BTNERS | Elly Griffiths | Author

The nights are drawing in and we’re coming up to Halloween so it’s the perfect time to curl up with a new murder mystery. Happily, local author Elly Griffiths has obliged – the latest unputdownable book in her bestselling series of Brighton-based whodunnits, The Great Deceiver, has just been published. The action kicks off in 1966 when a magician’s assistant is found dead in a Brighton boarding house and the investigation leads to a group of magicians led by a sinister individual who’s reinvented himself as a TV star… We caught up with Elly to find out more.

Congrats on your new book first of all! The Great Deceiver is the seventh in your Brighton Mysteries. The series starts in the 1950s – what made you choose this era?
Thank you! I chose the 1950s for the start of the series because that’s when live theatre was in decline
and television was on the rise. Many homes got TV sets for the coronation in 1953 (the backdrop to the third book, The Blood Card). Also, it wasn’t long after the war but it felt like the start of a new era. It seemed like the perfect time to write about a magician and a policeman who’d been part of a secret espionage ring in the war, based on a real group called The Magic Gang.

And why Brighton?
I’ve lived in Brighton since I was five and it’s the perfect setting for a crime novel. I love the contrast between the glamour of places like the Theatre Royal and the seediness of the backstreet lodgings where the performers lived.

You create such a realistic picture of that time, what sort of research did you need to do?
My research started with my granddad’s playbills [Ed: Elly’s grandfather was a music hall comedian and inspired one of the series’ main characters, magician Max Mephisto]. The names on them are just amazing: Lou Lenny and her Unrideable Mule, Lavanda’s Feats with the Feet. One of the acts, Raydini: the Gay Deceiver, gave me the title for this book. Otherwise, I love looking through old newspaper archives and, best of all, talking to the many people who remember the 50s and 60s well.

For people not familiar with your books, how would you describe them?
I used to be an editor and it was my job to describe books but it’s very hard with my own! Here goes: Atmospheric murder mysteries with lots of humour but also many darker moments.

the great deceiver book cover

That encapsulates them perfectly! We’ve also started reading (and are loving) your other crime strand, the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway series set in Norfolk. The final Dr Ruth book – no 15! – came out this year. Do you have a similar number in mind for your Brighton books?
I have 10 in mind for the Brighton Mysteries. Mind you, that was the plan for the Ruth books, too!

Was it hard to say ‘goodbye’ to Ruth?
It was hard, not only emotionally, but because I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I hope I achieved this and I’ve been so moved by people’s response to the book.

What’s next for you after this latest Brighton novel? 
The next book is The Last Word, which will be out in February 2024. It features the characters last seen in The Postscript Murders. After that there will be a whole new series…

Ooh, we can’t wait! We’ve got to ask you about your name, though: Elly Griffiths is your pen name for your crime writing – where did that come from? And in real life, do people call you by your real name, Domenica or have you ‘become’ Elly?
I wrote four books under my own name, Domenica de Rosa, but, when I had an idea for a crime novel, I was advised to get a ‘crime name’. I think Domenica was thought to be too romantic-sounding. I chose Elly Griffiths because that was my grandmother’s name. She died when I was five but she loved reading and I think she would have liked to see her name of the cover of a book. People do call me Elly at events etc but, to my friends and family, I’m always Domenica or Dom. It would feel very strange to be called Elly.

Saltdean lido

Who are your influences?
My mother was definitely my greatest influence. She read to me and my sisters for years and instilled a great love of books in me. She also wrote stories and is the inspiration for Justice Jones in my children’s series.


Where do you like to write? Any tips for budding novelists?
I have a writing shed in the garden. Ideally my day starts with a swim – at Saltdean Lido or in the sea – then I get down to writing. I try to write a thousand words a day. My advice to new writers would be: just start. Don’t wait for inspiration or a unique plot idea. Just start and see what happens.

This is a tough one, we know, but do you have any favourite local writers?
There are lots of fantastic writers in Brighton. I would definitely recommend books by William Shaw, Lesley Thomson, Julia Crouch and Simon Toyne.

What about a favourite reading spot?
I love reading on the beach. Otherwise, it’s great to sit in the garden with a good book and a glass of wine.

colourful beach huts saltdean

What’s on your TBR list right now?
Lesley Thomson’s latest: The Mystery of Yew Tree House. It’s set in Bishopstone [Ed: a village in Sussex] and, if I know Lesley, it will be full of wonderful, eccentric characters and lots of plot twists.


And now for some Brighton(ish)-specific questions! You live in Saltdean – what do you most like about living there? 
I love Saltdean. I can see the sea from my bedroom window and swim most days. I can also see the Downs and there are some wonderful walks on my doorstep. I walk on the undercliff to Rottingdean every day – often stopping at Whitecliffs or Molly’s Café – but, for a longer trek, I love going to Telscombe Village or Rodmell.

Do you have any insider recommendations for things to do in Brighton and Hove (or Saltdean!)?
It always amazes me that some people don’t know about Brighton Museum. Amongst its other wonders, there’s a fantastic archaeology gallery.

Finally, what would your perfect day in Sussex look like?
It would start with a sea swim and then a walk along the Undercliff to the Marina. From there, I’d take the Volks Railway into Brighton for a delicious lunch in the Lanes.

Thanks, Elly! You can order her book here.


And if you fancy getting stuck into a bookish murder mystery night (with food!), if you’re quick, you can get your hands on the last few tickets for the brilliant Book Lovers Supper Club in Hassocks on Thursday 2nd November (£30). There’s an awesome line-up, featuring crime-writing heavyweights Elly, William Shaw and Lesley Thomson, plus B&H police chief superintendent turned crime writer Graham Bartlett, and they’ve all got new books out.

You can also see Elly – and lots of other great crime writers – chat murder and mayhem at local crime fiction festival Darkside of Brighton on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October (from £5).

Keep an eye out for news on next October’s crime writing festival in Shoreham, Fatal Shore, too. Set up by Elly and William Shaw, they’re hoping to secure a larger venue for the 2024 edition after a second sell-out year in 2023.