Liverpool, like most big cities, has well-respected universities, fine dining, and arts and culture. Because it’s a port city, it’s also got a close relationship with the sea (fishing, shipping, immigration, and more). In fact, the docks and beaches play major roles in the city’s life. And of course, there’s the music. Liverpool also has its share of crime, and it’s interesting to see how this unique part of the UK is depicted in crime fiction.
Baroness Emma Orczy’s The Liverpool Mystery is one of her Old Man in the Corner stories. In this one, the old man tells his journalist friend about an astounding robbery. Prince Semionicz is spending a short time in Liverpool before setting sail for America – specifically, Chicago, where he intends to visit his sister. He has his assistant contact famous jewelers Winslow and Vassall to send over a selection of items, so he can choose some for his sister. They reluctantly send an assistant over with some pieces, with the understanding that he’ll return with payment and with the gems that the prince hasn’t selected. Trouble starts when the assistant doesn’t return. At first, it’s assumed that the assistant made off with the money and gems, but that’s refuted. So, who took that fortune, and what happened to the assistant? The old man has his own ideas…
One of Martin Edward’s series features Liverpool attorney Harry Devlin, who makes his debut in All The Lonely People. He’s not one of those high-priced solicitors that wealthy clients can afford. His clients tend to be the down-and-out, edge-of-the-law type. But Harry believes in the idea of a fair trial, so he defends clients that other firms would think twice before representing. This means he spends his share of time in Liverpool’s side streets, questionable ‘business establishments,’ and seedy pubs. He doesn’t earn a lot of money, but he does his best to do what’s right. As the series goes on, Edwards depicts not just the changes in Harry’s life, but also the way Liverpool has changed over time. The series is, among other things, a solid look at the city.
So is Brian L. Porter’s series featuring Detective Inspector (DI) Andrew ‘Andy’ Ross and Sergeant Clarissa ‘Izzy’ Drake. Beginning with A Mersey Killing: When Liverpool Rocked and the Music Died, the series explores different parts of Liverpool life, including the music, travel and shipping, adult films, and the city’s religious history, among others. In that first novel, for instance, Ross and Drake investigate a link between a Merseybeat band of the early 1960s, and a body pulled out of the water some thirty years later. Several of the stories are like that; they link the city’s history to present-day life, so readers get to see how the city has changed over time, and what the influences on the city have been. There’s also a look at the influence Liverpool and the Mersey culture have had.
Diane Dickson’s DI Jordan Carr series begins with Body on the Shore. In this novel, a woman’s body washes up on Liverpool’s Crosby Beach. Of course, the police are immediately called in. It’s Carr’s first murder case, and he wants to do it right. It won’t be easy, though. One of the biggest problems is that the woman is unidentified. Someone – either the victim or someone else – was very careful to conceal her real identity. Even after the woman is finally identified, there’s also the question of motive. It’s not enough for Carr’s team to link this killing to the murderer; they also need to find out what the motive is. Yet another challenge is that Carr’s got to put together a cohesive team and be the leader. Other novels in the series take Carr and his team to other parts of Liverpool, like the docks, a council estate, a squat, and a canal.
And then there’s Luca Veste’s DI David Murphy, and DS Laura Rossi series. In the first novel in the series, Dead Gone, university student Jemma Barnes is abducted after a night out. When her body is discovered, her ex-boyfriend Rob becomes the prime suspect. At the same time, though, the police receive a long letter that refers to psychological experiments and more. Soon there are other bodies, and it seems that this killer is both cruel and sinister. It’s not likely to be Rob, but if it isn’t, then who is it? This novel is dark, gritty, and sometimes explicit – not the sort of novel for readers who prefer lighter crime fiction. That said, though, it (and the others in the series) depict Liverpool clearly, both in terms of its physical setting, and in terms of the culture.
And there’s plenty of that to be had in Liverpool. Any Scouser can tell you that the city has a lot to offer: an active port life; great food, nightlife, and entertainment; culture and education; and, of course, the musical treasure that is the Liverpool sound. Oh, yes, and crime…
ps. Thanks to the Liverpool Echo for the lovely ‘photo of Liverpool and the River Mersey.
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Oh, come on, how could I resist?
8 thoughts on “Ferry Cross the Mersey*”
Great post, Margot! I must admit Orczy is the only one of these authors I’ve read, but there are some really interesting sounding books there!
Thank you, KBR! I was surprised, once I started thinking about it, at how many stories there are with a Liverpool setting. It’s that sort of a place, too: so much history and so many sides of the city, too!
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I don’t think I’ve ever read a crime novel set in Liverpool – who knew there were so many?? Well, you did, obviously… 😉 An interesting selection – Body on the Shore sounds intriguing…
You know it’s funny, FictionFan. You don’t think about how much crime fiction is set in a particular place until you, well, think about it, I suppose. Since there’s little else in my mind, there’s room to think about books… 😉 Anyway, Body on the Shore does have a solid sense of the Liverpool setting. If you do read it, I hope you’ll enjoy it.
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How odd that we were only speaking about Ferry Cross the Mersey in your last post. Such an iconic song. I had no idea so many crime series were set there. For me, Liverpool was all about the Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and two comedy TV series from way back when, The Liver Birds and Bread. And after all that I never have been to the city… one which has had such an impact on UK music and TV.
Honestly, Cath, it was Ferry Cross the Mersey that made me think of this post. The song wouldn’t leave, if I can put it that way, so I gathered some thoughts about Liverpool-based crime fiction. You’re not the only one who thinks of the Beatles, and Cilia Black, and Gerry and the Pacemakers, and the Searchers and so on when you think of Liverpool. The music is such a part of the city. To me, it’s so interesting that Liverpool has had the impact it has. That says something. I’ve never seen The Liver Birds or Bread, but it just goes to show how culturally important the area is.
I’ve never read a novel set in Liverpool. Like Fiction Fan, I had no idea there were so many! I really gotta get out more (or stay in). 😉
You know, Sue, there is no way – at all – for anyone to read everything out there. It’s just not possible.
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