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Interview: November 13, 2020

Set on the Inishowen Peninsula, in Ireland’s northwest County Donegal, Andrea Carter revived the Agatha Christie amateur sleuth genre, in the younger incarnation of barrister Benedicta “Ben” O’Keeffe. Ben swims against the current and encounters a shoal of red herrings in her quest to solve murder and mayhem mysteries. In THE WELL OF ICE, Ben confronts Luke Kirby, who killed her sister and is now paroled. But nefarious events --- including arson and murder --- occur in Glendara while Luke is in Dublin. Who is responsible for this criminality? In this interview, Carter chats with’s Dean Murphy (Ó Murchadha) about her career, future books, the Inishowen Peninsula and the television adaption of her novels. How much of “Ben” O’Keeffe is in Andrea Carter, and vice versa?

Andrea Carter: Like Ben, I’m a lawyer, and I ran Ireland’s most northerly solicitor’s practice as she does. She was very much me when I started to write her (while living in Inishowen), and it never occurred to me then that I would be published. But after I moved to Dublin and started to take my writing more seriously, I found that, though I continued to write Ben, she detached herself from me, developing characteristics that weren’t mine and a backstory that certainly wasn’t.

BRC: What inspired the attorney-to-writer career change? Quite a pay scale shift.

AC: True, but there are compensations. Not least the ability to work in pajamas rather than a pinstriped suit! Ireland has a split legal profession (lawyers are either solicitors or barristers), so I’d already made a career change in transferring from one to the other, and when I got my first publishing contract with Little, Brown UK, I took a year leave-of-absence from the Bar. It wasn’t intended to be a permanent career change, but with each new contract I wanted to keep writing, so I haven’t gone back.

BRC: This Ben O’Keeffe addict needs to know what’s in store for the next US release.

AC: MURDER AT GREYSBRIDGE is my homage to the Golden Age country house mystery. A wedding takes place at a strange old mansion on the Inishowen coast. Two mysterious deaths lead Ben and Molloy to a remote island where a violent storm cuts them off from the mainland.

BRC: Ben’s fifth adventure (2022 US release) begins in Florida, the location of your US publisher. Events takes Ben back to Ireland, where torrential rains drown memories of balmy sunshine. What inspired this plot?

AC: I wrote the opening scenes of THE BODY FALLS on the balcony of my hotel in Sarasota before an event arranged by Oceanview to celebrate the publication of my first book in the US!

The rest of the book was inspired by a real, extreme weather event. In August 2017, an unprecedented rain fell in Inishowen, resulting in devastating floods: bridges collapsed, roads were impassable and towns were cut off. It seemed an ideal set-up for a murder mystery, especially if a charity cycle brought strangers into town who then became trapped, and one of them wound up dead.

BRC: Regarding Bouchercon 2018 in Florida, please tell us about your role at that event, and the importance of Bouchercon’s prestigious Anthony Award.

AC: I was moderator for “Smaller isn’t Safer --- Small Towns in Crime Fiction” and participated in the “Crime Across Continents” panel. Both were hugely enjoyable, as was the festival. It was especially great to share time with my lovely publisher, Oceanview. The Anthony Award is one of the most important awards in crime fiction, and that it is voted for by crime fiction fans makes it very special.

BRC: Ireland’s Inishowen Peninsula is a perfect location for mysteries, as detailed in the series debut, DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH. Why did you chose it?

AC: The landscape is spectacular: towering headlands, windswept beaches, deserted forts. But it’s also very unusual jurisdictionally, being almost entirely cut off from the Republic by Northern Ireland. Inishowen is as much a character in my books as Ben or Molloy. They could not be set anywhere else.

BRC: Your beguiling series is being adapted for television. Please share information regarding this.

AC: The TV series is tentatively called “Donegal: The Inishowen Mysteries.” The plan is to have two hours of television for each book, so six episodes per season. It’s all very precarious at present. It looks as though I will have a more significant role than originally anticipated, so I’m excited about that. I know I’m being mysterious!

BRC: Kismet that your initials are the same as Agatha Christie’s. Did that author’s Jane Marple inspire the creation of Ben O’Keeffe?

AC: Agatha Christie inspires each crime writer. I read all her books as a teenager, so it’s not surprising if Miss Marple has seeped into Ben!

BRC: Please describe a typical day in your writing life.

AC: I write best first thing in the morning, so I go directly from bed to laptop, stopping off at the coffee pot en route. I wrote my first four books sitting upright in the spare bed (terrible for the back), but thankfully I now have a desk. Around midday I get dressed and forage for something to eat. The rest of the day is emails, articles and applications, and some exercise.

BRC: Thank you for a thrilling read, and this interview. Final thoughts?

AC: Last year, my short story called “The Lamb,” in aid of the Peter McVerry Trust (a wonderful charity for the homeless), was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards, which can be read here. My second book, TREACHEROUS STRAND, was shortlisted for the Foreword Indies Award.

Additional commendations include the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair Award, two Arts Council of Ireland Literature Bursary awards, and the Dublin City Council Bursary Award.


Andrea Carter observes pandemic protocol in a June remote question­-answer video at this link. Upcoming events are canceled, except the online venue as part of the Dublin Book Festival at this link.