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
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 isa 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 toHadrian’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.
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.
“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, wasa 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.
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.
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 foundburied 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.
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.
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
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….
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/
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)
Where Jo is renting a cottage during the investigation –
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.
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 –
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….
Why a booktrail? Vera burst into the literary scenes back in 1999 and both she and her creator Ann Cleeves have put the North East of England firmly on the literary map.
Story in a nutshell–
Set mainly in the remote landscape of theNorth Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey.
They are to stay at a local cottage and live together whilst their work is completed. But each of the woman comes with more baggage that than which contains their soil collecting samples and landscaping equipment.
Each has a link to the land in some way and a personal search for answers of some sort. The land is of interest to a local quarry business and the local farm is at the centre of the area being studied.
But what Rachel finds there on arrival shocks her to the core and reveals a deep seated mine of intrigue and ultimately murder.
Cue Vera and her acerbic wit and investigative style – this is a Northern DCI with a harsh exterior but a softer centre – just don’t underestimate her that’s all we’re saying. This is her patch and she is after the truth…..
In the Crow Trap, we head over the North Pennines for the windswept and desolate moors, but not before visiting the stunning sights of Northumberland such as Wooler, RAF Boulmer , Kimmerston and the stunning surroundings of this beautiful part of the world
For this is where three women have gathered in order to carry out an environmental study. But it turns out that the environment is not really what they are concerned with and that they each separately have reasons for being there and secrets that they are careful to keep hidden.
THE NORTH PENNINES
The North Pennines where the team are carrying out a environmental study – the rocks, crags and natural habitat are described with the Ann Cleeves magic. As Rachel, one of the women in the study starts to prepare the area to study –
The moorland patch was less easy to define. The map showed drainage ditches, a dry stone wall, but even in good visibility she knew it would be hard to keep to the transect lines in such a featureless landscape.
This is a region where a lot of natural studies do take place as the North Pennines information page shows –
But throughout there issense of the rawness, the remoteness and the starkness of the landscape – a perfect backdrop to the novel’s underlying theme of secrets, betrayal and hidden agendas….
From the mine Rachel broke away from thetrack and took the direct climb to the top of Hope Crag. From there she could lock onto her moorland survey square.The land sloped gentlyin a series of plateaux to the horizon which was softened by woodland…..
There is a disused lead mine, a quarry, and the mystery of the crow trap, as featured in the title –
The trap was a large wire mesh cage with a funnel in the top.Inside a live, tame crow fluttered provocatively, inviting in another to defend its territory. Once in through the funnel there was not way out. Presumably they had to find some form of co-existence until the keeper came along to put the intruder out of its misery.
Crows were territorial creatures…
Newcastle of course gets a mention and for any one who remembers the days of old, this should make you smile –
Farnons for school uniform, Bainbridges for curtain material, lunch in the studenty cafeopposite the Theatre Royal, M and S for knickers and back to the Haymarket for the 3 o’clock bus
Welcome to the North Pennines and Northumberland
Vera is everything that you could hope for from a North East DCI. She’s hardy, gritty and no nonsense in her approach. Yet from her appearance and manner you would hardly take her for a DCI. Shabby, and looking like a bag lady who has wandered in off the street, she may not look the part but that’s sometimes what makes her so effective – people and criminals don’t expect she’ll ever get the upper hand. Haha more fool them.
The mystery of the three women on the environmental survey evokes a lot of the landscape and settings in and around Northumberland and the Pennines. The mystery is neatly done and the threads which appear loose all come together with skill.
Vera has a unique way of solving mysteries, interviewing witnesses and suspects and likes to observe. A very cool character and this first outing is a must read.
A metro full of Christmas revellers has stopped at a station before its final destination, due to the ‘wrong sort of snow’. Everybody gets off, except an old lady, nicely dressed. Joe Ashworth is on the train that night with his young daughter Jesse – they should be home by now, best phone a taxi. Jesse goes to the old lady ‘Look that old lady hasn’t moved’
The taxi firm answered his call at the same time as Jesse screamed
Place and setting
This is a novel where the setting IS one of the leading characters and even though the Mardle of the novel is fictional, it is no less threatening and gloomy –
Mardle wasn’t a place for tourists, even in the summer. There was nothing beyond the fisheries except the harbour, enclosed by the wall. The boats there were dark shadows, half-hidden by the drifting flakes.
It soon became clear that there was lots about Harbour Street that wasn’t attractive – hidden secrets, dark pasts, twisted thoughts and the fact that none of the residents here seem willing to talk.
Why would such well dressed and elegant lady find herself living in Mardle and more importantly who would want to kill her?
Even Vera thinks that she was ‘more Gosforth than Mardle from her appearance. (Gosforth was one of Newcastle’s posher suburbs.)
Harbour Street is just the kind of chewy puzzle Vera loves to sink her teeth into – she admits she feels a thrill when she is in Fenwicks of Newcastle shopping and the call comes in telling her a woman has been killed on the metro. But then guilt replaces it as she remembers that everysomeone has a relative or friend that wil be devastated.
At the end of the street, like a beacon or a square glowing moon, shone the yellow cab with the black M that marked the metro station. This was Harbour Street
Mardle -inspired by Amble when the author wrote the book but only in a logistical sense! Alnmouth – where Harbour Street is filmed. Nothing like Mardle thankfully!
It is not just the Northumberland landscape that is featured as we also get a short tour around the city of Newcastle itself –
Newcastle was full of people and friendly, they walked arm in arm between the art galleries , crossing the tyne by the Blinking Eye Bridge. or
The Metro into Newcastle for an afternoon of culture – a new exhibition at the Baltic on the river and a stroll around the Laing Art Gallery
Special mention has to be made of Newcastle where we meet Vera in an unfamiliar setting – shopping!
So here she was in Fenwick’s department store, sweating because she was still in her outdoor clothes, surrounded by smart and shiny people.
Finally mention should be made of a place central to the plot of the book where Vera goes looking for someone. It is a fantastic place and so well described here. Everyone needs to go here just maybe not on a trail with Vera stomping behind you –
Some library? A visit to a proper place for books to be cherished
The Lit and Phil library?..
It’s where book -lovers hang out’
Vera stood outside the Georgian symmetry of the Lit and Phil library in Newcastle
They climbed the stairs to the library on the first floor and opened the door to s room flooded with light from the glass domes. The walls were made of books
A murder mystery with a meaty puzzle to get your teeth stuck into. Vera at her very best. And a tour of Northumberland and Newcastle, not to mention a starting role for its special place for book lovers.
Harbour that thought when you read Harbour Street.
Welcome to a ten point tour of some of the best hidden and not so hidden reading spaces in the North East. There are many more, many more that did not make the cut. We give you now a whistle stop tour of 10 places in the North East for you to sample. This is only the start. Something to whet your literary appetites.
This is the tour itinerary –
As you may know the literary characters of Vera Stanhope (from the books by Ann Cleeves) and Kate Daniels (from the Mari Hannah novels) are prone to wander these parts. This is their stomping ground after all. So you may end up bumping into one of them at some point. As Vera herself might say – ‘Keep an eye out pet ‘
1. First stop – Bamburgh Castle
Pick up your book and read in the castle grounds, beside its stone walls – of particular note as it features heavily in Mari Hannah’s latest novel – Monument to Murder. Don’t forget the surrounding coastline! Stunning is not the word.
2. Heading down the coast….Why not stop off at Low Newton – famous for its small village, gorgeous beaches and gorgeous views. Not to mention the roaring fires of the The Ship Inn – It’s where another local author, Hazel Osmond set some of her novel The Last Time I saw your Face –
3. Alnwick next – Barter Books and Alnwick Castle
You have to visit the Harry Potter castle if you come to the North East and what better way to experience it than by taking a copy of one of the books and reading the scene where they all play Quidditch – It’s Alnwick Castle of course! This is also the ideal spot to read a bit of Jane Eyre and imagine you are looking at Thornfield Hall or even a bit of Jane Austen – Pemberley Hall anyone?
Alnwick is also the home of the amazing station/book emporium known as Barter Books – Alnwick Station, Northumberland NE66 2NP. Sell those you have read and buy some more. Sit beside a roaring fire, drink coffee and eat the home made ginger biscuits………..They discovered the Keep Calm and Carry On poster – yes that one – but somewhere there must be one saying keep calm and just keep reading -for this is THE spot to do it in –
4. Now, hop in that car or jump on that bus as we’re heading off to Corbridge for our next reading space – If you want another book to read on this tour then look no further than Forum Books – for their amazing support of getting authors for events, great banter and advice about the books they read and personally recommend – 8 Market Place Corbridge
Corbridge is also the setting for a rather gruesome scene in the first Kate Daniels novel –
Book Purchases in hand – head on over to the Tea and Tipple cafe- just across the Market Place from Forum Books – and sit back and enjoy….
5. Off to Hexham now, just up the road , to Cogito books
A small quiet oasis of a shop hidden down a cobbled alley through an arch – (a bit Diagon Alley ish from Harry Potter) just off the main square in Hexham . You may want to pick up a book here – they’ve got oodles of them. And a lovely comfy couch to sit on and relax. But don’t fall asleep there, well I was so comfortable and had just finished the wonderful Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and wanted to stay in that world just a little bit longer…..
6. Right now, we’re off to Newcastle. Public transport is great so no worries there, but if you’re feeling adventurous, why not travel in style? Vera – ‘Oh not for me pet’ Read from the best vantage point there is for a glorious view of The Angel of the North
Can you read when flying up in a helicopter? If you’d like to try, then there are many trips you can take if you have the stomach for it. Or if not, you can off course go by car and then sit at the base and READ.
7. The city centre beckons now – so we’re off to the Sage for a great reading space – the centre for musical excellence as well as some of the most atmospheric reading experiences you will ever have.
Ooh another excuse to sit down and spend time reading in somewhere with a view and most likely a musical soundtrack? Its only the Sage in Gateshead. Make the most of the approach by carrying your book across the Millennium Bridge and walking up the stairs for the full effect. Then sit back and enjoy. A walk along the Quayside , along the banks of the River Tyne- stomping ground for both Kate and Vera – will provide many points to stop and read.
8. If you’re feeling peckish at this point, why not head out to The Living Room on Grey Street where Kate Daniels met for a meeting to discuss a case –
Don’t have much time to linger in the city centre – that’s the topic for another tour – now we’re off to the coast. On the Metro – careful as you don’t want to end up as Margaret Krukowski did in the latest Ann Cleeves novel Harbour Street – but a nice long ride on the Metro can give commuters some very nice reading time indeed. Just as well there is no stop called Mardle as there is in the book…..
9. Jump off the metro and we’re in Tynemouth for some ‘Light beside the Seaside’ –
Feel the sand in your feet and sit on the rocks recreating the scenes and sounds of The Light between Oceans. Not only are the rocks a great place to sit but the beaches are too!
I left this until last as the last time I went I got so lost that I ended up staying for four days and nights. Its that full of books that I could not get out as I could not find the door – nor did I want to to be honest. I would live here if I could. There are gazillions of books and the owner knows exactly where they are. I’m sure he’s read all of them. There is even a miniature version of the shop in the children’s room. So even if you’re tiny there is a place to sit and read
The North East really is a book lover’s paradise.
For more information on the books featured – please pay Kate and Vera a visit –
For more information about the places featured, then please contact info (at) the booktrail.com. We can customise a trail or itinerary and pick the ideal places for you. This is only a taster of where we read! Welcome to the North East of hidden reading spaces. Hope to see you soon.