Raise the Blade locations: 2 – City Centre Gardens

This is a really dull name for a surprising little space tucked away behind some of Birmingham’s most well-known buildings.

Follow an unprepossessing alley-way between the new city library and the white bulk of Baskerville House and you come to an unappealing (if useful) multi-storey car park on the corner of Cambridge Street. So far, so ordinary, as are the high-rise blocks of flats beyond.

But just across the road from the car park is a small, but surprisingly attractive, city park. It must only measure around a quarter of an acre, if that, but it includes shrubs, trees, manicured lawns, flowerbeds, and a circular pillar-thing in the middle with more flowers inside.

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Annoyingly, I can’t find out a single thing online about the gardens or their history. How big are they? Who designed them? When were they opened? Are they on the site of a special building, landmark, or former park? I have no idea, which is quite frustrating. If anyone knows anything about them, please pass it on in the comments here because I’d love to know.

The paths are lined with benches and in good weather it’s a favourite lunchtime hang-out for office workers and staff from the nearby International Convention Centre/Symphony Hall complex, as well as locals and a scatter of visitors who’ve tripped over it.

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And it’s a lunchtime sandwich that proves pivotal for Nigel, the second victim in ‘Raise the Blade’. Noticing a foul smell, and realising it doesn’t come from his sarnie, he and colleague Vannie track it down to the space between their bench and the encircling wall.

‘Over there’ proved to be behind them, in the narrow space between bench and road, bounded by thick bushes and a low stone wall. At first, craning over the back of the bench, he couldn’t see anything that might be causing the niff. Then, behind a thicket of twiggy stems he caught a glimpse: black plastic, something spilling out.

When I visited last year to take some photos, the bench that best illustrates this was occupied by a couple of teenagers making out. Not wanting to look like I was taking an unhealthy interest in them, I snapped the benches further along instead. They don’t match the description in the book quite as well, but hopefully it gives some idea of the scene…

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As for hiding the body in the first place, well, this is an out-of-the-way corner but with main roads only yards away. After dark there’s probably not many people about, and there’s that multi-storey car park just across the road… Perfect for offloading, and either dragging the body in through the nearest entrance, or for someone strong, even lobbing it straight over the wall.

It put Nigel off his lunch, and caused him a bit of bother afterwards. But if you’re in this area of Birmingham with a few minutes to kill, make the effort to track the gardens down. And head to my website if you want to find out more about Nigel, the bodies, and ‘Raise the Blade’.

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Location shots

Several months ago, you may remember I shot off to Birmingham to take some photos of the locations I’d used in ‘Raise the Blade’.  They came out remarkably well and I was able to use some of them for a display at the book launch, which seemed to be quite popular.

Now, for those of you who couldn’t be at the launch, I’m posting some of them on here, complete with appropriate snippets from the book itself.  Hopefully it’ll give a better idea of the various settings I used, and the atmosphere.  Although I have to say it’s very hard to drum up spooky evening atmosphere in Highbury Park on a gloriously sunny morning… but you’ll just have to blame the weather for that!  Best laid plans…

Anyway, here, in no particular order, are the shots:

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Edgbaston Reservoir: The property backed onto the reservoir, so presumably that fence in the distance, beyond the clump of conifers, was where Brian had got in…

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City Centre Gardens: ‘Over there’ proved to be behind them, in the narrow space between bench and road, bounded by thick bushes and a low brick wall…

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Birmingham & Worcester canal: …stuck on the towpath with nothing but trees for miles.  Or at least that’s what it looked like, although in reality they were only a mile or so from the centre of town…

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Highbury Park: It was quiet tonight.  A duck quacked, and out in the water something plopped, but there was nobody else about…

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“Floyd Road, Hall Green” (not a real location, but might look something like this): The house looked ordinary enough – one neat semi in among all the rest.