As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Sandstone Press, 21 April 2016. ISBN: 978-1-910124-95-6 (PB)
I do enjoy a good debut, and this is a very good debut, written with
pace, assurance and humour.
Our Hero is Joe Staines, so
named because his Polish grandfather fled to Scotland sixty years ago to escape
marauding Germans, and stuck a pin in a map to choose a name which wouldn’t
give away his family’s origins. The same grandfather would never have believed
his grandson would get mixed up with a family of master criminals – but then
the grandson (Our Hero in case you’re as confused as I was) didn’t really
believe it either. The moral being, take care who you sit beside on your first
day at school.
Nor did he believe the last
scion of that criminal line would leave him all his worldly goods when other
members of the underworld finally caught up with him: a lovely, if somewhat
derelict, house, and a block of flats. There had to be a catch.
Well, of course there was.
Poor Joe spends the entire book staying one step ahead of a man determined to
claim this dubious inheritance, and getting punched, kicked, slashed and
generally abused and rejected along the way.
The result is a fast moving
romp involving an asthmatic alcoholic, a priest, a beautiful woman, a small boy
with a water pistol and assorted villains, interleaved with forays into Joe’s
past which explain how a boy from a respectable lower middle class home ended
up in such parlous circumstances. The ending is a tad inconclusive, and left me
feeling his trials were far from over, but perhaps that was as it should have
The narrative is peopled with
lively characters, some nefarious, others less so, and set against the unlikely
(from a criminal point of view, but who knows?) background of Leith, that most
unassuming of Scottish towns best known for an oft-repeated line about its
police intended to prove the speaker is or isn’t drunk. And of course that line
gets a nod.
I couldn’t help warming to
Joe Staines, even when he was breaking into an apparently deserted building, or
nicking the collection money from the priest’s house. I didn’t really see how
Lesley Kelly could turn this sparkling one-off into a series, but anything’s
possible, and Joe is a protagonist it would be a pity to waste.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Lesley Kellyhas worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the
past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She
has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story
award in 2008.She lives in Edinburgh
with her husband and her two sons.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.