I don't know about you but when the evenings are dark and the air has grown cold I long for a real fire, a comfy chair, a nice hot drink and a book that sends a tingle up your spine. Mysteries, ghost stories, thrillers, dark tales; however you want to categorise them and with George Mann's latest book Wychwood you get all that and more. Wychwood is a bit of a departure for Mann who is famous for the Newbury & Hobbes Series and the The Ghost series which are steampunk adventures and many readers will also know that George Mann is a prolific writer and editor of Sherlock Holmes inspired fiction. So what's different about this book you ask? Well to begin with this book is contemporary and it's set in rural Oxfordshire with the main characters being a journalist and a police officer so there are no airships or secret spy networks but don't worry there is a chilling serial killer mystery and plenty of dark and supernatural scares. I asked the author about Wychwood and here's what he had to say:
Q1. You are well known for writing in the worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who and your own Steampunk stories, so why the big change in direction to a contemporary murder mystery novel?
Good question! I think it's very much the culmination of a long journey as a writer. I've always loved crime fiction, and I think that's something that has crept into a lot of my storytelling over the years. My Newbury & Hobbes steampunk novels are essentially crime mysteries at their heart - they often start with a murder, and Newbury and Veronica typically team up with Scotland Yard to investigate. Clearly they're also adventure novels, with a lot of fantastical content, but strip them back and the central mystery often follows the template of a crime novel.So I think this is something I've been building towards for a long time. I wanted a new challenge, I wanted to write from the perspective of modern day characters, and I wanted to write the sort of story I love reading, or watching on TV on a Sunday evening.
There's a lineage with my previous books too, though, I think - there's still a gentle thread of the supernatural running through the book - but it's a much more traditional murder mystery than I've written before. The start of a new path!
Q2. The murders in Wychwood are inspired by mythical figures and folklore. Is English folklore and mythology in general an important inspiration for you? Will we see further folklore inspired books?
Oh, absolutely. I've had a long fascination with myth and folklore, and in particular the kind of quirky stories that pop up in different regions all over the UK. It's that sort of local mythology that really appeals to me. I think it adds so much character to a place, and it's always the thing I'm most interested to find out when I visit a new place. What are the stories that bring a town or village to life? What does it say about the cultural history of the place? Does it influence the character of the town now? That's something I'm definitely going to explore in future books. I'm working on a second investigation for Elspeth and Peter now, and I'm having a great deal of fun researching a very different type of folklore for that.
Q3. Who are the writers of murder mysteries that inspire you?
Peter Robinson has been a big influence. I adore his DCI Banks books. Ann Cleeves, Peter James, Peter Lovesey, Ian Rankin, Colin Dexter are others. I also collect the old Sexton Blake pulps which were at their height between 1900-1930, and though they've been largely forgotten now, there's some brilliant stories to be found.
Q4. What's next for Elspeth and Peter? Can you reveal anything about what's in store for them?
Well, that would be telling! But I'm working on a second novel now, as I intimated above. Family secrets, a 17th Century witch stone, and an old manor house feature. Elspeth is going to feel the lure of her old life back in London when a friend comes to
visit, and Peter has to decide what his future in the police force might look like. Any more, and I'll give too much away!
Q5. What are you working on now?
Aside from the next Wychwood book, I've got another Newbury & Hobbes book in the works. That'll be the sixth book in the series, and kind of brings things to a head. Beyond that, I'm certainly keen to keep on exploring this new path with more crime fiction, too.
I have to say I really enjoyed reading Wychwood, the first of what I hope will be many adventures for Elspeth and Peter. This is an intriguing murder mystery full of impressive detail, a twisting plot, some spooky encounters and best of all two main characters you will really root for. It's the kind of crime thriller that lovers of ghost stories will enjoy and the kind of horror novel that will appeal to readers of crime. The mythology threading through the story is fascinating and I think this book will have broad appeal; bringing George Mann many readers who might not have read his previous work. Because of the supernatural thread I would also say that this will be a must read for fans of Elly Griffiths, Syd Moore and James Oswald.
Wychwood is published by Titan, thanks so much to Philippa Ward for a copy for review.