WHAT better time to delve into the depths of a novel is there than during the coldest winter months?

With a national lockdown preventing us from getting out and about as much as we normally would, we have put together a list of five famous novels which are all set in Essex for you to enjoy.

1. The Essex Serpant

This award-winning novel, by Sarah Perry, follows the newly widowed Cora who relocated from London to an Essex village intrigued by a local superstition that a mythical creature has returned to the area.

Perry’s Gothic tale is based on a legend of a serpent, once said to roam the marshes close by to the village of Henham, near Saffron Walden.

Weaving in religion and science, as well as tantalising references to various places in Essex, including Colchester and the Blackwater Estuary, it tells the story of Cora, who after moving to the Essex countryside investigates rumours of a serpent causing the deaths of several villagers.

The book went on to win the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 beating competition from the likes of JK Rowling, and was shortlisted for perhaps the biggest prize in fiction, the Costa Book Award.

2. Cover Her Face

The 1962 crime novel details the investigations into the death of a young, ambitious maid, surrounded by a family which wants her to disappear.

The book, written by P.D James, opens with a dinner party hosted at a medieval manor house in the fictional Essex village of Chadfleet.

3. The Restless Dead

The Restless Dead is the fifth novel in a crime series by author Simon Beckett.

The series revolves around Doctor David Hunter and this particular book, which was first published in 2017, starts when Dr Hunter receives an unexpected call from a detective in Essex about recovering a body from some tidal mudflats.

He leaps at the opportunity to work for the police again and later discovers the body is thought to be that of a wealthy young man who went missing.

The book is set on the coast of Essex with an estuary and its many inlets and narrow waterways.

An exact location in the county is not officially revealed in the novel though.

Mysteries – and bodies – start to pile up with Dr Hunter becoming all too close to some of the major suspects.

4. The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk

This novel is a simple parable on the power of love and friendship set against a bleak backdrop of war.

It was first published in 1940 in The Saturday Evening Post by the American author Paul Gallico, who later released a more detailed version in 1941.

It follows the growth of a friendship between an artist living in an abandoned lighthouse in the marshlands of Essex, and a young local girl.

A snow goose is found wounded by the young girl and as the friendship between her and the artist blossoms, the bird is nursed back to health and revisits the lighthouse in its migration for several years.

When the girl grows up the artists becomes lost in the Dunkirk evacuation, having saved hundreds of men.

Later on, a German pilot destroys the lighthouse and all of the artist’s work, except a portrait of the young girl with a wounded snow goose in her arms.

5. When God Was A Rabbit

Sarah Winman’s award-winning novel was first released in 2011.

The book won the author a variety of accolades, including New Writer of the Year in the Galaxy National Book Awards.

It was also chosen by TV presenters Richard and Judy in their 2011 Summer Book Club.

The book follows the life of a young girl – known as Elly – as she grows up in Essex.

When she gets older, she moves to Cornwall and meets a host of friends along the way.

The novel is named after a pet rabbit called God given to Elly by her brother.

In general, the book focuses on love in all forms surrounding Elly.