As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Published by Corsair, 7 February 2019. ISBN: 978-1-472-15413-2 (PB)
atmospheric novel set in London and with two storylines, one set in the late
nineteenth century and one in the modern day. The connection is a contemporary
young woman, Jean, who is fascinated by a ‘mind reader’, stage name the Martian
Girl, from the entertainment halls of Victorian times.Jean is writing a play – or it might turn out
to be a novel – about the Martian Girl – her story and her disappearance. Jean is
also having a sexual affair with a married man called Coates.
is not the only young woman, apart from his wife, with whom lawyer Coates is
having sex. He has fantasies he indulges with prostitutes. He also gets very angry
and listens to an upbraiding and brutal voice in his head. We’re not long into
the novel before Coates commits a murder.
reader is invited pretty close into Coates’s head and this is intriguing even
while the reader’s distaste for the man grows and grows. Jean herself is a
rather ambiguous character and while the reader might want to feel empathy for
her, and to some extent does so, the real heroine of the piece is undoubtedly
Kate French, the Martian Girl, as written by Jean. Kate’s desperation to
provide for her elderly father as his health deteriorates, and her assignations
with a seedy stage conjuror in order to gain work, are fascinating. As the
novel progresses, with Jean’s quest for the truth behind the Martian Girl –
running in parallel with her creative work that tells Kate’s story – somehow
getting confused in Coates’s ever more disturbed mind with his own problems in
evading suspicion or arrest – it is Kate, as depicted in Jean’s novel, who
strengths of this novel are threefold; the characterisation, especially of
Coates and of Kate; the way the three storylines twist over each other; and the
setting. Andrew Martin’s novel is subtitled A
London Mystery, and London, most particularly the nineteenth century
version but also the modern-day one, is explored and revealed with strong
descriptive talent. What life on the stage was like for a woman in the 1890s
shines in bright relief as if caught in floodlights, and this above all makes
reading The Martian Girl worthwhile.
Andrew Martingrew up in
Yorkshire. After qualifying as a barrister, he won The Spectator Young Writer
of the Year Award, 1988. Since, he has written for The Guardian, the Daily and
Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and Granta, among many other publications.
His columns have appeared in the Independent on Sunday and the New Statesman.
His Jim Stringer novels – railway thrillers – have been published by Faber and
Faber since 2002.
DeaParkinis an editor with her consultancy Fiction
Feedback and is also Secretary of the Crime Writers’ Association. She writes
poetry and occasionally re-engages with The Novel. When she isn't editing,
managing or writing she is usually to be found on the tennis court – or
following the international tour at home on TV. Usually with several books on
the go, she entertains a penchant for crime fiction, history, and novels with a
mystical edge. She is engaged in a continual struggle to find space for
bookshelves and time for her friends and her cat.