Next week sees the publication of the High John the Conqueror, the captivating latest novel by award-winning Wiltshire novelist Tariq Goddard. Set in ‘Wessex’ in 2016, it starts with the mysterious disappearance of teenagers from local council estates. These strange beginnings lead the book’s police detective protagonists to even stranger conclusions, guiding them into an underworld of hallucinatory plants and mysterious rituals.

Tariq’s Wessex is ever so slightly different from that of Thomas Hardy’s. Instead, the vibe and feel of his novel takes inspiration from TV dramas such as Twin Peaks and True Detective – particularly the latter’s ground-breaking first series, which memorably depicted Louisiana through a mixture of gritty police procedural and occult undertones. Tariq’s novel similarly intermingles crime and literary fiction, all pulled together with a supernatural twist.

I first met Tariq twenty years ago, when we both read at the same event for debut novelists in London. Many moons later, we both independently moved west, reacquainting our friendship after a chance meeting in the glamour of Salisbury Central Car Park. Tariq has been living in Wiltshire for fourteen years now, and although he has written three novels in his time here (in between running publisher Repeater Books), this is the first he has set locally.

Like any good writer, there is a restlessness to Tariq’s work – his previous books have tackled everything from horror to the country-house novel. But for perhaps for the first time, there is a grounding underpinning his fiction. Although born in London, our region is now firmly ‘home’ for Tariq. He knew for a while that he wanted to write a book set here, but realised he needed to live it first, soaking it up and understanding its atmosphere.

‘There is a suggestion that everywhere evens out in the end,’ Tariq suggested, when I caught up with him last week. ‘It doesn’t. This book couldn’t be set in Peterborough.’ For Tariq, there is a uniqueness in our locality, an unusual combination of landscape and mystery unequalled elsewhere. What his novel does extremely well (among other things), is to bring out the side of rural life that fiction often misses.

Descriptions of the countryside in fiction commonly veers towards the chocolate box. But real rural life has many hidden corners and darker secrets. Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground, which won the Costa Novel Prize last year, also tapped into some of this, with its depictions of rural poverty and lives left behind.

Tariq, like Claire Fuller, understands that just because rural deprivation isn’t visible, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. This might be the first of his novels set in the ‘weird wild West of England’, as he describes it, but is unlikely to be his last.