Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Crime Fiction of Norfolk County

I've been meaning to do this for a while. I have family in Norfolk and spend a lot of time there and enjoy crime novels set in the places I know. So I have compiled a list of books that are set in Norfolk, mostly the top half - there must be more in south Norfolk but I've not come across them yet. I welcome corrections and especially additions. I haven't read all these authors/titles, and some of the settings I assign to the ones I have read are based on my own feelings, and of course could be wrong.
[Official blurbs are in italics.]

NB. The list does not currently contain self-published titles.

Moving from west to east:

Elly Griffiths has written six books so far, starting with The Crossing Places featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway and King's Lynn policeman Harry Nelson.

A child's bones are discovered near the site of a pre-historic henge on the north Norfolk coast, and the police ask local forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway to date them. Are these the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years ago? DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for this missing child. Ever since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows Ruth's instincts and experience can help him finally put this case to rest. Then a second child goes missing, and Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she's getting ever closer to the truth...

Jim Kelly, who also writes about Ely and the Fens, writes a series set in North Norfolk, the DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine series which begins with Death Wore White.

At 5.15 p.m. Harvey Ellis was trapped - stranded in a line of eight cars by a blizzard on a Norfolk coast road. At 8.15 p.m. Harvey Ellis was dead - viciously stabbed at the wheel of his truck. And his killer has achieved the impossible: striking without being seen, and without leaving a single footprint in the snow ...For DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine it's only the start of an infuriating investigation. The crime scene is melting, the murderer has vanished, the witnesses are dropping like flies. And the body count is on the rise...

Canadian author C C Benison set the middle book in his "Her Majesty Investigates" series at Sandringham, with Death at Sandringham House

When housemaid Jane Bee accompanies the Royals on their annual Christmas jaunt to Sandringham, she believes she’s in for a bit of a snooze. Aside from her regular duties, there’s nothing much to do in the wilds of Norfolk … until the body of a woman turns up in the village hall – a woman who just happens to be a dead ringer for the Queen, right down to her glittering crown.

Simon Brett takes his actor-sleuth Charles Paris to Hunstanton in A Comedian Dies (1979)

About to receive an award as Most Promising Newcomer, a rising young stage comedian sensationally drops dead on stage at the start of his act: as he picks up the mike, he is electrocuted. Faulty wiring seems to be the cause and a verdict of death by misadventure is returned at the inquest. But actor/detective Charles Paris was in the audience that night and when another member of the cast reveals that the comedian checked his equipment just before the performance, Charles decides to investigate further. Misadventure—or murder?

James Humphreys has only written two novels, both of which I enjoyed enormously, the second one, Riptide (2001) is set in North Norfolk and I've put it in the Wells-next-the-Sea area.

The small village of Caxton, on the foggy Norfolk coast, holds many memories for Sergeant Sarah Delaney - most of which she's tried hard to forget. For Caxton was the place where her boyfriend Tom had lived - and where he died. Now she has been sent back there in the early hours of the morning to investigate a disturbing sighting - the bodies of a man and a woman on the mist-covered beach. Unfortunately, by the time Sarah arrives the tide has come in and the bodies have been washed out to sea. As a murder investigation is launched, Sarah is forced to confront many ghosts from her past, including the enigmatic inhabitants of the Red House, and the local coastguard, Nick Walton, Tom's closest friend. The time has come, it seems, for Sarah to learn the truth about Tom and his tragic death . . .

Moving towards Cromer, I believe, is Ian Sansom's The Norfolk Mystery which mentions Blakeney in the blurb below

Love Miss Marple? Adore Holmes and Watson? Professor Morley's guide to Norfolk is a story of bygone England; quaint villages, eccentric locals - and murder! It is 1937 and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is stony broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where 'intelligence is essential', he applies. Thus begins Sefton's association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect. Morley's latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county. They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church's bellrope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot. Did the Reverend really take his own life, or was it - murder?

The Eastrepps in Francis Beeding's Death Walks in Eastrepps (1931) is based on Cromer

Heralded as one of the greatest detective books of all time on first publication in 1931, Death Walks in Eastrepps is a genuine page-turner, set in a picturesque English seaside resort and with a plot involving a double identity, a series of murders, blackmail, a courtroom drama and, unmasked at the end, an unlikely suspect.

And he also wrote The Norwich Victims

A middle-aged schoolteacher wins the French lottery and looks around for somewhere safe to invest her prize. Unfortunately for her she decides to consult the unscrupulous John Throgmorton, and he seizes a once in a lifetime opportunity, murdering the unsuspecting Miss Haslett and sending his secretary and partner in crime, Hermione Taylor, to Paris to collect the money. Throgmorton's devious plan is executed to perfection, and it seems that nothing can go wrong. But then he receives an unexpected visitor...

P D James brought Adam Dalgliesh to Norfolk in Devices and Desires (1989) which is set on the eastern side of Cromer.

When Commander Adam Dalgliesh visits Larksoken, a remote headland community on the Norfolk coast in the shadow of a nuclear power station, he expects to be engaged only in the sad business of tying up his aunt's estate. But the peace of Larksoken is illusory. A serial killer known as the Whistler is terrorising the neighbourhood and Dalgliesh is drawn into the lives of the headlanders when it quickly becomes apparent that the Whistler isn't the only murderer at work under the sinister shadow of the power station.

The eleventh and last book in Edward Marston's Domesday series, is The Elephants of Norwich

It is the juiciest piece of gossip the citizens of Norwich have heard for a long time. The two golden elephants that robber baron Richard de Fontenel was using to lure the beautiful Adelaide into marriage have been stolen. Also missing is de Fontenel's steward Hermer. Desperate to try and ignore this growing crisis are Domesday Commissioners Ralph Delchard and Gervase Bret, who are keen to resolve a land dispute involving de Fontenel and Mauger - a man also trying to woo Adelaide. De Fontenel, however, refuses to co-operate until the thief is found. But is Hermer the steward really missing or has something more sinister happened? In Ralph and Gervase's most baffling case yet, nothing is what it seems and no one is free from suspicion...

Moving even further east, we have two books set in Great Yarmouth (or Starmouth and Ernemouth as it appears in these two books).

Gently by the Shore (1956) is the second in the George Gently series. Author Alan Hunter wrote 45 books based in the Norwich/Broads area (and not  Northumberand as in the tv series).

You’ll find plenty of bodies stretched out on a summer beach – but they’re not usually dead...

In a British seaside holiday resort at the height of the season, you would expect to find a promenade and a pier, maybe some donkeys, ‘Kiss-Me-Quick’ hats, candy floss and kids building sandcastles. You would not expect to find a naked corpse, punctured with stab wounds, lying on the sand.

Chief Inspector George Gently is called in to investigate the disturbing murder. The case has to be wrapped up quickly to calm the nerves of concerned holidaymakers. No one wants to think that there is a maniac on the loose in the town but with no clothes or identifying marks on the body, Gently has a tough time establishing who the victim is, let alone finding the killer. In the meantime, who knows where or when the murderer might strike again?

The second book is Cathi Unsworth's Weirdo

Corinne Woodrow was fifteen when she was convicted of murdering one of her classmates on a summer's evening in 1984, a year when the teenagers of Ernemouth ran wild, dressing in black and staying out all night, listening to music that terrified their parents.Twenty years later, new forensic evidence suggests Corinne didn't act alone. Private investigator Sean Ward - whose promising career as a detective with the Met was cut short by a teenage gangster with a gun - reopens the case, and discovers a town full of dark secrets, and a community that has always looked after its own.

The following three series, I have had less success in exact placing, but are set in "Norfolk"

Brian Cooper wrote a nine-book series set in a 1940s/50s North Norfolk. The only one I've read is The Norfolk Triangle

When a young Cambridge student goes looking for the ruins of an old Norfolk village he discovers a body of a girl. Chief Inspector Tench is shocked by the violence of the crime. Is this murder linked to that of another girl 15 years earlier?

S T Haymon's series about Detective Inspector Ben Jurnet has been made available again as ebooks.

The series features Angleby (modelled on Norwich) and presumably Bullen Hall, in Stately Homicide, is based on Blickling Hall.

The first book in the series is Death and the Pregnant Virgin (1980).

'I'm only repeating what I've been told. And what I've been told is that Rachel Case was four months pregnant when she was killed, and she was still a virgin.' Rachel Case was considered by some to be a saint, but she lay, with the back of her head shattered, in the Shrine of Our Lady of Promise. The Norfolk village of Mauthen Barbary was filled with pilgrims, celebrating the fifth year since the statue's discovery, but it had to be someone close to Rachel who had killed her so brutally. Inspector Ben Jurnet finds that the clues to this modern murder lie far back in the past, concealed in a Tudor account book and an ancient Greek text. But not in time to prevent a suicide and two more bizarre killings . . .

American author Kate Kingsbury has written the "Manor House" series, set in "Sitting Marsh", Norfolk.

The first book in the series is A Bicycle Built For Murder (2001)

In World War II England, the quiet village of Sitting Marsh is faced with food rations and fear for loved ones. But Elizabeth Hartleigh Compton, lady of the Manor House, stubbornly insists that life must go on. Sitting Marsh residents depend on Elizabeth to make sure things go smoothly. Which means everything from sorting out gossip to solving the occasional murder ...

Sixteen-year-old Beryl Pierce was trouble with a capital T. So when she winds up dead below a cliff, villagers call it an accident waiting to happen. But Elizabeth and the girl's mother think it was murder. Suspects abound - an American soldier, a boyfriend, and a jealous acquaintance. And Elizabeth is glad to help. But when the Manor House is chosen to house American officers, she's up to her ears in murder and military mayhem - a battle that may get the best of her.

And finally a few other titles set in Norfolk

MC Beaton sends her sleuth Agatha Raisin to a Norfolk village in her tenth outing, Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam

Feeling jilted and cross, Agatha follows a fortune-teller's advice and rents a cottage in the pretty village of Fryfam, where she hopes good fortune and true love will come chasing after her for a change. Unfortunately, her romantic notions are soon dispelled by the strange goings-on in the village. What exactly are those strange lights in Agatha's back garden? Who is stealing paintings and pottery? Where are her beloved cats? And who murdered the local squire…Agatha's nose for trouble leads her into a maelstrom of jealousy, blackmail and dangerous liaisons - and a murderer who plans to keep irrepressible Agatha permanently in Fryfam - as a resident corpse.

In the fifth book in Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge series, Watchers of Time, Rutledge is sent to Norfolk.

In Osterley, a marshy Norfolk backwater, a man lies dying on a rainy autumn night. While natural causes will surely claim Herbert Baker’s life in a matter of hours, his last request baffles his family and friends.

Baker, a devout Anglican, inexplicably demands to see the town’s Catholic priest for a last confession. The old man dies without knowing that the very priest who gave him comfort will follow him to the grave just a few weeks later — the victim of an appalling murder.

The local police are convinced the evidence points to an interrupted robbery, and have named a suspect, Matthew Walsh. But the dead priest’s bishop insists that Scotland Yard oversee the investigation. A simple task for Rutledge, a man not yet well enough to return to full duty.


Ashley Gardner send Captain Lacey to Norfolk in book seven of her series

September 1817 Captain Gabriel Lacey travels with Lady Breckenridge to his boyhood home in northern Norfolk only to discover mysterious happenings in and around the Lacey estate. A young woman, cousin of an old friend, has gone missing, strange objects appear in Lacey's ruined house, and the dark windmills on the marshes keep pulling Lacey to them. The underworld criminal, James Denis, uses Lacey's visit to Norfolk as an opportunity to have Lacey deliver a message to a local squire. A simple task—but one that lands Lacey squarely in international theft and murder. Lacey learns more about Denis's past, and finds himself joining forces with Denis to flush out a brutal killer and save the one person about whom Denis admits to caring.

Andrew Garve set several books in East Anglia including The Far Sands (1961) set on the Norfolk coast.

Fay drowns fleeing the scene of her husband's murder. Was it, as the police believe, murder and a tragic accident or was it, as her surviving twin Carol believes, a double murder? Carol's boyfriend takes some convincing before helping her to unravel the mystery.

Jane Adams's The Greenway is also set on the Norfolk coast

Cassie still has nightmares about that day in 1975 when she and her cousin Suzie took a short cut through The Greenway. For somewhere along this path Suzie simply vanished. Also haunted is John Tyson, the retired detective once in charge of Suzie's unsolved case.

[This is the first of four DI Mike Croft books. I'm not sure if the remaining three are also set in Norfolk.]

and finally Stella Rimington's fiction debut At Risk, was partially Norfolk based

For MI5 Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle the nagging complications of her private life are quickly forgotten at Monday's Counter-Terrorist meeting. An invisible may have entered mainland Britain. An 'invisible' - a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country, who can cross its borders unchecked and move about unnoticed - is the ultimate nightmare. For Liz this signals the start of an operation that will test her to the limit. Who or what is the target? Where and who is the invisible? With each passing hour the danger increases. But as she desperately sifts the incoming intelligence and analyses the reports from her agents she finally realises that it is her ability to get inside her enemy's head that is the only hope of averting disaster.


Kompani said...

This is a great feature. I have sent a link to my daughter who lives on the Norfolk coast and will love the recommended books. I'm going to purchase one or two for myself.
It would be so nice if you can do similar 'theme' based lists in future as an occasional series.
Keep up the great blog.

Karen (Euro Crime) said...

Many thanks! I hope to do some more lists based on E Anglia as I've lived in both Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. I currently live in the West Midlands but there's not much crime fiction set here.

Margot Kinberg said...

What a great idea, Karen! Thanks for doing this. I think it's a great way to get to know a particular region. I really do hope you'll feature other other parts of England like this.

pastoffences said...

Got another one! (after much thought :-) Henry Sutton's My Criminal World - set in a thinly disguised Norwich and 'Kingsmouth', which I think is Great Yarmouth.

TripFiction Team said...

Reading novels set in location is SUCH a great way to get to know a place. A couple more for you: My Criminal World by Henry Sutton. You want to include Lee Child, more of a thriller perhaps The Hard Way (Jack Reacher 10) by Lee Child set in London, Norfolk and NYC...

thinkinginfragments said...

I didn't realise there were so many. I've just finished the latest Elly Griffiths novel and definitely feel a visit coming on.

Rebecca said...

This post inspired me to pull out some books I haven't read for a while - J. R. L. Anderson's A Sprig of Sea Lavender (Gollancz, 1978) is mostly set in Suffolk (around Lavenham), but does venture into Norfolk, with a pursuit by sea from Great Yarmouth to just north of Southwold. Something to include in your Suffolk post, perhaps?

Richard Jones said...

The Peter Grainger DC Smith series would be an addition but I believe they may still only be self published at the moment. This is a very enticing and helpful list. Richard Jones