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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

‘Penny Black’ by Susan Moody





Published by Williams and Whiting,
16 February 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-91126600-6

Penny Black is the first of Susan Moody’s novels, written in 1984.  She has proved to be a genuinely versatile author, with crime fiction, romantic fiction, historical novels and psychological suspense thrillers in the bibliography. 

The heroine and the moral centre of this crime story is black, not merely to put a tick in the diversity box, but because Susan Moody knows whereof she writes, after spending some yePublished by Williams ars in small town in Tennessee, where, as she says… Black people lived over the hill on the far side of town, not allowed to buy property or mix with us white people.

Penny Wanawake is an amateur sleuth and a hell of a lot more.  She is a photographer.  Okay, not exactly ground breaking that, but the rest of her is 100 percent different.  And to this reader, far more interesting than the long-established tradition of doctor sleuth, gardener sleuth, eccentric spinster sleuth, and ‘at a loose end’ aristocratic sleuth. 
Penny is the daughter of an African diplomat.  Philanthropist, free thinker, and upfront. She’s tough, tall, beautiful, black and funny, with a classy repertoire of great one liners - He looks about as dangerous as a cornered face cloth, but he’s probably just fooling.

The lady lives in London.  Her great friend Marfa Lund, supposed to be on a modelling assignment in Hawaii disappears.  Her mutilated body is discovered in Los Angeles.  Penny flies to the States, sets out to find the killer, and is plunged into the competitive, and not altogether on the level world, of orchid cultivation.

A friend of mine told me Penny Black was about sex, murder and orchids.  It is, but it’s about so much more.  The book is a terrific multi-layered piece of storytelling. Written back in the mid-1980s yes, but with a storyline as current as it could possibly be.   

In Penny Wanawake, Susan Moody created a sensational heroine and hit the ground running.  There are seven books in the series.  All of them now re-published by new to the block indie Williams and Whiting.
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Reviewer: Jeff Dowson                                    

Susan Moody was born in Oxford and is the principal nom de plume of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. Susan Moody began writing crime novels with Penny Black, the first of the seven Penny Wanawake crime novels.  She has a second series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan. In all, she has published 29 novels, most of them crime and suspense. Susan spent two years as a Creative Writing Tutor in Her Majesty's Prison, Bedford. She is a past Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association, serving in all as a CWA Committee member for seven years. She is a long-standing member of the prestigious Detection Club and served for three years as the President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  In 2016 Susan Moody began a new series featuring Alex Quick. Click the title to read a review of Quick and the Dead


Jeff Dowson began his career working in the theatre as an actor and a director.  From there he moved into television as an independent writer/producer/director. Screen credits include arts series, entertainment features, drama documentaries, drama series and TV films. Turning crime novelist in 2014, he introduced Bristol private eye Jack Shepherd in Closing the Distance.  The second thriller, Changing the Odds,  (to read a review click on the title) was published the following year.  Cloning the Hate is the latest in the series. He is a member of BAFTA and the Crime Writers Association.




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