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Saturday 12 August 2017

‘Shake Hands or Die’ by Michael Northey

Published by Troubador Publishing Ltd,
28 February 2017. 
ISBN: 978 178 5898 372

Shake Hands or Die is unusual for a crime novel in that there is simply not a single really nasty person to be had amongst the quirky and whimsical inhabitants of the charming cathedral city of Hillford. Even the ambitious young journalist, Fred Vestal, who manages to get himself drowned in garden rubbish, is greatly loved by his Danish wife and is not really hated by anybody. 

Fred has come down from London to make his mark and revitalize the local rag.  When Father John, the much-loved, Vicar of Saint Martha’s church, stages an uninhibited children’s play involving a scantily dressed female in his church, Fred grabs his chance and pillories the vicar in the local press.  He causes a sensation by accusing Father John of corrupting the young.

When Fred is found dead in the church’s compost heap Father John immediately becomes the number one suspect for Fred’s murder - an accusation that Father John seems strangely reluctant to deny.

DI Mark Ellis, Sergeant Helen Roper and the unconventional Chief Superintendent Barbara Smalledge investigate Fred’s death.  CS Smalledge sees all, drops hints, but says little about the unofficial, extra-curricular activities of her two junior officers. Indeed, strong women who guide weak, but affable men feature prominently in this book. Another Barbara also occupies a senior role, this time as a lovable Archdeacon. This Barbara twists everybody, including Bishop Edward, round her little finger. Not to be outdone, Father John has a strong-minded girlfriend, Kate, who keeps him sane when he is accused of murder.

Lighthearted and entertaining though this book might be, serious issues are also touched upon. Those who relish clerical mysteries that are not too bloodthirsty should enjoy reading this book and discovering why Father John won't shake hands with anybody.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Michael Northey is an active Kent County Councillor to around 13000 constituents, a position he had held since 2005. Before this he taught English and Latin in a secondary school. He currently lives in Canterbury with his wife.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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