“They were at the southern end of a long sweep of beach, about four miles long. At the northern end it swung into a narrow promontory where the lighthouse stood, almost lost to view in the haze … Julie stopped again. There was that salt breeze that you only ever get by the sea.”
- Hidden Depths, Ann Cleeves
Authors write from their imagination, but they also write from what they know—especially the places they’ve been. As a two-time Smithsonian Journeys traveler on their mystery tours, I’ve walked through Morse’s Oxford, Dalgliesh’s London, and Rebus’ Scotland. On one particular blustery day in September, a group of us found ourselves gingerly negotiating a British stile for the first time and walking a deserted beach—almost the very same described by British author Ann Cleeves, who sets some of her books in the windswept coastal villages of Northumberland.
It was a simple thing, but for our mystery buff group, it was an adventure—not the usual type of tourist activity. And that’s what sets these tours apart. Let others walk the museums, our mystery buffs will walk the moors of The Hound of Baskervilles, or find the spot amid the Oxford colleges (at least approximately) where Lord Peter Wimsey proposes to Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night. At the right time, Study Leader Rosalind Hutchison will whip out a book from her voluminous briefcase and read the appropriate passage, putting us at the scene of the crime, as it were.