How many great thrillers are set during summer?
The heatwave that we are enjoying in the UK right now has got me thinking. The weather is perfect for plonking yourself down in a sun lounger with a great book. As it happens, my latest DCI Dani Bevan novel, Dark As Night, is set during a rare Glasgow heatwave. But just how many other crime books take the summer months as their backdrop?
I must admit that the majority of my ten novels are set during autumn and winter. These ‘darker’ months just seem to lend themselves better to the creation of atmospheric tension and foreboding which goes hand-in-hand with the mystery genre.
In Dark As Night, the dramatic tension is built instead, by the close humidity and the climax of the story is precipitated by a sudden, violent storm. To make the atmosphere right, there have to be some dark clouds lurking on the horizon, ready to ruin that clear blue sky.
So how many great thrillers have been set during summer? One of my personal favourites is Barbara Vine’s (the pen name of Ruth Rendell) ‘A Fatal Inversion’, where the oppressive heat of a hot summer spent at an old country house in Suffolk is the scene for a tense drama of intrigue and murder. Yet, this particular book is more about psychological twists and turns than it is about true ‘things that go bump in the night’ horror.
Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile and Ten Little Indians, use the fierce heat of their locations to evoke an oppressive atmosphere which facilitates murder.
I believe that ‘summer crime’ can certainly work, although we use the word ‘chilling’in conjunction with a great thriller for good reasons. If you really want to put the frighteners on your reader, a book has got to make their ‘blood run cold’and this is very rarely achieved by transporting them to a warm, sunny day.