Gone – North East England – Rebecca Muddiman

gone

Why a booktrail?

Following on from her success with Stolen – the winner of the 2010 Northern Crime Writers competition in 2012 has done it again and places the North East on the North East Noir map.

Story in a nutshell

250,000 people go missing in the UK every year.

91% of those reported to police are found within 48 hours.

99% of cases are solved within a year.

And 1% stay gone.

Eleven years ago, troubled teenager Emma Thorley went missing. The police assumed she was a runaway. But now a body has been found in woods near Blyth.

DI Michael Gardner knows he didn’t take Emma’s disappearance seriously enough back then, but when he and DS Nicola Freeman start to reinvestigate, they discover that the past will come back to haunt them – and others.

Place and setting

Middlesbrough - where DI Gardner was based Blyth woods - where the body is found Alnwick Police station - DS Janet Williams works here Morpeth - links in the case are made here too
Middlesbrough – where DI Gardner was based
Blyth woods – where the body is found
Alnwick Police station – DS Janet Williams works here
Morpeth – links in the case are made here too

The book opens in Middlebrough and Blyth as we meet a series of characters who have just heard the news –

“The body was found in woods near Blyth earlier today”

Their reactions to it could not be more differerent and the trail of suspicion starts to weave and coil its way around each and every one of them throughout the novel.  The missing girl is thought to be Emma who disappeared 11 years ago but it is DI Michael Gardner, based in Middlesbrough who reacts with regret that he failed the girl. Meanwhile, Louise also in Middlesbrough fears that the discovery will mean that ‘they will find out what she’s done’. Then we are in Blyth – the scene of the crime and we  meet Lucas – a vile and sexist individual who ‘ has history’ with the dead girl.

The investigation into the woods and into those who knew Emma takes the police deep into the heart of Northumberland – Morpeth is a place of interest for someone linked to her past. Alnwick police station – the office of DS Janet Williams – becomes a place of investigation too since someone the police become interested in and so before long the trail from her disappearance to her discovery becomes a veritable trail across Northumberland and beyond.

Still it is the woods near Blyth which provide the dark and chilling point of interest. Added to that, the looming presence of Lucas and the dark criminal clouds start to gather in earnest.

Thoughts

A snappy, well structured and well written tale of a chilling and very real to life case. Maybe it was the statistics in the blurb which did it, but this felt like a real case and for that reason the undesirables you meet in and around Blyth are particularly nasty. Very real and believable – just down right nasty.

Told in dual time line –  1999 and 2010 (present day) , this was an effective mix of the confusion and regret of the present day investigation coupled with the dangerous unravelling of the past. very effective two paced thriller which made me want to read just one more chapter in order to fill in another missing piece of the puzzle.

The mix of characters was particularly interesting as the two police officers joined up to solve the crime. The regret and sheer frustration of the investigation past and present rang true and when you add those people Emma knew well – and their past actions – the puzzle grew in complexity and took on  a life of its own.

A missing persons case is perhaps the greatest puzzle of all as everyone seems to have a theory or an explanation of what happened. But peel back appearances and there is a lot more ‘behind the scenes’. You the reader feel very much a part of the investigation and the breadcrumb trail Rebecca leaves you is not as easy to follow as you think. I was left wondering what on earth I would find out at the end of it. And I was not disappointed. Gritty, real and a North East Noir pin on the booktrail map.

Monument to Murder – Bamburgh – Mari Hannah

From Bamburgh Castle looking out on to the beach towards Holy Island
From Bamburgh Castle looking out on to the beach towards Holy Island –

“This part of the Northumberland coast was stunning but unforgiving too, completely open to the elements”

Monument to Murder

The fourth installment in the Kate Daniels series, was  a firm favourite here at the booktrail – not only for its setting – but for the plot, development characters and a real twist we didn’t see coming.

As we like to get into the novels by seeing the locations in the eyes of the characters, we walked the steps that Kate, Hank and the rest of the team would have taken when they found the skeletal remains on Bamburgh beach…

Kate has set up a murder room and investigation at Alnwick Police station and are staying at a local B and B when looking into the findings. This setting – a Northumberland village, in the winter, makes for a perfect setting for a chilling and eerie tale.

Recap

The story

Prison psychologist Emily McCann has returned to work following the death of her husband and is trying hard to settle back into the job. One offender, Walter Fearon, who is a convicted, brutal sex offender is pleased to see her back since he has created an entire fantasy built around her and missed her when she was off. Needless to say he’s not going to make her return easy.

As Kate and her team try to solve the mystery of the buried bones, Kate wonders about their significance – the setting for one is seen to be very important – midway between Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle – the Monuments to Murder of the title.

The Monument to Murder Booktrail locations including The Ship Inn at Low Newton, Bamburgh Castle and the makeshift incident room in Alnwick
The Monument to Murder Booktrail locations including The Ship Inn at Low Newton, Bamburgh Castle and the makeshift incident room in Alnwick

Bamburgh castle and beach – http://www.bamburghcastle.com/

Reading on location is always a pleasure and a thrill for any serious booktrailer but it’s not until you get to Bamburgh sands, sit own in the dunes and look up at the castle that you realise just how hidden and remote a location it is. Stunning , yes, but also open to the elements and a sense that this is where two bodies were found  buried on purpose with the setting a real marker –

And there it was – Bamburgh Castle – rising majestically out of the ground on which it stood, a sight of power and beauty, its distinctive red sandstone walls impenetrable to the enemy without, the royal seat of the Kings of Northumbria in days gone by.

Majestic Bamburgh Castle
Majestic Bamburgh Castle

Holy Island (in the distance)

The notion that Bamburgh Castle or Holy Island – two of the most revered places in Northumberland – could be some kind of macabre monument to murder stunning them into silence.

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The village of Bamburgh

Kate slowed on the outskirts of the village to observe a 30 mile-an-hour- limit. There were buildings on the right. Some fairly flash houses. The Grace Darling Museum with an RNLI flag on top. Visit it for real here – http://bit.ly/1qYV6RR

The Grace Darling Museum
The Grace Darling Museum

Kate and Hank set up in Bamburgh and try to find somewhere to collect their thoughts and to find somewhere to stay. Hank meanwhile looks for the nearest pub….

"there were no parking space outside the Lord crewe on Church Street"
“there were no parking space outside the Lord crewe on Church Street

Bamburgh is a pretty village Kate thinks and is one that she knows well – a short row of pretty shops and the Copper Kettle tea rooms – (yummy cream teas fyi – well we have to experience cuppa and a cake during a booktrail too of course) – http://www.copperkettletearooms.com/ 

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Not far away a Japanese tourist was taking a photograph of a traditional red phone box with his mobile. (none the day we were there but a few bike riders although none of the motorbike variety)

The phone box and the famous pantry where Kate loves the onion marmelade and Francesca's Figgy Pear relish
The phone box and the famous pantry where Kate loves the onion marmalade and Francesca’s Figgy Pear relish

Low Newton

Where Jo is renting a cottage during the investigation – 

the square at Low Newton with the Ship inn in the corner
The square at Low Newton with the Ship Inn in the corner

Twenty two miles away, Kate Daniels parked her car in the fishing village of Low Newton by the Sea, one of her favourite places along the North Northumberland coast

These are the main and hotspots of the Monument tour for us – others are mentioned such as Felton and up near the River Coquet where Emma lives. Oh a birthday meal in the Black Bull pub in Corbridge where Kate grew up. Not forgetting Acklington prison (HMP Northumberland). Bamburgh is the star of the show so to speak and it shines as a setting and a remote landscape for murder and intrigue.

Oh the fun you can have on a booktrail...
Oh the fun you can have on a booktrail…

To see Mari Hannah’s Northumberland  – in fact to see Kate Daniels Northumberland, take a tour around Bamburgh and see the majestic castle, its view of Holy Island, the desolate but stunning beaches and stand on the dunes like Kate and Hank would have done, feeling the nip in the air and the rough sea fret on your face.

What did I see at the end of the booktrail? A lovely touch in the Bamburgh Castle bookshop –

Buy the book right here on location!
Buy the book right here on location!

This is Kate Daniel’s patch – read and experience her world by visiting these places.

And be sure to watch out for a figure, or maybe two, in the distance, walking a dog named Nelson….

Barter Book heaven

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Barter Books at the weekend. Travelling around the Northumberland coast, I stopped off here – one of the largest second hand bookshops in Britain.

It was opened in 1991 by Mary Manley who runs the shop with her husband and is located in the old victorian station of Alnwick. And wow! What an experience they have created!

Imagine – book heaven – shelves and shelves of lovely old books – where you can smell history in the pages and delight at the crinkle of the covers. Now that’s not to say all books are historical artifacts – in fact most aren’t  – the books are all second hand but its often hard to tell as I picked up several novels including The Help by Kathryn Stockett, that I don’t think had been touched!

Barter books is not just a book shop. Its a book haven, a book heaven….you get the idea. Nestled in the old surroundings, it breathes history and warmth. I got the feeling each book felt honoured to spend time here on the shelves. They are divided into sections and so you need a map to navigate, which is fun in itself.I felt like a pirate looking for treasure. A map to find your way round a book shop that is housed in a station? I was ready for the adventure.

The store is full of lovely touches such as the coffee and biscuit corner complete with armchairs and an honesty box as you walk in. A roaring fire in the winter, a model railway running around the store from up above and the reading rooms – the red room, green room , blue room and my personal favourite, the old waiting room, where you can read, chill, eat, drink and relax. There’s cushions, comfy seats, a very impressive chandelier and a table with a chess board painted on. (Chess pieces are also provided)

When I first arrived, I planned to have a browse, buy a book then maybe go through to Alnwick or Beadnell to read it and relax. Instead I stayed in Barter Books for 6 hours, drank 5 cups of coffee, had 3 yummy ginger cookies, did several circuits of the store and bought 9 books.

Now I can’t wait to read my stash. I may have to hibernate. Until it’s time to get up and go back to Barter Books of course!