Tule Author Q&A: H L Marsay researched Vikings in York!

H L Marsay stopped by the Tule blog to discuss the second book in her Chief Inspector Shadow Mystery series, A Viking’s Shadow!


Where did you get the inspiration for A Viking’s Shadow?

Here in York we are very proud of our Viking heritage. Even our name comes from the Viking word Jorvik. Every February (pre COVID), we hold a Viking festival. People dress up as Vikings, tents are set up in the city’s streets and squares showing demonstrations of skills like weaving and axe throwing and we welcome lots of visitors from Scandinavia. I imagined how much Shadow would hate so much disruption to his daily routine, especially if a crime was committed and he was thrown into the middle of it all.


What kind of research did you need to do for this story?

I spent a lot of time reading about Viking York and also visited Jorvik, the city’s museum dedicated to Viking daily life. It’s an amazing place, but it prides itself on being authentic, right down to the smell. I won’t go into too much detail, but imagine a time when both the fires and sewers were open!


Brown Buildings on End of Road Under Cloudy SkyIf you could spend the day with John Shadow, your protagonist, what would you two do?

Oh dear, John Shadow isn’t very sociable, but if I could convince him to spend the day with me, food would certainly be involved. We would begin the day with breakfast at Bettys, York’s famous tearooms. Next, if it wasn’t raining, we would take a walk to Museum Gardens or Dean’s Park and Shadow might even let me help him complete his Yorkshire Post crossword. Then it would be time for lunch in one of the city’s many pubs (we have 365, one for each day of the year!). After lunch, we’d take a walk down by the river to Florence, the canal boat where Shadow lives. Hopefully, I could persuade him to tell me about some of his past cases and maybe even talk about Luisa, his lost love. Dinner would be in one of his favourite Italian restaurants, then after all that eating and drinking, I would definitely need to go to sleep.


What was your favorite scene to write and why?

I love writing any scene between Shadow and his deputy, Sergeant Jimmy Chang because they are complete opposites. In a mystery it’s always tricky to choose a snippet that doesn’t contain spoilers, but I think the scene below shows their relationship and personalities, without giving away what happens in the story.


As the pavement was still narrower than usual, Jimmy walked a couple of paces ahead. He looked like he was doing a strange sort of dance, as he swayed from side to side, his long legs sidestepping the many puddles that lay in his path.

“New trainers,” Shadow said, more as an observation than an enquiry. He shuddered to think what his sergeant spent on his footwear. Jimmy nodded.

 “I wouldn’t have worn them if I’d known it was going to be this wet,” he complained.

“Yes, who could possibly have envisaged it would rain during autumn in North Yorkshire?” retorted Shadow as he took another bite of bacon muffin.

They arrived in St Sampson’s Square and came to a halt at the fortune teller’s tent. The outside was already draped with bright yellow police tape, while two uniformed officers patrolled up and down.

“You go in and check what we’ve got,” Shadow said between mouthfuls. He was enjoying his breakfast too much to have it ruined by a beheading or some other gruesome wound. 

Jimmy ducked into the tent. Shadow took his last bite, wiped his fingers, and screwed the napkin into a ball and stuffed it into his pocket.

“It’s okay, Chief. She’s only been strangled,” Jimmy’s voice shouted out loud and clear from inside the tent. An old lady pulling a shopping trolley along behind her looked startled and stopped to stare. Shadow smiled weakly before also ducking into the tent.


What are you currently reading?

I have always loved watching Midsomer Murders and I’ve finally started reading the books the series is based on. The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham is the first book and I’m really enjoying it.


About the Author

H L Marsay always loved detective stories and promised herself that one day, she would write one too. She is lucky enough to live in York, a city full of history and mystery. When not writing, the five men in her life keep her busy – two sons, two dogs and one husband.

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