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Saturday, 28 July 2018

‘An Unfinished Murder’ by Ann Granger


Published by Headline,
July 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-5265-4(HB)

This, the sixth in this favourite author’s Campbell and Carter series, opens twenty years ago when two children, Josh and Dilys Browning, find the body of a young woman in a spinney behind the row of council houses where they live with their foster mother, Nina (Auntie Nina) Pengelly. Their previous life with their drug-taking mother and a succession of violent boyfriends had taught them to steer very clear of the police; and Dilys’s tendency to behave violently is another factor. But when Josh realises that Dilys has taken a bracelet from the dead girl’s wrist which spells her name – Rebecca - he tells her to throw it away and she does. A few days later Josh goes back to the spinney and there is no sign of the dead girl. Neither child tells anyone of their discovery.

Now, in the present day, Dilys is in prison for a crime of violence and Josh, a gentle giant, is working as a gardener for the retired Detective Superintendent Alan Markby and his wife Meredith. And Josh has discovered that Dilys hadn’t after all thrown the bracelet away but had kept it a box with various keepsakes. Ever since he and his sister had discovered the dead girl’s body he has been haunted by the memory. So, having learned that Markby had been, before retiring, a very senior policeman, he shows it to Markby, who remembers all too well that he had been in charge of an investigation looking into the disappearance of a young girl called Rebecca Hellington. That had been a mystery which had never been solved; she had never been found, alive or dead and the case had eventually been closed. Now, however, forensic archaeologists have been called in; they find a buried skeleton which is identified as that of Rebecca Hellington.

So Markby is called in and finds himself assisting Alan Carter who is now himself a Detective Superintendent but who at the time of Rebecca’s disappearance had been Detective Sergeant Alan Carter. So, both men are investigating what is now very much a live case and they must work together on contacting all those people who knew Rebecca twenty years ago, one of whom must know the truth about Rebecca’s death. Working with them is Detective Inspector Jess Campbell and, on a rather more unofficial basis, Meredith. Unsurprisingly, those who had known Rebecca in the past lest their own secrets be revealed are rather hesitant about revealing too much themselves and it takes a deal of careful inquiries and co-operation of the four investigators before the mystery is solved.

The author tells us in a foreword that many readers of her previous Mitchell and Markby series, which ran to 15 titles, had been asking for another in that series. But in what form should they make their comeback? She decided that they would now both be retired but would become involved when Markby’s advice is sought. This is an arrangement which works perfectly in this story; it is wholly convincing and believable. And the story as a whole has all the virtues which we expect from this writer. The characters are all lively and totally credible and the plotting immaculate. Highly recommended
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Reviewer: Radmila May

Ann Granger was born in Portsmouth where she was a pupil at the then Northern Grammar School for Girls and went from there to London University where she achieved a BA in Modern Languages (French with German). After a period spent first teaching English in France and then working in the Visa Section of British Embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy, in Prague, and together they received postings to places as far apart as Munich and Lusaka. She is the author of the Mitchell and Markby Mysteries, the Fran Varady series and more recently the Lizzie Martin mystery series. She lives in Bicester, near Oxford.

Radmila May was 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.

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