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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Published by the British
Library Crime Classics, 10 August 2018. ISBN: 978 0 7123 5241 3 (PB)
This book, now available in the British Library Crime
Classics Series, was first published in 1932 by George G. Harrap & Co. The
author, Ellen Wilkinson, had been elected to Parliament in 1924 and had been
one of the first of the very few women M.P.s (and the only woman on the Labour
benches) to be elected. However, when she lost her seat in 1931, she was faced
with the necessity of earning a living and turned to various forms of writing
including the overwhelmingly popular crime fiction genre.
The story begins with
the protagonist, Conservative M.P. Robert West, Parliamentary Private Secretary
to the Home Secretary, who is waiting for his friend, Donald Shaw, whom he will
be taking to dinner in the most elegant of the various dining-rooms available
for entertaining. However, they have to cut the dinner short because Robert has
to take part in an important vote and it is while they are passing along the
corridor where the Home Secretary is dining tete-a-tete with the American
multi-millionaire Georges Oissel who it is hoped will provide a
desperately-needed loan to help the country out of the financial morass
resulting from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the consequent Great
Depression which had led to so much unemployment and desperate poverty. But as
the division bell rings out, there is the sound of a shot from the room where
the Home Secretary had been dining with Oissel. The Home Secretary had, like
Robert, had to leave for a few minutes to vote so Oissel had been alone for a
few minutes. And during those few minutes, he had, so it first appears,
committed suicide. After all, there was a recently-fired revolver nearby. But
why should Oissel have committed suicide? And in such a manner, and at such a
time? Oissel’s granddaughter, the beautiful Annette, is convinced it would have
been completely out of character. And then it appears that the medical evidence
shows that Oissel did not after all shoot himself. But in that case, by whom?
Although the inquiry is headed up by the police in the shape of Inspector
Blackitt Robert is drawn into the search to uncover the truth, not just out of
a natural desire to know, but by his growing attraction to Annette. Others also
become involved such as Robert’s friend Don, the journalist Sancroft, Annette’s
current beau Philip Kinnaird, Sir George Gleeson, the top Home Office civil
servant, the young Labour M.P. Gracie Richards and the older Conservative M.P.
Ivy, Lady Bell-Clinton. And there is, of course, a missing note-book. And
All this adds up to a
fascinating mix. The characters are lively and varied with Robert himself most
sympathetically portrayed for all the author’s own committed Socialist
principles (being red-haired and very small one of her soubriquets was The
Fiery Particle) and I personally found her portrayal of life in the House of
Commons really interesting. This novel was her only venture into crime fiction:
she was re-elected in 1935 and went on to serve in Churchill’s government
during the War and briefly as Minister for Education in the post-War Attlee
government before her too-early death in 1946. No doubt she contributed a great
deal to public life as an M.P. but it’s a pity we don’t know any more of
Robert’s later life nor of any of the other characters. Maybe some writer of
today will take up the baton . . .
There is an excellent
Preface by the Labour M.P. Rachel Reeves who discovered the novel while
researching Ellen’s life for a biography and a most interesting Introduction,
Politics in the Golden Age, by Martin Edwards.
(18911947) was a Labour Party politician, who played a prominent role in the
Jarrow March and served as Minister of Education from July 1945 until her
death. Earlier in her career, as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Jarrow, she became a national figure when
she played a prominent role in the 1936 Jarrow
of the town's unemployed to London to petition for the right to work. Although
unsuccessful at that time, the March provided an iconic image for the 1930s and
helped to form post-Second World War attitudes to unemployment and social
born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven
years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice.
Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional
work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of
her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published
late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal
flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a
third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology –
and is now concentrating on her own writing.
by Constable, 11 October 2018. ISBN: 978-1-47212-776-1(PB)
officer Gunna has been given an unusual assignment: she’s to bodyguard Osman, a
visitor from the Middle East who’s been invited to Iceland by their Law and
Order Minister, Steinunn Strand. He’s to be held in a safe house ... but pretty
soon not only the Press but also Osman’s enemies are heading his way.
fast-moving police / political thriller follows four strands, all told in the
third person. There’s Gunna herself, along with her boss, Ivar Laxdal, who are
struggling to make sense of Osman – is he the charitable organiser he presents
himself as, or does his organisation mask something more sinister? Skuli
Snaedal is one of the journalists and editors of Pulse, a hard-hitting investigative news site, who has information
on Osman that will do the Minister’s reputation no good. The mysterious Ana and
her thug sidekicks are out to take Osman alive, if they can.
right at the start, we meet Hanne and Carsten, a retired couple from Denmark
who are forced to bring something to Iceland in their camper van. Dare they
tell the police? You need to keep your wits about you, because the narrative
moves swiftly from one strand to another, with each ‘chunk’ only two to three
pages long. The sympathetic characters draw you in: Gunna’s growing interest in
Osman, and her concern about the family she’s had to leave behind; Skuli’s
continued struggle with the ‘black dog’ and his delight in his new family life;
the elderly Hane and Carsten’s dilemma.
background is Reykjavik as winter moves slowly into spring, and Bates evokes
this beautifully, with vivid descriptions of sea and land. The ending includes
several good twists. This is the seventh Officer Gunhildur mystery, and while
it’s good to meet the series characters again, and see how their lives are
developing, it also reads well as a stand-alone. There are no spoilers for
slick, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland Noir’s masters.
Quentin Batesis an
English novelist of mystery/crime fiction novels. Quentin found himself working
in Iceland for a year, which turned into a decade, and has used some of that
experience as well as a university writing course to develop his Gunnhildur
series. Although he is British, Quentin is more in line with Scandinavian crime
fiction authors. Quentin is also a full-time journalist and feature writer for
an obscure nautical trade magazine.
Marsali Taylor grew up
near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is
currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her
husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who
is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive
dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a
keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of
her local drama group.Marsali also does
a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.
Published by Wildfire, 14 June 2018. ISBN:
978 1 4722 4924 1
The Tall Man explores the story behind
the urban myth of the Tall Man, a supernatural being who comes from the shadows
to take daughters away. There are two ways the Tall Man will deal with a young
girl, he will make her special or he will kill her. Young girls across the
country embroil stories about the Tall Man and for some there are dangerous
What makes this book
different is the use of the documentary team as the investigative device. The
fly-on-the-wall documentary, with its insatiable public appetite for turning
murderers into celebrities, merges factual re-telling with intrusive, emotional
manipulation to produce tasteless entertainment, acclaim for the producers, and
The story is told
over three time-lines. In the present day the documentary film crew have
managed to get access to seemingly self-obsessed teenager Amber Banner who was
acquitted of murder. Questions regarding the truth of what actually happened
remain unanswered and the identity of the murder victim is part of the mystery
for the reader. We follow the investigation through the lonely, insecure character
of Greta, the researcher/producer who is being pressurised by her boss to get
the dirt on Amber by whatever means and irrespective of the consequences. All
through the book the reader is left wondering if Amber is guilty of murder or
the unwitting victim of something?
this is the story of a haunted character, Sadie. In 2000 as a new mother,
fearing for her child’s safety Sadie abandons her family completely, severing
all contact. Then, in 2016, thinking that it is now safe, she returns and
starts to build a relationship with her daughter and estranged husband. As the
book progresses, the stories converge, and we find out the unanswered questions
about who was murdered, how and why.
The Tall Man is the debut novel of Phoebe Locke and is listed on Amazon as a
series so there may be more using the same film crew investigative device to
explore other stories, a concept that I really liked.
Reviewer Christine Hammacott
Phoebe Locke is the pseudonym of full-time
writer Nicci Cloke. She previously worked at the Faber Academy, and hosted
London literary salon Speakeasy. She lives and writes in London.
Hammacott lives near
Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working
in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She
writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime.
To read a review of her debut novel The Taste of Ashclick
on the title.