DEATH IN THE COVE is set in 1950 England, a country still reeling from the aftermath of war with austerity and rationing biting hard. Newly promoted to detective inspector, Ryga from Scotland Yard, is on his first solo investigation outside of London, to solve the mystery of why a man in a pin-striped suit is found murdered in an isolated cove on the Island of Portland in Dorset.
The 1950s is a fascinating period where memories of the war are very strong, and the fear of more world conflicts haunt people. Society and policing in the 1950s was vastly different to today, no mobile phones, no dashing about and no computers so it was extremely interesting to research and write.
Scotland Yard were frequently called in to investigate murder cases around the UK so rather than have the novel (and series) rooted in London this meant I could move my detective around the country to help solve crimes. I wanted to feature the sea in my crime novels - my trademark or brand if you like - so I created a character with an intimate knowledge of the sea, a former Merchant Seaman, Inspector Alun Ryga.
From the first I didn't want to make Ryga an action hero like Art Marvik. I also sought to differ him from DI Andy Horton, an instinctive copper with lots of personal baggage, intuitive, rugged and flawed with a deep sense of justice.
Neither did I want someone who had been hailed as a war hero in the traditional sense, but instead a quiet, unseen hero. I chose, therefore, to make him a former German prisoner-of-war. Ryga’s ship had been seized by a German Raider in 1941 as a result of which he had been incarcerated for the rest of the war in MILAG, (Marine Internierten Lager). Here he had to learn how to cope with the uncertainty, fear and deprivations of forced incarceration with no option but to wait, hope and pray that the war would soon be over and the Nazis would be defeated. His experience has made him observant, analytical and reflective. It has also given him insights into his fellow man. He’s witnessed compassion, cruelty, cowardice and heroism, mental breakdown and despair. He’s made a promise to himself that whatever happens after the war he’ll keep an open mind and never judge.
The war also unexpectedly resulted in opening up a new career for Ryga. Encouraged by a fellow prisoner to study, Ryga with the help of his mentor, is able to make the transition from the Merchant Navy to the Thames River Police. Before DEATH IN THE COVE opens Ryga has been involved in two highly successful criminal investigations at the Port of London and as a result has been catapulted into the Metropolitan Police and then into CID in Scotland Yard.
His experience at sea, and as a prisoner-of-war, have made him unique in his approach to solving coastal based crimes. Now he is being called upon to utilize his vast knowledge of the sea on his first solo investigation out of London to discover why a man dressed in a pinstriped suit has been stabbed in the neck and ended up dead on the beach of a small cove on Portland on the Dorset coast.