Tuesday 6 November 2018

The mystery of Penelope Kite's money

How can Penelope Kite afford to live in Provence? It’s been bothering some early readers of Death in Provence, and I think that’s great because it shows they are really trying to imagine her enviable new life in the sun. So while discretion usually applies to financial matters, I can’t allow the vexing question of Penelope’s money to overshadow the other mysteries in the books.

In fact, the answers are all there in the book – though subtly present, like all the best clues.

For more than twenty years, Penelope was married to David, a solicitor – later, partner – in a law firm that specialised in City of London transactions. In London “the City” is shorthand for banks and large companies, the US equivalent of “Wall Street”. It is quite conceivable that David would have earned several million pounds a year from the mergers and acquisitions and share issues he worked on, and equally possible that Penelope’s divorce settlement, after a long marriage, would have reflected this at £5-10 million.

Penelope owns a house in Esher, Surrey, an affluent suburb in leafy south-west London. It might have once been the family house. A spacious five-bedroom house in Esher currently costs £2-3 million, perhaps more.

But let’s err on the side of caution and say that Penelope bought a smaller house in Bolingbroke Drive after the divorce. Even that would most likely be worth more than £1 million. When she moves to the south of France, she rents it out. A quick look at rental prices for a well-presented three-bedroom house in the area shows that she could make £3000-4000 a month. That alone would be a very decent amount for a single person to live on.

But there’s more. Penelope is an only child. Both her parents have passed away. No further details are given in the first book, but it’s revealed in the next that Penelope’s father was a doctor, a GP and police surgeon, and that the family lived in Bromley, another leafy suburb of south London. Penelope would have inherited her parents’ entire estate, including a house that could easily have been worth £2 million, and other investments.

Penelope can well afford to buy a run-down farmhouse in the Luberon with a realistic asking price of around €800,000, which converts to c. £700,000. She can also afford substantial renovation work, along with croissants, bottles of rosé and new clothes – and the “nearly-new” Range Rover she buys for the hilly Provençal roads.

Fairly early on in Death in Provence, Penelope sees the red Ferrari that keeps popping up on the local roads and muses about where she fits into the social scale: ‘There was an interesting mix of people here in August, she thought: happy holidaymakers from northern Europe; artists and photographers; walkers and cyclists; the farming community; the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers who gave so much pleasure to everyday life; and some extremely rich people – Parisians and Swiss and Americans - staying at their second homes. Penelope wondered if people would assume she was rich. She didn’t think she was. Comfortably off, perhaps. And, for the first time in her life, reckless with a lump sum.’

Penelope doesn’t see herself as belonging to the Ferrari-driving classes. But, like most well brought-up, conventional British women, she is being discreet about her own wealth - which many might consider substantial.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Lazy Sunday in Provence

After a "soft launch" of ebook and audio only, the paperback edition of Death in Provence is out now from Orion in the UK! A blog tour has brought forth a raft of lovely reviews and all's well with the world. In the US, readers have only to wait until February for the Harper hardback and ebook, but I am going to run a giveaway open to all so there's a chance to be an early reader.

In the meantime, here's a introduction to the main character, Penelope Kite in a piece written for The French Village Diaries blog - a Lazy Sunday in France:

Our accidental sleuth Penelope Kite loves Sunday mornings in Provence. Even though she no longer works nine-to-five as assistant to an eminent forensic pathologist, she still savours that delicious Sunday feeling of waking with no pressing need to leave a soft bed when the sun slants through the open shutters. No family to prepare lunch for, no housework, just lovely croissants for breakfast on the sunny terrace of Le Chant d’Eau, her recklessly purchased old farmhouse with views of the Luberon valley.
   Cello practice (what bliss to be able to play again, letting the notes rise into the open air, disturbing no one) is followed by a quick swim in the pool. The pool looks glorious in the walled garden now, with lavender lining the walls and four sentinel cypress trees. Fortunately, there is no dead body floating in it today.
   The sun is already hot as she prepares to go out tat-hunting at a classic Provençal brocante.

Continue reading...

"This was such an entertaining and refreshing read. With eccentric characters and a twisty but, at the same time, hilarious plot, you just need to sit down and enjoy this captivating mystery set in the beautiful South of France."

Review from Book After Book blog.

Thursday 21 June 2018

New book! Death in Provence

At last, all can be revealed! The lack of posts on the blog this year is squarely down to hard work at the desk on not one, but two new novels. (There was also a lengthy trip to the US, the Bahamas and Chile, during which, blissfully, no work of any kind was undertaken!) But here we are, with publication next week in the UK of Death in Provence, the fun - yet fatal - mystery that Rob ("The Panto King" for long-time readers) and I have written together.

It's a soft launch, which means ebook and audio download first, on June 28, followed by the paperback on August 23. For those who want to pre-order, you can do so here: AMAZON. The good news is that until August, the ebook is only £1.99, so early readers will get a bargain.

Mercifully, Rob and I are still speaking, if only just, after five intense months drafting the sequel, Death in Avignon. Our nom de plume, Serena Kent has her own website, where you can find out more, see background pictures and read the opening.

And if you're wondering about the name, it's all that was left of our determination to make one from an anagram of our surnames, Lawrenson and Rees. Sadly neither Serena Rowlsen, nor Loren Wassener had the requisite charm, but we and the publishers all liked Serena. So Serena it is - with her young-at-heart, croissant-scoffing, clever heroine, Penelope Kite!

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