CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Fiction in the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 09:55 01 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:56 20 February 2013

The Forest of Dean is the setting for Andrew Taylor's Lydmouth series as well as Freda Davies's DI Tyrell stories

The Forest of Dean is the setting for Andrew Taylor's Lydmouth series as well as Freda Davies's DI Tyrell stories

The beauty of the Cotswolds hides a growing body count. In our small villages, market towns and historic cities lurk shopkeepers and clerics, civil servants and centurions, chefs and spinsters with murder on their minds.

The trail of fictional mayhem begins in the honey limestone villages of the eastern Cotswolds. Here, around the fictional market town of Bamford - based on Chipping Norton and Burford - author Ann Granger has set her successful series of 15 novels featuring Meredith Mitchell, diplomat, and policeman Alan Markby. Credited with bringing the village whodunit up to date, Ann Granger's Mitchell and Markby are appealing characters whose relationship progresses in a convincing way with the series, and the plots are always engrossing.



Eastern Gloucestershire is the setting for American writer Patricia Harwin's series of Far Wychwood mysteries. Arson & Old Lace introduces 60-something retired New York librarian Catherine Penny as a would-be Miss Marple. After a painful divorce, Catherine moves continents to a picture-book Cotswold cottage complete with mullioned windows and stone-flagged floors, but when her grumpy elderly neighbour dies in an arson attack, she becomes involved in a web of village intrigue. These are cosy and gentle mysteries given an unusual twist by the American viewpoint.



High on the northern Cotswold edge near Broadway is the windy village of Snowshill, the setting local author Fiona Mountain has chosen for her sleuth, Natasha Blake, ancestor detective. Her investigations as a professional genealogist involve her in modern mysteries as well as past secrets. In Pale As The Dead Natasha investigates the links between ethereal Pre-Raphaelite model Lizzie Siddal's mysterious death and the disappearance of her current client. Bloodline delves into the more recent past of land girls and landowners during the 1940s. Both novels are set solidly and effectively in real locations; Natasha is a sympathetic heroine and the plots are skilfully interwoven through past and present events.



The fictional village of Carsley, 10 miles from Evesham, is the home of local author M.C.Beaton's brisk and aggravating middle-aged sleuth Agatha Raisin, brought memorably to life on Radio 4 by actress Penelope Keith. Introduced in Agatha Raisin and The Quiche Of Death, retired London PR boss Agatha cuts a swathe through the mysteries - and the sensitivities - of those around her. This is a hugely popular series with many of the stories set firmly in the northern Cotswolds, written in a humorous style with cracking pace.



Rebecca Tope's Cotswold Mysteries are all set in real villages in the central Cotswolds: Duntisbourne Abbots, north of Cirencester (A Cotswold Killing), Frampton Mansell, between Cirencester and Strood, (A Cotswold Ordeal) and Cold Aston, south of Bourton-on-the-Water (Death in the Cotswolds). Amateur sleuth and professional house-sitter Thea Osborne, accompanied by her spaniel Hepzibah, finds her commissions lead her into various mysteries ranging from nasty goings-on during a canal restoration to pagan secrets on Notgrove Longbarrow.



Among the dappled stone villages of the southern Cotswolds between Cirencester and Cheltenham lies the fictional Upper Benbury. Here crime-writer Melissa Craig, creation of author Betty Rowlands, allows her insatiable curiosity to entangle her in a variety of real crimes while she tries to concentrate more single-mindedly on her fiction. In the latest in this series of 12 very readable village mysteries, Sweet Venom, Melissa investigates the death of a local barrister apparently stung to death by his own bees.



The ancient city of Gloucester is the location for prolific crime-writer Edward Marston's historical mystery The Owls of Gloucester set in the 11th century. Two Domesday Commissioners, Ralph Delchard and Gervaise Bret, come to Gloucester to resolve land disputes after the Norman conquest, but find themselves investigating the death of an unpopular monk found murdered in the Bell Tower of Gloucester Abbey.



Gloucester is also the backdrop for Rosemary Rowe's beguiling series set in Roman Britain. Libertus is a freeman working as a mosaic-maker in Glevum (Roman Gloucester) in 186 AD. As an expert in puzzles and patterns, his skills and intelligence are continually called upon by his noble patron Marcus Aurelius to solve mysteries. The first book, The Germanicus Mosaic, is a traditional whodunit Roman-style, complete with a body in the library to which Libertus has very recently added a pavement. A Pattern of Blood sees Libertus travel to Corinium (Cirencester) in search of his Celtic wife sold into slavery many years before, only to become involved in another of Marcus's local difficulties. The series is full of vivid evocations of life in Roman Britain and clever, entertaining plots.



Freda Davies's DI Keith Tyrell and his team are based in modern Gloucester, investigating crimes in the flat, fertile Severn Vale on the western edge of the Cotswolds. In Bound In Shallows, the second in a series of three, Tyrell and his team probe the death of a young girl near Lydney, hampered by serious flooding and the closed communities of the Forest of Dean.



And finally, the Forest of Dean and Severn Vale is also the setting for top British crime writer Andrew Taylor's masterful Lydmouth series. Against the backdrop of a small provincial town in the 1950s (an amalgam of Lydney, Coleford and Monmouth) DI Richard Thornhill investigates crimes that impact not only on a closed society coming to terms with the changing post-war world, but also on his family and personal relationships. The latest in the series, Naked To The Hangman (2006), sees Thornhill himself a possible suspect when a retired colleague is found dead in the ruins of Lydmouth Castle.



These subtle and thoughtful novels represent crime fiction at its very best. And it is here, on the dark fringes of the ancient Forest of Dean, that the Cotswold crime scene at last goes cold.


The trail of fictional mayhem begins in the honey limestone villages of the eastern Cotswolds. Here, around the fictional market town of Bamford - based on Chipping Norton and Burford - author Ann Granger has set her successful series of 15 novels featuring Meredith Mitchell, diplomat, and policeman Alan Markby. Credited with bringing the village whodunit up to date, Ann Granger's Mitchell and Markby are appealing characters whose relationship progresses in a convincing way with the series, and the plots are always engrossing.



Eastern Gloucestershire is the setting for American writer Patricia Harwin's series of Far Wychwood mysteries. Arson & Old Lace introduces 60-something retired New York librarian Catherine Penny as a would-be Miss Marple. After a painful divorce, Catherine moves continents to a picture-book Cotswold cottage complete with mullioned windows and stone-flagged floors, but when her grumpy elderly neighbour dies in an arson attack, she becomes involved in a web of village intrigue. These are cosy and gentle mysteries given an unusual twist by the American viewpoint.



High on the northern Cotswold edge near Broadway is the windy village of Snowshill, the setting local author Fiona Mountain has chosen for her sleuth, Natasha Blake, ancestor detective. Her investigations as a professional genealogist involve her in modern mysteries as well as past secrets. In Pale As The Dead Natasha investigates the links between ethereal Pre-Raphaelite model Lizzie Siddal's mysterious death and the disappearance of her current client. Bloodline delves into the more recent past of land girls and landowners during the 1940s. Both novels are set solidly and effectively in real locations; Natasha is a sympathetic heroine and the plots are skilfully interwoven through past and present events.



The fictional village of Carsley, 10 miles from Evesham, is the home of local author M.C.Beaton's brisk and aggravating middle-aged sleuth Agatha Raisin, brought memorably to life on Radio 4 by actress Penelope Keith. Introduced in Agatha Raisin and The Quiche Of Death, retired London PR boss Agatha cuts a swathe through the mysteries - and the sensitivities - of those around her. This is a hugely popular series with many of the stories set firmly in the northern Cotswolds, written in a humorous style with cracking pace.



Rebecca Tope's Cotswold Mysteries are all set in real villages in the central Cotswolds: Duntisbourne Abbots, north of Cirencester (A Cotswold Killing), Frampton Mansell, between Cirencester and Strood, (A Cotswold Ordeal) and Cold Aston, south of Bourton-on-the-Water (Death in the Cotswolds). Amateur sleuth and professional house-sitter Thea Osborne, accompanied by her spaniel Hepzibah, finds her commissions lead her into various mysteries ranging from nasty goings-on during a canal restoration to pagan secrets on Notgrove Longbarrow.



Among the dappled stone villages of the southern Cotswolds between Cirencester and Cheltenham lies the fictional Upper Benbury. Here crime-writer Melissa Craig, creation of author Betty Rowlands, allows her insatiable curiosity to entangle her in a variety of real crimes while she tries to concentrate more single-mindedly on her fiction. In the latest in this series of 12 very readable village mysteries, Sweet Venom, Melissa investigates the death of a local barrister apparently stung to death by his own bees.



The ancient city of Gloucester is the location for prolific crime-writer Edward Marston's historical mystery The Owls of Gloucester set in the 11th century. Two Domesday Commissioners, Ralph Delchard and Gervaise Bret, come to Gloucester to resolve land disputes after the Norman conquest, but find themselves investigating the death of an unpopular monk found murdered in the Bell Tower of Gloucester Abbey.



Gloucester is also the backdrop for Rosemary Rowe's beguiling series set in Roman Britain. Libertus is a freeman working as a mosaic-maker in Glevum (Roman Gloucester) in 186 AD. As an expert in puzzles and patterns, his skills and intelligence are continually called upon by his noble patron Marcus Aurelius to solve mysteries. The first book, The Germanicus Mosaic, is a traditional whodunit Roman-style, complete with a body in the library to which Libertus has very recently added a pavement. A Pattern of Blood sees Libertus travel to Corinium (Cirencester) in search of his Celtic wife sold into slavery many years before, only to become involved in another of Marcus's local difficulties. The series is full of vivid evocations of life in Roman Britain and clever, entertaining plots.



Freda Davies's DI Keith Tyrell and his team are based in modern Gloucester, investigating crimes in the flat, fertile Severn Vale on the western edge of the Cotswolds. In Bound In Shallows, the second in a series of three, Tyrell and his team probe the death of a young girl near Lydney, hampered by serious flooding and the closed communities of the Forest of Dean.



And finally, the Forest of Dean and Severn Vale is also the setting for top British crime writer Andrew Taylor's masterful Lydmouth series. Against the backdrop of a small provincial town in the 1950s (an amalgam of Lydney, Coleford and Monmouth) DI Richard Thornhill investigates crimes that impact not only on a closed society coming to terms with the changing post-war world, but also on his family and personal relationships. The latest in the series, Naked To The Hangman (2006), sees Thornhill himself a possible suspect when a retired colleague is found dead in the ruins of Lydmouth Castle.



These subtle and thoughtful novels represent crime fiction at its very best. And it is here, on the dark fringes of the ancient Forest of Dean, that the Cotswold crime scene at last goes cold.


0 comments

More from Out & about

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Mon, 15:25

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search