A RESPECTED journalist and author has published a detective novel which is set in Victorian Mersea Island.

The Turnglass is a tête-bêche novel, where two books with intertwined plots are printed back-to-back.

The genius of the format means the two books, written by Guardian journalist Gareth Rubin, can be read concurrently or one after the other.

The first is set in the fictional island of Ray in the 1880s, though Mr Rubin’s description of the island is based on visits to Mersea in 2020.

There, a young doctor is called to the island to treat his sickly cousin who thinks he is being poisoned by his sister-in-law, a lady called Florence.

The second book tells the story of the mysterious death of a celebrated author, Oliver Tooke, who is found dead in his writing hut.

Suspicious about the suggestion Mr Tooke would take his own life, the author’s friend Ken Kourian investigates the surroundings of his death, and discovers the subsequent secret incarceration of his mother, Florence.

Mr Rubin, whose novel was published in the UK on Thursday, explained why he decided to set the novel in Mersea Island.

He said: “I quite like the idea of setting the story on Mersea because it was this this weird, coastal, tidal island, cut off from the rest of the world.

"What more could you want for a setting?”

Given much of Mr Rubin’s research took place whilst Covid restrictions were still in force, chances to experience what Mersea Island was truly like were limited.

“Sabine Bearing Goul, who was a local vicar in the 1880s, wrote this smuggling tale which was very useful because it described the geography and the nature of the place at the time – that was good research to have.

“But I couldn’t go into shops, and I couldn’t go in the Peldon Rose Inn which figures quite a lot in the book – I had to peer in like some 18th century waif."

When it comes to the novel’s reception, Mr Rubin says he has been in the writing and media industry long enough to know how to take criticism.

“It’s very unusual for an author to have 100 percent praise or condemnation. I have been a journalist for 25 years now, so I have had a lot of feedback from editors and publishers and I have got used to it.”

The Turnglass, published on Thursday, is available on Amazon for £15.63.