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From Richard Osman's The Bullet That Missed to Dickens: Books with Kent theme you could gift this Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and with it that age-old dilemma of what to buy for presents.

So for that personalised touch, why not gift a book with a Kentish theme?

Why not gift a book this Christmas?
Why not gift a book this Christmas?

Richard Osman – The Bullet That Missed

All the rage at the moment is the latest book by Richard Osman.

Best known as the co-host of the Pointless TV quiz show, Mr Osman is also a talented TV producer and comedian.

He was for 20 years the creative director of the television production company Endemol, working on shows like Eight Out Of Ten Cats, and Deal Or No Deal. He has also appeared on countless panel shows.

He has previously written TV scripts, but in the last few years he has turned his hand to writing novels.

Author and TV personality Richard Osman
Author and TV personality Richard Osman

The Bullet That Missed, published in September, is the third in his Thursday Murder Club series.

Mr Osman was born in Essex, grew up at Cuckfield in West Sussex, went to University at Cambridge, and now lives in London, so quite where he got his knowledge of Kent from is a mystery, but all three stories are set in the county.

The protagonists are a group of elderly friends who live at the Cooper's Chase retirement village in "the Kentish Weald."

They pass the time by solving murders, with the help of two friendly police officers whom they have recruited.

Real places in Kent are referenced - Tunbridge Wells, Whitstable, Faversham, Ashford, Folkestone and Maidstone - and even the local paper the Kent Messenger gets an honourable mention, along with Kent County Council and Radio Kent.

Richard Osman's third novel
Richard Osman's third novel

But part of the fun is trying to work out just where Mr Osman has in mind with the places that he has given a fictitious name to.

Is his seaside town of Fairhaven really Hastings or somewhere on the Kent coast?

The Bullet That Missed is full of quirky humour and astute observations about the peculiar concerns of the elderly - plus a warning to not to write them off.

Expect a gentle romp rather than the action-packed adventure of a Lee Childs novel - although Lee Childs, according to all reports, is a big fan.

The Bullet That Missed is published by Penguin and is available in hardback at £20. ISBN 9780241512425.

Why not gift a book this Christmas?
Why not gift a book this Christmas?

Charles Dickens – Great Expectations

Charles Dickens of course is an author inextricably bound up with Kent.

He grew up in Sheerness and Chatham and as an adult lived (and died) at Gadds Hill Place in Higham.

Many of his novels are set in Kent, so this is rather a random choice, but why not try Great Expectations?

There can be few people who don't know the story of the orphaned child Pip who has a frightening encounter with an escaped convict on the marshes and later in life is set on the path to becoming a gentleman by an anonymous benefactor, whom Pip wrongly assumes to be the reclusive Miss Haversham.

However, most people probably know the tale from one of the many film versions and it is an even better story in the book.

Charles Dickens. Picture courtesy of Colin Varrall
Charles Dickens. Picture courtesy of Colin Varrall

A tale of poverty, prison hulks, unrequited love, ungraciousness and assumed snobbery, there are also many comic moments.

Afterwards, the reader can have the pleasure of visiting Restoration House in Rochester, which Dickens used as the model for Miss Haversham's Satis House, although curiously there is also a real Satis House nearby.

Then they can also go and visit the real-life St James' Church in Cooling, where Pip first encountered Magwitch in the churchyard.

Great Expectations is published by Penguin Clothbound Classics in hardback for £14.99. ISBN: 9780141040363.

Miss Haversham's house in Rochester
Miss Haversham's house in Rochester

Julie Wassmer – The Whitstable Pearl Mystery

Julie Wassmer was born a Londoner, but more than 20 years ago she decided to make Whitstable her home.

Her first career was as a TV script writer she worked on London's Burning and spent 20 years with EastEnders.

But she has now turned her hand to fiction.

Following the old adage that its best to write about what you know, she set her first novel, published in 2015, in Whitstable.

Author Julie Wassmer
Author Julie Wassmer

Called The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, it features many recognisable locations: The Old Neptune pub, the beach huts at Tankerton, Whitstable Harbour and Starboard Light Alley to name but a few.

Her heroine, Pearl Nolan, is appropriately enough for Whitstable a seafood restaurateur, but one who would much rather have been a detective.

When on the eve of Whitstable’s annual oyster festival she finds the drowned body of oyster fisherman Vinnie Rowe weighted down with an anchor chain, she gets her chance to become one.

You could just as well make a present of any of Ms Wassmer's books, but since once your reader discovers them, he or she is bound to want to read the whole series you might as well start them off with the first one.

The books have now also been turned into at a TV series called Whitstable Pearl, which airs on the Acorn streaming channel.

The Whitstable Pearl Mystery is published by Constable in paperback for £9.99. ISBN: 9781472118998.

William South – The Birdwatcher

William Shaw at Dungeness
William Shaw at Dungeness

William Shaw lives in Brighton, but we will forgive him that because he has done so much to put Kent on the literary map and, in particular, one often-overlooked part of Kent: Dungeness.

He has set all four novels in his series featuring his female heroine Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi on Romney Marsh.

But actually for the perfect Christmas gift, we suggest you try his stand-alone novel The Birdwatcher, which introduces Cupidi, but whose main character is Sergeant William South.

Actually, Shaw might disagree with us there.

He said that he chose Dungeness as the setting for the book because the landscape was as big a character as his protagonists.

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw is set around Dungeness
The Birdwatcher by William Shaw is set around Dungeness

This is a somewhat darker and more suspenseful tale than the other reads.

The core of the story is that Sgt South may seem like a mild-mannered man whose main hobby is watching the migrating birds on the Kent coastline, but in reality he is himself a murderer.

And when he is asked to investigate a new murder, he discovers disturbing links to his secret past which slowly begins to unravel.

The Birdwatcher is published by Querrcus in paperback for £8.99. ISBN 9781784297244.

There, that's four presents solved.

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