Travel to the Mystery of Four set in Ireland with Sam Blake
Travel to the Mystery of Four
Travel to the Mystery of Four set in Ireland with Sam Blake – Sam Blake has come over to BookTrail Towers today to speak of County Wicklow and The Mystery of Four….
Kilfenora House is the central location in The Mystery of Four, as much a character as Tess Morgan who has recently restored it. Clarissa Westmacott, retired star of stage and screen lives in the Gardeners Cottage. Kilfenora is fictitious but located in the heart of the very real Wicklow mountains in Ireland.
County Wicklow is known as The Garden of Ireland, bordered by the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. It is truly beautiful. A destination for tourists as they leave Dublin City and head south to circumvent the island. The entire place is rich with history as well as stunning scenery. Some of the most celebrated country houses and gardens in the country are located here.
I moved to a tiny village that nestles between the sea and the mountains in Wicklow, over twenty years ago. I’ve often used elements of the county in my books, but The Mystery of Four is the first book I’ve set in the heart of Wicklow. Whether you arrive by air into Dublin Airport, or by ferry into Dublin Port, you can travel up into the mountains and see villages and views just like those in the book.
When I sat down to start plotting The Mystery of Four, I was really interested in Golden Age inspired stories and the concept of the ‘locked room’. In this case, the ‘locked room’ is the isolated country house of Kilfenora. Moreover, the mountains that I see outside my window make the perfect setting. These mountains are wild and rugged and scattered with country houses and villages just like Kilfenora.
Once I started writing, the characters literally arrived on the page. They included my son’s cat Merlin and the fabulous retired actress, Clarissa Westmacott. The characters are all larger than life in The Mystery of Four. From the Kilfenora village Facebook group to the local shop and the pub, they continually surprised me and made this, my 8th book, a lot of fun to write.
The Mystery of Four has been described as a cosy mystery. Well, it’s very much inspired by Agatha Christie, her gossipy villages and her ‘big houses’. Like many of her books there is quite a big cast of colourful characters, and a twisty story with murder at its heart.
After two years of hard work Kilfenora is finally about to open to the public. There is a grand opening weekend with a local production of Dr Faustus as its keynote event. But things begin to go wrong as tragic ‘accidents’ befall the cast members.
In every book I write, location is very much a character. Readers may never have been to Ireland but I want them to experience this country of contrasts as if they are walking down the street or following the Wicklow Way walking trail up through the mountains.
Dublin is a cosmopolitan European city with an international population. You don’t have to go far to find spectacular scenery, rolling hills, beautiful waterfalls and sheep roaming the mountain tops. The 4th Century monastic settlement at Glendalough is only an hour from Dublin city. Wandering around the ruins, you slip back in time.
Kilfenora House in The Mystery of Four is an amalgam of several country houses that are literally on my doorstep – Powerscout House in Enniskerry (where ‘Disenchanted’ was recently filmed) has been owned by the Slazenger family since the 1960s, but it was the 1st Viscount Powerscourt who transformed the original the medieval castle when, in 1730 he commissioned the German-born architect Richard Castle to build Powerscourt House. A 68-room mansion which was completed in 1741, according to one architectural historian, it has “The massive dignity of a great Italian Renaissance villa.”
Surrounded by the mountains with fabulous views of the Great Sugar Loaf, Powerscourt is set in stunning gardens (awarded third best garden in the world by National Geographic Magazine) just as Kilfenora House is in The Mystery of Four.
The stable yard, Tess’s house and the outbuildings at Kilfenora were influenced by Kilruddery House, in Bray, County Wicklow, which originally dates from the 17th century, but which was remodelled and extended in 1820 in the Elizabethan style. The family home of the Earl of Meath, Kilruddery features in many films and TV series including most recently ‘The Winx Saga’ on Netflix.
Flights are incredibly cheap to Ireland from all over the UK and Europe and you can spend a packed weekend here and have a complete break. But if you can’t jump on a plane, I hope you will pick up The Mystery of Four and find yourself transported to beautiful Wicklow – reading about Kilfenora is almost as good as being here.
Thank you so much Sam for this fabulous trail!
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Mystery of Four