The Hanging Wood is the fifth in my series of Lake District Mysteries featuring Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett and the historian Daniel Kind. I was working on the plot synopsis when the fourth book in the series, The Serpent Pool, was due for publication, and it was around that time that I first visited St Deiniol’s Residential Library, also known as Gladstone’s Library.
Gladstone’s Library is to be found in Hawarden, close to Chester but just over the border in North Wales, and the village has a castle – across the road from the Library – that was William Ewart Gladstone’s home. The Library entranced me – a wonderful haven of peace, history and learning with a unique atmosphere. Imagine it – a private library, personally created by a Prime Minister! Somehow you can’t imagine the likes of Major or Blair, Brown or Cameron, leaving quite such a fantastic legacy for future generations. Certainly, I was thrilled when it was agreed that the UK launch of The Serpent Pool could be held at the Gladstone Library.
The launch event proved to be a great success. But of course, the imagination of a crime writer is strange and unpredictable, and it was not long before I started wondering if a residential library might have potential as a setting for a murder mystery. Within a few days, I figured out how such a location might play a part in the new Lake District story I was working on.
The result was the creation of St Herbert’s Residential Library, not far from Keswick, in an area where most of the action of The Hanging Wood takes place. In some ways it differs from its real-life inspiration, and I hasten to add that none of the characters bear any resemblance to the staff, readers or residents of the Gladstone Library! But the idea of a residential library seems to have struck a chord already with American readers of the book (the US edition was published slightly in advance of the UK edition) and if, as some reviewers and bloggers have suggested, their enjoyment of the novel prompts them to pay a visit to Hawarden’s hidden gem, I shall be delighted – and they will be very glad they made the trip.
The Hanging Wood is publshed by Allison & Busby