Location is an essential element of my books. Not just mine, all Triskele Books make settings paramount. Our tagline says it all – Time and Place.
I just sent Book 6 off to the proofreader. This will be the last in my European crime series featuring Beatrice Stubbs and I already miss her, Adrian and Matthew.
After briefing my cover designer, I reflected on the influence of place, and why each country, city or landscape was appropriate for each book. For books one, two and three, I stuck with areas I knew well. In four and five, much research went into regions I’d only passed through. In book six, I mixed both.
Behind Closed Doors is all about wealthy unscrupulous businessmen and the difference between law and justice. I opted to set it in Switzerland with all its beauty, individuality and stubborn peculiarities.
The story required a financial centre and a culture which left my protagonist uncertain and isolated. Hence Zürich. The city is beautiful and peaceful, yet wields immense invisible power, behind closed doors.
London shares the stage with Wales for Raw Material. The UK capital provides a wonderful variety of experience for those who can afford it and a grinding rat race for those who can’t.
For someone preying on the latter, the London underworld was ideal. The darkness and the bright lights of the city work in parallel with the wild, remote coastline of Pembrokeshire. This book is all about watching and the danger of covetous eyes.
Tread Softly takes place in Spain, more specifically Rioja country and the city of Vitoria. Beatrice is on sabbatical, enjoying gourmet food when she stumbles upon a story of wine fraud. The landscapes of this region are nothing short of breathtaking, especially at harvest time.
As for its wines and cuisine, the research was a joy. Certain elements of Spanish/Basque culture suited my characters, my antagonist in particular.
The Greek islands and a cruise ship form the backdrop for Cold Pressed. Guided by a local detective, Beatrice hops between Santorini, Crete and Rhodes and explores the reality of life beyond tourist brochures.
Open seas and glorious islands juxtaposed against the claustrophobia of a floating hotel proved the perfect balance for this tale of old, cold vengeance.
Human Rites plays out in Germany at Christmastime.
The art crime thread leads us from Berlin to Hamburg. The stalker strand happens on the island of Sylt, in the North Sea, just off the Danish-German border.
In the summer, Sylt is a rich kids’ playground. Which is why I set the book in winter, when the coast is wild and empty, and civilisation seems very far away.
The last in the series, Bad Apples, will be released early May. Here I’m on familiar ground: Portugal.
Some elements are old friends, such as my beloved city of Porto, azuleijo tiles that tell stories, and warm, easy-going people. However the natural park of Peneda-Gerês, and the cities of Braga and Lisbon required a fresh look. Hardly a chore.
The end result, I hope, is an innocent, hypnotic blend of atmosphere, smells, sounds and tastes to lull the reader into ignoring the rotten element in plain sight.
Bad Apples comes out on 6 May, 2017.
Get the boxset of books 1-3 here.
All images courtesy of Julie Lewis