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NOVELS WITH A
SUFFOLK SETTING
Suffolk has often been used as a setting in fiction, particularly for crime and
mystery stories. Its seaside towns and villages particularly seem to provoke
the unsettling and creepiness in writers.
DICK FRANCIS, former steeplechase jockey turned thriller writer, set many of his novels
in Newmarket such as the Golden Dagger ‘I loved the Heath in the early mornings with the
manes blowing under the wide skies … the place to where my heart returns.’ Dead Heat is a
thriller with the gourmet touch with a chef hero, and Gordon Ramsey listed in the
acknowledgements. Francis describes ‘Newmarket on 2000 Guineas day – the town was
abuzz with excitement for the first Classic race of the year.’
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In Unnatural Causes P D JAMES, a frequent visitor to the area, sets her story mainly in
Minsmere and Dunwich, and a body is found in one of the hides beside the bird sanctuary. She
calls Dunwich Heath Monksmere Head, and sites Pentlands Cottage where the Dunwich
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Coastguard Cottages are. On his way into Suffolk, the detective, Dalgliesh, stops at Blythburgh
church and enters ‘the cold silvery whiteness of one of the loveliest church interiors in Suffolk’.
In The Children of Men, a novel set in the future, Southwold is the centre for the compulsory
suicide of the old! Covehithe is the setting for Death in Holy Orders. St Anselm’s is set on
“this windswept desolate headland” and the Doom painting described in the church is very
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similar to the one in Wenhaston church, to which it is compared.
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RUTH RENDALL, when living in Suffolk, used it in several of her novels and produced her own
illustrated Ruth Rendell’s Suffolk. Make Death Love Me starts in Suffolk with a robbery at the
Anglia Victoria bank. Writing as BARBARA VINE she set Gallowglass in Sudbury, used
Orford and Aldeburgh for part of No Night is Too Long, Polstead and Nayland for A Fatal
Inversion and Bury St Edmunds and its surroundings for The Brimstone Wedding.
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FREDERICK FORSYTH used Ipswich and Bentwaters (then a USAF base) in The Fourth
Protocol, in which the thrilling climax takes place in Ipswich around a ‘small residential cul-
de-sac called Cherryhayes Close’ in the Hayes cluster of roads off Belstead Road. Faithfully
he records that ‘the industrial and commuter traffic into Ipswich was dense, and became
thicker as they approached the town.’ Some things never change!
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