The Trail

By James Ellson

A missing person enquiry leads Manchester DCI Rick Castle to Nepal.

Crime | Fiction
110% funded
306 supporters

Publication date: February 2020

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The Trail is a crime thriller. A missing person enquiry set in Nepal.

The Trail starts in Manchester. DCI Rick Castle is inspecting his bees when his boss phones. It’s his day off. Missing is 25 year old Calix Coniston. He’s a minor cannabis dealer. Rick shuts up the beehive, and goes to interview Calix’s parents.

Calix’s father is a Brigadier in the Ghurkhas.  Calix won a competition, the prize a trekking expedition in Nepal. He’s gone missing on the trek.

Rick flies to Nepal, and heads up the trail. Villages of friendly children and prayer flags. Gompas, dharma, dal baht. Bright blue skies, and white-capped mountains. A dead body.

Then a second.

The Trail is told from two alternating points of view, DCI Rick Castle and Calix Coniston. Rick is having psychotherapy. His dad has dementia and his sister is getting married. He develops feelings for Maggie, a police analyst. Calix is a loner, a dreamer. He’s got a parrot called Bird Bird.

We find out where Calix is, and what’s happened . . . what Calix thinks has happened.

And, slowly, Rick uncovers a conspiracy which stretches forward and back in Nepalese geopolitical history.

The Trail is a work of fiction, but casts a spotlight on the hundreds of Nepalese workers who’ve died in the last decade.

Early praise for The Trail:

Paula Hawkins (Girl On The Train)

"Intelligent and pacy thriller . . . a taut, keenly-observed tale of revenge, perseverance and the struggle against injustice."

Stephen Booth (Cooper and Fry crime fiction series)

"The Trail is a stunning debut from an exciting new addition to the world of crime fiction. Ellson combines depth of characterisation and authentic police procedural detail with a talent for evoking a sense of place, particularly in his vivid portrayal of Nepal. An original plot lifts Ellson's first book above the level of most contemporary crime novels. And readers will be longing to hear more from his complex protagonist DCI Rick Castle."


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51 pledges


eBook edition
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1st edition paperback, eBook edition
  • James Ellson avatar

    James Ellson

    James Ellson was a police officer for 15 years, starting in London and finishing as a DI at Moss Side in Manchester. When he left the police he started writing and has been writing ever since. Six manuscripts including a memoir, From Cop to Coppicer.

    He’s currently working on the sequel to The Trail.

    James was a keen climber and mountaineer, and has visited Nepal many times. In 2004 he climbed 6812 metre Ama Dablam, and in 2008 soloed the Matterhorn.

    He now lives on a smallholding in the Peak District with his wife. They grow fruit and veg, and keep chickens and bees. James’s passion is apple trees, and he’s aiming for 100 varieties. He runs tours of the smallholding, provides courses, and gives talks on self-sufficiency and apples.

  • War memorial 5 mins

    Calix shoved the phone in his pocket, opened the car door and climbed out into the dark and the rain. In the distance he heard a burglar alarm and sirens, the muzak of Manchester.

    On his face the cold rain felt like stabs of electricity. It suited him. Encouraged hoods up and heads down, discouraged hanging about. He looked around. Two lines of sardine-parked cars, a few spindly trees and an army of black and brown wheelie-bins. A flickering street-light revealed the slant of the rain. Behind the cars were small gardens and quiet houses. TV-blue seeped from windows.

    No movement, no voices.

    Too quiet?

    On the car’s passenger side he popped the small square flap and pulled it open. No petrol cap. Instead, there was a compartment half the size of a shoebox. Bespoke and expensive, but a business had to be invested in to be successful – before long he’d be getting a government-sponsored trainee. In the compartment was a plastic bag. Smaller bags inside. He removed one bag and pushed the flap shut.

    He walked around the back of the car, hopped up onto the pavement and headed for the meet. His last delivery of the evening and so far no problems. No IOUs, no photocopied notes, no ‘These are my five mates from the football club’. The word delivery made him think of milkmen. Trudging around the streets clinking their bottles while everyone else got on with their lives. He was a modern milkman with a crap gig of a job. No holiday or sick pay, not even a Christmas party. A violent boss to answer to. But only temporary and good money while he waited for something better to come along.

    Maybe something just had.

  • 4th August 2020 Nominations, and prizes!

    Hope you and your families are keeping well. We’re living in strange times.

    Lockdown scuppered my book tour which has been frustrating, but a lot of people of course have had far worse to deal with.

    However, this week has brought better news: The Trail has been nominated and longlisted for two awards.

    First, Not The Booker run by The Guardian. See…

    20th February 2020 Publication Day!

    I’m having a crazy day! M.E.N. photographer just left, my book’s now on display in Manchester Waterstones, I've received 150 Twitter messages, and the chickens have laid 9 eggs!

    Thanks for all your support. It’s been a fascinating journey – and now I can start worrying about the sequel!

    Hope to see some of you at the various events of my Book Tour. In addition to the above dates, I should be…

    28th January 2020 Book Tour and Reviews

    Dear supporters

    Thanks for all the great messages, calls, and photos you’ve sent over the last 10 days. They mean so much to me.

    The Trail gets published on 20 Feb, so please spread the word. Available to order in bookshops, and on Amazon.

    And if you have a spare moment, please add a review on Amazon (after 20 Feb), Good Reads, Love Reading.

    I now have a 19 date book tour (and hopefully…

    6th January 2020 Happy New Year!

    Dear supporters

    Hope you had a good Christmas, and best wishes for 2020.

    It's starting with a bang for me! My book will shortly be delivered to you - about a month before the official publishing date at the end of February.

    I thought you may be interested in the first reviews:

    Paula Hawkins (Girl On The Train)

    "Intelligent and pacy thriller . . . a taut, keenly-observed tale of revenge…

    5th November 2019 The Copy Edit

    Dear Supporters

    The book should be out in the spring!

    I’m now in the last stage of the copy edit, a process far less daunting than the structural edit. The aim is to remove continuity errors (for example, a yellow car becomes a red car), check the formatting, and to generally polish.

    The manuscript is now locked so I can only suggest revisions to Mary (my copy editor); however, I have the…

    23rd September 2019 The structural edit

    Dear Supporters

    Hope you’re well and had a good summer.

    Sorry for the update silence – I’ve been beavering with the structural edit.

                    When I hit 100% funding, Unbound assigned me an editor. She read my manuscript and then sent me a 36 page document with ‘things you might want to consider’! I went to bed thinking, No Way, but in the morning set to work. It took me four weeks…

    7th July 2019 It’s going to happen!

    Yes, we’ve done it! Hit 100% funding so it’s really going to happen.

    THANK YOU for all your fantastic pledges.

    The supporters list reads like a Who’s Who in my life, starting from Rob and Andy in nursery school, numerous schoolfriends and teachers at Whitgift, friends from Cambridge, police officers (from Hendon, and people I’ve worked with in the Met and in GMP), mountaineers from our expedition…

    16th June 2019 How detectives investigate

    We’re approaching the longest day of the year and the beans and potatoes are growing (and so are the weeds). We’re also approaching 80 per cent funding for The Trail which is brilliant. THANK YOU! I have been very touched by the breadth and depth of support.

    One big difference between The Trail and most crime thrillers is that I didn’t need to research being a detective. The result is a crime thriller…

    23rd May 2019 We've reached halfway

    Dear Supporters

    We’ve hit 50 per cent in under 3 weeks which is fantastic. THANK YOU! Supporters of The Trail now include friends and family, neighbours, our electrician, the guy who fixed my computer, and even my old English teacher! Most encouraging of all, they now include strangers.

    I’m writing this at my desk, listening to the cuckoo in the wood opposite.

    Another question I’ve been asked…

    6th May 2019 And we're off!

    Dear Supporters

    The BH weekend is drawing to a close. It’s been sunny here in the Peak District, and the honeybees have been collecting brick-red pollen from the horse chestnut tree. The blossom on the apple trees looks promising.

                    A BIG thank you to everyone who has supported The Trail so far. The book has reached 15% funding in the first five days which is a great start.

  • These people are helping to fund The Trail.

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    Robert Eardley

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  • Jonathan Bravo
    Jonathan Bravo asked:

    Thanks for the book.

    James Ellson
    James Ellson replied:

    Hi Jonathan Thanks for getting in touch. Glad you're looking forward to it! Kind Regards James