Sunday, August 25, 2019

A chat with Belinda Lawrence, an Aussie Sleuth!

Belinda Lawrence is a character created by Brian Kavanagh

Tonight we have a guest all the way from Australia! I love that country's cinema, they make some of the best horror movies in the world. Tell us, Belinda what was the first investigation you ever did? What was the last? Do you expect to do more investigations in the future?

The first was some years ago when I was backpacking after University in Australia. Back then, it was the thing Aussie kids did, back to England, the ‘Old Country’ and do Europe before settling down to a ‘nine to five’ back home. I had some adventures then but nothing prepared me for what was to come. I was working in London at an accounting firm and thinking of going back home to Melbourne, when I received an invitation to visit my Great Aunt Jane in Milford, a small village just outside of Bath. I’d always wanted to visit that Georgian City - I’m a fan of Jane Austin - and it seemed a good idea to meet my father’s Aunt and check out the city at the same time.

But when I called at the Milford cottage I discovered my Great Aunt dead at the foot of the stairs. Well, tell me about it!  I’d never met the poor old lady and here she was, dead at my feet. The police decided it was an accidental fall which killed her, but soon after, I received a letter from her posted after her death. That was truly weird and gave me Goosebumps, not to mention a few sleepless nights. It hinted at a secret she wanted to reveal to me. The cottage was left to me in her will, why I don’t know, I guess she wanted it to go to family, even a distant one. So, not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, I decided to remain in Bath and follow up on my suspicions that Aunt Jane’s death was not accidental, but murder. A number of locals - with varying degrees of peculiarities - showed extreme interest in the cottage and more particularly in the old garden. It was this that caused me to investigate so, by accident, I became a sleuth and eventually tracked down the killer. All in all, a pretty dramatic affair.

More recently my last murder investigation was back in Melbourne where I was staying at my parents’ house while they were on a cruise. I met an old school chum who was lecturing in film and she invited me to attend a private screening run by retired cinema projectionists and staff, who had regular screening of films they had collected over the years. And an odd bunch they were. Old projectionists who loathed digital film and clung to the last shreds of celluloid film, film buffs, and an age defying cinema usherette (remember them?) who gave Marie Antoinette heavy competition with elaborate hairstyles. All of them obsessed with a missing film.  Whilst at the screening a young film enthusiast burst in announcing that the owner of the private cinema had been murdered. As I was there at the time of the crime, the police considered me to be a potential murderer, along with the others who attended the screening. So I began my sleuthing as a way to prove my innocence and got to know the members of the group, all of whom it seemed had a motive for murder, eventually tracking down the killer, who was intent on killing me! I was saved by a friend, and so lived to tell the tale. But let me tell you, it was a close shave.

And did you choose to become a detective? Or didn't you have a choice?

Much like my Aunt Jane’s fall down the stairs, I fell into it.  Initially to solve her murder but as time went on I became involved in dealing Antiques and with that came situations that involved crimes and killings associated with items of historical interest. I suppose my natural curiosity, plus the buzz from solving my Aunt’s murder, drove me to solve mysteries which involved an ancient tapestry, a murder in a haunted manor house, death over a missing political item, rediscovered bones of Saint Thomas Beckett, and Nazi spoils of war. I had developed a taste for sleuthing and enjoyed the challenge.

This is incredible! Tell me, who do you see yourself closest to: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Sam Spade?

In lots of ways I could be described as a mixture of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Miss Marple because I rely a lot in instinct and go about my sleuthing quietly, learning as much as I can about suspects and putting two and two together. Instinct, as I said, has a lot to do with it; my assessment of individuals based on their persona and body language.  Hercule Poirot, because I am an outsider in England, as he was, so as an Australian I can view suspects from a different point of view. Also, considering each mystery from every angle, every possible reason, every detail. So a mixture of those techniques comes naturally to me and is a great advantage.

It must be hard doing all of that by yourself. Do you have anyone helping you in your investigations? Tell us more about them.

In lots of ways I’d lost without Hazel Whitby by my side when investigating a murder. Hazel and I first met after my Aunt Jane’s murder. Hazel had come to meet me in Bath because she has heard rumors of a secret that had been spread around about the cottage garden. At first I considered her to be a suspect in my Aunt’s murder, but it became apparent that she was innocent and was just curious so learn what the garden’s secret was. We became friends and I joined her in her Antique dealings from her tiny shop on Pulteny Bridge and her furniture shop in Wells. I learned a lot about antiques and together we have traveled around the world pursuing antiques. Hazel is older than me, much more world weary, amusingly cynical, and given to the charms of a handsome male. Her romantic life tends to be chaotic; mine more stable, or at least it was. Hazel has a real ‘down to earth’ approach to solving mysteries; things are much more black and white and her observation of human nature is not as generous as mine. We make a good team. Balance.

Let's wrap it up with  a quote. Do you have a favourite one?

As always, when in doubt, I turn to Oscar Wilde.  I love this quote from The Importance of Being Earnest, attributed to Miss Prism when admitting to having written a three volume novel. “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Neither could I! It was delightful to have you in my blog, please come back at anytime!