Crime writer serves up a serpent in Peak District paradise

Crime writer Sarah Ward. Photo by Eleanor Crow.
Crime writer Sarah Ward. Photo by Eleanor Crow.

Paradise for acclaimed crime writer Sarah Ward is a Peak District village – with a dead body in it.

Sarah, who lives in Chelmorton, is joining the cream of British detective authors at Buxton International Festival’s Crime Writers Lunch on November 26, when fans of the genre can share a meal with the creators of Wire in the Blood and the Alex Morrow series.

Sarah’s character DC Connie Childs has become a firm favourite with crime fans, and in her latest novel, A Patient Fury, takes the lead against sceptical colleagues when solving a gruesome slaying.

The Peaks have become a favourite setting for murders – mainly fictional, thankfully – although in real life the area has an enviably low crime rate.

And that’s not a paradox, said Sarah: “It means that when a crime does happen here it has such a big impact on the community that you can describe not only the crime but also its impact – it’s this idea of a serpent in paradise.

“I used to live in Athens which is quite edgy, so setting a crime there would be a different dynamic for a novel.”

DC Childs started as side-kick, but her determined character has taken on a more leading role much to the delight of readers as she polices the made-up town of Bampton, mainly based on Matlock.

“It’s also got a bit of Bakewell – chocolate box with lots of tourists – and a bit of Buxton in it as well, with Georgian buildings: a town that has a grand historic setting but a few social problems,” she said.

“It’s an amalgam of all three to get a sense what the Peaks are for me.”

Sarah came to crime writing through her love of the Scandinavian classic Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, and she is now a judge for the Petrona Award for translations of what is now known as Nordic Noir.

The Peak District reminds her of the Scandinavian landscape: “The hills, the closed-off fields, the idea of the climate closing in… you can come out of Buxton and suddenly all the landscape has disappeared. It makes a great setting.”

A Patient Fury also features the Peak’s fascinating industrial heritage of railway tunnels, canals and mills. This backdrop surprises foreign readers and provides a complete contrast to the picture postcard settings of that other well-known detective:

“They have a view of the English countryside which is very Miss Marple,” said Sarah.

l The Crime Writers’ Lunch at The Old Hall Hotel, Buxton, November 26, features Wire in the Blood creator Val McDermid; Denise Mina, who wrote the Garnethill, Paddy Meehan and Alex Morrow series, and Sarah Ward. Tickets are £40.

For the menu, more information and to book, go to www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/whats-on/books