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Saturday 27 May 2017

‘Forgotten Voices’ by Jane A Adams

Published by Severn House,
1 October 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8518-0 (HB)

A small seaside town with a police force of three isn't where you'd expect to find a brutal murder, but then crime fiction, especially the 'cosy' kind, is full of surprises like that. Jane A Adams's Frantham is just such a town, and she has peopled it with a cast of eccentrics as well as those three cops.

Forgotten Voices is part of her contemporary Rina Martin series. Rina herself is a professional actress, a lady of a certain age whose house is a guest house and home to some of those eccentrics. She doesn't play a huge role in this adventure; centre stage is her friend 'Mac' McGregor, the town's detective inspector, who finds himself investigating the murder of a popular young woman.

The book is very much in the tradition of British cosy crime: no violence or graphic description on the page, no hint of drug barons, gangsters or psychopaths. The murderer is a family member, a former boyfriend or a someone with a grudge, much of the action happens off-stage, and the narrative largely consists of witnesses being questioned, family background and local colour.

Sometimes that's all a reader wants. For most people reading crime fiction is a way to relax, and Jane A Adams subscribes to a sub-genre which is undemanding and undisturbing, and has an ultimately satisfactory outcome.

From time to time as I read, I did wish that I was familiar with the rest of the series. There were strong hints which clearly referred back to previous books but offered little information – probably to avoid spoilers, but still a little frustrating for the newbie in Rina Martin's world. I also felt that I was expected to know more about the regular characters than was offered on the page; it took a while to work out who was connected to whom and in what way. But that's what happens when a newcomer arrives in town; it does take a while to settle in and get to know people.

Rina Martin's world is one the author makes easy to visualize: the coffee shop, the promenade, the surrounding countryside and footpaths. The dead woman's farmhouse, particularly, comes across clearly, as does the cottage of a grumpy historian. The characters specific to this case are sharp and recognizable; and if I learned little about Frantham's ongoing inhabitants, I discovered enough to make me want to know them better.

If you're looking for the kind of crime fiction that lets you curl up in an armchair to ponder on  a good puzzle, and get to know characters who feel as though they really could live in a town that really could exist, Forgotten Voices could fit the bill nicely.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Jane A Adams was born in Leicestershire, where she still lives. She has a degree in Sociology, and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist in a folk rock band. She enjoys pen and ink drawing, martial arts and her ambition is to travel the length of the Silk Road by motorbike. Her first book, The Greenway, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award. Jane writes several series.  Her first series featured Mike Croft. Several books featuring DS Ray Flowers. Seven titles featuring blind Naoimi Blake, and six titles featuring Rina Martin. Her most ret series is set between the two World Wars and featuring Detective Inspector Henry Johnstone and his sergeant, Micky Hitchens. Jane has also written several standalone novels. She is married with two children.
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.

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