Sarah and her new book
Sarah Ward was one of my earliest blogging friends: she had started her Crimepieces blog a year or two before I got going, and was very welcoming and friendly to me. At the time she was writing a crime book… and now she’s a best-selling author, with four entries in her DC Connie Childs series. And it couldn’t be more well-deserved, or have happened to a nicer person.
The latest book, The Shrouded Path, was published yesterday, and I had the good fortune to attend a launch event at a marvellous bookshop, Warwick Books (in the town of Warwick, unsurprisingly).
Sarah gave a fascinating talk about her writing life, and the themes that run through her crime stories. All the books have a great sense of place: the Peak District in Derbyshire, her home county. She talked about her fictional town of Bampton, and about how she likes to include strands about the industrial architecture of the county. I was particularly interested in her conscious decision to include the deaths of older women in this current book: a demographic she thinks is under-represented both in life and in fiction.
Steve and Sarah
Selfie ahoy – the three of us
So – a great evening. What about the book?
Like all Sarah’s books to date, the plot has a dual timeline – a crime in the past which is coming back to haunt the characters today. And it’s a great setup: in 1957 six schoolgirl friends walk into a railway tunnel. But only five come out the other end. Sixty years later, no-one seems to know anything about the story. But something is happening to those women, now in their 70s. What an enticing setup - and the book makes the most of it.
Connie Childs investigates, along with series regulars Frances Sadler and Carole Matthews, and a new policeman, Peter Dahl. But it’s not even clear what they are investigating: routine deaths or something more?
Again, as in earlier books, chapters alternate between the police, and another character caught up in the story: this time Mina Kemp, the daughter of one of the original schoolgirls. Her mother is dying of cancer, and is agitated about an old friend, Valerie, and someone she thinks she might have seen on the ward.
I loved The Shrouded Path – I have loved all the books, and think they are getting better if anything. They always have really great plots, and excellent clues – it is obvious that Sarah is a big fan of crime fiction, and has read a ton of it, because she is so good at misleading the reader. They are proper, serious books, very well-written, and featuring (gently) social issues, but they are also funny, with very nice character drawing. The sense of place is marvellous – I am someone who often skims over descriptions and geographical detail, but I love reading about Sarah’s settings, and picturing the changes in the seasons which have come over the four books.
I also love that she shows you can have a real crime story without gruesome violence towards women, and with real and convincing female characters – not as common as it should be in this day and age.
And the books are very well-researched – she told us something about that in her talk, but it’s also obvious in the books. One of my bugbears is when character names are wrong (see me in the Guardian on the subject), and I love the sheer rightness of the names in Sarah’s books – and now she has told us how she does it! (Research) I had clocked that Valerie, Hilary and Ingrid were absolutely right for 50s schoolgirls. And names will prove important in the story.
It is difficult to say too much about the plot of Shrouded Path without spoilering, so I will just give a recommendation that you should read it, along with the other books in the series (it is possible to read them out of order).
Photographs above taken at the event. I also found some schoolgirl pictures from a girls’ annual of the era – the 50s schoolgirls are vividly described, even though we are just getting glimpses of them…
You can read about Sarah’s earlier books on the blog by clicking on her name below.
I'm delighted you liked this book as much as you did, Moira, though I'm not surprised. Sarah's incredibly talented. Lucky you to have had the chance to meet her.ReplyDelete
I really did enjoy it Margot, I think she is a real crime fan's writer - she knows how we think and how to fool us! And yes, was great to see her in action.Delete
Congratulations to Sarah on another successful book.ReplyDelete
I loved the photos. It is nice to see people happy and enjoying the event.
It was really good fun, Bill, and the bookshop was a splendid one, and the company was excellent. As you say, good to have nice things to report in this difficult world.Delete
Just read the previous one, A Patient Fury, and was totally gripped! By the way, how DOES she research the names?ReplyDelete
This is fascinating: the books are all set in Derbyshire, so first of all she has a local-history style guide to Derbyshire surnames. And she says, you couldn't do that for all places, but Derbyshire, and the kind of villages she is writing about, do have the same families and names down the generations, people don't move around so much.Delete
And then, for this new one she has six schoolgirls, in 1957. So that means they were born in 1942, so she got the list of most popular girls' names for that year, and then picked and chose amongst them till they felt right for her characters. Isn't that brilliant?
I enjoyed the information about the launch. What a lovely bookstore and I wish I could have been at the event. The remainder of the post I am saving until I have the book -- and have read it. I don't know when it will be out here. I am looking forward to it. I loved each one of her books and the last one was the best so I have great expectations.ReplyDelete
I think she just gets better Tracy, this was the best one yet. You will love it.Delete
I must be the only one who hasn't tried her work yet. Seems like a good time was had by all!ReplyDelete
You might like her! Not as gruesome as some of your favourite authors, but good solid stories.Delete
I await receiving this book with baited breath. I cannot wait. Just the theme of one girl didn't come out is enough to pull me in. This is a theme in Tana French's first book, "In the Woods," and of Jane Harper's second, "Force of Nature." Sarah is such a nice person, a cat-lover, a Derbyshire resident -- and yet she has the skills of an Alfred Hitchcock (to coin a phrase from a reviewer).ReplyDelete
I totally agree with you Kathy - it is a fantastic setup for a book. And - reading this one I was reminded just what a great writer Sarah is, she deserves even more acclaim for her thoughtful and clever plots.Delete