If you pop by Linda’s Book Bag on a regular basis you’ll know how much I am enjoying staying in with authors who ‘bring’ food along as they stay in to tell me about their books. Today, lovely Harriet Steel has brought some smashing food to share as she introduces one of her books!
If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.
Staying in with Harriet Steel
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Harriet. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Which of your books have you brought along this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along Trouble in Nuala, the first book in my Inspector de Silva Mysteries series. I’ve chosen it because the series has received the most enthusiastic response of all my books so far. It’s set in Ceylon in the 1930s. (As I expect you know, Ceylon was still a British colony at the time but after independence, changed its name to Sri Lanka.) The tone of the book is essentially light- hearted, but I do touch on issues raised by colonialism and differences in culture, so I hope we’ll find plenty to talk about.
(How brilliant. I’ve just come back from India, love to travel and Sri Lanka is on my wish list. With Trouble in Nuala I can travel vicariously until I get chance to go there.)
What can we expect from an evening in with Trouble in Nuala?
The 1930s were part of the period now recognised as a golden age of British crime fiction. Writers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers made the detective story, up until then rather looked down upon, into a respectable and popular form of literature. In Trouble in Nuala and the rest of the series, I’ve aimed to create absorbing stories in that style: stories that don’t rely on a lot of violence for their impact. These days, the news is so full of horrors, I don’t want that when I escape into the world of literature, and I think many readers feel the same way.
(I certainly do. I have to confess to avoiding the news at all costs these days because it’s so depressing so Trouble in Nuala sounds exactly my kind of book.)
What really makes or breaks a book for me is the characters and the setting, so I’ve tried to create characters that readers will find engaging. Inspector Shanti de Silva, my Sinhalese detective, doesn’t have a messy private life or an alcohol problem. He’s a happily married man who loves gardening and reading when he’s not solving crimes. His personal life isn’t entirely straightforward though. He and his British wife, Jane, have had to learn to deal with the problems of a mixed marriage. In his working life, de Silva’s principled but pragmatic and occasionally a rebel when exasperated by having to deal with his British superiors.
As far as the location is concerned, when I visited Sri Lanka a couple of years ago, I was captivated by the country straight away and realised that it’s an absolute gift to a writer looking for a fascinating and exotic setting. I couldn’t wait to begin writing the mystery series that had been in the back of my mind for some time.
It’s for readers to judge whether I’ve succeeded in my aim of creating entertaining, relaxing and colourful reads, so I’ve been delighted to find that the series has received many appreciative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
This is one of my favourites:
A Paradise Visited – 5*
A most satisfying read. Inspector Silva and his Jane are a lovely couple, in a well-written, interesting tale that held my attention until the end. An exotic setting just adds to the story. I’m looking forward to reading future books about this attractive duo and their friends.
(What a lovely review. You must be delighted Harriet.)
What else have you brought and why have you brought it?
Curry of course! Sri Lankan meals tend to be banquets, so I’ve brought a selection. I hope you’ll enjoy Shanti de Silva’s favourite pea and cashew nut, then there’s brinjal which is a special dish of spiced aubergines; curried cauliflower, and lamb in a rich tomato sauce. I’m serving them with string hoppers (noodles), fluffy rice, crisp rounds of roti bread, and some creamy yoghurt to cool us off. (Sri Lankan food is hot.)
(Now you’re talking. This is just the kind of food I love. You can come again if you’re going to bring such gorgeous provisions.)
To wash our meal down, I have local beer, but if you don’t feel like drinking anything alcoholic, the cutely named Elephant ginger beer is excellent. Sri Lankan puddings are too sweet for many people, but there’s lots of gorgeous fruit available. I’ve brought pineapples, pomegranates and mangoes. The latter are often served with a little lime juice and chilli, but you may have had enough of chilli by then!
(So tasty and I love that Elephant ginger beer! Thanks Harriet.)
I’ve also brought along a few photographs of sights that inspired me.
(Wonderful photos. They make me want to pack my bag and head off straight away.)
Some soothing background music might be nice too. As Inspector de Silva has started to explore Western music, I thought I’d chose something quintessentially English, so I’ve brought along The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams.
(I love that piece of music, Harriet.)
It’s been an absolute pleasure to stay in with you and hear all about Trouble in Nuala. It’s a book I definitely need to add to my TBR. Thanks so much for telling me all about it Harriet.
Trouble in Nuala
When Inspector Shanti de Silva moves with his English wife, Jane, to his new post in the sleepy hill town of Nuala he anticipates a more restful life than police work in the big city entails.
However, an arrogant plantation owner with a lonely wife, a crusading lawyer, and a death in suspicious circumstances present him with a riddle that he will need all his experience to solve.
Set on the exotic island of Ceylon in the 1930s, Trouble in Nuala is an entertaining and relaxing mystery spiced with humour and a colourful cast of characters.
Trouble in Nuala is available for purchase here.
About Harriet Steel
Harriet Steel grew up in London and Wiltshire but now lives in Surrey. Married with two daughters, she has worked in fields from law to libraries. Her interests are travel, history and art, all of which have inspired the four historical novels she wrote before turning to crime with The Inspector de Silva Mysteries. She reads widely, but in the mystery genre is particularly fond of vintage mysteries. She would love to go back in time for a day and have lunch with Hercule Poirot, tea with Miss Marple, and dinner at the Ritz with Lord Peter Wimsey.