Discover Books by Nicki Thornton

The Cut-Throat Cafe is now out! Discover all three book in the Seth Seppi Mystery Stories, part of the world of the Elysee Sorcerers! Starting with the award-winning bestseller - and winner of The Times Children's Fiction Competition - The Last Chance Hotel.

Activities and ideas

Scrumdiddlyumptious Shortbread

Seth loves cooking and here is one of his favourite recipes - delicious, but also very easy to make!

225 g plain flour
25 g cornflour
25 g ground rice or rice flour
160 g butter
85 g sugar

Put all ingredients together in a bowl and rub together (a bit like making like pastry). Knead well.
Wrap in clingfilm and chill for a hour.
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment. Lightly dust the work surface with a little flour and roll the dough to a thickness of 3 mm.
Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, of slice into fingers. Arrange on the baking sheet. The recipe makes about 24 biscuits.
Bake on the middle shelf for around 15 minutes until crisp and pale golden. Cool on baking sheets.

With variations
Chocolate shortbread
Add 50g of cocoa to the vanilla mixture

Lemon shortbread
Add the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon, 1 tsp of lemon extract and 1tbsp of finely chopped candied lemon peel to the vanilla shortbread mixture in place of the vanilla extract.
Optional: sprinkled with a dusting of cinnamon before baking

Pistachio chocolate-dipped
Add 75 g of finely chopped, unsalted, shelled pistachios to the shortbread mixture (either chocolate or vanilla). Spread the baked and cooled shortbread with melted dark chocolate and scatter with chopped pistachios.

Morello cherry shortbread
You can add chopped, dried morello cherries to either the vanilla or chocolate mixture

Stem ginger shortbread
Add 1tsp of ground ginger and 1 finely chopped 2cm piece of stem ginger to the vanilla mixture.

Almond shortbread
Add 75g of finely chopped or ground almonds to the chocolate or vanilla mixture

Hazelnut shortbread
Add 75g of finely chopped or ground hazelnuts to the chocolate or vanilla mixture

Classroom activities and teaching notes 

Do you want to use The Last Chance Hotel and The Bad Luck Lighthouse as a teaching resource in your classroom? Here's a downloadable PDF with some notes and ideas for classroom activities and writing exercises.

It's completely amazing to discover schools using your book to study. So do let me know if you are. Lots of schools have shared really great ideas, from creating newspaper front pages about a murder, to discussions about injustice and exclusion. I love hearing from schools!

Also, I'm available to come and do an event at your school - and I've prepared a crib sheet so you get the most out of a visit (and what to expect). Much more about this on my events page.

For my second book, The Bad Luck Lighthouse, I went on a blog tour and got asked questions on everything from writing tips to how I get my ideas. You can see where I went and what I said here.

And here's what I said recently when a book group got in touch to ask me some questions:

1) how did you come up with the story line?
I ran my own bookshop for ten years and one of my favourite things was talking to children about the books they were reading and enjoying. Mysteries and magic came up ever so often (and are my favourite genres too!). But there were very few stories that combined the two. I started thinking about why this was and how you might go about writing a murder mystery set in a magical world (which is not actually very easy and took rather a lot of planning) . .  . and that's how it all started.

2) what influenced the story? 

The story was very much influenced by trying to include all those things I really love about murder mysteries - an isolated setting with everyone looking over their shoulder and knowing one of them is a murderer, an eccentric detective, a locked room mystery, clues and red herrings to spot, twists and turns . . . all mixed in with a few people who have the ability to do magic. Getting it all in was a challenge.

3) who is your favourite character and why?

I love all the characters and they all have an important part to play in the story. I love how Seth is caught wide-eyed in the middle off everything, trying to stay one step ahead, but actually always being one step behind. I had great fun writing Tiffany and wanted the reader to feel dread every time she arrives in a scene. Pewter's dialogue was fun because he almost always answers a different question to the one that is being asked. And Nightshade adds extra fluffiness. 

4) Would you consider a sequel to TLCH? 
I have definite plans to write another adventure for Seth. Watch out for news soon.