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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

‘Constable on Trial’ by Nicholas Rhea

Published by Robert Hale,
31 March 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7198-1814-1

Many people are familiar with the television series Heartbeat, which was based on Nicholas Rhea's series of Constable books. These books are written in an autobiographical, First Person style, with the narrating character called the same name as the author's pseudonym, Nick Rhea. Constable on Trial is a prequel to that series. It covers the time when Police Constable Nick Rhea first joined the police and spends some months 'on trial' as a junior member of CID. The book describes some of the incidents in the young officer's day-to-day routine. Many of the crimes are trivial puzzles to be solved, like who is stealing an old man's garden spades or taking a young woman's fancy knickers from her washing line, but even these have to be treated with consideration and an appropriate solution worked out. Other crimes could be more serious, like the sleeping baby left in a car and abducted by a car thief, or the theft of a makeshift hearse complete with corpse. The theme running through the whole book is when (and if) young Acting Detective Constable Rhea is going to make his first arrest as a member of CID.

The tone of the book is gentle, humorous and anecdotal, totally non-threatening, even when dealing with the escapades of violent criminals or investigation into a murder. The book introduces many characters familiar to readers of the Constable books and to viewers of Heartbeat. The books are written by a retired police inspector and especially fascinating are the details of policing in the years just after the Second World War. Constable on Trial is a very pleasant read, perfectly suited for those who do not like their crime stories too violent.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Nicolas Rhea is only one of the six pseudonyms under which Peter Walker has written around 130 books in the last 40 years. He was born the son of an insurance agent and a teacher in 1936 in the North York Moors village of Glaisdale. The oldest of three children he won a scholarship to Whitby Grammar School but left at 16 to become a police cadet. In 1956, he joined the North Yorkshire force as a beat bobby in Whitby. He also began to write seriously after years of casual interest, having his first short story published in the Police Review.
Three years later he moved to the region's Police Headquarters at Northallerton before being posted to Oswaldkirk, about 20 miles north of York, as the village bobby in 1964. He then became an instructor at the police training school in 1967, the same year as his first novel, Carnaby and the Hijackers, was published. He was promoted to sergeant in 1968 and inspector in 1976, when he was also appointed Press and Public Relations Officer. He retired in 1982 after 30 years' service to concentrate on his writing, encouraged by an interest in his Constable books from Yorkshire Television. Nicholas Rhea still writes full-time. He lives with his wife in a quiet North Yorkshire village.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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