Image Credit: Gemma Day

Welcome to the members only FAQ page…

The rest of this page contains SPOILERS from herein!

So don’t open the question tabs if you haven’t read these books…

Is there a mistake with the dates of the letters at the beginning of the book? They don't seem to add up.

If you noticed this you are eagle-eyed! Yes, there is a discrepancy but it’s not a mistake. In the letter dated 12th September, Rachel says that she wrote to Mr Wrexham three days ago, but the previous letter in the book is dated 7th September. This is not an error – it’s actually a clue that what you are reading is the unsent letters. The letter she wrote three days ago is the only letter she posted – and Mr Wrexham never replied. She is composing a follow up with more information, when she receives Ellie’s letter and decides not to send any further letters.

Who took the key from the top of the door?

Maddie – using a chair. Rowan never considers this possibility.

What happens at the end of the book?

I have been asked this a lot and it’s really hard to answer over twitter without spoilers – and I try to keep my twitter feed fairly spoiler free. So I apologise if you have ended up here after being redirected from twitter! The short answer is that there are some things you are supposed to know, and some things you are not supposed to know, and which I can’t help with.

What you are supposed to know is what you probably already figured out – that Rowan / Rachel was writing to Mr Wrexham when she received the letter from Ellie and learned the truth about what went down at Heatherbrae House. Consequently she realises that she cannot make good on her promise to Mr Wrexham to tell the whole truth – at least not without betraying her sister’s trust. So instead of sending the letters she hides the whole package in the wall and goes to her trial with her original lawyer, relying on her original story to save her. Essentially she takes the fall for Ellie.

What I don’t know is the verdict – that’s really up to you to decide. Either way, whether she was convicted or found innocent, she would not have been able to get back to retrieve the letters. If she were found innocent she would have been released, and if she were found guilty she would have been sent to prison probably closer to home, which is why they are still in the wall when the prison is demolished.

One thing I can tell you is that she isn’t dead. We don’t have the death penalty in the UK, and life very rarely means actual life unless the crime is particularly brutal or the perpetrator is so mentally ill they cannot be safely released. So you can rule out that concern!

As a reader, I really enjoy being left with something to ponder at the end of a book, so I try to leave a lingering question for the reader when I write too, but this is a particularly big question, I do admit. Do you think there was enough evidence against her to convince a jury? Would you have convicted in their shoes?

When Hal looks at the photograph Abel gives her and recognises the woman who brought her up (Maud), why does Abel mislead her by telling her the woman is Maggie?

This question has come up a few times, so don’t worry, you are not alone if you found this passage confusing.

The issue is that Hal and Abel never realise they are looking at two different people in the photograph.

When Hal looks at the photograph she sees four people – Ezra, Abel, a dark haired woman she recognises as her “mother”, and a fair haired woman whom she assumes must be the missing sister, since she’s the only person in the photograph she doesn’t recognise. Hal is pretending to be the daughter of the missing sister, but wants to find out how Abel knows her mother, so she asks him “Abel, there’s you, Ezra and my mother” (by this she means the fair haired girl, because she assumes that’s the person she is pretending to be related to) “but… who is the other girl?” (by this she means the dark haired girl).
Abel, who knows dark haired Maud to be his sister, naturally assumes Hal is asking about fair haired Maggie, and replies “Maggie… a sort of distant cousin.”

Is Salten House based on a real boarding school?

No! Physically I imagine it a little like Roedean, which is a very prestigious girls boarding school on the south coast, but the resemblance ends there. Roedean is much bigger and (I’m certain!) much better run than Salten.

I never went to boarding school – I went to a regular state school – but I have a lot of friends who did and they helped me with some of the detail, although I did take a little bit of artistic license in some parts.

Do you think Isa and Owen will be ok?

I don’t know. I think Isa has fallen out of love with him at the end of the novel, but I think they both very much want to make it work for the sake of Freya, which is probably 99% of the battle.

Who sent the 40,000 swiss francs to Lo?

This is a question I get asked a lot – and I think it’s because there’s no convenient “wrapping it up” scene at the end of this book where everything is explained. I tried really really hard to get one in, but it just didn’t work, so the reader is left to put a lot of pieces together, and if there are any tiny details you missed in the read, it makes it tricky.

Carrie sent the francs to Lo – this is the meaning of the “tiggers bounce” reference – it’s what her mum always used to say to her. She’s telling Lo that she “bounced” and is ok.
The two bodies found are Anne Bullmer (the shorn haired woman’s body) and Richard Bullmer. Richard’s body was found with a bundle of Lo’s clothing (thrown overboard by Carrie, weighted down by the gun) and this leads Judah to jump to the conclusion that the body is Lo (and later, when Lo is found to be ok, that the body is Carrie.) In fact the body was of course male and the Norwegian police never assumed it was Lo or Carrie at all – but they failed to communicate this to Judah. This is why the police apologise for “cross force communication issues” at the end of the novel, because Lo’s family were left believing that she had died for several days.

As for Carrie, she shot Richard, threw Lo’s clothes overboard, and escaped on Anne’s passport, before throwing it away when Anne’s death was discovered. She also used Anne’s papers to withdraw money from her Swiss bank account – hence her gift to Lo, both as a way of telling her she was ok, and apologising for everything she had put her through.

Was the burglary connected to Richard’s plan?

Yes! I have seen a few comments saying this is a loose end, but in fact it’s not (though it’s true it’s never explained). The cabins are in a horseshoe formation with the two end cabins, 9 and 10, side by side at the back of the ship. Richard originally intended for both cabins to be empty to avoid the possibility of being overlooked, so he hires someone to prevent Lo and the Swedish investor from coming. In the case of the Swede, the attempt succeeds. In the case of Lo, it fails as the burglar failed to snatch her passport and she is too set on travelling to allow the attempt to dissuade her.

It’s too late to orchestrate another attempt, so in the end, Richard has no other option but to continue with the plan, even though he  now has the possibility of being overlooked.

What happened to Delilah the cat?

Again, I tried SO hard to put this scene in but I couldn’t find a way it didn’t stick out like a sore thumb!

I think Lo’s mum took Delilah while Lo and Judah found their feet in the US, and then later she flew over on a pet passport and settled with them in America. 

That email at the end of In a Dark, Dark Wood – what does Nora do?!

 I truly don’t know – that part is unwritten which means it’s completely up to you. But if it helps you decide, it’s worth noticing that Nora uses exactly the same words to describe her actions as she does in the chapter at the beginning of the book when she’s trying to decide whether or not to open Flo’s email. In that scenario she does open the email of course… but we all know how that turns out!

Would you ever write a sequel?

In a Dark, Dark Wood was the first crime book I ever wrote and back before it was published I did toy with the idea of writing a sequel – that’s partly why I made Nora a crime writer and Matt a police officer, because I thought it would make it possible for Nora and Matt to team up. I thought that perhaps it would make the book easier to sell if I had a sequel in mind, as I knew that some publishers prefer to market series. However in the end Vintage, the publisher I sold the book to, preferred the idea of a standalone.

I wouldn’t let that stop me if I really and truly wanted to write another book about Nora, but part of the problem is that although I think it’s very plausible for one terrible, extraordinary event to happen to a normal person, I don’t think it’s very likely for them to experience several. You get the Murder She Wrote effect where everywhere Jessica goes, she stumbles over a corpse! That works in certain types of fiction, but I’m not sure if I could pull it off.