Alice Fitzpatrick has contributed short stories to literary magazines and anthologies and recently retired from teaching in order to devote herself to writing full-time. She is a fearless champion of singing, cats, all things Welsh, and the Oxford comma. Her summers spent with her Welsh family in Pembrokeshire inspired the creation of the Meredith Island Mysteries series. Secrets in the Water is the first book in the series. Alice lives in Toronto but dreams of a cottage on the Welsh coast.

People who read the early drafts of Secrets in the Water often searched the internet for my Welsh island setting, expressing surprise when they couldn’t find it. Even though I insisted it came from my imagination, they weren’t entirely convinced. So, is Meredith Island fact or fiction? The truth is it’s a bit of both.

When I decided to write a traditional British mystery series, I wanted an isolated location. An island was perfect since I’ve always lived near large bodies of water and love the sea. While I feared using an actual location would involve endless hours researching minutia to avoid irate e-mails from readers saying I got it wrong, with a fictional setting, I could control everything—the geography, the weather, the flora and fauna.

I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. When I was a child, my British family moved to Wales, and each summer would welcome me to Tenby, a popular seaside resort on the south Pembrokeshire coast. It was during this time that I fell in love with the country and its people.

Like most places in the UK, Tenby has a long history. With evidence of settlement dating back to the Iron Age, the town was founded in 1093. To defend against opposing Welsh forces, the Norman Earl of Pembrokeshire ordered a fortifying wall to be built in 1245, much of which is still standing. The following seven hundred and fifty years saw Tenby’s rise and fall, including its success as a busy port, the site of an English Civil War battle and a plague epidemic, as well as the temporary hiding place of the fourteen-year-old future King Henry VII during the War of the Roses. The Victorians flocked to Tenby’s beaches and bath houses for the benefits they believed sea bathing provided, making it the popular holiday spot it is to this day.

On the other hand, Meredith Island has been uninhabited for most of its history. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that American industrialist Artemis Faraday, obsessed with all things British and the capital to indulge that obsession, bought the island, renaming it in honor of his young English bride, and built his vision of a Gothic manor house. When his wife died in childbirth, he abandoned the island to his workers. Except for a few incomers, all islanders can trace their family history to the Faraday estate.

While Meredith Island doesn’t have the elegant Georgian and Victorian row houses that overlook Tenby’s beaches, cozy stone cottages line the island’s cliffside road, which runs down to the harbor. There, you’ll find The Fish and Filly pub, The Sea Breeze restaurant, Craggy’s grocery store, a wharf for the ferry that connects the island to the mainland, and a shelter for fishing boats.

Because I visited Tenby during my teenage years, many of my memories are tinged with wonder and innocence. It was where I had my first crush and heartbreak when a young man took my address, promising to keep in touch but never did. It was also the location of my aunt and uncle’s hotel, where we often sat in the large kitchen and drank tea—sherry for my aunt—ate buttered scones and shared jokes. So my island became a place of young love and friendship, warm kitchens full of sweet smells, and a pub where people gather for a natter and gossip. But it’s also a place where people are murdered. It’s this jarring juxtaposition that sets the tone of the book as protagonist Kate Galway digs deep into the islanders’ memories of their youth to unearth clues about the identity of her aunt’s killer.

The first photo shows the remains of the medieval fortifying wall around Tenby, and the second is the church beside my cousin’s house, which inspired the church on my island.

Tenby is an ancient town with curious streets like Merlins Court, Upper and Lower Frog Street, Tudor Way, Crackwell Street, and Paragon. My fascination with these names led me to bestow upon my islanders similarly unconventional names, such as Basil and Peregrine Tully, Old Alred, Drucilla Cragwell, and Feebles, Gooley, and Smee.

But it wasn’t just the town that inspired me. All along the Pembrokeshire coast, jagged cliffs rise high above the water, creating a menacing seascape where I imagine Kate’s aunt drowned over fifty years ago. The church next door to my cousin Jim’s house is the inspiration for the island church presided over by the Reverend Imogen Larkin, and its graveyard is the islanders’ final resting place. At St. Govan’s Head, a long flight of stone steps leads down the steep cliff face to a 14th-century chapel built over the cave where St. Govan lived and preached seven centuries before. I took the liberty of reducing a similar building to ruins so that in A Dark Death, the second book in the series, a team of archaeology students can excavate it, only to discover something a lot more interesting than foundation stones.

Tenby has long been a vacation spot and inspiration for writers, including Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Beatrix Potter, and Dylan Thomas. Likewise, for this humble crime writer, Tenby was the inspiration for an idyllic island community where everyone is family and life is celebrated with whiskey, tea, and home baking.

To learn about upcoming tales of the eccentric inhabitants of Meredith Island and to sign up for my newsletter, please visit www.alicefitzpatrick.com.

I belong to:
Crime Writers of Canada,
Sisters in Crime (including the Guppy and Toronto chapters),
Crime Cymru – a group of Welsh crime writers

Here are the buy links to my book:
Amazon.com: https://tinyurl.com/3hdme96k
Indigo: https://tinyurl.com/4shmb7fz