The #TFBookClub reads ‘Murder on the Downs’ set in Whitstable on the Kent coast

2nd July 2020

Thank you for joining us as we read Murder on the Downs by Julie Wassmer, the latest Pearl Nolan mystery, set in Whitstable on the north Kent coast (July/August 2020).

We hope you enjoy reading this latest outing for multi-tasking heroine Pearl, combining cooking and sleuthing in charming Whitstable on the north Kent coast.


A controversial new property development is planned in Whitstable which will encroach upon the green open space of the downs, to the dismay of Whitstable residents who view this as the thin end of the wedge with regard to local wildlife conservation.

We will be chatting about the book throughout July and August 2020, so if you are reading it with us, please come and join the dialogue!

The #TFBookClub is your book club – we are here to help you discover new titles that will transport you to interesting locations via top literature for some exceptional #literarywanderlust.

As you read, please come and chat and share your thoughts in several ways:

  • Here on our dedicated blogpost, leave your thoughts in the Comments section below
  • On TWITTER using #TFBookClub
  • On INSTAGRAM using #TFBookClub
  • On PINTEREST following this link 
  • And once you’ve turned the final page, we’d love it if you could write your own review, which you can do on using the Add A Review tab. Help us to build the #TFBookClub and the TripFiction website!


Andrew and Tina for the TripFiction Team

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  1. User: LisaRowsell

    Posted on: 29/08/2020 at 3:04 pm

    I have recently finished reading this book, and what an enjoyable read it was. As others have said I would’ve liked a location map to get a better picture in my mind of where everyone was, but other than that I can’t fault the book. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and I can’t honestly say that I didn’t have a clue as to who the killer was until all was revealed which makes a change for me.


  2. User: Harriet Steel

    Posted on: 28/08/2020 at 8:53 am

    I’m a little behind everyone else but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this relaxing page turner of a read. The characters were interesting and varied and I didn’t work out who the murderer was until near the end. The descriptions of Whitstable have made me want to visit it. Such a pretty cover too. Thank you to TF and the author.


  3. User: Julie Wassmer

    Posted on: 10/08/2020 at 10:30 pm

    Hi everyone,
    I just wanted to say HUGE THANKS to everyone who read and commented on my book, Murder on the Downs, the 7th Whitstable Pearl Mystery.
    Usually I would be doing lots of events at this time, meeting readers and listening to their views but Covid-19 put paid to that this year so I am immensely grateful for all your views at the Trip Fiction and will take them on board – as I always do for readers.
    I am currently writing the 8th book in the series, Strictly Murder – the title may give you an idea of what the plot-line might revolve around…
    Things are looking extremely promising for a TV version of the books so I shall be keeping everything crossed for that and hope we will see Pearl and McGuire stepping off the pages and on to the small screen…
    In the meantime, if you would like more information about the books or to contact me about them – or merely to enjoy some fabulous photos of some of the locations I have used in the books, just head to my website: And very many thanks to Tina and Andrew and all at Trip Fiction for selecting Murder on the Downs for the Trip Fiction Book Club.
    Kind regards,

    Julie (Wassmer)


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 16/08/2020 at 5:06 pm

      It’s been lovely having you and thank you for taking the time to say hello. Such a tricky period of time to be getting books in front of an audience.


  4. User: Lesley Morton-Evans

    Posted on: 09/08/2020 at 10:58 am

    What a fabulous ‘location’ book chosen for the July/August book club. Thank you for including me.
    This was my first introduction to the Pearl Nolan/Whitstable series and I enjoyed Julie Wassmer’s style of writing. With her background in TV, I could imagine the books successfully being adapted for viewing.
    It was a nice gentle and relaxing read. Julie’s local knowledge together with her active campaigning against environmental change certainly Is a strength and gives the story credibility. Similarly, her chosen theme of a very modern day problem, affordable homes for locals and the DFL’s is very thought provoking.
    Having grown up in Kent, I enjoyed being reminded of not only Whitstable but also the surrounding areas. The rich descriptions of the locations has got me thinking that I really should visit.
    I found the characters both real and plausible and I’m pleased not to have guessed who the murderer was.
    I think this book can be read easily without having read the previous in the series although I will now get the 1st in the series, The Whitstable Pearl Mystery.
    Great location descriptions combining food, romance and mystery. A thumbs up from me.


  5. User: Sara Hill

    Posted on: 05/08/2020 at 10:35 am

    I don’t know Whitstable but feel I would now like to visit as it sounds charming. I found the book easy to read but I did not really connect with any if the characters. I would, however like to read some of the earlier books and find out about the relationship between Pearl and Mike McGuire.


  6. User: Rachel Hall

    Posted on: 23/07/2020 at 6:14 am

    A contemporary slice of Whitstable cosy crime with a sympathetic protagonist.

    Murder on the Downs is the seventh instalment in Julie Wassmer’s hugely popular cosy series set in Whitstable featuring early-forties restaurateur and amateur private detective, Pearl Nolan. Not having read any of the previous outings certainly didn’t hinder my enjoyment with the relevant history of Pearl and the recurring cast drip-fed gradually throughout the narrative to bring new readers up to speed.

    Pearl has only just returned from a brief city break with her policeman lover, DCI Mike McGuire, a reactively recent transfer form London to Canterbury CID. Having made a pact not to let their work come between them and make time for each other it proves harder than either of them imagined when they return to find the town in the midst of a controversial new housing development on a greenfield site that divides the seaside town. Whitstable Preservation Society have joined forces with dynamic environmentalist and adopted DFL (Down From Londoner), Martha Laker, of the Save Our Downs campaign to prevent Invicta Land, with the approval of the local council, from building.

    As locals protest about the supposedly “affordable” development pricing young people out of remaining in their hometown and new homes being sold off to DFL’s, the developers (and McGuire) claim NIMBY-ism and sour grapes about spoilt views. As both sides urge Pearl to take a stance her conscience and heart are divided when her anti-establishment mother, Dolly, and son Charlie join the protest camp to save the land. When one of the figureheads of the protest is murdered and Pearl stumbles on the body things take a decidedly darker turn. As the body count rises is quick succession with both sides of the argument paying with their lives, a third murder by a very different method rocks the town..

    Pearl is a well-developed and likeable character with an interesting background and I particularly liked the fact that she only stopped training as a police officer when she discovered she was pregnant giving credibility to her amateur detection. She definitely holds her own when talking through the crimes and motives with McGuire and if anyone lacked the detection skills it was him! I also found myself wishing McGuire had stamped a more distinctive presence on the novel. Things get quite convoluted in the end but there are clues along the way so when the killer is revealed there is a rationale behind the madness, albeit a bit of a stretch to imagine, as is more often that not the case is the world of cosy crime.

    My first Whitstable Pearl mystery but certainly not my last and despite cosy crime not being my go-to genre I certainly felt this was a worthwhile encounter. In contrast to some of the genre there was a well thought out plot but not obvious murderer, a brisk pace and a feisty yet sympathetic protagonist who actually wants to detect! A contemporary slice of cosy crime with a real sense of a thriving local community that value where they live and the community they are part of.


  7. User: Rachel Hall

    Posted on: 23/07/2020 at 6:13 am

    Given I have never been to Whitstable and don’t eat seafood I was surprised to find this a gratifying break from the gritty (and far less scenic) crime I usually read! I sometimes find with cosy crime that once a series is established that the outings just become a vehicle for the central character and the plots get thinner. I used to love the Agatha Raisin series but the strongest books were the early ones and as the series progressed through over 20 instalments the plots lacked coherence and were a real struggle to make sense of. I certainly found this book a superior example of the cosy genre with a well thought out background to the crimes. I will be reading more of the series and so many thanks Trip Fiction for introducing me to Pearl! In my next comment I will post my review.


  8. User: lapsapchung

    Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 9:19 am

    I must admit to wondering, almost half way into the book, where the word “Murder” in the title came from, but the second half more than made up for it! And oh my goodness was I surprised by the revelation of who (and why) the murderer was, I certainly hadn’t guessed. Loved the gentle way the story built up so that the murders, even though expected, seemed more shocking by contrast.
    As for sense of place, there were some lovely descriptions of the places involved, but never having been to Whitstable a map at the front of the book might have helped me to visualise them. I would like to be able to have a picture in my mind of where Pearl’s home, the restaurant, Martha’s house, the woods and the Crown of the Down were in relation to each other.



    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 9:40 pm

      I agree with you, I too wondered when the ‘murder’ was going to appear!
      I think your idea of a map of Whitstable with the places marked is a good one, even for those of us who have been.


    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 5:16 pm

      Yes, it’s good if you can visualise Whitstable, maybe a map would indeed be a good idea!!!! Julie is great at creating a sense of place!!! Thank you for taking part!


  9. User: Bev

    Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 8:58 am

    Well, rather than reading on my sun lounger I have been dodging showers here in Northumberland. But, this easy read and captivating book kept me engaged on the sofa! I did not expect the outcome at all and has Julie Wassmer says at the back she has taken her inspiration from crime novels by Agatha Christie and others. The style of her writing is certainly reminiscent of these authors. It is in contrast to some other crime I read, which is good on police procedure in investigations. I enjoyed the book and the characterisation. It did leave me wondering about Pearl. She is so many things, mother, daughter, restaurant owner and private investigator. I almost felt she was leading the investigation particularly in her questioning of Mc Guire about progress. That did not feel quite so credible, but may just reflect their relationship.
    As I have commented before, I have visited Whitstable twice before and love the bustling town centre and the relaxing, atmospheric coastline. There is a stark contrast with nearby Canterbury. I very much got a sense of place. Thank you, I have enjoyed the read. What did others think of Pearl?



    • User: lapsapchung

      Posted on: 26/07/2020 at 6:27 am

      I was a but mystified about the amount of free time Pearl seemed to have – running a restaurant is a more-than-full-time job as it is.


    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 5:20 pm

      Pearl… wow, she is a multi-capable woman. So many things going on for her, I take my hat off to her!!!!


  10. User: Miriam Smith

    Posted on: 21/07/2020 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you for including me in this month’s book club read.
    I’ve just finished this book and really enjoyed reading. It would have been nice to have followed Pearl and Mike’s relationship in the earlier books but this didn’t effect my overall enjoyment of the story. A really nice atmospheric cozy mystery set in a truly delightful seaside town. On my bucket list to visit one day! Review to follow.


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 5:22 pm

      Julie does capture the seaside town so well! The tourist board is hopefully appreciative of her writing and bringing new people to visit (when, of course, we can!) Thank you for joining in!


  11. User: Janine Phillips

    Posted on: 20/07/2020 at 6:57 pm

    Oh I enjoyed this book, spent a couple of days in the garden reading Murder On The Downs. Great characters, descriptive scenery and I never guessed who the murderer was. Really good read.



    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 9:41 pm

      The murderer and motive were a complete surprise and so unsuspected.


    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 5:24 pm

      Ah, that is the sign of a good murder mystery!!


  12. User: Bev Bookless

    Posted on: 19/07/2020 at 7:24 am

    ‘Murder on the Downs’ arrived mid week along with some slightly improved weather. My favourite place to read is on my sun lounger! I am almost half way through and have been reacquainted with Pearl and McGuire; the tension of their relationship palpable once the murder happens. The mainstay characters in Julie Wassmer’s Pearl Nolan series are constant, Dolly, her mother and Charlie her son with the introduction of DFLs, who are passionate about Whitstable. There is a good mix of sense of place, the sea, the downs, the wood. I have visited Whitstable twice and love it. I had been planning to go again this year, but sadly it hasn’t happened so far, so enjoying my armchair travel. I will be visiting the Downs next time. Hopefully there will be more time on the sun lounger soon. Where do others like to read?


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 22/07/2020 at 5:25 pm

      Oh, I think my preferred reading position is by a pool with a long drink. But given that is unlikely pretty much anywhere… what about everyone else???? Where is your preferred place for reading?


Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021