Review of Winter Downs
Winter Downs blog for Ali The Dragon Slayer.
First posted June 4th here
Alison Drew: I’m beyond thrilled to be on the blog tour today for this wonderful book .. it’s a little piece of ‘home’ for me x
Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously? In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.
The most commonly asked questions any author can usually be simplified as why, where and who – so here goes: What is Winter Downs about? In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose. Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?
Where is simple. Sussex was the county in which I was born. A farm on the edge of the Sussex Downs and to my mind it is simply the most beautiful place on earth. Oddly, though, when you add East and West Sussex together, it is one of the largest counties, it is one of those least known in the UK and many mistake it for Essex! To be fair that may be because there are so very few towns of any size until you reach the coastal strip. It is rich in folklore and folk people and in 1940 was poised on the leading edge of the war waging just 30 miles away across the English Channel. The South Downs are spinal cord of chalk hills stretching from the Kent shores into Hampshire. Much of it was made a National Park just a few years ago (map) to preserve its beauty from the scourge of the housing developers.
Walk the fields in that area you are sure to find one of the many pill boxes and dugouts; hurriedly constructed preparations against the expected invasion in WW2. By the 1960s these historic and ominous structures were little more than a magnet for children at play. I had not realised the influence their presence had on me until it came to writing a crime novel.
My sleuth, Rose ‘Bunch’ Courtney, was based loosely on the daughter of a local land owner that I knew in passing a very long time ago. She was one of those self-assured young women as much at home mucking out horses as dancing at the Ritz. Had she been of the right age in those days of hardship she would have had the resources required to dabble in amateur detection. I knew many country folk like the Jenner brothers whilst growing up in a farming community. The old countrymen they were based on are all gone now, but hopefully I have done them, and their long vanished Sussex accent, justice in fictional form.
It was in the course of researching the world of farming folk of the era that I read how many of the large country houses were requisitioned by the Government in 1939 – and voila! Setting, sleuth and era all came together as Winter Downs.
The Winter Downs cover, designed my Peter Coleborn, was based on a propaganda poster urging women to Join the Land Army! An issue that was high on the rural Sussex agenda, and of course the addition of the snow, the planes overhead and rolling hills said all that needed to be said – yes we did consider adding the odd corpse or two, but that seemed a little like over-kill…
Once I had the time and place I could dive into research mode! I love digging out all of those snippets that were forgotten, or in some cases papered over. For instance a comment was made at my writing group that nobody carried a gas mask. I hit the internet, and the books, and came across many references to the fact that though films of the era – fact and fiction – assured viewers that everyone carried a gas mask everywhere because that was the law, nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of masks were issued through 1939 and 1940 but carrying it with you was never made law and by January 1940, when Winter Downs is set, less than 20% of people bothered taking their gas mask anywhere.
Writing Winter Downs was a lot of fun to write. I really have come to be very fond of Bunch and Wright. Onwards and upwards now to finish book two in the series!
As soon as I heard about this book I knew I was destined to read it! I am Sussex born and bred so could easily visualise the scenes and my mother was actually in the Land Army in the relevant time period so I feel I had an advantage. Whether that enhanced my enjoyment I’m not sure because it is such an endearing story so from the outset you instinctively go back to that era of the 1940’s.
Jan’s descriptive writing forms the basis for the tension and bleakness of war, the cold sometimes lonely downs and the austerity that was around, Winter Downs is the perfect title and I think you will agree the cover is simply stunning.
Two sisters, totally different in character but with a deep bond .. Bunch and Dodo find themselves in the middle of a mystery. After finding the body of a local man known to them Bunch is determined to prove that he wouldn’t/didn’t commit suicide and that something more sinister has taken place.
Due to lack of police or suitable funding because of the war, Chief Inspector Wright is adamant it is an open/shut case of suicide and the matter should be dropped.
So begins the search for a possible killer. Bunch and Dodo are already having to adapt to a completely alien way of life after the soldiers took over their house and they had to relocate to grandma, add in rationing, black-outs and the uncertainty of war. Dodo has already lost her husband in the fighting so Bunch is incredibly protective, this all results in the need for an answer. If it was murder then there could be further danger imminent.
I enjoyed finding out about these two women as their individuality emerges, Bunch is the feisty one of the two and I admire her determination to discover the truth. It kept me hooked as the puzzle deepens and I really couldn’t see how there was going to be a satisfactory ending.
The setting is beautifully described and for anyone who doesn’t have knowledge of Sussex it is a charming county steeped in history, yes I may be biased but it was so refreshing to read and absorb my local dialect which reminds me of my grandparents!
Anyone who likes historical fiction with a strong mix of characters will relish this story. Eerie, chilling and riveting I wholly recommend it. I’m already looking forward to more from Jan. I think this is a book that will stay with me long after finishing it and I’m likely to re-read and discover even more from it.
My thanks go to Jan for my copy of Winter Downs and for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. I read and reviewed voluntarily.
Continuing my reprise of the Winter Downs blog tour here is the posting hosted by the writer and jazz singer Nelli Rees – originally posted here.
Jan Edwards has had her new novel “Winter Downs” published (Penkhull Press). Find below more information about the book and the writer, as well as what Jan said when asked, who would be playing the main parts if her book were made into a film or a TV series (you all know my passion for movies!).
This is the reply I got from Jan to my question, who she would like to play the parts if the book were dramatised:
When Nelli asked me who I would cast for Winter Downs as a film or TV series I have to admit to a slight panic; not least because I can never remember names! After a monster Googling session I have come up with a few possibilities for just the main protags on either side. (The full cast would take months!).
As this is a game of fantasy casting I decided that money would be no object and angled that my imagination could come up with – taken from the great and the good in British acting!
Winter Downs the movie would star:
The good guys: Rose ‘Bunch’ Courtney: 30 years old. Dark hair and hazel eyes. More at home in jodhpurs than the designer clothes one of her standing is expected to wear. Very capable, athletic and terribly posh. Michelle Dockery would be the main woman. But Emily Blunt would also be a good fit, or Kate Beckinsale. Though Kristen Scott Thomas is the image I had in mind as I was writing.
Daphne ‘Dodo’ Tinsley – Bunch’s sister: 20 years old but the war has already made her a widow. She is shapely and blonde – young for her age but with a hint of sadness about her. Far more of a classic ‘English Rose’ than Bunch. Emma Watson was an obvious choice. Followed by Antonia Clarke, or Gabriella Wilde?
Chief Inspector Wright : Forty+ years old. Tall, bordering on gaunt with a deceptive calm, which lulls suspects into mistaking him for an ordinary man. Jude Law or Benedict Cumberbatch are my obvious first choices, with James McAvoy as back up.
On the side of villainy:
Olivia Tinsley: late 40s early 50s. An elegant woman with an edge, who knows what she wants and gets it. Joanna Lumley would always be my front runner, followed by Anna Chancellor.
Percy Guest : one of those men who looks anywhere between 35 and 50. An east end villain, slightly built with a whipcord agility, easy going charm that can switch into menace at a blink. David Tennant obviously! Subs on that team are Jason Flemyng or maybe Danny Dyer.
Now that I have got started I could go on… but five is probably enough
Winter Downs by Jan Edwards, Penkhull Press,ISBN 978-0-9930008-6-7
We’re (Gaslight Crime) delighted to bring you an interview with writer Jan Edwards, author of the newly published historical crime novel Winter Downs.
I absolutely loved Winter Downs, which takes place in a fascinating time in a lovely part of Sussex that Kipling called our blunt, blow-headed, whale-backed Downs. The perfect setting for the first novel in an atmospheric new crime series. If you enjoy classic, Golden Age style whodunits with engaging sleuths, a twisting plot and a wonderful sense of place – you’re in for a great treat.
Here’s Jan to tell us about Winter Downs and her writing process…
Read the full interview here: An Interview With Crime Author Jan Edwards
Continuing my blog tour reprise: Q&A originally posted on Jenny Barber’s web page on 3rd June 2017
“Winter Downs Blog Tour, celebrating the launch of the ever excellent Jan Edwards’ new book – Winter Downs – a thrilling ride of 1940’s crime fic starring the kick ass Bunch Courtney. I interrogated Jan to find out more…
Winter Downs is the first in your Bunch Courtney Investigates series – who is Bunch and what can we expect from future books in the series?
Bunch Courtney is a well connected young woman who is set adrift by the changes that the coming of war has imposed on her, and knows that the life she was brought up to lead will never return. When she stumbles on a murder she discovers a talent and taste for sleuthing as she interacts with the local police force; and with Chief Inspector Wright in particular. Continue reading
Winter Downs has been listed in the Crime Fiction on the Month for June on the Indie Crime Fiction page.
Here is the latest posting on Winter Downs posted recently with the writer Louse Wise on her Wise Words blogsite