There can’t be many more gorgeous places to research a book than the Lake District – though I did once doubt this in the middle of a torrential downpour at Coniston one freezing February afternoon while I was working on The Arsenic Labyrinth…Luckily, the Cumbrian weather was unexpectedly kind while I was location-checking for The Frozen Shroud, the sixth of my Lake District Mysteries, and newly published in paperback by Allison & Busby.

The series began with The Coffin Trail, shortlisted for the Theakson’s Old Peculier Prize for best crime novel of the year, and each book is set in a different part of the Lakes. For instance, the background for The Coffin Trail is a valley in between Kentmere and Longsleddale, while most of the action in The Hanging Wood, the fifth book in the series, takes place around Keswick. In The Frozen Shroud, the focus is on the area around the quieter side of Ullswater, close to Hallin Fell. This is one of the most tranquil spots you could imagine, even though the M6 motorway is only half an hour away.

The action of the story takes place in the tiny community of Ravenbank, which was torn apart a century ago by the murder on Hallowe’en of a young woman who worked there. The suicide of the wife of the dead woman’s lover seemed to explain who had committed the crime, but five years ago, a strange copycat killing took place at the same spot. And now, death is about to return to Ravenbank…

As I’ve so often found in the past, local people were kindness itself as I worked on plot threads for the book. I was given a behind the scenes tour of the fascinating little museum at Keswick, where old archives provide clues to the solution of one sub-plot, and a backstage look around the fabulous Theatre by the Lake. One of the members of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team read and commented on a scene where I needed his expertise. And an old friend (and former crime fiction critic for Liverpool Daily Post!) the actor Rachel Laurence, gave me lots of suggestions for the background of two of the main characters. All this help, and more beside, proved invaluable in putting together a story which takes the lives of my characters Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind in new directions.

No matter how good the research, the quality of a novel depends on the energy and imagination that the writer devotes to it. The great thing about the Lakes, I find, is that it’s a truly inspirational part of the world. The more time I spend there, the more I want to do it justice in my books. But the latest book, which I’m writing just now, is set in the sunshine, and I’m glad to say that the Cumbrian climate has co-operated splendidly each time I’ve set off up the motorway from home in Cheshire. But I still keep the wet weather gear in the car boot, just in case…

The Frozen Shroud is published by Allison and Busby

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