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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick.

The Norfolk Broads: Researching A Darkly Hidden Truth 1

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ January 6, 2012


In celebration of the January 1, 2012, North American launch of my clerical mystery A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, Monastery Murders 2, I’m launching a series of blogs about the research for this contemporary murder mystery which requires Felicity and Father Antony, my amateur sleuths to spend considerable time exploring atmospheric places and understand a good deal of history in order to untangle the exceedingly tangled plot.

As you might guess, research is one of my great joys in the job of writing and Father Antony, who lectures on church history at the theological college Felicity is attending, shares my joys. Felicity, a thoroughly modern American woman, who chose to study in a monastery in rural Yorkshire in what she can only describe as a fit of temporary insanity, is somewhat less attuned to the joys of perusing dusty volumes and tramping over crumbling ruins in a downpour, but she’s developing a taste for it.

One of the primary settings for this story which moves from Yorkshire to London to Norfolk and back again several times is the picturesque, water-logged Norfolk Broads where centuries of peat-digging created a network of waterways that were in earlier times sailed for commerce and today for pleasure.

The land is so flat that sailboats cruising the broads appear, from a distance, to be skimming across the green fields.




One of the places I was most anxious to visit was the remains of St. Benet’s Abbey. I was attracted by the, alas, apocryphal story that the abbey hadn’t so much been ruined after the Dissolution, but merely sank into the ooze. Wrong on both counts, St. Benet’s was never dissolved— the Bishop of Norfolk still holds the title of Abbot of St. Benet’s and the few broken arches that remain are still above ground— with a Victorian drainage mill built in the midst of them. My overriding thought whilst exploring the mill? "What a place to bury a body!’ And thereby hangs a tale.


And then on to St. Helen’s Ranworth, known as "The Cathedral of the Broads." This time the story wasn’t apocryphal: The marshes were so boggy Cromwell’s destructors couldn’t reach it to destroy the wealth of medieval art on its rood screen.


And the distinctive tower still stands available to be climbed by an intrepid researcher with an overheated imagination. But I don’t want to give too much of the story away.







To read for yourself how this all plays out on the pages of a novel with Felicity and Father Antony and Felicity’s difficult mother in tow: In the UK: in North America:

Lots more pictures to share, lots more stories to tell, so please, Gentle Reader, do return, but not, I’m afraid until February. Our son John, who has been a widower for 3 years, will be married next week and my husband and I will be staying with his little boys while he and his lovely new bride go on honeymoon. So, until February. . .

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.

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Reader Comments:

You can tell--from your books and your blog--how great a joy research is for you, Donna. These pictures are wonderful.
-jennymilch, January 6, 2012

Thank you, Jenny. I love the research and I love sharing it. My husband bought the camera for me especially for that trip so i could put the pictures on my website. That was 2008 and now I'm doing it.
-donna, January 6, 2012

Norfolk is one area of the UK that I've never visited. You make me even more eager to go. thanks!
-Lillian Stewart Carl, January 7, 2012

So glad you are sharing more information about these wondrful early Christian sites. I am hugely enjoying "A Very Private Grave" now. So, if Father Antony and Felicity are still around, both of them can be eliminated as suspects in the murder of Father Dominic!!!
-William S. Shepard, January 7, 2012

Lillian and William, thank you for your notes. I know you spend most of your time in Scotland, Lillian. I had been to Norfolk many times, but this was my first visit to the Broads--a very unique region. My editor goes sailing there, so I'm hoping it won't be my last.
Oops, William, sorry about the spoiler. So glad you're enjoying Private Grave, though!
-Donna, January 7, 2012

These are beautiful pictures. I'm more than a little jealous, I admit! Looks like you chose the perfect mysterious setting.
-Bethany, January 7, 2012

Thank you, Bethany. Setting is very important to me. I try to develop it as carefully as I develop my characters because i wanto to give my readers a "you are there" experience, so maybe the book will suffice until you can get there for yourself.
-Donna, January 7, 2012

What fun to see pictures of the Broads as I just finished that part of the book! Will you be doing a blog with pictures of icons? Or were the icons in the book all from your imagination? Do I really have to wait three weeks to see more? Sigh. Have fun with the grandbabies, and we'll be waiting when you get back!
-Kristy, January 7, 2012

Thank you, Kirsty. Oh, yes, I'll definitely be doing one on icons. None are from my imagination--research is so much better than making things up, I think. Some are actually on the wall by my desk, especially the one I bought at Walsingham (like Felicity). Many are from the publications of the Temple Gallery
My icon expert who runs the gallery Felicity and Antony visit is based on Sir Richard Temple of the Temple Gallery. Amazing place to visit.
-Donna, January 7, 2012

How about the Cotswold Trail? We visited an old monument tower dedicated to Bible translator William Tyndale while hiking it a few years ago.
Ann Gaylia
-Ann Gaylia, January 7, 2012

Oh, yes, Ann--one could spend a lifetime visiting historic, atmospheric places in England and only skim the surface. Actually, I hope to get Felicity and Antony near the Cotswolds in book4 which I plan to set in oxford. just finishing up #3 which is Wales.
-Donna, January 7, 2012

Loved seeing the photos for those of us who can't see it all in person. Thanks, Donna.
Hope the wedding all goes well.
You might be intersted in a blog I write recently about research and the writer

-Dale, January 7, 2012

Fascinating research! Thanks for sharing this with us all.

Jacqueline Seewald
-Jacqueline Seewald, January 8, 2012

I just finished A Very Private Grave and enjoyed it so much I went looking for more information. I enjoyed the pictures and look forward to reading your new book. P.S. I first heard of your books on the ACFW suspence loop. So happy I did.
-Debbie , January 15, 2012

Dale, Jacqueline and Debbie, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am in Kentucky taking care of grandchildren, so msy response is slow--I'm finding I'm a *lot* slower than these 3 and 5-year olds!
Debbie, I'm thrilled that you enjoyed Private Grave enough to go sleuthing. I hope you found the ictures in my research album. Nice to meet a suspense looper!
-Donna, January 17, 2012

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