Death on Lindisfarne

Second in the Aidan Mysteries. Sequel to The Hunted Hare.

Twice each day the holy island of Lindisfarne is cut off from the mainland by the incoming tide. Aidan, the ginger-bearded photographer, brings his his inquisitive eight-year-old daughter Melangell here to a course on Northumbrian saints. The home of St Aidan and St Cuthbert should be a place of peace. But the place of sanctuary is violated when he finds the body of another course member on the beach.
His edgy relationship with Lucy, the young Methodist minister running the course, must be now put on hold while they search for the killer.
Lucy has come here with her own memories of a painful past. Now that past makes a terrifying reappearance as the police investigation takes an undreamed-of twist.

“A powerfully evoked sense of place and unfolding mystery is woven into a contemporary tale of tragedy turned sinister, on the ancient island of saints.”
C. F. Dunn, author of Mortal Fire.

Watch the video trailer.


Death on Linoisfarne

The level light was grey under the clouds. It was high time to begin his search.
  It was hard going through soft sand. After a while, Aidan came across a trodden path between the grass-grown hummocks. It was easier walking now, but he was out of sight of the beach. There was a strange sense of disorientation. In every direction the dunes looked the same. There were no landmarks to give him a sense of distance. Only the poorly-defined path told him he was going in the right direction, eastward.
  From time to time he left it to climb a dune. From there, Peter was a lone dark figure on the pale beach. No one else was out walking.
  At other times, Aidan delved between the dunes, looking for one of those sandy hollows where Rachel might be curled up out of the wind, away from the world. He met only the mocking whistle of the tall grass.
  At first he thought it was the distant scream of a gull. He trudged on through the clinging, rain-soaked sand. Time was slipping away. A glance at his watch told him it was nearly six. The sun had long since retreated into an ominous dusk. He had lost all sense of how far along the sandy isthmus he had come.
  With an effort, he climbed another dune. The twilit water widened around him. Grey sea, ghostly sand, the hardly perceptible line of dusky mainland.
  The cry came again, clearer and more human now. “Aidan!”
  He could just make out the broad figure of Peter much further along the beach. It had been easier for him, walking along the compacted sand below the high-tide mark. The sea was swinging in a line of seaweed, marking the edge of the mounting tide. Aidan strained his eyes. Was that a clot of something larger, more solid than strands of weed where Peter was standing?
  Aidan gave an answering shout. He broke into a slithering run down the seaward side of the dune.
  “No!” he was praying as he stumbled out on to the beach. “Please, no!”


Why I Wrote “Death on Lindisfarne”

I came into crime fiction almost accidentally. I wrote a book in which dark deeds in the past became entwined with dark deeds in the present, and before I knew where I was, I had a crime novel on my hands. This developed into a series, The Suzie Fewings Mysteries (Severn House). I was still getting used to the idea that I was a crime writer when Lion contacted me unexpectedly and asked if I would write a crime series for them.
I’ve never been a fan of crime fiction which depends solely upon the solution of the crime. For me, the books that resonate are those which have an extra dimension, besides detection. I enjoy the works of Tony Hillerman, whose novels add to crime detection wonderful insights into the culture and beliefs of the Navaho people.
It’s that “extra dimension” that is important to me. I have always been interested in history, and my books reflect this.The Suzie Fewings novles have as their starting point the detection of family history, so you get two mysteries to unravel for the price of one.
The extra dimension in the Aidan Mysteries, of which Death on Lindisfarne is the second, is the setting. Place has always been very important to me in my writing. I love to go where I want the story to happen, to see the place for myself, to walk the ground, to pick up the feelings my characters would have had. I frequently write with a map laid out beside me, so that I can follow the movements of my characters, judge what they could see from where. how long it would take them to travel from one place to another.
The settings for the Aidan Mysteries are the sacred places of the British Isles. The first, The Hunted Hare, was set in the remote Welsh pilgrimage site of Pennant Melangell. For Death on Lindisfarne I have moved to Holy Island off the coast of Northumbria. Here, the tide of Christianity reached the Anglo-Saxons first from Augustine’s Roman companions in Kent, and then, when those missionaries fled before heathen invasion, from St Columba’s monastery on Iona. It was this Celtic church which put down lasting roots. It stayed the course through the turbulent 7th century until the Roman cause won out at the Synod of Whitby in 664. But the tradition lived on. As you walk the sands of Lindisfarne you feel it all around you. This was the holy island of St Aidan and St Cuthbert.
  It was a joy to go back to Lindisfarne to research this book. The weather was against me. On the first day I slipped on a flooded cart track and the water put paid to my camera. More rain limited the time I could spend out of doors soaking up the atmosphere. But even this could be turned to good advantage. My characters, too, would have to contend with the vagaries of the weather.
  The real bonus was getting to talk to a member of the Coastguard and Rescue Service. Writing a crime novel set on an island like Lindisfarne, cut off from the mainland for several hours around high tide, it was important that I find out how the emergency services: ambulance, police, etc, work. The Coastguard and Rescue Service is the only one based on the island. Beside filling me in on how the different services liaise, he gave me invaluable information about tides and currents. I now knew just what would -or, more importantly, would not – happen if a body entered the water at a particular place.
I am still left with a question. Is it right to take a place which is holy to many people and use it as the setting for a violent crime? I often happens with crime novels – cathedrals, monasteries are often the settings for murder. The incongruity makes the violence more shocking. But the real-life monastery of Lindisfarne was never insulated from the violence of its history. Quarrels split the community. Vikings massacred its monks and left the sands drenched with their blood. On Good Friday, pilgrims still carry the cross across the sands to Holy Island, acting out the ultimate violence of the Crucifixion.