Author Joy Kluver writes an exclusive piece for Female First
Author Joy Kluver writes an exclusive piece for Female First

Yes, you did read that heading correctly. Left For Dead, the third book in my DI Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel series, has a crime scene set in Swindon. I’ve been to the largest town in Wiltshire many times as we had friends who used to live there. Having had more rural settings for the first two books – Last Seen and Broken Girls – it was time for an urban crime. So why do I love Swindon? Here are some of my reasons...

1. The Designer Outlet Village. I actually mentioned this large shopping centre in Last Seen. It’s a great place to visit with a wide variety of shops. As a mum, it’s a great place to get cheaper school shoes! There’s a nice play area too for the kids when they need to let off steam. Talking about steam...

2. The Steam Museum. Just across from the outlet village is the Steam Museum. Perfect if, like me, you have train enthusiasts in the family. Swindon was the main hub for Brunel’s new Great Western Railway in the nineteenth century and the town grew rapidly as a result.

3. The magic roundabout. Although I do have a character called Dougal – DI Dougie Anderson – this magic roundabout has nothing to do with the classic children’s TV programme, other than sharing its name. Depending on your opinion, it’s either a feat of traffic management or an absolute nightmare. It’s hard to describe and the road sign looks like a mathematical diagram. Although I have been around it, it was my husband who was driving. There are videos on YouTube and it is quite amazing to watch the streams of traffic move in such a balletic way.

4. Billie Piper. This famous actress hails from Swindon and is probably best known for playing Rose in Doctor Who. She and David Tennant are my favourite assistant and Doctor partnership.

5. Town Gardens. My crime scene in Left For Dead is in Town Gardens in the Old Town part of Swindon. It’s a really lovely Victorian park with a bandstand, bowls club, aviary and pond. So I apologise to the residents of Old Town for disturbing the peace of the gardens with a horrific crime.

6. Lydiard Park. If you’re looking to stretch your legs a little further, Lydiard Park is on the western outskirts of Swindon. You can visit Lydiard House, play in the children’s play areas, be high up in the trees with Jungle Parc or even take a hot air balloon flight.

Personally, I prefer to keep my feet on the ground and there’s a lovely walled garden to explore and tea rooms for refreshments. The small village of Lydiard Millicent is close by and again, I need to apologise to the residents about the nefarious goings-on suggested in the book.

7. A personal connection. We first visited Swindon when some close friends moved there and so got to know the area fairly well. On one of our many trips to the Steam Museum, we saw a huge wall that has name plaques on it, featuring the names of people who worked on the Great Western Railway in its early years. I saw some names that had the same surname as my maiden name and joked that maybe we were related. Turns out, it wasn’t a joke.

My family history is slightly sketchy but in recent years we’ve managed to find out more. And those names on the wall belong to my great great grandfather and some of his sons. They lived in Swindon for several years before moving to the United States. When I first started writing my books set in Wiltshire, I had no idea of the family connection. This is beginning to sound like an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? but I now understand my affinity with Wiltshire. And why I love Swindon.

Left For Dead, by Joy Kluver, is available now
Left For Dead, by Joy Kluver, is available now

Joy Kluver's new novel, Left For Dead, is available now.

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