Pauline Rowson reading one of her books

Popular local crime writer explores why Portsmouth is the perfect scene for her marine mysteries.

  • 01 June 2021
  • 3 min read

When I’m not pounding the keyboard, or plotting my crime novels, I’m walking the coastal paths and by-ways of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, looking for a good place to put a body! A fictional one that is.

I can't pass a boatyard, beach or bay without thinking there must be a dead body or a skeleton here somewhere. One day I’m sure I’m going to be arrested, or locked up, and if that happens then I hope either of my heroes, the enigmatic and flawed Portsmouth based detective, DI Andy Horton, or the rugged ex-marine, Art Marvik, will come to my rescue because, in fact, it would be their fault if I found myself in such an awkward position. 

The sea has always held a fascination for me, probably because I was raised in the coastal city of Portsmouth with its vibrant waterfront, its great contrasts of modern and historic, its diverse multicultural population, international port, historic dockyard, fishing fleet and the home of the Royal Navy. Portsmouth Harbour is one of the busiest in the World and the Solent offers up every kind of sailing vessel you could wish for from giant container ships to ferries, naval ships to leisure craft, fishing boats and even a regular hovercraft service. Once the sea is in your blood it never leaves you and it seemed only natural for me to turn to it for inspiration for my crime novels.

For me setting my crime novels against the backdrop of the sea has many advantages. For one thing it is never constant. In one day alone it can change from being glass-like calm to storm-tossed turbulent thus providing a great backdrop for pace in a novel and great settings for a climax. On the surface it can look perfectly safe and yet underneath, hidden from view, can be a sandbank, a rock, a wreck, a dangerous current all of which can cause havoc and kill, and be used to good effect in a crime novel. The sea is also completely uncontrollable. No matter how much you think or wish you can control it, you can't. You need to respect and fear it. In life sometimes you need to go with the flow and other times to swim against the tide, the trick is knowing when to do which. My detective, Andy Horton, hasn't quite got it sussed, or when he thinks he has something happens to throw him completely off course, just as in life.

The great variety of locations also provides diversity of scenes within a novel. Horton can be on a stony or sandy beach, at an expensive marina or a rotting boatyard, on the police launch in the Solent or crossing on the ferry or the hovercraft from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.

Andy Horton’s patch is Portsmouth and there are plenty of interesting locations around the city to choose where to put a body! I’ve used the fortifications of Old Portsmouth, the Town Camber, Southsea beach, Milton Common, the historic tunnels of Hilsea Lines, Tipner, Portsmouth International Port, the Historic Dockyard and many more in the fifteen novels. There are still many more intriguing and interesting locations around the vibrant waterfront city of Portsmouth to feature, more than enough to keep a crime author scribbling for years, and DI Andy Horton fully occupied until retirement.


Born and raised in Portsmouth, Pauline Rowson draws her inspiration for her critically acclaimed crime novels from the local area. Visit Pauline’s website for details of all her books, news, videos and articles.

This site uses cookies. Click here to view our cookie policy message.

Accept and close