Welcome to Day 27 of our Mystery Book Tour. Please welcome Judith Barrow and her book Pattern Of Shadows.
Where is your home town?
I was born and brought up in a place called Saddleworth; a group of villages at the base of the Pennines. I loved walking across the moors where I watched skylarks, grouse and grey sheep. But for the last thirty-five years have been a happy immigrant in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Lovely coastline here, where I can walk along the coastal path watching seals, seagulls and white sheep.
How long have you been writing?
Forever. But I’ve only been brave enough to let it loose on the public over the last twenty years. I suppose I didn’t want to chance finding out my writing was no good. So I used the excuses that I worked full time, had a family to bring up, was a carer for two elderly relatives, was involved with too many committees. Not forgetting making and selling my novelty cakes. See – Any excuse!
What is your favourite sub-genre of mystery?
Sagas. I love writing family sagas. I’m always intrigued by the intricacies of relationships; the secrets, the ‘unspoken’ – to use a cliché, the ‘skeletons in the cupboard’. And it gives me scope to balance humour and gritty drama. Do love a bit of drama.
Where and when is Pattern Of Shadows set?
Pattern of Shadows was inspired by my research into a disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire and its history of being the first German POW camp in Britain during WW2. As with all my books, so far, Pattern of Shadows is set between Wales and Northern England. I still speak with a strong Lancashire accent and I’ve been told my voice comes through in the book. A compliment … I think?
Please introduce us to Mary.
Mary is a civilian nurse in a hospital attached to the prisoner of war camp, and the main breadwinner of her family. She’s a strong independent woman who loves her work. But she lives within the shadows of her family’s expectations of her – a pattern that rules her life: the acceptance of the responsibility for the spoilt younger sister, the belief that she always needs to protect her eldest brother, a Conscientious Objector, now in Wormwood Scrubs, the dependence of her weak but loving mother, the presence of both her aggressive younger brother and her bullying father in the home. She’s loyal to her dysfunctional family and, on the whole, endures the weight of the demands on her. But she has almost no social life and so, when Frank Shuttleworth appears, she is flattered by his attentions and falls in love with him
Tell us about Frank.
Frank Shuttleworth is not what he seems to be. As a guard at the POW camp he’s been watching Mary for a while and contrives a friendship with her younger brother to be able to approach her On the face of it he is a handsome, genial bloke but underneath he is a possessive and jealous man who resents Mary’s commitment to her work and family. There is also some ambiguity about how he arrived at the camp; a young strong soldier, who was apparently injured at Dunkirk. His hatred for the German is revealed through his cruelty and is exacerbated when a German doctor arrives as a prisoner at the camp.
How would locals have felt about the POW camp?
There were mixed reactions in the town about the POW camp. After the war, many of the local people took prisoners into their homes at Christmas and for other occasions. But, apparently, during the war there were fears that the Germans would escape and murder them in their beds. The die-hard Nazis were especially feared; although many of them were eventually transported to Canada. But some locals did have compassion for the prisoners and would throw cigarettes and food over the fence to them. And, of course, after the war many POWs were unable to go home; either the area where they had lived was obliterated or was within the Russian sector or the men did not want to live under Communism. Many of them went on to marry local girls.
What is the mystery element of this book?
For me, the mystery is what Mary ever sees in Frank. But to be serious, a major crime is committed by one of the characters in the story that changes all the lives of everyone in Mary’s family. The perpetrator is only revealed to the reader at the end of the book but never to any of the other characters. That comes out in the second of the trilogy, Changing Patterns.
Tell us what you are working on at the moment.
I’m editing the third of the Pattern series, which is due out in the autumn of 2015. And I’m also writing another completely different novel which is set around a woman who is a carer for her mother who is an Alzheimer sufferer.
Where can readers find out more about you?
Here I am: