One of the fun things for me about starting a new book is the research. When I started IN FARLEIGH FIELD, my stand-alone novel set in WWII, I knew the story would involve Bletchley Park. In case you don’t know, Bletchley Park was the headquarters of British code breaking, where the German Enigma code was cracked and the first computer was invented. I was top, top secret. If you worked there you signed a paper saying you would never reveal to anyone what you did. Not anyone, husband, mother, lover. That ban was only lifted in the 1990s and I find that sad. Think of all the parents who died never knowing that their child had done something game-changing and heroic when all the time they thought he or she was a slacker, not fighting but doing office work.
I spent a fascinating couple of days at Bletchley, examining the code breaking machines, seeing the dismal conditions the code breakers worked in and admiring the main house of the estate, such a contrast from the dreary huts around it. I even saw Alan Turing’s teddy bear that he kept on his desk!
So you can imagine how excited I was, a couple of months ago, to discover that Princess Catherine’s (whom the press still refer to as Kate Middleton) grandmother who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII. How amazing that Kate’s grandma was one of the code breaking girls (and Kate only found this out recently) because the heroine of my new stand-alone novel, IN FARLEIGH FIELD, also works at Bletchley and also can’t tell her family. They think she is usefully occupied, filing at one of the ministries when she is actually translating the latest German code that has been broken that night. My heroine, Pamela is the daughter of an earl. During my research I discovered that Bletchley actively sought out daughters of upper class families because it was felt that they were brought up to do the right thing, not to give away secrets, and ready to put their country first. (Since some of the Debs I knew in my younger days were not the brightest buttons in the box and this work required first class brains I wonder how that worked!)
It is important to my story that she can’t share any of her work with family and friends, because she knows things that would be useful in the main plot of this book. A man has literally fallen from the sky into her father’s field when his parachute doesn’t open. He is wearing the uniform of the regiment currently stationed at Farleigh Place, but there are small clues that something is not right. Who is he and more importantly, who was he trying to contact in the neighborhood, since he carried no money.
Pamela’s childhood friend Ben Cresswell is given the task of investigating this. He works for MI5, the British secret service, but also can tell nobody. A plane crash before the war left him unable to serve in the armed forces so it is thought that he too is doing dreary office work. If only he and Pamela had been less honorable and shared their secrets! But of course that is what makes for tension in a book, doesn’t it?
I’m delighted to say that as I write this IN FARLEIGH FIELD is #1 on Kindle. It is a departure for me to write a sweeping stand-alone thriller and I loved every minute of writing it, following many characters, many lives, many plot twists that all come together at the end. I hope you enjoy it.
Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series: the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in early 1900s New York and the lighter Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England. Rhys’s books have won many awards and are translated into many languages.