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Monday 13 August 2018

‘Yellowhammer’ by James Henry.

Published by Rivverun an imprint of Quercus Editions Ltd,
26 July 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78087-982-6

Yellowhammer is the second in a period police procedural series featuring Detective Inspector Nicholas Lowry and his colleagues.  Lowry is now separated from his wife and seems reasonably content with this state of affairs. Like the first book, Blackwater, Yellowhammer is set in and around Colchester in 1983 and contains many of the same characters. These include Detective Constable Daniel Kenton, a bright young graduate and WPC Jane Gabriel, a tall, blond, ex-model who happens to be the niece of the Assistant Police Commissioner.  When not otherwise engaged these two spend much time trying to decide whether they really like one another. Stephen Sparks is still Colchester’s chief of police and Captain James Oldham is still Lowry’s friendly contact up at the army barracks. 

The main story begins when the police receive a report that a minor local celebrity, Christopher Cliff, has shot himself.  The shooting occurred at Fox Farm where Cliff lives with his wife, Suzanne, their six-year- old daughter Emma, and two of Suzanne’s daughters Lucy, 15, and Alice14, from her former marriage.  Suzanne also has a son, Edward, who is – or should have been - in Hollesley Bay Borstal in Suffolk at the time of the shooting. Two other youngsters, Alan and Darren Ward, aged twelve and six, are also staying at the farmhouse. 

Whilst attending the shooting, the attention of the police is drawn to the presence of a second body on the railway line not far from the farmhouse.  The body is soon identified as Peter Darnel, Christopher Cliff’s accountant.  A normally quiet character, Peter is reported as having had an unusual spring in his step lately.  Could that have been anything to do with the lovely Kate Everett who tends her beautiful garden just across the fields from the farmhouse? Later, Peter’s wife dies under mysterious circumstances.  What, if any, are the connections between the three deaths? 

Other characters - including a rogue antique dealer and an old lady who isn’t necessarily as dotty as she appears to be - and story lines abound in the 449 pages of this carefully plotted book.  There is a great sense of place and a slightly disturbing, but undoubtedly accurate, portrayal of policing and soldiering in the early 1980’s.  You do not need to have read Blackwater, to follow the events and interactions of the characters in Yellowhammer that will be a “must read” for anybody who enjoyed the first book.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

James Henry is the pen name for James Gurbutt, who has written three prequels to R D Wingfield’s popular Frost series. He works in publishing, 

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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