I had great fun on Sunday, taking part in a blog feature run by my fellow Choc Lit author, Rhoda Baxter. Her Inheritance Books series is inspired by the Inheritance Tracks slot from BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live. You get to share a book that was passed down to you from the previous generation, as well as one that you’d like to hand on. I love the series, and the reasons for people’s choices are fascinating.
As you can imagine, it took a looong time to decide what to go for. And as well as the books I mentioned there, there’s an extra one, which was really important to me as a child. Septimus and the Danedyke Mystery by Stephen Chance was the first crime novel I ever read, before I was old enough to start on Margery Allingham, PD James and Ruth Rendell. It gave me a taste for crime fiction that’s never left. I got to thinking about the elements that made it so appealing, and here they are:
Chance’s sleuth is Septimus Treloar, a CID Chief Inspector turned parson. I always found him an interesting and sympathetic character. He’s aided and abetted by the local GP, and I really like the portrait of their friendship, and the cast of characters overall.
This is the imaginary village of St Mary’s Danedyke, in the heart of the East Anglian fens. We live on the edge of them, in Cambridge, and they’ve always fascinated me. I love their starkness, the acres of black, peaty soil, and the wide skies that go with the flat landscape.
In You Think You Know Me, I used London, and the mountains of the Lake District. I find both mountains and flat-land compelling, and each can be threatening, beautiful and claustrophobic in their own way. In the Lakes, the huge masses of rock give a physical barrier to escape, but in the fens, you sometimes feel you could run for miles without finding rescue. There are no barriers, so you can see far into the distance, and know you’re alone or – potentially worse – that you’re not… And of course, both places are very watery! I find the straight, seemingly endless drains of the fens and the great sheets of water in Cumbria awe inspiring.
A mystery to solve
At the centre of this story is an ancient chalice, the missing Danedyke Cup, a much older version of the replica that’s on display in Septimus’ church. The book has clues that can be pieced together, and I enjoyed following the trail. This is still really important to me. However deep the characters are, and however much action there is, I do like a puzzle I can fathom out as well.
Along with the slower, more thoughtful elements of the book, which focus on unravelling the clues, there’s a good dose of action and suspense.
The book was originally meant for teenagers, but I never quite knew why. I’d like to re-read it now, only I can’t lay my hands on it, which is why there’s a photo of a bookcase with this post, instead of the book itself.
Dammit. I really need to have a sort out…
PS Thanks so much for all the supportive comments last week. The advice and encouragement was really helpful, and I’ve managed to get going again.