The locations of Apple Tree Yard

One spur of the moment decision can change your life in ways no one ever could have forseen.


 Story in a nutshell – 

Yvonne Carmichael is a scientist, with a seemingly perfect life of a beautiful home and a good marriage.

One day she meets a man in the Houses of Parliament and the two of them start an affair.

It’s the start of a reckless liaison but there is much more at stake here – for there is a lot more to her lover than is apparent.

And neither of then could have foreseen what happens next….

Set in London – in and around the Houses of Parliament and of course Apple Tree Yard

locations of Apple Tree Yard as walked by the Booktrailer - image courtesy of Google Maps
locations of Apple Tree Yard  – image courtesy of Google Maps

A – Westminster Bridge

B- Houses of Parliament and Palace of Westminster

C – Charles II Street

D – Duke of York Street

E – St. James’s Square

F – Apple Tree Yard

The novel opens up at the Old Bailey –

Entrance of the Old Bailey
Entrance of the Old Bailey

We don’t know the meaning or significance of Apple Tree Yard – and why it should be the title of the book at this point – but a keen piece of foreshadowing in the opening courtroom scene sets it up nicely –

You are familiar aren’t you?’ says Mrs Bonnard in her satin , sinuous voice, ‘with a small back alleyway called Apple Tree Yard.’

The novels opens as Yvonne is on trial as a direct result of her affair but for exactly what kind of crime we are not sure yet. The tension is palpable and the starkness of the court walls feel as if they are closing in on both Yvonne and the reader.  –

 I know that in a few seconds, I will start to hyperventilate . I know this even though I have never done it before.

Her inner turmoil is compounded by the fact that much of the novel is written in Yvonne’s mind so that her turmoil and sheer panic that is most effective and alarming is always there, in indirect conversation with her secret lover giving the whole novel a feeling of subterfuge amidst a black veil of confusion as well as secrecy.


The start of the affair –

You paused briefly, then said, ‘Have you seen the Chapel in the Crypt?’ Your tone was light, conversational. I gave a small shake of the head. ‘ Would you like to?’

As the affair continues and becomes even more frenetic and dangerous, it is in complete contrast to the calm, professional exterior of Westminster, the tourists and the Houses of Parliament where Yvonne and the man both work and where  they conduct their affair –

Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster – (c) Thebooktrail

I wander up to the house of Parliament and take a walk over Westminster Bridge and pause to lean back against the stone balustrade and watch the tourists holding up their iPads up to Big Ben.

View of Big Ben from Parliament Square
View of Big Ben from Parliament Square

It’s the order of everything so out of place with what Yvonne and her lover are doing that are so thrilling to read. This is a real mystery – which is unlocked by coming to know Yvonne, her reasoning and “excuses” for the affair, the lies she tells herself.  Seeing and getting to know her lover only through her eyes makes him an enigma  and all the more thrilling as we see him as she does, and finds out about him at the same time as we do –

Their meetings are dirty and phone numbers are swapped in rushed exchanges –

We are still deep in conversation in the cafe on Duke of York Street, deep in our mutual exchange of confidences, when you sit back in your chair and say, abruptly, ‘I have to go now’

Duke of York Street
Duke of York Street
Duke of York Street

Addictive. Totally and utterly addictive. Yvonne, as she tells us the story, is very dry and exacting as she digs herself deeper and deeper into a situation that causes her entire world to come crashing down. There is a horrific scene of violence at one point which made me put down the book and not pick it up again until much later. But read on, as the situation rages furiously out of control and we start to see exactly why the two lovers have found themselves in the dock of the old Bailey. Yvonne assumes so much about a man she knows nothing about. We all know how dangerous ‘assuming’ can be.

Yvonne sits here
Yvonne says- I could sit in the Square for a while, but it’s cold, and too close to my office. I walk up  Duke of York Street looking for a cafe – I’m quite close to Piccadilly
St James Square
St James Square

And through flashbacks we return to Apple Tree Yard and why this is an important part of the court case –

Apple Tree Yard
Unassuming Apple Tree Yard

You are familiar aren’t you?’ says Mrs Bonnard in her satin, sinuous voice, ‘with a small back alleyway called Apple Tree Yard.’

She wants everyone in the courtroom , but especially the jury, to know this is a significant moment.

So, the booktrail did the booktrail of the sites in the book, went to Apple Tree Yard where the book exploded into life. The dark alleys, the small, narrow streets, the innocent looking cafes, the Houses of Parliament..

There was no street sign due to scaffolding but the name was emblazoned right here!
There was no street sign due to scaffolding but the name was emblazoned right here!

And all the while, men and women in smart grey suits strode past, files under their arms, Ipads in their bags and phones stuck to their ears…could any of them have been Yvonne or her lover?

And what about where they were going and who they were going to meet?

What do we assume everyday about people?

And just how dangerous can assuming be?

Black Chalk – Oxford and New York

Set in Oxford and New York  –



One game

Six students

Five survivors


What a premise for a thriller of a book!?

A game amongst students which starts off harmlessly enough but which escalates to something that no-one could have ever imagined.

Campus life plus peer pressure plus an obsession to win the game provides quite an explosive mix!


Their game starts off with childish dares and humiliations similar to those of any fresher club initiation style pranks, but with the various personalities of those taking part in the game clashing and exploding with tragic and chilling consequences.


To up the stakes, the game is being led and financed by Game Soc – a society which consists of a group of older students. Initially thought of as just the money and weirdness behind the game, it soon becomes clear that theirs is not so much of a backseat role as they would have you believe.

As the stakes rise and the dares become more dangerous and extreme, the student’s personalities change with them. As psychological warfare looms, those involved become sadistic and ruthless as they exploit their growing knowledge of each other via the game and want to do everything to attack the other’s defences.

The settings of Oxford and New York is neatly done as the game takes place in the university and scenes here are often fast and furious and chilling to the extreme. Contrast that with modern day New York where one of the ‘players’ is now living an OCD existence, holed up in an appartment, revealing the true scale of the mind games and mental trauma he has undoubtedly suffered.


An example of the stunning university architecture - New College Oxford Chapel courtesy of Wikipedia
An example of the stunning university architecture – New College Oxford Chapel courtesy of Wikipedia

Oxford is particularly well described and the descriptions of the university architecture and lifestyle is portrayed as if you were there. There is one particularly accurate literary description of the whole place –

“Living in Oxford was like living submerged in an ocean of Oscar Wildes”.

There is not much more I can say without giving away any of the plot and I would have hated to have known anymore than this before I began reading. The academic setting, the memories of fresher’s week and the dual backdrops prove to be an explosive mix.

Something that one of the characters says could be both about the game as well as the novel itself –

‘……the longer you stay in, the more dangerous things become.’

The Da Vinci Code, Paris

The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown was very popular when it was first released in 2004 and long after.However it was also widely criticised, especially by the Church as it questions the existance and indeed the origin of the Holy Grail.

Putting the subject matter and your opinions on this to one side, I have found this book to be a very interesting guide book to Paris and beyond for several reasons:

The Louvre is very popular with visitors all year round but I was living and working in Paris at the time when it came out and the number of visitors to this museum and to the underground shopping mall and museum entrance where the upside down pyramid can be found, was quite simply astonishing. Even if you don’t go inside the museum to see the Mona Lisa (Which is MUCH smaller than you would ever imagine), you can still marvel at the Louvre museum itself and the gardens around it.

I also revisited the beautiful Saint Sulpice church in Paris with this book and was rather amused to find this note in the church for visitors to read:

There were still many tourists taking pictures of the ‘rose line’.Including me. And yes I looked for the P and the S in the windows and imagined Silas breaking the line to look for the treasure beneath.

Shows you the power of the written word.