Way back in 2006, I had the idea of writing a series about an amateur sleuth who was a coach tour manager. Her driver could be her confidant, and the limited number of passengers gave me the perfect whodunit framework.
The next question was where to set the novel. I loved the idea of finding a dead body in a beautiful place. We had been to Keukenhof several times and it fitted the bill perfectly.
I decided from the very beginning that the location must be an important part of the novel and the story couldn’t happen anywhere else. The basis for the plot came quickly – Amsterdam is famous for its diamond cutting – diamonds suggest smuggling. Doing my research, I discovered that most smuggled diamonds are conflict or blood diamonds and that the whole operation is financed by terrorists. This would lead to the involvement of an anti-terrorist unit in the story.
Before I could get any further, I needed to go back to Holland. First stop was Keukenhof. While everyone else was taking photos of the beautiful bulbs, I was looking for where I could hide a dead body.
From the balcony on the windmill, I spotted a café in the far corner of the park. It happened to be closed at the time which was perfect for my plot.
Just outside the windmill, was a stall selling clogs – which gave me another idea for the novel.
In Blood on the Bulb fields, at the end of the visit to Keukenhof, one of the passengers goes missing and his wife is pacing up and down outside the gates by the time Fiona arrives.
In the novel, when Fiona and her party are in Amsterdam, she gives everyone some free time to explore by themselves and arranges to meet at the National Monument in the central square. Again, although I remembered the area, I’d forgotten if there was a wall or steps at the bottom. One of Fiona’s passengers wasn’t feeling too good and needed to sit down while she was wailing. That was another thing I needed to check on my research visit.
Our last holiday visit to Amsterdam also included a visit to a diamond-cutting factory.
Our coach tour also took us Scheveningen where went for a walk on its unusual pier.
In Delft, we were taken to visit a pottery factory and watched the women hand painting plates just as Fiona takes her party.
The evening entertainment at one of the hotels was provided by a dance group from one of the towns near the German border. Not quite the typical Dutch national costume you might expect.
I must confess that our visit to the flower market at Aalsmeer was on one of our previous visits to Holland when we were holidaying in our caravan. Watching the buyers bidding at a Dutch auction proved fascinating.
Cycling back to the campsite, we stopped at a cheese making farm. I think I had as much fun stirring the curds as Fiona’s passengers in the novel. We wrapped the cheeses we bought in our sweaters to protect them before we put them in our saddle bags for the last stretch of the journey. It took the rest of the holiday to get rid of the smell, but the cheese tasted fantastic!
What better excuse can there be for a holiday than needing to research the next novel?