By Rachel Lynch

Rachel Lynch

Rachel Lynch

It’s one of our last true wildernesses. I’ve been hiking the Cumbrian fells since I was around six years old, and I always find new hidden corners. I can walk for hours without hearing anything but the wind, or the odd rustle of a scuttling animal. It makes the perfect setting for dark deeds to go unnoticed.

Its dramatic scenery is perfect for a story. Last year, the Lake District was awarded UNESCO World Heritage site status, joining the likes of Machu Picchu and the Grand Canyon. Its beauty draws in around 18 million visitors per year, and they just keep coming back. Think crystal clear lakes, ragged rocky peaks, secret coves and beaches, deep lush valleys, and great shady forests; and you get the picture.

It’s inspired writers and artists for centuries. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Turner, Heaton Cooper, Ruskin, De Brinski… the list goes on. I challenge anyone not to be moved by the quiet divinity of the place. Sitting on a shingle beach on the shores of Ullswater, contemplating the screes of Wast Water, breathlessly negotiating Hardknott pass, diving in to ice cold mountain streams at Ulpha, or simply unwrapping a sandwich on the summit of Wainwright’s favourite peak: Hay Stacks; every undisturbed corner of the National Park is gloriously and luxuriously at peace. 

There aren’t many police officers. Considering Cumbria’s sheer size, the constabulary employs around only 2,000 staff, and only half of those are PCs. As a crime writer, I’m happy to take advantage of this and have my antagonists arrogantly exploit the potential of getting away with their crimes in a landscape with more sheep than humans.

There is a lack of sophisticated infrastructure. My protagonist in Dark Game, DI Kelly Porter, is used to the bright lights and advanced technology of the Met, but she doesn’t have that luxury back home in her native Cumbria. Navigating the single lane traffic and isolated tracks are challenges in themselves, without the added pressure of a high profile case load.

Transient populations are always welcome in a thriller. They enjoy anonymity and enable ambiguity. The Lake District tourist industry is worth around £2 billion per year, providing around 18,000 jobs, with many of those workers not local. It’s a temporary existence for many, and a nightmare for detectives.

Tourism is a superb hiding place for criminal activity. 18 million tourists is a lot to keep up with, and there’s plenty of opportunity for illegal comings and goings.

The moody, broody weather in the Lakes is an ideal canvas for a gutsy thriller. The mountains attract a weather system all of their own; clouds cling to peaks, opening up occasionally to bright sunshine, ever changing the colours of the scenery, adding to the tension and frustrations facing detectives. A bracing walk up Skiddaw might end in a terrifying white out at the top, even on a summer’s day: perfect for disappearing.

Its quaint, serene and innocent façade provides a compelling tool for a crime writer. Sleepy villages, meandering tourists, chugging steamers, kagool-clad climbers, and red cheeked farmers all depict a tranquil and benign terrain, out of harm’s way and terribly English; and the ultimate illusion behind which to hide.

Mobile phones rarely work properly.