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EVENT REVIEW: Jane Housham: The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane

20 October 2017

14th October

Palace Green Library

Review by Victoria Simpson

The stereotypical image of authors is that they are pretentious, pompous and a bit more proud of themselves than they should be but Jane Housham was the exact opposite of that.

Sasha de Buyl chaired the event and it started like many others have started throughout the book festival: by giving a summary of Jane Housham’s new book The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane. Like Housham said at the event, she was going to be very clear not to mention any spoilers and I shall abide by that message too. The novel is all about a real murder that took place and Housham has compiled newspaper reports and court reports to create a story that follows the crime and reveals more than was ever known at the time. Showing the complexity of the plotline, she described the writing process as “like a jigsaw where the pieces aren’t in the same box”.

Joined by a temperamental slideshow, she showed pictures of the places in the book, including a map of the killer’s movements and the paths used to allow the murder to take place. Interestingly all of this took place very close to the book festival’s location, in the Northern town of Gateshead. This presentation was accompanied by her reading extracts from the book.

Housham also explained the reason she was drawn to this exact crime, as it turns out her maiden name is Carr and the book is all about the Carr Hill murder. She also recounted one of her most prominent memories of Durham when she came here as a teenager. Secretly she’d arranged to meet up with a boy but once she arrived there it turned out he’d never shown up in the first place! It was this honesty and self-deprecation which created a great connection between her and the audience; it felt more like she was talking to you, rather than at you.

The event ended with a Q&A from the audience where she carefully answered some questions about the incidents that occurred in the book, spoiler-free thankfully!

Cuckoo Review is an arts journalism programme for young writers aged 15-23. Through the Cuckoo Reviewers in Residence programme at Durham Book Festival, young people have reviewed festival events and books, and have interviewed featured authors. For more information about Cuckoo Review visit review.cuckoowriters.com.