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Monday 12 February 2018

‘Head Count’ by Judith Cutler

Published by Allison & Busby,
19 October 2017.
ISBN 978-0-7490-2085-9

Judith Cutler always tells a good story.  I have enjoyed many of her previous books about interesting women and hope this series also continues - this is the second adventure for headmistress, Jane Cowan in rural Kent.  She has taken on a new responsibility.  Her success at Wrayford Primary has led to her also taking control of a school in neighbouring Wray Episcopi.  At the beginning of the book she has become uninvolved with a local cricket team, been run off the road when cycling and caught a flu bug which has rendered her silent!  It is the school holidays, fortunately, but Jane didn’t plan to spend her time ill.

Jane is an engaging character, a strong woman who faces many challenges.  She has bought a new house but finds that no local builder is willing to renovate it.  Has she offended somebody?

Her work, when term begins, is arduous, with a powerful landowner trying to interfere at the school.     Jane finds some of the new intake of pupils have serious issues with which she must contend.  The challenges, as they do, all get mixed up so that one issue rises up again with the last one unresolved.  The small village atmosphere is really well shown with its advantages and disadvantages.   The modern policing problems affecting southern coastal areas are present here with Jane trying to deal compassionately with damaged children.   She fights her war through difficulties that would lay others low.

I enjoyed the adventures of Jane and the way resolutions were achieved.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Judith has produced a number of contemporary series concerning protagonists such as lecturer Sophie Rivers, police figures Kate Power and Fran Harman, landlady Josie Wilby and antiques expert Lina Townsend.  The first book in this series is Head Start.
Judith Cutler was born in the Black Country, just outside Birmingham, later moving to the Birmingham suburb of Harborne. Judith started writing while she was at the then Oldbury Grammar School, winning the Critical Quarterly Short Story prize with the second story she wrote. She subsequently read English at university. It was an attack of chickenpox caught from her son that kick-started her writing career. One way of dealing with the itch was to hold a pencil in one hand, a block of paper in the other - and so she wrote her first novel. This eventually appeared in a much revised version as Coming Alive, published by Severn House. Judith has seven series. The first two featured amateur sleuth Sophie Rivers (10 books) and Detective Sergeant Kate Power (6 Books). Then came Josie Wells, a middle-aged woman with a quick tongue, and a love of good food, there are two books, The Food Detective and The Chinese Takeout. The Lina Townsend books are set in the world of antiques and there are five books in this series. There are two books featuring Tobias Campion set in the Regency period, and her series featuring Chief Superintendent Fran Harman (6 books), and Jodie Welsh, Rector’s wife and amateur sleuth. Her most recent series features a head teacher. The first book is Head Start. Judith has also written two standalone’s Scar Tissue and Staging Death.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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