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Five great books set in SUSSEX

23rd November 2019

Sussex is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Sussex.

Five great books set in SUSSEX

Sussex is a historic region on the south coast of England. Bordered by Hampshire to the west, Surrey to the north, north-east by Kent and south by the English Channel, it is these days divided into West Sussex and East Sussex. Whether you’re on the densely populated coastal plain, the beautiful chalky rolling hills of the South Downs or the wooded Sussex Weald to the north, the county is a natural – and literary – delight.

Here are five books to read that will immerse you in Sussex, somewhere in time and with different characters and genres.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock tells the story of a young leader of one of the infamous razor gangs in 1930s Brighton who murders a journalist and then finds that his attempts to avoid any possibility of arrest lead him into ever-increasing complications and violence.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Susan Hill meets Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

Rook by Jane Rusbridge

Nora has come home to the Sussex coast where, every dawn, she runs along the creek path to the sea. In the half-light, fragments of cello music crash around in her mind, but she casts them out – it’s more than a year since she performed in public. There are memories she must banish in order to survive: a charismatic teacher with gold-flecked eyes, a mistake she cannot unmake. At home her mother Ada is waiting: a fragile, bitter woman who distils for herself a glamorous past as she smokes French cigarettes in her unkempt garden.

In the village of Bosham the future is invading. A charming young documentary maker has arrived to shoot a film about King Cnut and his cherished but illegitimate daughter, whose body is buried under the flagstones of the local church. As Jonny disturbs the fabric of the village, digging up tales of ancient battles and burials, the threads lead back to home, and Ada and Nora find themselves face to face with the shameful secrets they had so carefully buried.

A mesmerising story of family, legacy and turning back the tides, Rook beautifully evokes the shifting Sussex sands, and the rich seam of history lying just beneath them.

Dead Man’s Footsteps by Peter James

‘Abby stepped in the lift and the doors closed with a sound like a shovel smoothing gravel. She breathed in the smell of someone else’s perfume, and lemon-scented cleaning fluid. The lift jerked upwards a few inches. And now, too late to change her mind and get out, with the metal walls pressing in around her, they lunged sharply downwards. Abby was about to realize she had just made the worst mistake of her life . . .’

Amid the tragic unfolding mayhem of the morning of 9/11, failed Brighton never-do-well Ronnie Wilson sees the chance of a lifetime, to disappear and reinvent himself in another country. Five years later the discovery of the skeletal remains of a woman’s body in a storm drain in Brighton, leads Detective Superintendent Roy Grace on an enquiry spanning the globe, and into a desperate race against time to save the life of a woman being hunted down like an animal in the streets and alleys of Brighton.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent sabre rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more free thinking – and attractive – than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape, and the colourful characters that populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

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