The Crossing Places is set on a desolate stretch of Norfolk marshland known as The Saltmarsh. Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in by the police when they find bones buried on the marsh. DCI Harry Nelson thinks that they might be the remains of a child who vanished ten years ago. He is still getting letters about her – disturbing letters full of allusions to mythology, ritual and sacrifice. The bones prove to be over 2000 years old, but, when another child goes missing, Ruth finds herself involved in a case which combines age-old superstition with a terrifyingly modern killer.

I’ve really been most inspired by Victorian writers like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe and Wilkie Collins. I love the atmosphere and the sense of menace in their books. My favourite book is Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone – the Saltmarsh in The Crossing Places definitely owes a debt to the Shivering Sands.

I’m a huge fan of C J Sansom. I think he’s one of the best crime writers – one of the best writers – around. I also like Reginald Hill and Kate Atkinson.

Personally, I don’t like too much overt violence in books. I think things are often more effective when they not directly described – like the dog in David Lean’s Oliver Twist trying to escape the room where Bill Sykes is murdering Nancy. You know something so horrible is happening in that room that even the battle-hardened Bullseye can’t stand it. I don’t think anything would be gained from actually seeing Sykes doing the killing.

Regarding sexuality, I’m usually of the ‘…and afterwards’ school of writing. Once again, I don’t like anything too anatomical.

I suppose I write principally for myself. I write the kind of books I would like to read. I think you can think too much about the market or about your potential readers. In the first instance you have to write to please yourself.

My next book (tentatively entitled The Two-Faced God) is also about Ruth and DCI Nelson. Ruth is excavating a Roman site when she discovers a child’s bones. The site used to be a children’s home but was previously a medieval church. Is she dealing with a recent crime or something older and infinitely more dangerous?

The Crossing Places is published by Quercus (hardback £12.99). The paperback will be published in August 2009.

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