Jim Eldridge talks Museum Mysteries
The Museum Mysteries series features a detective duo who at first might appear completely mismatched: Daniel Wilson, a former detective sergeant with the Metropolitan Police, is from a working class background and rose through the ranks to become right-hand man to the famous Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline during the Jack the Ripper investigation; and Abigail Fenton, an archaeologist and Egyptologist, is an honours graduate from Girton College in Cambridge, and from a very different social class to Daniel at a time when class differences were far more pronounced than they are now.
Having got my detectives clear in my mind, it was then time to delve into the history of Victorian England. When writing historical fiction I feel it is vital to make sure the facts are right, otherwise you are doing a major disservice to the reader. A simple example: if you are writing a novel set in England in 1500, do not write about your hero eating a meal that includes potatoes as potatoes did not arrive in Britain until 1586.
So how do I go about my research? First, I read as much as I can, from as many sources as possible, about the social conditions at that time. Then I try and find autobiographies of people who lived at that time to get the view of that particular period from the inside. I want to feel what it was like to live then, so I can pass that feeling on to readers. I also go to the places I’m writing about to seek out buildings and spaces that were there at that time, to touch them and walk around inside them, to – again – get the feeling of being there. In the past this has taken me to experience some wonderful places, such as being inside the 5,000-year-old Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland and travelling the length of Hadrian’s Wall. For Murder at the British Museum this took me back to my home territory, because I was born in the Euston area of London towards the end of World War II and spent the first eighteen years of my life there, spending many of my childhood Sundays walking to the British Museum to soak up its wonders. And in the late 1940s that area of London hadn’t changed much from Victorian times, so it was like walking with Daniel and Abigail by my side.
I have enjoyed writing these books more than I can say, and I do hope that you will feel that same enjoyment when you read them.
Jim Eldridge is the author of the Museum Mysteries series: Murder at the Fitzwilliam, Murder at the British Museum and the forthcoming Murder at the Ashmolean.