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.


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 –

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.

photo (70)

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 –

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) – 

photo (78)

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….


Carnal Acts in Northumberland


Set in Northumberland – a fictional village of Corham – Corbridge and Hexham?

Well this is one opener I won’t forget in a hurry….

The first few chapters (about a man called Gaz)  can only be described as a short sharp blow to the head. I would say that I have never read anything like it and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue. It was raw in the extreme – good writing, no very good writing, I couldn’t deny that. And certainly not what I was expecting. What the hell just happened? I asked myself. Well, that question made me carry on reading, plus the fact that the story of DI Joni Pax was being told in parallel – and Joni, a new policewoman recently transferred to the new police force in North East England seemed interesting character – new to the area, mixed race,  still trying to prove her worth amongst her colleagues etc….

I mean I should have read the blurb more carefully I guess

Carnal Acts explores abuse of many kinds – sexual, psychological and economic -taking the police procedural to places it had never been before.

This is a graphic novel and sometimes a bit too much for me personally.But there was something about what I had just read, so I read on…

DI Joni Pax and her DCI Hector ‘ Heck’ Rutherford are very interesting charcters – flawed in many ways and with many problems of their own. They work together under the Major Crimes Unit that covers rural Northumbria and County Durham.

At an Albanian run brothel, there is a murder and one of the girls goes on the run. Of course early investigations lead nowhere as they come up against a wall of silence. The gang behind the brothel will stop at nothing to protect what is theirs.

The setting –

Hexham Abbey or is this Corham Abbey?
Hexham Abbey or is this Corham Abbey?

The Northumberland setting is Corham is  – 

A town with Roman, medieval and industrial heritage

And the stunning Hexham Abbey seems to be the inspiration for where DI Joni Pax lives –  

Joni Pax was at the window of her flat near Corham Abbey. The street ran behind the ecclesiastical building. Its stone flanks were now even more like honey under floodlights, the square tower surmounted by the yellow and red striped Northumberland flag.


The crux of the matter  – 

But Carnal Acts is after all about the suffering and abuse that one human can inflict on another  – the actions of the gangs for example and what goes on in the brothels is more than shocking. Human trafficking is directly compared to the slave trade. Raw, stark and utterly compelling – this may be hard to read but it has hidden and deeper meaning for us all. Just how easy is it for any of us to ‘look the other way?’


The twists in the plot were another reason to read this novel –  bad guys and good guys are not so clearly defined at times and this makes for some cleverly confusing chapters. Short and snappy adds to the overall confusion and second guessing that Sam Alexander takes his or her readers on.

And that is just it – we don’t even know who this author is. The Who is Sam Alexander campaign is doing the rounds on social media and creating quite a buzz. It’s said to be a ‘highly regarded crime novelist’ but no – one as yet appears to have guessed Sam’s identity.

The publishers -Arcadia -are keeping the true identity a secret for now. It’ll be interesting to discover just who has written Carnal Acts ‘ taking the police procedural to places it has never been before.’

You can try to find out for yourselves when the book is published on June 15th…

World Cup -pa and a cake – Wendy Moore at Gibside

Tomorrow is the start of the World Cup. So that means lots of football, drinking and noise. What is the perfect anecdote to all of this? Why a lovely cuppa and a cake with a local author – sitting in the tranquil gardens and land of Gibside – a national trust park and property in Gateshead, North East England. The booktrail has been there before  but we recap it below-…h-east-england/


But we have never had a cuppa with Wendy Moore herself! So, well, we were not going to turn down the chance to chat in the lovely woodland gardens, and literally walk in the footsteps of the true life family she wrote about in Wedlock – walk in the grounds of Gibside where the characters of her story were the real life Bowes family who once lived here.

The true story in a nutshell –

If you want to get to know the real story behind Gibside, the stunning Georgian gem in the North East, then forget the official guidebooks and websites and pick up a copy of Wedlock by Wendy Moore. This book brings the place to life – it’s riveting, fascinating story and a strange insight into life in the 1700s.

Wedlock is about the life of the Bowes family – a notable family in the North East and Mary Eleanor Bowes in particular. Her story is so beyond belief that it almost defies it. And this of course makes for a very interesting background story to any visit to Gibside
In 1760, at the age of only 11 years, Mary ‘s rich businessman father died, leaving her his sole heiress with an estimated net worth of millions. She married at 18 – the 9th Earl of Strathmore (heir of Scotland’s Glamis Castle of Macbeth fame) but he died so Mary, a rich  and single heiress was left all alone. There was someone who would take advantage of this situation however and do more damage than anyone could have imagined.

This someone was Andrew Robinson Stoney – a charming and psychopathic man. He once defended Mary’s honour in a duel and on his supposed death bed, asked her to marry him. She said yes, he dramatically recovered, and so the sad story of Wedlock really begins.



Hi Wendy! Oh I see you’ve ordered some local sponge cake  – they make it here you know. Isn’t it nice? It’s very apt that you’ve chosen to have your cuppa and a cake right here as afterall what better way to talk aout and experience your book. it is quite literally being amongst the pages of your book.

Wendy smiles and offers the booktrailer a slice of cake so there is a tea pause whilst I take a bite and savour a taste of tea as well. We have posh and rather ornate tea cups it has to be said. All that is missing is our taffeta dresses otherwise I would really feel like one of the people in the book –

Beautiful Gibside chapel
Beautiful Gibside chapel

The setting of Gibside is a stunning one. What is your link to the area if any?

I love Gibside and am very impressed by all the work the NT is doing to restore and revive the estate. It’s marvellous that whereas once it was the realm of one rich family, now it can be enjoyed by so many. I don’t have a personal link with the north-east but my husband is from Newcastle and I’ve always enjoyed visiting the region.

Gibside House - the setting for intrigue... and more..
Gibside House – the setting for intrigue… and more..

What captivated you about writing about a true life tale set in such a significant area?

I was drawn to writing the story of Mary Eleanor Bowes simply because it was such a startling, shocking and scarcely credible story. It’s a marvellous narrative to unfold because she triumphs against such odds. I think the story has great resonance for us today when women in the western world enjoy much greater rights although there are still many disadvantages. I was thrilled to find that there were abundant archives to give life to the story in Durham County Record Office and also at Glamis Castle.


The story tells us so much about the fate of women and marital abuse. What do you admire about Mary Eleanor Bowes?

Mary Eleanor was not the most admirable woman in her youth. She was vain, imperious and a distant mother – like so many of the rich and aristocratic people of her time. But through her suffering in her second marriage she came to realise the importance of loyalty, justice and service to others and appreciated the importance of her children. I think she was incredible to find such inner strength – physically and mentally – to triumph over her brutish husband.

Imagine you were invited to a dinner with the Bowes family when Gibside was in its glory days. Which other historical figures would you like to invite and why?

   That’s a good question! There were so many fascinating and eccentric people in Georgian times. I would love to meet John Hunter, the 18th- century surgeon who was the subject of my first book, The Knife Man, and a friend of Mary Eleanor’s. It would be marvellous to meet writers of the period, including David Garrick, Samuel Johnson, Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Mary Wollstonecraft.  


Which parts of the Gibside estate did you enjoy visiting the most?

I usually visit Gibside at least once a year when I give a talk on Mary Eleanor Bowes. I simply love walking in the calm and beautiful grounds. This year for the first time I discovered the river walk and came upon the house, Gibside Hall, from the back. It looks very eerie from that angle. It’s always a treat to visit the Greenhouse – now called the Orangery – and imagine how it would have looked when it was filled with Mary Eleanor’s exotic plant collection.

Thanks Wendy. Its always good to hear what the authors think about their stories and why they chose to write it. I can definitely see why you would do so here. Its amazing what you find out about places and thank you for bringing this story alive via your book. It really deserves to be heard!


Now Wendy has a book out at the moment How To Create the Perfect Wife – and yes the story is as strange as it sounds – there are men who want and try to create the perfect wife. Unbelievable – so as this football season starts…..take heart that yours is just a football fanatic and not an ‘heir to a sizeable fortune and a student of law at Middle Temple called Thomas Day’ who decides to create his perfect woman.

You can visit Wendy here –

And Gibside here –

Hidden Reading Spaces in the North East of England

Hidden Reading Spaces in the North East

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 –


A – Bamburgh        B – Low Newton     C and D- Alnwick     E – Corbridge  F – Hexham   G – Newcastle upon Tyne H – Tynemouth and North Shields – image courtesy of Google Maps


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.

Bamburgh Castle - image courtesy of Kate Daniels
Bamburgh Castle – image courtesy of Kate Daniels


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 –


If the beach is a little cold, head indoors to the Ship Inn just behind you
If the beach is a little cold, head indoors to the Ship Inn just behind you (c) the Booktrail


You might even find a nice Northern man  who catches your eye....
You might even find a nice Northern man who catches your eye….

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 Castle - (c) the booktrail
Alnwick Castle – (c) the booktrail

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 –


The three seater sofa with seats facing different ways - perfect for private literary moments
The three seater sofa with seats facing different ways – perfect for private literary moments


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


The Forum book 'nursery' - where bookish adventures are born
You may even see Vera or Kate here. They like a bit of investigating – particularly for a good book


Corbridge is also the setting for a rather gruesome scene in the first Kate Daniels novel –

mari hannah book


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….

Oh this is a lovely place to rest your legs, have a cuppa and READ!
Oh this is a lovely place to rest your legs, have a cuppa and READ!

5. Off to Hexham now, just up the road , to Cogito books 

On the way to Harry Potter's Diagon Alley?
On the way to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley?


Cogito Books
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


Featured in the Kate Daniels novels and a key feature on Vera's patch.
Featured in the Kate Daniels novels and a key feature on Vera’s patch. (c) the booktrail

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.

Take a picnic and park yourself here. It can get a bit windy so bring your Vera style mac
Take a picnic and park yourself here. It can get a bit windy so bring your Vera style mac


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.


The Sage
The Sage (c)the booktrail

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 –

The Living Room pub on Grey Street
The Living Room pub on Grey Street


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’ –

Read a novel about a lighthouse and recreate the atmosphere. Hear the seagulls, feel the sea spray on your face, watch out for a lost rowing boat....
Read a novel about a lighthouse and recreate the atmosphere. Hear the seagulls, feel the sea spray on your face, watch out for a lost rowing boat….

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!


10. Last but certainly not least – let’s head off to North Shields for one stop you will not want to miss – Keel Row Bookshop

Otherwise known as Book Narnia
Otherwise known as Book Narnia

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


Were there ever such welcoming words as 'More books this way'?
Were there ever such welcoming words as ‘More books this way’?

The North East really is a book lover’s paradise.

For more information on the books featured – please pay Kate and Vera a visit –

Kate Daniels – 

For Vera –

For more information about the places featured, then please contact info (at) the 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.