THIS week sees the publication of Shallow Ground, the first in a new series of books by crime and thriller writer Andy Maslen. Set in and around Salisbury, the book is the second set in the local area to be published in the last few months. In the autumn, crime writer Louisa de Lange released Nowhere to Be Found, the latest in her DS Kate Munro series located in Southampton and the New Forest.

Creating a sense of place when you’re writing fiction is always important, but especially so when it comes to crime. A strong setting offers the reader mood and atmosphere, with the novel’s location serving as an additional character in the novel. Think of a crime series and more often than not, the location is immediate: Morse and Oxford, Rebus and Edinburgh, Wallander and Ystad. Perhaps the best crime book I’ve read this year has been Attica Locke’s Heaven, My Home, which makes full use of its setting in America’s Deep South, layering in not just the locations but interweaving its history into the storytelling as well.

“I always get a nice thrill when I spot somewhere in a book I know,” Louisa told me when we caught up earlier in the week. “So I hope the reader will get that enjoyment too.” She described how Nowhere to Be Found begins at the lake at Ellingham, somewhere she knows well from swimming there in the summer. It’s one of many local places that feature in her books: Southampton Common, Bedford Place and Portswood also play a role.

“Readers want to feel that this could all happen – not just to them,” Andy explained to me. “So rooting the action in a “somewhere” is key”. Andy describes Salisbury Cathedral as ‘always there as a looming presence’, with Salisbury District Hospital and Bourne Hill Police Station also key scenes. I asked both writers how they went about bringing their settings to life. “I walk my dog round the city and the fields to the south and can honestly say I’ve visited every scene in person,” Andy said. Louisa also visits the places she writes about: “I always get the first draft down, and then I go on a research trip to the locations – taking photos and spending some time gauging the little details, like the sounds and smells.”

It is clear with both authors that they are always on the look out for a good location. “I see body dumps everywhere!” Andy laughed. “I spend far too much time imagining spooky woods, quiet country roads, dead bodies nestling under trees,” Louisa agreed. That dark imagination and research has reaped its reward, in two atmospheric crime series well worth investigating.