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Friday, 24 October 2014

‘The Murder Tree’ by Alan Veale



Published by Matador, 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-78306-111-2

New Yorker Chrissie Fersen, who only a few months previously was pregnant and in love, has now travelled to Glasgow in Scotland with her brother Edward for a break, following a traumatic time. When Edward is called into work, Chrissie continues her sightseeing alone and wonders into a neighbourhood of elegant three storey houses. Staring at the buildings she experiences a feeling of familiarity. Then in a basement window she sees what can only be a woman being murdered. Running to escape the sight and sounds that surely must be in her head she finds herself in front of a library. She starts by researching murders in Sauchiehall Street going back 50 years.

In the library she meets Billie Vane who helps her by producing back copies of the Glasgow Herald.  Eventually Chrissie tracks the murder back to 1862, and the death of a servant girl.  But what has a murder more than a hundred years ago got to do with her?  How can she recognise a house in Glasgow when she has never visited Glasgow before? These two unlikely people seek the truth to the murder. But as they investigate to find the truth they put themselves in danger. Could the events of the past have tentacles linking to the current day?

Thus intriguing and absorbing this mystery contains a fey element that captivated this reader’s attention. Well-written with good characterisation this fascinating mystery will keep you turning the pages.
Highly recommended.
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Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Alan Veale says it was around twenty years ago that I first read a book by Christianna Brand entitled Heaven Knows Who. This was a contemporary account of the trial of Jessie McLachlan, and the events preceding it. I was immediately struck by the dramatic 'twists' in this factual story, and by the intriguing questions it posed about who had really committed the crime. Because it was a true story, it struck me that there would undoubtedly be descendants alive today who may even be ignorant of the involvement of their infamous ancestors - and that prompted the creative instinct within me to look at the potential to write another version of the story, but from a modern day viewpoint. But my writing experience was limited to the theatre, and I could not think of a practical way to put such a drama on the stage, so I put the project to the back of my mind for a while. Along came children, other projects and lots of new challenges, but I never lost interest in Jessie's story (as I liked to call it), and at one time I tried to write a screenplay version - even taking my research as far as a visit to the murder scene in the mid 1990's. The project never properly got off the ground though, and it was not until I took early retirement from the civil service in 2009 that I felt the time had come for a serious attempt at turning the story into a novel. It took another year before I hit the keyboard properly, and several more visits to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness (plus a holiday in New York) to complete the necessary research.
Promoting The Murder Tree began in earnest on 16 October with a launch in my adopted home town of Lytham. Independent booksellers Plackitt & Booth hosted an evening event complete with
alcohol... Talks in libraries have followed, with enthusiastic readers keen to question me about every aspect of writing and publishing. Glasgow is also getting a lot of free publicity! For more information, visit my web page:

www.themurdertree.com.

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