Thursday, December 27, 2012

Murder in the Lakes

It is my pleasure to introduce a delightful English writer, Martin Edwards - delightful, not only because he is such a nice person, but delightful because of what he gives to mystery readers.

Martin - the researcher and writer

A practicing solicitor, Martin spends his free time immersed in the world of crime fiction - from writing novels and short stories (A CWA winner in 2008) to editing anthologies of crime fiction and chairing the nominations sub-committee for the CWA Diamond Dagger.  For a look at Martin's amazing breadth of involvement, you should take a look at his website  You can also follow his blog at

I first met Martin at Crimefest several years ago, where I was blown away by his general and specialized knowledge of the genre.  He won, by a mile, a quiz that was held towards the end of the conference.  I discovered it wasn't his first win.  The following year he won again, and he is now banned from entering, because no one else has a chance!
Martin - the competitor, with vanquished Simon Brett, David Stuart Davies, and Meg Gardiner

He has several series.  His latest book, The Hanging Wood, is the fifth in the Lakes District series.  He has finished the sixth in the series, The Frozen Shroud, which will be published in 2013.  I'm about halfway through The Cipher Garden, and I can see why Martin likes the Lake District so much.  His prose evokes a sense of place so strong that I have vivid mental images of where the story takes place.  I will have to visit the area when I am in the UK next.

Please welcome one of our genre's outstanding writers - a person who gives back more than he takes - Martin Edwards.

Stan - Thursday

Of all the pleasures known to a writer, finishing work on a novel comes high on the list. At the moment, I’m in the happy position of having completed the editorial work on my sixth and latest Lake District Mystery, The Frozen Shroud, which gives me a chance to accept Stan Trollip’s kind invitation to contribute to this terrific blog.

Another great pleasure of writing life is research, and it doesn’t get much better than having the excuse of “I’m off to research my book” to justify a trip to the Lakes. At any time of year, and even when it’s raining (which, to be honest, is often), it’s a magical part of the world.

The idea for writing a series set in the Lake District sprang from a conversation I had a few years ago with my then editor, David Shelley. He’d just published a stand-alone psychological suspense novel I’d written for him. In fact, I had a vague idea that Take My Breath Away might not be a stand-alone. It featured a true crime writer called Nic Gabriel, a character about whom I felt I had more to say. But David said he’d like me to start a brand new series – with a rural setting.

This was quite a departure for me, and at first I wasn’t sure. I’d written seven novels set in Liverpool and featuring lawyer Harry Devlin, and Take My Breath Away was set in London. I was keen to return to writing about Harry (and eventually, I did, with Waterloo Sunset, which was huge fun to write) and although I live on the edge of the countryside, I’ve worked in a city for years and felt more comfortable writing urban novels. However, I’d recently written a short story set in the North England countryside at the time of the appalling foot and mouth epidemic, and I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone.

I suggested to David that I try writing a series set in the Lake District, and he was keen from the outset. I was aware that at that time, surprisingly few mystery novels had been set in the Lakes, and no British novelist had set a crime series there. It seemed like a great opportunity, and so it proved. So I owe a lot to David (who is now the editor for J.K. Rowling, so his career has moved into the stratosphere rather more rapidly than mine.)

The Coffin Trail, the first Lake District Mystery, was the most successful book I’d written up to that time. It reached the shortlist of six for the Theakston’s prize for best crime novel of the year, along with books by the likes of Ian Rankin, Susan Hill and Val McDermid. And the very positive critical reception encouraged me to keep going.

From the start, I decided that the backdrop to the series should be the developing relationship between DCI Hanah Scarlett, head of Cumbria’s cold case squad, and historian Daniel Kind. That relationship continues to develop – rather slowly, I have to admit, but they make some sort of progress in The Frozen Shroud!

Each story is set in a different part of the Lakes – a small area, but extraordinarily diverse. Many scenes in The Arsenic Labyrinth, for instance, take place in and around Coniston and the nearby Coppermines Valley. In The Frozen Shroud, I venture to Ullswater. Parts of the area around the serpentine lake are amazingly quiet and remote, despite being only a few miles as the crow files from the traffic teeming on the M6 motorway.

The research trips were tremendous fun. A visit to the dramatic waterfalls of Aira Force, close to where Wordsworth saw those legendary daffodils, a steamer trip from Pooley Bridge, a climb up Hallin Fell to enjoy the fantastic views, and the writer’s obligatory pub visit, to the bar of the hotel in the tiny hamlet of Howtown, were among many highlights.

The result is one of my darker novels, set in a remote community on the far side of the lake. Three deaths have occurred in Ravenbank on Hallowe’en, over a span of one hundred years – what can be the connection? History collides with the present in a book that takes the series in a new direction. I’m eagerly awaiting publication next spring.

In the meantime, I’ll soon be casting around for ideas for the next book. It’s a tough life for a writer - perhaps I need to start wandering around the lakes and fells again, in search of inspiration!   

Martin Edwards - Thursday


  1. I'm headed for rural north Florida with the same excuse. The Lake District, like the Appalachians, looks magical. But so is the land of Marjorie Rawlings.

  2. Many thanks, Martin, for introducing me to the Lake District. I agree wholeheartedly with Stan on your rare gift for evoking such a strong sense of place that you "bring" the reader there. Something I shall in fact try to literally accomplish the next time I'm in the UK.

    It's also a pleasant surprise to know that a fellow lawyer named Martin (my middle name) and I share the same view on the pleasures of finishing one work and launching research on the next.:) It sort of keeps the ball rolling.

    Thanks for a great post.

  3. Thanks very much for your kind comments.
    Yes, the Lake District is magical, though right now very wet, believe me!
    Jeff, good to hear not only from a fellow lawyer, but a fellow PPP author. And of course I Hope to get the chance to say hello either in the UK or at a future Bouchercon.

    1. Looking forward to it, Martin. And yes, I thought of mentioning our shared PPP heritage but thought it might be perceived as my trying to bask in your light:)

    2. Not a bit of it, Jeff!! Incidentally, I visited Myknonos a while back. Fantastic place.

    3. The next time you show up on Mykonos I certainly hope you'll let me know!

  4. Lovely post, Martin!
    And lovely photos of a lovely part of the world.
    Thanks for sharing them all with us here on MIE.
    I hope you'll come back and visit us soon again.

  5. Thanks, folks, for hosting Martin.

    Martin - I am so excited about the publication of The Frozen Shrough. I'm very much looking forward to reading it!

  6. I love Martin's Lake District novels -- can't wait for this next one! Thanks.

  7. I'm looking forward to Frozen Shroud & I'm reading the Harry Devlin novels at the moment so thanks for the chance to find out how it all began.

    1. Thanks, Lyn. I do hope you enjoy Harry. I would love to bring him back one day, though at the moment, I'm not sure when that would be.

  8. Thanks, Harriet, and a happy new year!