Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Where is the Whodunnit?

Dark deeds in a brooding landscape...
In my last blog I gave you a quick — and not especially teasing — clue about where I’m proposing to set my new series of detective novels. The answer, of course, is Cumbria, and the picture I posted was a well-known view of Ullswater looking towards Gowbarrow Fell, where Wordsworth saw his daffodils. Not that there were any there on that spring day, though they abounded everywhere else. Maybe one of the books should be The Case of the Missing Daffodils

Why Cumbria? Well, to begin with, it had to be somewhere I know well. There are a few options here but the most obvious among them, Edinburgh, has been done to death, so to speak. Besides, I don’t feel that the city offers quite the same range of opportunities for crime scenes. 

It came down to a choice between Cumbria and the Highlands, and the Lakes won. Why? Because there’s a range of different types of place in a relatively small area, along with terrific access and vast numbers of people coming in and out. There are wild hillsides where it would be oh-so-easy to have an “accident”. There are lakes where you can disappear, crowds in which you can be lost, a coastline into which you can smuggle your contraband — and a motorway by which you can make a sharp exit.

A wonderful place to dispose of the body.
I did try to research exactly how many people are murdered in Cumbria in a year and by what method, but I failed. My guess is that the majority of homicides here are pretty run-of-the-mill , as they are in most cases. The National Centre for Policing Excellence’s informative Murder Investigation Manual points out that: “Between them, domestic homicide and confrontation homicide account for just over half of all homicide cases. Within the category of domestic homicide, killing by a current or former spouse is by far the largest group. Compared with these types of homicide, all others are infrequent. None generally have an incidence greater than ten per cent and many are much less frequent than that”.

That’s not particularly creative — but then, it’s always been this way and it’s never stopped crime writers focussing on, and extending, the very few genuinely complex and puzzling murders that aren’t committed in the heat of the moment. So if we’re to create a series of genuinely intriguing and original crimes in a single, rather steady, location, we have to step away from reality. 

So here I am, metaphorically  speaking, looking down on a broad range of environments from a Cumbrian fell, and musing. Where in this wonderful county will the first mystery take place?


  1. A great choice of location! You’ve a long way to go before you catch up with the death rate in Oxford or Midsomer!

  2. Or St Mary Mead! I reckon Cumbria is big enough to contain a few interesting cases without distressing most of the population...

  3. Which makes me wonder if a crime would have more chance of success if it was made to look as if it was a "routine" spouse murder.