Suffolk is a glorious place graced with rolling hills, salt marshes and sandy beaches. Charming villages and market towns lie scattered through the countryside while bustling seaside ports adorn the coast. Steeped in history, Suffolk has grown elegantly into the 20th century with towns like Bury Saint Edmunds enjoying the historic Abbey grounds as they blend harmoniously with sympathetically built shopping complexes and other modern structures. The Suffolk landscape is varied and naturally inspirational for writers. At least, it was for me.
My books are usually set in Suffolk. Vote for Murder features both Stonham Aspall and Christchurch Park in Ipswich. The Fressingfield Witch is the first of the Lawrence Harpham Murder Mysteries. Lawrence lives and works at The Buttermarket in Bury Saint Edmunds, where the book begins. Most of the book is set in the village of Fressingfield as the title implies. The second Lawrence Harpham book, The Ripper Deception sees a location change with Lawrence investigating in London and Brighton. Even so, much of the book involves Bury Saint Edmunds, Chelmondiston, and the delights of Pin Mill.
The choice of Suffolk as a setting for my books puts me in excellent company. There are many talented Suffolk writers, who will form the subject of a future blog, but this is a piece about books set in Suffolk locations, regardless of heritage.
1. The Death of Lucy Kyte – Nicola Upson. I once met Nicola at a crime festival and should have told her that The Death of Lucy Kyte inspired my first book. I have always been fascinated by true crime and mystery books are my favourite genre. With East Anglian heritage and a love of history, this Suffolk mystery was always going to please. The fifth of the Josephine Tey novels, The Death of Lucy Kyte centres around the infamous Red Barn Murder in the village of Polstead where Maria Marten died. It was a fabulous read that I can highly recommend.
2. The Town House – Nora Lofts. Set in Bury Saint Edmunds and featuring 14th-century blacksmith, Martin Reed, The Town House is the first of a Suffolk trilogy. Embarrassingly, I haven’t read anything by by Nora Lofts but The Town House will be going straight to the top of my TBR pile.
3. We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea – Arthur Ransome. An enchanting children’s adventure set at Pin Mill on the banks of the River Orwell. I have read (and still own) the Swallows and Amazon’s books and have spent many happy moments on the Shotley Peninsula.
4. A Warning to the Curious – M R James. I haven’t read this yet, but I will. Set in the fictional town of Seaburgh, this short ghost story is reputedly dripping with atmosphere and supernatural tension. Seaburgh is evidently recognisable as Aldeburgh, and the author has taken great pains to describe his surroundings.
5. Children of Men – P D James. “…Early this morning, three minutes after midnight, the last human to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl”. So begins the compelling opening to a book which later became a movie. I watched the film a few years ago with no idea of the Southwold setting. A dystopian book about the effects of male infertility, the premise of the novel is fascinating and terrifying in equal measures. It is quite a departure from the author’s Adam Dalgleish novels.
6. Gallowglass – Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine. No Suffolk book list would be complete without the inclusion of Ruth Rendell who not only lived in Suffolk but set many of her books within its varied landscapes. Psychological mystery thriller Gallowglass features the town of Sudbury, and this book will also be joining my TBR list.