Whether you’re relaxing outside in the holiday sun, or snuggled up warm on a dark winter’s night, there’s nothing quite like the company of a really good fiction book. But, as this is a blog about the Lake District, did you know that the area has inspired quite a few novels of its own? Here I’ve compiled a list of some of the many books set in or featuring the region, and from what I’ve read in the reviews, the Lakes is a surprisingly dangerous place…
1. The Lake District Murder by John Bude
This book, described by the publisher as a classic mystery novel set amongst the stunning scenery of a small Lake District village, has recently been republished for the first time since the 1930s. John Bude was in fact the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore, who wrote 30 novels, worked in theatre as a producer and director, and was a co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association. I love its distinctive cover design.
2. The Lake District Series by Martin Edwards:
The Frozen Shroud, The Coffin Trail, The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth, The Serpent Pool and The Hanging Wood
A series of crime novels featuring the characters DCI Hannah Scarlett, who heads Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team, and Oxford historian Daniel Kind.
3. The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid
A psychological thriller in which Wordsworth specialist, Jane Gresham, finds herself at the heart of a mystery linking present-day murder to events in the 18th century.
4. All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills
The second novel by the Booker shortlisted author, described as a ‘tragi-comedy’ in which the narrator (who is unnamed) spends a few weeks at a campsite in the Lake District before planning to set off on a motorcycle trip to India. The book description reads: “But then the owner of the campsite asks him to paint a fence and he innocently obliges. Soon other odd jobs pile up until little by little he becomes ensnared in the ominous ‘out-of-season’.” The plot for this book sounds eerily sinister – just read this New York Times review.
5. An April Shroud by Reginald Hill
The fourth novel in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. Superintendent Dalziel is on holiday when he is rescued from flood water, and taken to Lake House where the owner has just tragically died. He falls for attractive widow Bonnie Fielding, but more deaths follow…
6. Lake District Mysteries by Rebecca Tope:
The Windermere Witness, The Ambleside Alibi and The Coniston Case
Persimmon (Simmy) Brown is a florist working in Windermere and living in Troutbeck. In The Windermere Witness, she reluctantly finds herself drawn into a murder investigation after arranging the flowers for a local wedding, and subsequently finds herself involved in fresh murder mysteries in the two novels that follow.
7. Haweswater by Sarah Hall
In 1936, a man from Manchester arrives in Mardale: he is the spokesman for an industrial project that will see the community evacuated and flooded to create a new reservoir, which will supply water to the Midland cities. Haweswater is described as a melancholic and emotional novel, which is well worth the read.
8. The Fell Walker by Michael Wood
Described as a ‘fast-moving thriller’, The Fell Walker is based in the Lake District, the Scottish Highlands and Manila. Within the plot, a government minister is found dead at the foot of a Lake District mountain. There is also a sequel with the title The Fell Walker’s Legacy.
9. The Maid of Buttermere by Melvyn Bragg
A historical novel, The Maid of Buttermere is set in the early 19th century, and is the ‘story of an imposter, bigamist and fortune hunter’ who falls in love with the ‘Maid of Buttermere’. The novel was adapted into a play at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake in 2009.
10. A Grave Affair by Nina Green
The second of three novels all set in Cumbria, A Grave Affair, is described as ‘not one for reading alone or at night!’ It tells the story of Jo Cavanagh, a writer who rents a remote cottage in the Lakes to write her new book. Jo has an accident and an out of body experience, and returns to a series of events which link the past to the present in a terrifying way.
11. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
Part of the Inspector Lynley series of mysteries. When Inspector Thomas Lynley is sent undercover to investigate what has been ruled as an accidental drowning, it turns out that nothing about the victim’s family is as it seems…
and last but not least, for Doctor Who fans:
12. Doctor Who: Sting of the Zygons by Stephen Cole
The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Martha to the Lake District in 1909, where everyone is looking for the ‘Beast of Westmorland’, a monster that has been terrorising a small village. However, there is something far more sinister than the monster present in the area, which sees the future of the world at stake.
And a few more for good measure…
In my research for this blog post, I come across a number of other novels which are set in, or feature, the Lakes. I haven’t given them a full description because I thought to do so would create a long and rather tedious article (my choice of what appears above and below is not based on any particular recommendation of my own). So to complete the list, you may also like to look at:
The Old Contemptibles by Martha Grimes
A Cry in the Night by Tom Grieves
Coast to Coast by Jan Minshull
Hazard’s Way by Roger Hubank
The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams (author of Watership Down)
Merely a Mister by Sherry Lynn Ferguson
A Romance of Wastdale by AEW Mason
The Woman from Browhead and When morning Comes by Audrey Howard
Letting Go of Emma by Brooke Powley
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
A Good Liar, Forgiven and Fallout all by Ruth Sutton
Do you know of any further titles that should be added to this list? Have you read any of these novels, and if so, what did you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below. (I deliberately left out novels from the wider Cumbria area on this occasion, but your recommendations on these are also very welcome.)