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Locations of Private Lessons set in Barnes by Bernard O’Keefe

  • Submitted: 26th March 2023

Locations of Private Lessons set in Barnes

The second DI Garibaldi novel, Private Lessons,  is, like the first, set in Barnes, an area of South West London that feels more like a country village than part of the capital. The duck pond at its heart, the independent shops and cafes, the picturesque  pubs, the green spaces, the proximity of the Thames – all contribute to the place’s sense of calm. The centre of the metropolis may be only a matter of minutes away but when you’re in Barnes you’re far from the madding crowd. Sometimes it’s easy to think you’re on the set of an Agatha Christie murder mystery.

The White Hart pub in Barnes

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

That’s why I chose it as the setting for the Garibaldi series. Having lived in Barnes for thirty years, I  know the place well and I’ve used that knowledge in the novel, which stays true to the area’s geography. The places, the roads, the shops, the pubs are all real and you can easily walk the routes  the characters take. From the White Hart  by the river (a great vantage point for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race)  to the Sun Inn opposite the pond.

The Sunn Inn:

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

From the world-famous jazz venue The Bull’s Head, to The Olympic Studios.  Barnes Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge. The expanse of Barnes Common to the Wetland Centre.

Ranelagh Avenue

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

In Private Lessons the victim, Giles Gallen lives with his parents in Ranelagh Avenue. He works for a tutorial agency based in Glebe Road.

Glebe Road

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

The super-rich Italian family that employs him as a tutor live in a massive house on Lonsdale Road. The house is close to Hammersmith Bridge. Other families live in large houses near the heart of the village.

Lonsdale Road

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

Garibaldi, in contrast, lives in an ex- council flat tucked behind the high street. Giles drinks with his friends in The Coach and Horses and The Red Lion, while Garibaldi and Gardner are partial to a pastry in Gails.

Gails Bakery

It’s the sense of Barnes as a place apart that makes it such a great location for the novel. Historically,  this sense of isolation resulted from the way Barnes nestles  in a large loop of the river,  surrounded by the Thames on three sides. More recently this sense of separation has been exacerbated by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge – not a problem for Garibaldi, who when he is not being driven by his sergeant, cycles everywhere.

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

The ‘village by the river’ is also a great place to jog and it’s  a jogger who discovers the victim in Private Lessons . Setting off from his house in Cambridge Road he runs along the River Thames towpath towards Hammersmith. He heads under the bridge before cutting back to Barnes when he is opposite Fulham Football Club. As he crosses the common, he follows a path beside some tennis courts before being taken short and heading into an area of wood to his left. Here he makes a discovery.

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

Fulham Football Club

For all its charm, Barnes, like any village, has its dark side, and a particularly dark place lies at the heart of  Private Lessons. Beside Rocks Lane tennis courts on the edge of Barnes Common is Barnes Old Cemetery. It’s an abandoned graveyard that some might describe as full of gothic charm and others might describe as terrifying. I visited it several times when I was writing the book and decided this was where the murder victim should be found.

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

 Barnes Cemetery

Visit the locations in Private Lessons

In the first Garibaldi novel the victim is found in The Leg O’Mutton Reservoir, a nature reserve by the Thames. What better place to find the body in Private Lessons than this disused cemetery, a place unknown to many locals and, to those familiar with it, a place with a dodgy reputation?

Private Lessons Bernard O'Keeffe

So that’s Barnes. Just as a ferry from the mainland to the Isle of Wight can make you feel you’re back into the 1950s, so can a bus south from Hammersmith Bridge, followed by a right turn at the Red Lion, make you think you’re back in some gentler, more innocent time.

Visit the locations in Private Lessons


But don’t be deceived. As Private Lessons shows, murder knows no bounds and can be found even in the very best places.


BookTrail Boarding Pass: Private Lessons

Twitter: @BernardOKeeffe1

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