Put A Book On The Map is off to Derby featuring the DI Damen Brook series written by Steven Dunne. Our blogger guide Mary Mayfield of Our Book Reviews Online has kindly agreed to give us a resident’s view of the area and has kindly provided the wonderful photos of key spots to illustrate this post
Before Steven Dunne tells us a bit about Derby and of course DI Damen Brook’s life there, here is a little bit about Derby. Derby is also one of the places in Britain who are the furthest from the sea and somewhere that I’ve visited a few times, the Peak District being a popular place to holiday and I’ve actually stayed in Ashbourne as well as paid visits to the spa town of Buxton. But without further ado, I am delighted to introduce Steven Dunne.
D.I. Damen Brook
1. The Reaper (2007)
2. The Disciple (2010)
3. Deity (2012)
4. The Unquiet Grave (2013)
5. A Killing Moon (2015)
6. Death Do Us Part (2016)
“Brook hadn’t chosen Derby as a place to live and work. He’d picked up the first available transfer out of London…And Derby hadn’t let him down. It was a pleasingly unremarkable place to lose himself. An engineering town by tradition, which marked out the population as hard working and straightforward, it also boasted a large and well-integrated Asian population.
Frank Whittle, pioneer of the jet engine, was much honoured in a city where Rolls Royce was the main employer. Derby also had one of the largest railway engineering works in the world. It was a city built on transport, going nowhere. Obligatory retail parks ringed the city and much of the population and traffic had followed, making Brook’s neighbourhood, if not any more glamorous, then certainly a little quieter.
And despite the inevitable decline of such an industry-dependent city, crime was not excessive and murder was rare. But what really marked out this East Midlands backwater was the Peak District, a few miles to the north-west. Brook had fallen in love with it and took every opportunity he could to drive into the hills and soak up the peace of the countryside. Ashbourne, Hartington, Buxton, Bakewell, Carsington Water – all were favoured haunts, where he could dump the car and walk for hours alone, clearing his mind of all the clutter.”
In the first novel of the Reaper series, Detective Inspector Damen Brook describes his new posting in the East Midlands after moving from London. Following a damaging, and only partially successful, struggle to bring the serial killer of the title to justice, Brook’s once-stellar career is on the skids and his marriage over. With his move, he has reconciled himself to a quieter life. Of course, he’s deluding himself and, six books later, Brook’s star begins to rise again because of his dedicated pursuit of justice.
And Brook speaks for me. My reasons for relocating from London to Derby were thankfully more mundane but, when I made the move, I experienced the same reaction to my new home. Brook works in the city – at the real-life St Mary’s Wharf police HQ – but lives in the lovely Peak District village of Hartington. Driving home through the countryside late at night provides him with an essential safety valve when a case threatens to overwhelm him and I often write these into the novels as a break from the high-octane tension of Brook’s investigations.
Derby itself is Britain’s most landlocked city and houses a quarter of a million people. It is home to global brands like Rolls Royce as well as a thriving university, which served as a location in my 5th novel, A Killing Moon. Derby is also, apparently, the most haunted city in the country, though I’ve yet to see one. Ghost walks have been thriving for years centred around the old Derby Gaol.
Brook took a while to see Derby’s virtues after being wrenched from London but neither of us could envisage going back.
By Steven Dunne
Mary Mayfield kindly offered to share her love of this series of books featuring Derby and as well as her brilliant book reviews, you can also find her tweeting with the handle @
I first discovered Steven Dunne in 2012 with his third crime thriller Deity. I knew before reading that it was set in my home town of Derby but the only book I’d previously encountered set here was very sketchy on location, and at times the characters’ movements through the city were downright infeasible.
So when I read Deity, I was surprised to recognise the locations as quickly, easily and precisely as I did; in fact when a dead body is slipped into the river Derwent in the second chapter, Dunne gives enough detail that anyone familiar with the area could point to the spot. This accuracy continued throughout the book – the movements of police, victims and suspects could be plotted along familiar streets in the city centre (Waterstones book store gets a nice mention), another ‘incident’ occurs near Exeter bridge a route I regularly take between car park and downtown shops, but for me the most chilling moment came when the killer appeared to be heading to the house of a friend of mine!
Since then, DI Brook has been finding dead bodies, talking to witnesses and tracking down villains, on golf courses and allotments, at both the sixth form college and the university, in the city’s pubs (always named) and pleasant suburban villages – and whether it’s Brook getting confused by Derby’s one-way system, or someone taking the quickest way on foot from one end of town to the other, I can follow the route in my head or on a map every time.
I think there’s something a little strange about my delight in reading crime thrillers set in places I know so well. I wouldn’t want real crime taking place there (and I certainly hope Derby doesn’t have anything approaching the number of murderers that Brook encounters) but to read about it is a different matter. Maybe it’s like watching a film and feeling that exciting moment of “I’ve been there” recognition, or a certain level of strange pride that Derby could be as famous for fictional crime as Morse’s Oxford or Rebus’s Edinburgh; whatever’s the cause, it does add a certain something to a novel.
Despite the chills I’m rather keen to see a DI Brook novel set in my own suburb. I’ve offered coffee as a bribe to encourage Steven Dunne to come and recce the area – I could point out all the hidden footpaths and alleyways that cut through the estate, all the ways a villain could make a quick getaway if necessary – but so far he’s not taken me up on the offer.
By Mary Mayfield
Read Mary’s review of Deity here which really captures how much we all seem to love books that accurately represent those places we know well.
Book Reviews from around the Blogosphere
As we are really putting a whole series of books on the map, I have found a different blogger review for each title. I do hope if you’ve already read all the books, you might well find a new blogger to follow instead!
The Reaper by Euro Crime
The Disciple by Northern Crime
Deity by Our Book Reviews Online
The Unquiet Grave by The Welsh Librarian
The Killing Moon by Book Addict Shaun
Death Do Us Part by For Winter Nights
There are so many brilliant reviews of all the books in this series out there, if you have one why not share the link on twitter today to help put this book on the map!
Now don’t forget to hop over to see Susan The Book Trail to see the details of the book setting on her wonderful maps.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mary and Steven for this wonderful post bringing to life a whole series worth of brilliant crime thrillers set in Derby.