Talking Location With … author Simon Carr, Beira Beixa, Portugal
Five great books set in Kent
11th April 2019
Five great books set in KENT is the latest in our ‘Five great books…’ series.
I was brought up in Kent. My parents, for reasons that must have made sense to them at the time, bought a 26-bedroomed seafront hotel (with just 2 bathrooms!) in Cliftonville, near Margate, and we moved down from south-east London in 1968.
I went to school in beautiful Sandwich, one of the Cinque ports, and ended up living and working in timeless Canterbury, and playing hockey throughout the county for Herne Bay.
Known as the Garden of England, this historically important county has changed beyond recognition, with the advent of the Eurotunnel entrance near Folkestone and the Eurostar hubs in Ashford and Ebbsfleet. Converted oast houses dot the landscape, orchards and hop-fields can still be found, but the county is a long way from the rural idyll so beloved of Pop Larkin in H E Bates’s classic The Darling Buds of May.
Here are 5 books – some contemporary, some historical – that are set firmly in this changing county.
A field of strawberries in Kent and sitting in it are two caravans – one for the men and one for the women. The residents are from all over: miner’s son Andriy is from the old Ukraine, while sexy young Irina is from the new: they each other warily. There are the Poles, Tomasz and Yola; two Chinese girls; and Emauel from Malawi. They’re all here to pick strawberries in England’s green and pleasant land.
But these days England’s not so pleasant for immigrants. Not with Russian gangster-wannabes like Vulk, who’s taken a shine to Irina and thinks kidnapping is a wooing strategy. And so Andriy – who really doesn’t fancy Irina, honest – must set off in search of that girl he’s not in love with.
Pearl Nolan always wanted to be a detective but life, and a teenage pregnancy, got in the way of a police career and instead she built up a successful seafood restaurant in her coastal home town of Whitstable – famous for its native oysters.
Now, at 39, and with son Charlie away at university, Pearl finds herself suffering from empty nest syndrome . . . until she discovers the drowned body of local oyster fisherman Vinnie Rowe, weighted down with an anchor chain, on the eve of Whitstable’s annual oyster festival.
Is it a tragic accident, suicide – or murder?
Pearl seizes the opportunity to prove her detection skills and discover the truth but she soon finds herself in conflict with Canterbury city police detective, Chief Inspector Mike McGuire. Then another body is discovered – and Pearl finds herself trawling the past for clues, triggering memories of another emotional summer more than twenty years ago . .
As a small boy, Dave Goulson was obsessed with wildlife – from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets to his ill-fated experiments with taxidermy.
But it was the bumblebee that fascinated him the most. Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee was driven to extinction in Britain by intensive farming practices. With ground-breaking research into these curious creatures, A Sting in the Tale tells the story of Goulson’s passionate drive to reintroduce them to their native land.
He is a murderer himself.
But the victim was his only friend; like him, a passionate birdwatcher. South is warily partnered with the strong-willed Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi, newly recruited to the Kent coast from London. Together they find the body, violently beaten, forced inside a wooden chest. Only rage could kill a man like this. South knows it.
But soon – too soon – they find a suspect: Donnie Fraser, a drifter from Northern Ireland. His presence in Kent disturbs William – because he knew him as a boy. If the past is catching up with him, South wants to meet it head on. For even as he desperately investigates the connections, he knows there is no crime, however duplicitous or cruel, that can compare to the great lie of his childhood.
Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.
Perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and The Name of the Rose, the third historical thriller featuring Giordano Bruno, heretic, philosopher and spy.
In the pursuit of power, nothing is sacred…
Summer, 1584. The Protestant Prince William of Orange has been assassinated by a fanatical Catholic, and there are whispers that Queen Elizabeth will be next. Fear haunts the streets of London, and plague is driving many citizens away.
Giordano Bruno, radical philosopher and spy, chooses to remain, only to find that someone is following him through the city. Confronting his stalker, he realizes it is the woman he once loved – she is on the run, having been accused of murder.
Bruno travels to Canterbury to help clear her name, and also on behalf of Sir Francis Walsingham. The Queen’s spymaster has long suspected Catholic influence in the ancient centre of pilgrimage, and instructs Bruno to work to expose any enemy plots.
As Bruno begins his hunt for the real killer, he is drawn into the heart of a sinister conspiracy hiding in the shadow of England’s holiest shrine…
Andrew for the TripFiction Team
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Other UK posts in our five great books set in series: