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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

‘Blind Witness’ by Vicki Goldie

Published by Victorina Press,
15 June 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-9957547-5-1(PB)

A cripple and a fluffy aristo – that is how 1920s Major Alasdair Charters and his wife Melissa present themselves. Of course, they're nothing of the sort, but it's a good disguise. Alasdair was blinded during the war, and unlike many of her contemporaries who walked away from damaged partners, plucky Melissa refused to give up on him despite his mood swings and lack of self-belief. And now, thrown into the middle of a murder investigation at a weekend country house party, Alasdair is starting to find a new role in life as a crime-fighter, with Melissa's willing support.

The party is at the home of Melissa's uncle, Brigadier Ferguson; he has an agenda of his own, but his plans are hurled into chaos when mousy Cousin Emma is brutally done to death in the small hours. One of the guests is Sir Simon Maundeville, Alasdair's wartime boss in the Secret Intelligence Service, and he immediately co-opts the couple to help him solve the case before Special Branch move in. The situation is further complicated by Maundeville's real reason for being at the party – to identify and capture a spy.

Blind Witness is Vicki Goldie's debut novel, and it's plain that she's done her homework on the subject of country house murders in the Golden Age. The rambling old house is so vividly realised that it almost becomes another character: chintz furnishings, each room colour-coded, plenty of open fires.

The characters themselves are classics: a mixture of poor relations and acquaintances, including a vicar with hidden depths, a feisty cousin who drove ambulances during the war, a flamboyant French countess, a distinctly unsavoury banker, and several more in various degrees of shadiness.

With Melissa on hand to act as his eyes, Alasdair is tasked with applying his keen intellect and wartime training to digging into the lives of all the guests, making good use of his blindness and people's disparaging reaction to it as a cover. Melissa, not content with her support role, does some investigating of her own and unearths some useful clues.

Soon the plot is thickening up nicely; is the murder a family matter, or is espionage at the root of it? No more clues from me; you'll have to read it to find out! It all adds up to a jolly good Golden Age romp: perhaps the first of many adventures for Alasdair and Melissa.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Vicki Goldie worked as a Chartered Librarian for the Royal National Institute of Blind People and then for the past 19 years in public libraries in Bournemouth and Poole. Born in California but brought up in England she was introduced to the Golden Age of crime authors at an early age by her mother. She is married to a blind physiotherapist, and it is from his mother, born in a large country house in Devon (now a hotel), educated by governess and with a cut glass voice like the Queen, that she absorbed real life stories about the twenties and thirties.  She has always had a fascination with the Art Deco period and the Golden Age of crime writing. She has been filling her house with Art Deco inspired artefacts and clothing for 40 years.  Blind Witness is her debut novel and is the beginning of a series featuring Alasdair and Melissa Charters.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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