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Author Lindsay Jacob’s new novel The Fenland Spell is Anglo Saxon murder mystery

The Fenland Spell, set in the Kingdom of the East Angles in the year 832, is a crime novel by author Lindsay Jacob, who was born and raised in Cambridge before emigrating to Australia.

Author Lindsay Jacob. Picture: Lindsay Jacob
Author Lindsay Jacob. Picture: Lindsay Jacob

The cattle upon which folk depend for milk, meat and muscle are being slaughtered in droves by unknown killers and left to the wolves. Theft can be understood, but this wanton destruction of the kingdom’s lifeblood is unnerving rich and poor alike.

Two of the most powerful families in the kingdom end an age-old feud and unite, through a secret marriage, against the unseen foe. The bishop despatches a young, inexperienced priest, Father Eadred, to conduct the ceremony. His decision will expose Eadred to terrible risks.

Speaking to the Cambridge Independent 24 hours after arriving back in the city of his birth (he was brought up in Linton, emigrating to Australia at the age of 20) for a two-week holiday, Lindsay says of his latest work: “It’s crime fiction, it’s a murder mystery, but it’s an historic murder mystery.

“It’s set in the year 832, during the Anglo Saxon period, when this area was part of the Kingdom of the East Angles – I have a fascination with the Anglo Saxon period.

“I haven’t come across too many other – if any other – murder mysteries set in that period but I think trying to understand the past is a process of detection in itself, and then if you add a murder mystery you’ve got a double layer of trying to understand the period and the beliefs and then the motivations for why people committed murder.”

Cover of The Fenland Spell by Lindsay Jacob
Cover of The Fenland Spell by Lindsay Jacob

Within the pages of The Fenland Spell, the main protagonist Father Eadred is drawn into helping to uncover the mind and the purpose behind the wave of death and destruction. He faces dangers in the world of men and from the spirit realm, but brings the conflict to a head in court and in battle.

How long did the process of coming up with the tale and writing the book take Lindsay, who has used the character of Father Eadred before? “It’s the second book in the Father Eadred series,” he replies, “and from beginning to end probably 18 months, two years...

“That includes research, writing, editing, the process of publication. But I’ve always written. This is my third book. I’ve written all my adult life, so I just starting writing fiction – I used to be a speech writer.

“I was very fortunate actually early in my career in Australia to become private secretary to a minister in the Australian government, and I think that started the process of writing in earnest, writing creatively.

“But my career has evolved; I’ve done a lot of speech writing where fundamentally you have to imagine the future, whereas the thing that I really loved was to imagine the past, so it’s just been that sort of switch. But I’ve always written for audiences and I suppose I’ve learnt a lot from speech writing.”

The first book in the series, Murder at Elmstow Minster, was published in 2021 and Lindsay notes that it received “very good ratings and reviews, so I decided to write a second one and see how that goes”.

Author Lindsay Jacob
Author Lindsay Jacob

Will there be more in the series? “Oh absolutely,” says Lindsay, whose writing has been compared to Ellis Peters, author of the Cadfael books, which were also made into a television series starring Derek Jacobi.

“I’ve got some characters that I like and other people like and I want to see them develop and mature and I want to pick different themes from the Anglo Saxon period – and from this location, from the Fens, which I love.

“I mean East Anglia is steeped in history and the Fens is steeped in history. I just want to explore and create very believable stories; I do a lot of research for each book. I’ve got a library of books on Anglo Saxon England and I think I’m recognised as someone who has a deep understanding of the period and its beliefs, so all my books are well-researched.”

[Read more: Psychological thriller On That Day centres on the unthinkable happening in the Fens, Fenland author Penny Hancock pens family drama]

The Fenland Spell, published by Troubador Publishing, is available now.

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