I was thrilled when a reviewer recently wrote that he was enjoying the Chief Inspector Shadow series, particularly because he felt the city of York was a character in its own right. I couldn’t agree more. When writing A Roman Shadow, the fourth book in the series, the city continued to be an integral part of the story and provided me with much of my inspiration. This mystery features two things York is famous for: Romans and chocolate.
Although the Romans may have left York fifteen hundred years ago, their influence is still felt. The Minster is built on the site of what was the Roman fort and outside is a statue of Constantine, who was declared Emperor in York and was the first Christian Roman leader (apologies for the twenty-first century scaffolding in my photo). There is also a popular pub where you can see the original Roman baths while enjoying a pint of beer or a gin and tonic.
A Roman Shadow opens with the Chief Inspector and his sergeant, Jimmy Chang, investigating a theft of coins and jewellery from the Roman museum. As he tries to solve the crime, Shadow has to contend with an incompetent museum director, his scheming wife and two security guards dressed up as Roman soldiers. Even Jimmy starts behaving strangely. Then when a young Chinese tourist disappears things become yet more complicated.
A Roman Shadow also features an artisan chocolatier whom Shadow takes an instant dislike to and an eccentric café owner from a fictitious family of confectioners. We learn too that Shadow’s mother moved to the city after she was widowed, to work in one of the chocolate factories.
York may never have been as industrial as some other northern cities like Sheffield or Hull, but it is famous for manufacturing one product. Chocolate! This was thanks to the excellent transport links and many Quaker families who were keen to promote hot chocolate drinks as an alternative to alcohol.
During the nineteenth century, the Rowntree’s, Terry’s and Craven families all opened factories and soon began producing popular sweets such as KitKats, Chocolate Oranges, Fruit Pastilles and Quality Street. There is even a museum dedicated to the story of chocolate in the city. Sadly, today there is only one factory still operating in York, but if we are lucky and the wind is blowing in the right direction, the delicious aroma of chocolate still fills the air.
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.