Taking Up A Life Of Crime (Fiction) by KATY WATSON

Written by Katy Watson


It was during the first lockdown in 2020, in the middle of painting the garden shed, that I turned to my husband, Dr Watson (yes, really), and asked, “How much do you know about poisons?”

He put down his brush and grinned. “You’re going to write a murder mystery, aren’t you?”

His excitement was for a number of reasons. Firstly, he loves crime fiction – as does every member of my family. Secondly, he knew it was something I’d always wanted to do. And thirdly, as an analytical chemist, it turned out he really did know quite a lot about poisons, and was eager to learn more. 

“Yes,” I said. “I’m going to write a murder mystery.” 

That, right there by the shed, was the moment The Three Dahlias, my debut crime novel, lurched from being an impossible dream into an inevitability. I’d said the words out loud. I couldn’t back down now. (I’m stubborn like that.)

I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, watching Poirot on a Sunday night with the family, and then discovering my own crime novelist favourites as I got older. I even studied crime fiction as part of my degree. But when I began my own writing career, I shied away from writing murder mysteries. 

They were too complex. I didn’t know enough. I couldn’t do one justice.

In summary: wasn’t good enough to write one. 

Over the last decade or so, I’ve written forty-five books for a vast array of publishers. I’ve written for children and for teenagers, penned romance and women’s fiction – I even wrote a book from the point of view of a cat. I’ve written under several different names, including my maiden name, but never as Katy Watson. And I’ve never written crime.

Until now. 

The Three Dahlias started with a very simple idea: three actresses, who had all played the same fictional detective at different points in time, brought together to solve a murder.

My agent was the first one in on the idea, as she usually is. I’m lucky enough to have been represented by the amazing Gemma Cooper for the last ten years, and some of my best books have started with a conversation with her, tossing ideas around. 

Since it was still lockdown, we couldn’t get together to talk about the book over tea and cake, as is our preferred method. But instead, we emailed and sent texts, through home schooling and isolation, deadlines and release days.

We named the fictional detective Dahlia Lively, and suddenly she came to life in my imagination. Wide legged trousers and silk blouses, red lipstick and ropes of pearls. A motorbike with sidecar, and plenty of sass. An ability to see to the heart of a person, and ferret out the truth. She calls everyone ‘kiddo,’ Gemma texted, and that became canon, too. 

For a character who only exists in a series of detective novels that don’t, actually, exist at all, Dahlia feels incredibly real to me, these days. As does her (also fictional) creator, Lettice Davenport.

But it was the actresses that played Dahlia that I really needed to get to know.

I knew I wanted three female protagonists of different ages, and as I let the ideas develop in the back of my subconscious, slowly Rosalind, Caro and Posy came to life. Rosalind King, national treasure, now in her sixties, and the first to play Dahlia in the movies of the eighties. Caro Hooper, almost forty, who played Dahlia for thirteen long seasons of the TV show, until she almost believes she is Dahlia. And ex-Hollywood child star, twenty-something Posy Starling, fresh out of the fame wilderness (and rehab) to play Dahlia in the new movie.

But I also wanted the book to be a love letter to those golden age detective novels I grew up reading, which is why I sent my three Dahlias to a fan convention at the home of the late Lettice Davenport, and surrounded them with murder mystery afficionados, just like me. 

The mystery itself… well, you’ll have to read it to find out. But suffice to say I drew on all my favourite stories before finding my own.

Writing The Three Dahlias, and revising it to publication standard, was a labour of love. It was, as I expected, much harder and more absorbing than anything I’d ever worked on before. I needed far more help, too – from friends in the police, from other murder-mystery-loving friends and family, and from Dr Watson and his knowledge about poisons.

But now I’ve written one murder mystery, I can’t imagine ever stopping.

Which is why I’ve just bought Dr Watson a new book about poisons… 


The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson 

published by Constable on July 21st 2022. Hbk £14.99

When a review begins: Take a deep breath and step into the world of The Three Dahlias. It’s all you could ever want in a country house murder mystery.

You know you need to read the rest. Check it out here

Katy Watson

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