What is it about Suffolk that allows the murder muse to descend? This beautiful county, with its wild north sea and vast canopy of sky, provides both setting and provenance for many crime novels by women.
P D James had a house in Southwold and Ruth Rendell lived in Polstead and Aldeburgh. Both women – who were great friends, towering figures in British crime writing, and died within six months of each other – set many of their books in or near the county. Nicci Gerrard, who writes in her own name and jointly with her husband using his surname French, is based near Bury St Edmunds. Southwold moved Julie Myerson, who has a home there, to exploring the repercussions of murder in Something Might Happen. Josephine Tey, the Scottish crime writer, took up residence in a cottage in Suffolk – though this last is fiction itself, the work of modern Suffolk-born novelist Nicola Upson, described as a new and assured talent by P D James.
Is it the unfortunate fate of a Victorian Suffolk woman that has led to this extraordinary proliferation of Crime Queens? Maria Marten was murdered in Polstead’s Red Barn by her lover William Corder. In 1936 the melodramatic film Murder in the Red Barn was released and achieved cult status. It’s rather fitting that Polstead, home to this tale, was also home to Ruth Rendell.
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And if you’re keen to explore the places in some of these tales, then Visit Suffolk.