There can’t be many more gorgeous places to research a book than the Lake District – though I did once doubt this in the middle of a torrential downpour at Coniston one freezing February afternoon while I was working on The Arsenic Labyrinth…Luckily, the Cumbrian weather was unexpectedly kind while I was location-checking for my latest novel, even though the action takes place around Hallowe’en.
The Frozen Shroud is the sixth of the Lake District Mysteries, a series which began with The Coffin Trail. The books are set in different parts of the Lakes, and with this novel, I’ve focused on the area around the quieter side of Ullswater, close to Hallin Fell. This is one of the most tranquil spots you could imagine, even though the M6 motorway is only half an hour away.
The action of the story takes place in the tiny community of Ravenbank, which was torn apart a century ago by the murder on Hallowe’en of a young woman who worked there. The suicide of the wife of the dead woman’s lover seemed to explain who had committed the crime, but five years ago, a strange copycat killing took place at the same spot. And now, death is about to return to Ravenbank...
I located Ravenbank on the far side of Hallin Fell, in an area where the lanes narrow to dead ends, and which even on the sunniest day is quiet and astonishingly remote from the busy tourist traps of Windermere and Bowness. Hallin Fell is an easy climb, and walking around Sandwick Bay, and the tiny hamlet of Martindale, gave me a wonderful sense of the area’s beauty and isolation.
As I’ve so often found in the past, local people were kindness itself as I worked on plot threads for the book. I was given a behind the scenes tour of the fascinating little museum at Keswick, where old archives provide clues to the solution of one sub-plot, and a backstage look around the fabulous Theatre by the Lake. One of the members of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team read and commented on a scene where I needed his expertise. And an old friend (and former crime fiction critic for Liverpool Daily Post!) the actor Rachel Laurence, gave me lots of suggestions for the background of two of the main characters. All this help, and more beside, proved invaluable in putting together a story which takes the lives of my characters Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind in new directions.
No matter how good the research, the quality of a novel depends on the energy and imagination that the writer devotes to it. The great thing about the Lakes, I find, is that it’s a truly inspirational part of the world. The more time I spend there, the more I want to do it justice in my books. And now, as The Frozen Shroud hits the shops, I’m just about to embark on the seventh book in the series. But this time, I’m setting the story at a warmer time of year, and keeping my fingers crossed that the Cumbrian weather will co-operate when I set off again up the motorway from home in Cheshire. But I’ll keep the wet weather gear in the car boot, just in case…
The Frozen Shroud - Allison & Busby Hbk £16.99 June 24 2013
Read SHOTS' review click here