Monks, Murder and Mystery?

I've just returned from a delightful visit to Quarr Abbey, near Ryde, on the Isle of Wight as part of a specially-organised Christmas tour led by Father Luke Bell, who has written a book about the monks' daily routine, A Deep and Subtle Joy: Life at Quarr Abbey.  Along with me and my husband were approximately thirty people including a feature writer from the Daily Telegraph, who like us had crossed from the mainland.  She'd also travelled from London that morning while we only had a short drive to the Hovercraft before traversing the calm waters of the Solent.  There was also a photographer present from the Isle of Wight County Press.

Quarr Abbey plays a small part in my forthcoming marine mystery crime novel, Blood on the Sand featuring my fictional detective, Inspector Andy Horton, which will be published in the UK in February 2010 and in America in April 2010. I won't say what part because I don't want to spoil the plot!  The tour as well as being highly informative and interesting also stimulated the little grey cells with ideas for future novels: a deathly tour maybe? Ghosts of  a monk's past life? Death in the cloisters? (Or has that been done?!) Who knows where one idea can lead?  The history of the abbey could also make the bones of an intriguing mystery novel, I suspect.

The original abbey founded in 1132, was the centre of life on the Island until its dissolution by Henry VIII. The stone was used for building castles including the one in Yarmouth. The monks returned in 1907 and a new abbey of glowing Flemish brick rose in its place. These days, bookbinding and bee-keeping play a major part of the economic life of the monastery and help it pay its way, along with donations and sales of books and the monks' paintings and other artistic efforts in the bookshop.

This visit was the first where individuals were invited to form a group to tour the abbey, and which included parts of the building not usually seen including the pilgrim chapel.  It was a calm small place of worship dimly lit and yet not dark, rather restful and still.  And although not heated it felt warm. Father Bell gave a commentary on the origins of Benedictine life, the history of the community at the abbey, the architecture of the church and the monks' daily routine, which consists of prayer and song seven times a day.

It is hoped that another abbey tour will follow during the Isle of Wight Walking Festival (8-23 May 2010) so, if you're interested keep your eyes open on for further news.

There is also an abbey tea shop and bookshop, which are open most days in the run up to Christmas, and throughout the year.  And if you want to know or see more from this tour then it will be featured in the Isle of Wight County Press newspaper and in the Daily Telegraph, although I am not sure when.

All in all a bitterly cold but thoroughly enjoyable day.


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