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Monday 3 June 2019

‘The Red Chairs Mystery’ by L.D. Culliford

Published by Matador,
28 February 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-789016-48-2 (PB)

Holly Angel is a divorced detective sergeant with the Sussex police, she loves her job and likes to understand what motivates individuals to commit a particular crime. When her unimaginative boss, DI Laura Garbutt, asks her to check whether the death of an emaciated woman whose body has been discovered in a red leather armchair on one of the greens at a prestigious local golf course is suspicious, Holly is intrigued.  Why would anyone go to the trouble of dumping a heavy chair, not to mention a body, in such a strange and public location?

Other than being extremely thin, there were no signs of abuse on the woman’s body. Holly calls for the experts, but she is not much the wiser after she has received the forensic pathologist’s report.  It seems that the body has been frozen, probably for a few years.  It is possible that the woman was strangled, but it is equally possible that a cracked bone in her neck resulted from the way she had been handled.  Lack of synchrony with information transfer results in DI Garbutt launching a murder inquiry.

Whilst continuing to investigate a missing persons case with her old friend DS Jack Sylvester - the wife of an arrogant property developer, Wayne McInnes, seems to have vanished into thin air - Holly pursues the investigation into the death of the unknown woman.  As nobody responds to the police appeals, Holly spends much of her time talking to employees at the golf course and trying to decide if the woman was murdered, or if she died naturally.

Towards the end of the investigations, Holly is joined by a new recruit, DC Richard “Rich” Baum. Following an incident on a motorway Rich, quite accidentally, helps to uncover the identity of the dead woman, and from then on the mystery begins to unravel.  Had the person who left the body on the golf course also killed her?

Holly spends most of her free time with her father and she is aware that something - or someone - is missing from her life.  A local estate agent, Mark Berger, who is keen to teach her to play golf and to buy her drinks, may well fit the bill – certainly he will if the amount of time Holly spends thinking and dreaming about him is anything to go by.

The investigation proceeds against a backdrop of a Ryder Cup match that is being played in the USA.  Jamie Royle, the owner of the golf course in Sussex where the body was found, had decamped to The States to watch the match long before the body appeared. That being the case why is he rattled when his business partner and brother-in–law rings to inform him that the police have been asking about the red chairs?

As this tale is liberally peppered with long descriptions of golf matches and golfing heroes, I would say that this is definitely a book for readers of crime fiction who enjoy golf.
Reviewer   Angela Crowther

L. D. Culliford is former hospital doctor, GP and psychiatrist. He has worked closely with the Police, interviewed plenty of criminals, and given key evidence in two murder trials at the Old Bailey. The author of seven previous non-fiction books, The Red Chairs Mystery is his first crime novel. He lives in West Sussex and has been a keen golfer since boyhood.

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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