Bitter Fruits – Durham – Alice Clark Platts

bitter fruits

Why a booktrail?

Life for a first year university student is a serious of challenges and new experiences. Parties, drink, going wild…..but ending up dead? You may not want to read this if you’re starting university anytime soon.

Story in a nutshell

Durham, North East England

When a first year Durham university student is found murdered at the banks of the River Wear, the whole city is in shock. Emily Brabents was from the privileged and popular set at Joyce College. A cradle for the best of their kind.

DI Erica Martin starts to investigate the crime but the more she digs, the harder the resistance she comes up against – for this is a very close-knit community where jealousy, obsession and layered secrets form the bed rock of university life.

So when someone then confesses, she doesn’t know what to make of it. For the picture of Emily emerging from the investigation is a lot more complicated than at first thought. And just who is Daniel who seems to be the only one who really really cares?

Place and setting

Prebends Bridge Where the body is found at the start of the book Framwellgate Bridge Where Emily is seen on the bridge Durham University Where most of the action is set  - in the hallowed corridors of fictional Joyce College and Nightingale College Pelaw Wood - http://www.durham-regatta.org.uk/ The Regatta starts from Prebends Bridge and ends up near Pelaw Wood New Elvet Where the police station is located
Prebends Bridge
Where the body is found at the start of the book
Framwellgate Bridge
Where Emily is seen on the bridge
Durham University
Where most of the action is set – in the hallowed corridors of fictional Joyce College and Nightingale College
Pelaw Wood http://www.durham-regatta.org.uk/
The Regatta starts from Prebends Bridge and ends up near Pelaw Wood
New Elvet
Where the police station is located

Durham, North East England – the home of a prestigious university high up overlooking the banks of the river Wear, home of the annual Durham Regatta and a beautiful place to live.

But in Bitter Fruits, the river Wear is a crime scene and the corridors of Durham University are awash with secrets, lies, cover ups and obsession.

From the moment the novel opens at the discovery of the body, Prebends Bridge flanked by bushy trees and a neat riverside walk, becomes a crime scene. The River Wear has only just been a scene of celebration for the students involved in the famous Durham Regatta weekend. The safety of the students is now a concern as it the reputation of the university itself.

DI Erica Martin has just moved to Durham so this is a new and difficult territory for her. Establishing an investigation within the confines of an enclosed academic environment is not as easy task. Fighting through the web of intrigue to get to the truth is one thing but the dubious confession is the most confusing aspect of all.

University life and the struggle of wanting and trying to fit in are gloriously and chillingly recreated. Some girls including Emily want to be like the men and prove their ‘worth’. The struggle to fit it, the ways to get noticed, the scrutiny of other students via social media. This is a harsh and bleak landscape..

First year at university should be the start of a young person’s future but sometimes as portrayed here it is a complex and slippery slope into the abyss. Social media in a traditional and academic setting makes for a contrast of values – old and new, decaying and fresh,  freedom and a sense of entrapment.

Review

Just let me take a breath here. That was quite a read!  I’m just thankful I’m not at university anymore. Now, I do realise that this is fiction, but the picture it paints of university life is not one you’d want to be involved with yourself. The backstabbing, weirdos on campus, not to mention the staff…thank goodness this is a novel. A raw stab of a read.

DI Erica Martin, new to Durham and new to the world of academia is a great character who is adept at rooting out the secrets and lies of the students she meets. You find out what she does at the same time via diary entries of Daniel, one of Emily’s fellow students, and the updates of the investigation as one leads back to another and then back again! As the picture forms, life at the university is revealed as a dark and dangerous place. What does go on in the halls of academia?

University life here is a den of cyber bulling and cyber stalking and as you’re drawn deeper into a psychological minefield, there are a lot of issues highlighted here that might just make you stop and think.

Gritty – for the police and the students – and for the reader!

No Name Lane – County Durham – Howard Linskey

 no name lane

Why a booktrail?

Set in the old mining landscape of County Durham, where loyalties from the past come back to haunt the present

Story in a nutshell

Durham, present day

Young girls are being abducted and murdered but Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw struggles to find any leads – he’s a little out of favour too which doesn’t help. And he needs all the help he can get right now.

Another one out of favour is journalist Tom Carney – suspended from his London paper and now back in County Durham where he was born and bred. He and the new reporter on the block discover a case that could well have secrets buried as deep as the mines themselves.

For the most recent victim found is a decades old corpse. Trouble is decades old communities are the hardest to chip away at in order to find the deepest buried secrets

Place and setting

Tanfield Tanfield was the home of Tommy Armstrong (1848–1919), the "pit-man poet", whose grave is in the village cemetery. Durham  Beamish - http://www.beamish.org.uk/ To discover the days of old in the north east and life at the time of the miners villages were in full operation Easington Colliery Again a good place to visit to see a former mining village and the remains of which are in the aforementioned Beamish museum Brandon village
Tanfield
Tanfield was the home of Tommy Armstrong (1848–1919), the “pit-man poet”, whose grave is in the village cemetery.
Durham
Beamish http://www.beamish.org.uk/
To discover the days of old in the north east and life at the time of the miners villages were in full operation
Easington Colliery
Again a good place to visit to see a former mining village and the remains of which are in the aforementioned Beamish museum
Brandon village

Set in the North East of England, in a fictional yet instantly recognisable ex-mining village, this is the first in the series of DC Ian Bradshaw and a reporter who returns to the region after many years away.

The story opens up in County Durham 1993 with the most creepy of beginnings. Someone is watching a young girl and getting ready to murder her. Then the action jumps to London where the young reporter originally from the North East is set to return a phone call that will change his life .

One of the cases unfolding is that of Michelle Summers who has gone missing and now a body has been found. As we meet her, the Northern humour, so prevalent in this novel comes to the fore –

In Michelle’s view, she lived in a shabby village in the middle of nowhere, at the arse end of the north east of England, and there was nothing that wasn’t at least a bus ride away, even her home.

You couldn’t get away with anything in Great Middleton”

Meanwhile North and South are set to join forces as with DC Ian Bradshaw is in charge of the serial killer investigation whilst also trying to find out the identity of an old unearthed skeleton.

The village is an old mining pit community where the outer shell is hard to crack.

That’s the weird thing, admitted Roddy, ‘the village hasn’t got that many people in it. Aside from two world wars and  a couple of pit disasters most people round here die of natural causes….

The history is also never far away- as the choice for men in the region becomes clear

“A man could enlist in the forces, join the merchant navy or go and work in ship building on the Tyne. Swan Hunters took a lot of men….”

Although the village of Great Middleton is fictional, it could be representative of many of the former pit villages in and around Durham. For reasons of this booktrail we’ve selected Tanfield since it is a good starting point for a Durham tour and shares some eerie similarities! Great Middleton is said to be some 20 miles from Newcastle.

Review

A great new addition to the North East Noir category of new characters putting even more of the north east on the map. Here the mix of past and present is a good one and the mining community with its secrets and not forgotten past histories is a good starting point for an investigation or two. The two cases covered were interesting although the one from the pas proved to be the most intriguing

Particularly like the fact that a journalist from the North East returned to his patch and worked on the case. Everyone here had their problems and issues but northern characters like these have grit and were good to get to know.

The Northern humour and dry wit also shines through  – when describing a marriage and relationships with their ups and downs –

“Roller coasters are exciting but I wouldn’t want to spend 35 ruddy years on one”

It was good to meet some new characters on a new patch. The two cases covered were interesting although the one from the past proved to be the most intriguing.

Literary Locations – Durham

Literary locations – Durham

Think of Durham and what do you see? A lovely flowing river, a city steeped in history (mining and railways) and tradition, a top university, cobbled streets and a grand cathedral overlooking the maze of streets below…

Two books we’ve recently read here at the booktrail paint a rather different yet unique view of the city we love and know so well. Welcome to Durham as you have never seen it before…

BITTER-FRUITS

Bitter Fruits by Alice Clark Platts

In Bitter Fruits, the River Wear is a crime scene and the corridors of Durham University are awash with secrets, lies, cover ups and obsession.

From the moment the novel opens at the discovery of a body, Prebends Bridge flanked by bushy trees and a neat riverside walk, becomes a crime scene. The River Wear has only just been a scene of celebration for the students involved in the famous Durham Regatta weekend. However now, the safety of the students is now a concern as it the reputation of the university itself.

noname

Set in the old mining landscape of County Durham, where loyalties from the past come back to haunt the present.

Young girls are being abducted and murdered but Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw struggles to find any leads. Journalist Tom Carney is recently returned to his native city and starts investigating. Then another body is found – only this one is decades old. Are the secrets of this mining community buried back in time?

An interesting part of the country to visit both for real and in a book, but you’ll be pleased to know that the reality of Durham is much nicer – the riverbank is a nice place to sit on a summer’s day, the castle and cathedral impressive places to visit, and the cobbled streets around the university, perfect for a wander…

Take both books, a picnic, and make a day of it!

Silent Voices – Northumberland, Tyne Valley – Ann Cleeves

Vera silent voucees

Why a booktrail?

Discover Northumberland and the character of Vera Stanhope who works with Northumbria police in her attempts to solve crime. Travel to the beautiful Tyne Valley too.

Story in a nutshell

When DI Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once, it’s a death from natural causes. But then she finds marks on the victim’s neck…..

So Vera starts her investigation by trying to find more evidence, motive and to talk to those who knew the woman in any way. Joe, her sidekick,  struggles with balancing his work with his difficult home life but for Vera death almost seems to bring her to life.  She looks for something which will make the investigation take a new turn.

So when they discover that the victim had worked in social services – and was involved in a shocking case involving a young child – it seems the two are somehow connected.

But things are rarely as they seem.

Place and setting

Tyne Valley - http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/where-to-go/hadrians-wall-tyne-valley Vera leaves Joe at the scene of the crime to noisy around the victims private life. Bardon Mill, Corbridge and Haltwhistle are three towns there. Haydon Bridge - inspiration for fictional Barnard Bridge  Jenny the victim lived here ‘ worth a bob or two then’ so immediately due to where she lives, judgements are made.  Bardon Mill (Tyne Valley) Could Jenny the vicim live here as she is ‘ worth a bob or two then’  a nice village to the west of Haydon bridge. This is the place to see Hadrian’s wall Newcastle Where Frank is an artistic director of a theatre, and where Vera carries out a great deal of her investigations Durham City “Joe Ashworth liked Durham city - only a few miles down the A1 it was like being in a different world from the centre of Newcastle”
Visit Northumberland – Tyne Valley http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/where-to-go/hadrians-wall-tyne-valley
Vera leaves Joe at the scene of the crime to noisy around the victims private life. Bardon Mill, Corbridge and Haltwhistle are three towns there.
Haydon Bridge – inspiration for fictional Barnard Bridge
Jenny the victim lived here ‘ worth a bob or two then’ so immediately due to where she lives, judgements are made.
Bardon Mill (Tyne Valley)
Could Jenny the vicim live here as she is ‘ worth a bob or two then’ a nice village to the west of Haydon bridge. This is the place to see Hadrian’s wall
Newcastle
Where Frank is an artistic director of a theatre – could this be the Theatre Royal? and where Vera carries out a great deal of her investigations
Durham City
“Joe Ashworth liked Durham city – only a few miles down the A1 it was like being in a different world from the centre of Newcastle”

When Vera opens the door to the steam room at her local gym and health club, she was probably not expecting to find what she did. This steam room holds secrets you see. Might put you off ever walking into a gym but we’ve never done it before reading this book and so it didn’t put us off…

The steam room smelled of cedar and eucalyptus the steam was so think that she couldn’t make out at first if anyone else was there. She saw that she was sharing the steam room with a woman…..completely relaxed…..Complete relaxation was a state she rarely achieved…..The object of Vera’s envy was dead.

Investigations show that the victim Jenny lister was a caring and normal mother as well as a social worker. Vera starts to investigate these varied threads of the case and they take her from the health club up to the Tyne Valley and the village of Barnard Bridge where the victim lived.

Such an area of beauty but with two villages at the centre of a secret -both enclosed communities where gossip and bad feeling seem to be the order of the day.

And to think Vera only went to the gym as her doctor warns her she needs more exercise!

The setting of the novel – missing children and the exploitation of them is  a difficult one yet we see the remote and small communities where this topic could haunt them for years to come.

The Tyne Valley and Vera…

She is to the Tyne Valley what that spy place in Cheltenham is to the security services.

Vera leaves Joe at the scene of the crime –

She left him at the club and the hotel while she buggered off up the Tyne Valley to nose around the victim’s private life.

Barnard Bridge (modelled on the area of Haydon Bridge we believe)

Jenny the victim lived here ‘ worth a bob or two then’ so immediately due to where she lives, judgements are made. Vera drives here from the Willows to Barnard Bridge to record the time it takes.

The Tyne Valley really is a very nice part of the North East known for being home to  Hadrian’s Wall and the stunning scenery, rocky hills and sparse and remote villages. A friendly area, one of history and calmness – in real life at least.

And Vera who comes into their midst? Calling everyone Pet which is a very endearing term in the North East from anyone to a family member to a stranger makes Vera very much a part of her landscape. As does the food she always enjoys – at the end of the book she returns to where the murder took place – but this time she enjoys herself.

Screen shot 2015-04-19 at 15.41.05

For more information on the Tyne Valley area and the history of the towns and villages mentioned in the course of the investigation. Pic courtesy of Visit Northumberland.

Tyne Valley – http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/where-to-go/hadrians-wall-tyne-valley