Today's guest blog is by author Rachel Abbott. Here she is talking about her top five favourite novels set in northern England.
I love reading books that are set in places I know well, and even better when they get transferred to the TV and I am glued to the screen, trying to recognise places! I’ve chosen a few of my favourite thrillers/crime novels, and maybe cheated in a couple of places!
Sacrifice by Paul Finch
Paul Finch’s detective, Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is actually based in London, but he has a bit of a roving remit, it seems. The first book of Paul’s that I read was Stalkers, and a reasonable amount of the action takes place in Salford, which – for those who don’t know – lies close to Manchester. But here I have mentioned his second novel in the ‘Heck’ series – Sacrifice.
It’s hard not to like a book that starts off with a young man being burnt alive on a bonfire and builds the body count from there! Moving from Liverpool to Yorkshire and then to the Midlands, it has all the grim humour of that region and Finch’s ingenious plot rings with the authentic voice of the ex-policeman he is. ‘Heck’ is against the clock to find my favourite kind of bad guy, a killer with a deadly plan! Gripping stuff!
The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid
My first cheat – because I have named two Val McDermid’s in my list and because this book – like all of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series – takes place in the fictional town of Bradfield. I have always thought of this as being northern, or possibly north midlands? But hopefully close enough, and I do love Tony Hill. He is so well written as a character, and so consistent.
This book introduces Tony Hill to readers. He is a criminal profiler who has spent years exploring the psyches of madmen. McDermid turns up the suspense by revealing Hill’s damaged past which qualifies him to solve the series of mutilation sex murders even while it condemns him to being the perfect victim. The fictional town of Bradfield sits silently behind visions of torture and terrifying fantasies like a muse. So, it has very element I like, dark psychology and susceptible heroes being torn between good and evil!
Blood Harvest by SJ Bolton
This author, now more usually know as Sharon Bolton, is one of my favourite writers. I have loved all her books, from the early stand-alone novels to the detective series featuring Lacey Flint. I think Blood Harvest was the first of her books that I read, and I immediately bought every other novel by this author that I could find, but I particularly remember Blood Harvest.
The story is set in a remote corner of the Pennines and fairly rings with the claustrophobic atmosphere of rural village life. A woman has lost her little girl but she is not the first to have gone missing. Soon, voices from the graveyard start to haunt them. How can they be heard? Yes, Bolton has had her family build their shiny new house right in the middle of the graveyard! It’s not long before the rotten heart of the village is exposed but it may be a lot longer before you go trekking again across the backbone of England!
A Place of Execution by Val McDermid
My second Val McDermid, but a very different book. This one really resonated with me, because the story references the murderous careers of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, and I used to live on Saddleworth Moor – where some of the bodies of the children they murdered were buried. It’s actually a wild and lovely place – but now with a terrible reputation.
The story starts in the winter of 1963 when two children disappear off the streets of Manchester. A third child goes missing and McDermid paints in the insular community, dead ends and distrust with such skill that one immediately feels the pain of her young detective George Bennett. It’s a book and a plot that spans decades and in so doing takes over the life of another character who is also forced to re-investigate the past. Anything which drags up the dark roots of that time is always welcome.
The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves
I think everybody has come to love Vera since the TV series by the same name was first aired. This is a bit further north than my home town of Manchester, but Northumberland is a beautiful area that I have visited on several occasions. This book has only recently been released, but is getting some excellent, well-deserved, reviews. In this story, Vera Stanhope finds a dead body in the beautiful lanes around Valley Farm in Northumberland. But there’s another body in the attic, and the only connection is the victims’ fascination with moths. The detective has to try to find out what happened in this idyllic looking place only to discover that Valley Farm is hiding a wealth of horror behind its pretty façade.
Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbott is out now on Amazon.
When your life is a lie, who can you trust. When Maggie Taylor accepts a new job in Manchester, she is sure it is the right move for her family. The children have settled well although her husband, Duncan, doesn’t appear to be so convinced. But nothing prepares her for the shock of coming home from work one night to find that Duncan has disappeared, leaving their young children alone. His phone is dead, and she has no idea where he has gone, or why. And then she discovers she’s not the only one looking for him. When a woman who looks just like Maggie is brutally murdered and DCI Tom Douglas is brought in to investigate, Maggie realises how little she knows about Duncan’s past. Is he the man she loves? Who is he running from? She doesn’t have long to decide whether to trust him or betray him. Because one thing has been made clear to Maggie – another woman will die soon, and it might be her.
More information about Rachel Abbott and her books can be found on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @RachelAbbott and find her on Facebook. You can also read her blog.
The trailer for Kill Me Again can be seen below.