic, readers are willing to suspend disbelief. After all, how many murders can one civilian stumble across in their lifetime?

What is more difficult, in my opinion, are the further constrictions placed on the author by setting the stories in a very specific environment. I’m thinking particularly about, for instance, Quilting Mysteries, Crafting Mysteries, Coffee Shop Mysteries and others of their ilk. That seems awfully difficult to me. I have enough trouble finding legitimate situations for my eponymous sleuth to barge into, without tying her to a particular trade or hobby. She does run a local theatre, and once or twice, murders have been loosely connected to that, but mostly I just try and find something new for her to investigate. Occasionally, I send her and her friends off on holiday somewhere, but have to bring them back half way through the book. And I always get comments on the next book saying how nice it is to be back in Steeple Martin, Libby’s home village.

For, of course, in the best English tradition, Libby lives in a typical English village in my home county of Kent. There is also the local seaside town of Nethergate, and several other villages dotted between, which over the years have housed murderers, victims, and scenes of crime. So, if you’d like to see what goes on in the British countryside, do pay Libby a visit. We’d love to see you.

About The Author  

A former actor, model and freelance journalist, Lesley Cookman lives on the Kent coast in the UK, has four musicians as children, two small grandchildren and two cats, Lady Godiva and Gloria. All 14 of her Libby Sarjeant books have reached number one in their genre charts on Amazon UK.

Keep up with Lesley

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