Today I am delighted to welcome Candi Colborn who blogs at A Crime Reader’s Blog who suggested that we put Eva Dolan’s series featuring DI Zigic and DS Ferreira on the map. I think you’ll agree that the post the pair created together is an absolute delight and I love the photographs provided by Tamsin Colbourn.
Eva Dolan’s Books
Long Way Home – 2014
Tell No Tales – 2015
After You Die – 2016
Watch Her Disappear – 2017
Now I haven’t been to Peterborough, not even on a train but my research tells me that it is a cathedral town in Cambridgeshire although historically it was part of Northamptonshire. The arrival of the railways transformed this town, as it did many in the midlands into an industrial centre in the 19th Century and Peterborough was a key contributor to the brick industry for both brick-making and distribution.
So with that scant knowledge I’ll hand you over to Candi and Eva to tell you what Peterborough is really like and why it is such a great setting for a crime fiction series.
Whenever I tell people I am from Peterborough the usual response is ‘Oh I went through there on the train once’ It’s very rare to find someone who has actually visited. Therefore it was quite a surprise back in 2014 to find out via the wonder that is twitter that a new crime series was being written set in my home town.
Eva Dolan’s series of novels is based at the Hate Crimes Unit within Peterborough Police Force. The first book in the series, which came out in 2014 was Long Way Home. This introduced us to the lead Detectives Zigic and Ferreria. A body is discovered in a garden shed, and they are soon in a hunt for the killer that leads them into the large immigrant communities in the area.
I recently asked Eva what made Peterborough stand out as the place to set her novels.
Back in 2012, when I started the first book in the series, Long Way Home, Peterborough felt like the natural choice. It’s a city with a history of 20th century immigration, with a large influx of workers coming from southern and eastern Europe after WW2, to take up jobs in food processing and at the local brickyards. Later they were joined by people from India and Pakistan. Then the 90s saw the arrival of many Portuguese and Polish migrant workers, drawn to the agricultural jobs available on the fenland surrounding Peterborough. It’s the perfect melting pot, small enough for each wave of immigration to feel distinct but large enough to contain all manner of criminality. Peterborough has also become something of a magnet for media coverage of issues of immigration, social cohesion, and the recent rise of ultra right political parties, a subject I explored in the second book, Tell No Tales, so even readers who haven’t been there will recognise it as a place where these issues are in play.
Other than the train station, Immigration is probably the only other thing that springs to mind when people think of Peterborough. With one of the highest levels of non-UK passport holders in the country outside London this is no surprise. I moved to Peterborough as a child from Cromer, a small quiet white seaside town on the North Norfolk coast. The differences between the two places were immense especially as a teenager. In Cromer at the time the height of sophistication was to own a padded, reversible jumper with a big cat on one side, and loads of little cats on the other. To move to Peterborough was a huge shock, not only did it have shops but there were people of all creeds and colours all side by side in this huge exciting yet alien city (Don’t worry I very quickly lost the reversible jumper)
It is this multicultural feel that Eva brings to life in her novels. Her writing highlights the desperate situations that people can find themselves in. Yet she manages to deal with issues without coming across as preachy or voyeuristic.
Of course you don’t have to stray far from Peterborough to quickly lose the big city feel as the fens are a completely different story, with vast sprawling flat countryside as far as you can see. It is these fenlands that Eva moves into for her later books. The third in the series is After you Die is set in the village of Elton. A young girl who was disabled in an accident is left to die after her Mother is brutally murdered.
I was interested to know if Eva ever regretted choosing Peterborough and the Fens as the setting now that her novel was a series and she had to continue writing about it?
Setting has become less important as the series has continued. The first two books were very much rooted in immigrant communities and needed to be set in the heart of Peterborough. After You Die and Watch Her Disappear, which focus on disability-related harassment and transphobia, really could have been set anywhere. For them, I went out into the pretty limestone villages around the city and it was interesting dropping Zigic and Ferreira into a different world to the one they were used to and seeing how they’d respond, not least finding that they thought hate crimes were intricately linked with poverty, which of course they aren’t at all.
Ultimately crime stories are personal stories and the size of the place you set them isn’t actually very important. I’d like to send my detectives further out into the countryside in future, take the series into rural noir territory and write an antidote to all the cosy versions of country life. The fens are essentially lawless, because of the sprawl and lack of funds for policing, communities are isolated and vulnerable and they run on different social codes to the city or the suburbs. I’d like to write about everything that’s rotten out there.
I actually lived out on the edge of the fens. I completely understand how they can be seen as strange. Nowadays when I go back, the thing that always stands out is the sheer flatness of them and in an odd way this can feel really intimidating. There is also a certain beauty about them though, and of course as Eva says they are a big part of the reason why Peterborough is so multicultural with all the farmland around.
One of the things I like about Eva’s books are that despite the brutal subject matter of the stories you also get the sense that Peterborough and the fens are more than just a place of racism, violence and crime, there is also history and beauty. The fourth book in the series Watch Her Disappear for example begins in Ferry Meadows, a 500 acre park 3 miles from the city centre. This is a magnet for people especially in the summer with it’s lakes, woodlands and meadows. Watch Her Disappear begins with the murder of a transgender woman. The story then not only follows the investigation into the murder and a series of attacks on the transgender community within the city, but also gives an insight into the effect on how being transgender affects family and friends as well as the person.
I asked Eva if she had any favourite places to go either for research of for pleasure?
I try to keep it all about the work while I’m on a research trip but Peterborough has a really great shopping centre that I can’t resist and I was happy to stumble across Clarkes, an amazing restaurant on Cathedral Square; it has a lovely intimate atmosphere and a small but frequently changing menu focusing on local, seasonal produce. It’s the kind of place Zigic would probably book for Anna’s birthday. But I think Ferreira would take issue with their slim selection of rum.
Unfortunately I have been told that Clarkes has now closed down but there are still lots of places that Zigic can try.
Eva’s novels deal with some horrific crimes, and face head on the issue of minorities and the treatment that they often have to put up with. Yet within them is a sensitivity that gives a sense of the injustices being handed out to people purely based on the colour of their skin or the country of their birth. If you like a good crime story set in a place that you actually might not be that familiar with I would definitely recommend Eva Dolan’s series. Start with Long Way Home and I bet once you have met Zigic and Ferreira you will be hooked. It might also encourage you to stop next time you go through on the train and see what Peterborough has to offer.
Photos by Tamsin Colbourn (@tamcol29)
Book Reviews from around the Blogosphere
To celebrate the whole series of books on the map featuring DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, I have found a different blogger review for each title. I do hope if that even if you’ve already read all the books, you might well find a new blogger to follow instead!
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 at The Book Trail to see the details of the book setting on her wonderful maps.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed the trip to Peterborough, I know I have and I want to say a huge thank you to Candi and Eva in making the visit so enjoyable. If I didn’t already know that this is one series I need to read, I certainly do now!
All books featured in this #BookOnTheMap project will get a place on the Master Page listing crime fiction by their destination with links to the wonderful collaboration between authors and bloggers.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate in this feature.