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Saturday 30 November 2019

‘Geraldine’ by John Mead

Published by The Book Guild Ltd,
28 September 2019.
 ISBN: 978 19112881 772

The first of many questions that need addressing in this book is, who exactly is Geraldine? 

When an attractive female is found washed up at the edge of the Thames at Wapping Old Stairs, attending police are startled when the police surgeon informs them that the body is actually that of a man.  Enquiries reveal that Geraldine, or Gerry, Driver is a much loved, happily married female impersonator who until a few hours before his/her death had been working in the nearby Blue Snake nightclub.  The postmortem shows that she had been tortured before being consigned to the river whilst she was still alive.  Given that Geraldine was terrified of water and couldn’t swim this was a particularly cruel thing to do to him/her.  It also suggested that the killer was well acquainted with, and really hated Geraldine.

Inspector Mathew Merry and Sergeant Julie Lukula investigate under the watchful eye of Superintendent Malcolm Swift.  As a motorbike had been seen in the area around the time of the crime, Geraldine’s death was quickly linked with a series of other hate crimes in which victims were showered with acid by two men riding a similar bike with false number plates. Inspector Merry finds he has a personal connection to Geraldine’s death when he learns that that Blue Snake Club and Geraldine’s agent and agency are owned by the notorious Towers family. Merry was at school with two of the Towers brothers, Ricky and Gary, and was good friends with Ricky until they fell out.  Ricky and Gary are trying to become honest citizens, but other members of the family are into every sort of crime imaginable. They think nothing of killing anyone who gets in their way and are top of the National Crime Agency’s most wanted list. 

On the personal side, Merry’s marriage was floundering before his wife’s rape further complicated the situation, and  Superintendent Swift struggles as he juggles with the increased workload that follows his recent promotion, and with a tired partner who needs help with their fractious new baby, whilst on happier note Sgt Julie Lukulu agrees to marry her partner.

Geraldine is a complicated book both as regard the plot and the topics it covers. There is an excellent sense of location throughout, detailed plotting, and a wide variety of characters to keep one entertained.  Hate and jealously are at its core, though I thought it dealt sympathetically with the issues surrounding transvestites and transsexuals that are integral to the story. It also gave interesting insights into the reactions of a rape victim and her family. 
Reviewer Angela Crowther

John Mead was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub, he writes. John is currently working on a trilogy of novels set-in modern-day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.

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.

Thursday 28 November 2019

‘The Wages of Sin’ by Judith Cutler

Published by Severn House,
31 October 2019.
ISBN: 978-7268-8938-6 (HB)

This mystery, set in a Victorian country house in Shropshire, is the first in a new series by this popular author, featuring Matthew Rowsley, land agent to the youthful Lord Croft and his mother Lady Croft. Matthew has only been in his job for two months but there is plenty for him to do: the estate has been neglected since the old lord’s death and has become very run-down. He is chiefly concerned with matters concerning the land of the estate such as the farms, and he has considerable power over the lives of those who live on the Croft estate. He can, for instance, tell the tenant of a poorly maintained farm that he must quit. Matthew, however, would much prefer to deal justly and fairly with the tenants so, for instance, unlike his predecessor, he has no objection to tenants keeping some animals on their own account: as Matthew points out to Dr Page, a well-fed worker is a good worker.

Of particular concern to Matthew is Croft House itself; it is in very poor condition and urgently needs substantial repairs. But the young Lord Croft is only interested in his own pleasure and what will bring him immediate profit and, in any case, spends much of his time away from Croft House as does his mother who suffers from ill-health and bad temper. Domestic matters in Croft House with its 28 indoor servants are the responsibility of the butler, Mr Bowman, the housekeeper, Mrs Faulkner, the housekeeper, and the cook, Mrs Arden. These four, within the strict hierarchy of the servants of Croft House, are the upper servants and they enjoy the privilege of taking meals separately to the rest of the servants in a chamber known as the Room with their own lad to wait on them at table while the remainder of the staff eat in the servants’ hall. When Lord Crofts and his mother are in residence, his valet, Luke Hargreaves, and her maid, Mademoiselle Hortense, join the upper servants. But all the upper servants, while well aware of their own status, calling each other Mr and Mrs, not by their first names, and expecting the lower servants to bow and curtsey to them as well as to Lord and Lady Croft, are concerned for the well-being of all the staff and ensure that all are well-fed. So, when one of the housemaids, little Maggie Billings, disappears there is much concern among all the servants. It seems all too likely that she is pregnant – but who is the father? Matthew instigates a search for her but to no avail and Maggie’s own mother, denying that there is any cause for concern, seems less than truthful. Matthew becomes very much aware that there are secrets within the walls of Croft House, with its many unused rooms, some locked, and there are whispers that the conduct of Lord Croft and his wild friends when they are at Croft House leaves much to be desired. However, he cannot devote much time to investigate Maggie’s disappearance because he is repeatedly sent off to Lord Crofts’ other estates, to look into what often turns out to be quite minor matters. Meanwhile, the local clergyman, the Reverend Pounceman, inveighs against sin and fornication for which he blames women and even condemns the notion of teaching the ‘lower orders’ to read and write lest that foster ideas above their station. 

Matthew’s search for Maggie even takes him to Wolverhampton, then in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, and a very different environment to rural Shropshire; he is accompanied by Mrs Faulkner for whom he feels a growing attraction. In the end the mystery is unravelled in a thoroughly satisfactory way. 

In the introduction to this novel, the author tells us that the inspiration for it was the story of her own great-grandmother who was made pregnant by the son of one of Shropshire’s richest landowners and was dismissed from her employment. Fortunately, she survived as did her child, the author’s grandmother. I was very impressed by the meticulous research that has gone into this account of life below stairs and also moved by the evidence of the solidarity shown by the members of the ‘lower orders’ to each other in contrast to the total disregard of their so-called ‘betters’. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May 

Judith Cutler was born in the Black Country, just outside Birmingham, later moving to the Birmingham suburb of Harborne. Judith started writing while she was at the then Oldbury Grammar School, winning the Critical Quarterly Short Story prize with the second story she wrote. She subsequently read English at university. It was an attack of chickenpox caught from her son that kick-started her writing career. One way of dealing with the itch was to hold a pencil in one hand, a block of paper in the other - and so she wrote her first novel. This eventually appeared in a much-revised version as Coming Alive, published by Severn House. Judith has seven series. The first two featured amateur sleuth Sophie Rivers (10 books) and Detective Sergeant Kate Power (6 Books). Then came Josie Wells, a middle-aged woman with a quick tongue, and a love of good food, there are two books, The Food Detective and The Chinese Takeout. The Lina Townsend books are set in the world of antiques and there are five books in this series. There are two books featuring Tobias Campion set in the Regency period, and her series featuring Chief Superintendent Fran Harman (6 books), and Jodie Welsh, Rector’s wife and amateur sleuth. Her most recent series features a head teacher. The first book is Head Start. Judith has also written two standalone’s Scar Tissue and Staging Death. 

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.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

‘Snow Kills’ by R.C. Bridgestock

 Published by The Dome Press,
3 October 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-91253408-1(PB)
The worst snow storm for years hits Harrowfield in Yorkshire causing the hairdressers where Kayleigh Harwood works to close early. Driving conditions are horrendous and it’s not long before Kayleigh's car comes to a standstill in traffic. She manages after waiting ages in a queue to drive it to the side of the road. She keeps the engine running to keep warm, but then the petrol runs out. To add to her predicament her mobile is dead, and she remembers she left the charger at work. It's not long before the snow starts to bury her car and Kayleigh fights her way out.

Days later she is reported missing by her mother Kim, who thought she was staying with Matt, her boyfriend. He stresses he thought she was at home with her mother. Then Kayleigh's car is found abandoned but there is no sign of her.

Detective Inspector Jack Ryan and his team are put in charge of the case and when items of her clothing are found near a local quarry, the search begins in earnest. A nearby lake is even dragged. Enquiries lead them to a very strange person living near where Kayleigh's car was abandoned, but is that too much of a coincidence? Just because they are weird doesn't mean they are automatically guilty does it?

Reports come in that on the same day two teenagers were seen banging on Kayleigh's car, can they have anything to do with her disappearance? One it is discovered had a crush on Kayleigh. Dylan then learns of two girls who went missing about twenty years ago and were never seen again. When two skulls are discovered both twenty to thirty years old whilst carrying out the search for Kayleigh, the team delve into the cold cases wondering if there can by any connection to the present disappearance.

Meanwhile unknown to Dylan, his wife Jen's ex-fiancé gets in touch with her and puts pressure on her to go back to him. Dylan can't understand Jen's strange behaviour as he knows nothing about him, and it adds to his frustrations. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it is really descriptive and gives a great insight into police procedure. The characters seem to come alive.

I note that R.C. Bridgestock is composed of more than one person and that they were consulted on the television programmes Happy Valley and Scott and Bailey, both of which I enjoyed immensely. No wonder both series were so good. A highly recommended book. 
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell 

R C Bridgestock
is the pen name of the writing duo Carol and Bob Bridgestock.
Carol and Bob were both born and lived in West Yorkshire until they relocated to the Isle of Wight in 2003. Between them they have a staggering 47 years employment with the police, Carol being a member of the Civilian support staff and Bob being a Senior Police Officer. As a career detective Bob worked in the CID at every rank. For over half of his service he was a senior detective, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. As a Senior Investigative Officer (SIO) in charge of homicide cases he took command of some twenty-six murder investigations, twenty-three major incidents including shootings and attempted murders and over fifty suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults, some of which were extremely high profile in his last three years alone. In 1988 Carol commenced working for the Police as a member of the support staff in the Administration Department. As a supervisor she received a Chief Constable's commendation for outstanding work for her determination and drive creating a poster competition for an Autumn Crime initiative.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

‘The Clockmaker’ by Jane A Adams

Published by Severn House,
31 May 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8888-4 (HB)

Joseph Levy, the son of Ben Levy and nephew of Abraham Levy is engaged to be married to Rebecca Goldman who he has known since childhood. The Goldman’s have moved to Lincoln and it had become a regular habit for Joseph to travel from London to stay with his fiancée.  On the 3rd February 1929, Rebecca’s family saw him board the London train at Lincoln station.  But he did not arrive.

Now on the 20th February 1929 with no news of Joseph, a worried Abraham seeks help from Detective Chief Inspector Henry Johnston whom he had encountered on an earlier investigation Henry had dealt with.  Abraham explains to Henry and Sergeant Mickey Hitchens that the local police have done very little, saying that as Joseph is an adult and learning further that Joseph had an altercation with his fiancée and that they parted on bad terms, that he has probably got cold feet about the marriage and gone off on his own for a while. But Abraham insists that Joseph would have made contact with someone in the family. He says ‘It does not help that we are Jews’. Henry explains that they are murder detectives and that this is not in their remit. However, with no contact Abraham is convinced that Joseph is dead.  With reluctance Henry agrees to look into the case.

Initially, their enquires of the local police show that they have done all they probably could, but as Henry probes deeper, things turn up unexpectedly that lead him to think that Joseph’s disappearance might be more complicated than he had first thought. 

Jane paints a bleak picture of life for the poorer classes in 1929.  Although the gangs that control the East End of London seem to echo the situation we have today.  Sergeant Mickey Hitchens has grown up in the area. I liked Mickey very much. He is sensible and at times he saves a situation from going wrong. 

On the other side of the coin we have Henry’s family. His sister Cynthia who is his friend and confident.  Cynthia has problems too, mainly that her husband Albert is a pushover for a ‘sure investment’.  This is 1929 and the financial world is rocky and unpredictable. 

I found this a fascinating book.  Apart from the intriguing mystery, the background to the period is interesting being set at the time of economic unrest, and the situation in Germany. Also the anti-Semitism that existed is explained sensitively and with understanding. Recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Jane Adams was born in Leicestershire, where she still lives. She has a degree in Sociology and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist in a folk-rock band. She enjoys pen and ink drawing; martial arts and her ambition is to travel the length of the Silk Road by motorbike. Her first book, The Greenway, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award. Jane writes several series.  Her first series featured Mike Croft. There are several books featuring DS Ray Flowers. Twelve titles featuring blind Naoimi Blake, and more recently seven books featuring Rina Martin. Her latest series is set in the 1920’s and features Chief Inspector Henry Johnson. Jane has also written three standalone novels. She is married with two children.

Monday 25 November 2019

Magna Cum Murder

25-27 October 2019
Columbia Club - Indianapolis, Indiana

Guest of Honour - J R Lonsdale
International Guest of Honour - Ruth Dudley Edwards

Report by Brendan Dukes

Indianapolis, Indiana is one of the lesser-known centres of art and commerce in the Midwestern United States, but late each October, readers of crime fiction descend on the city for the Magna cum Murder Crime Writing Festival to enjoy a weekend of panels and face-to-face discussions with their favourite writers. Hosted at the Columbia Club, an exclusive social club and hotel located among the skyscrapers and monuments at the heart of downtown, fans and novelists alike come together to celebrate their favourite genre in one of the most unique crime fiction conferences in the world. 

This year, the festival kicked off on Friday, October 25 with a series of panels and lectures, covering such diverse topics as poisons, Ray Bradbury's Detective Fiction, and writing a historical mystery.

 The festivities continued into Saturday and Sunday with panels exploring thrillers, cozies, character development and plot.

The panels are great, but the conference highlight is always the spotlight given to the Guest of Honour and International Guest of Honour. Mystery novelist
 Reavis Wortham interviewed the Guest of Honour and fellow Texan, Joe R. Lansdale about his decades spanning career producing 30 short story collections and 45 novels, including the famous Hap and Leonard series. 
Later, Saturday evening banquet attendees were greeted with a speech by Irish journalist and satirical mystery novelist, International Guest of Honour Ruth Dudley Edwards, giving a review of her relationship with Magna over the years.

The panels and guests of honour are always a delight, but there is one thing that truly sets Magna cum Murder apart from other crime fiction conventions: the proximity in which the readers mix with the writers. Big names like SJ Rozen, Charles and Caroline Todd, or Jeffery Deaver can be found lounging in wing-back chairs in the club lobby between panels, at the club restaurant over breakfast, or at the bar in the evening. Writers really get to know their fans while readers get to know their favourite writers.I have been volunteering at Magna for eleven years now and it only seems to get better each year as we continue to grow with more writers and fans joining from across the United States and Great Britain. I can't wait until next year and hope to see you there!

Next Year's dates are
23-25 October 2020

‘Chocolate House Treason’ by David Fairer

Published by Matador,
28 September 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-83859104-5 (PB)

Set in 1708, in the reign of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, Chocolate House Treason is a crime story that has at its heart the convoluted and treacherous politics of the time. Queen Anne has always been prone to allowing her favourites too much influence in political matters. For many years, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, has been the Queen’s adored close friend and received many benefits. The Duchess has used her influence to raise the power of the political party she favours, the Whigs, a fact that has been noted by the politically aware, including the satirists, who comment on politics and social issues in verse, which is distributed on the streets. The Queen’s personal life is not exempt from mockery, and this is fuelled by Anne having chosen a new favourite, Abigail Masham, the cousin of Lord Harley. Harley wishes to bring together the more moderate politicians of both Whig and Tory parties, which would weaken the power of the group of powerful Whigs who, with the support of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, are rulers in all but name. However, Queen Anne has to accept the Whig domination because she needs Marlborough to lead her army in the war in Europe. London seethes with talk about the corruption of the political system and politicians, society figures and the Queen are insulted and mocked by political lampoons that circulate through London. These are especially prevalent in the coffee and chocolate houses, where men gather to talk and read.

Mary Trotter is recently widowed and has inherited the Good Fellowship Coffee House. Mrs Trotter has great plans for her establishment and intends to turn it into the more fashionable and exclusive Bay-Tree Chocolate House. Mrs Trotter’s plans are threatened when excerpts of political poems by the satirist ‘Bufo’ are found amongst other innocuous literature left on the tables of the Coffee House. One of these poems was accidentally included in the manuscript of a new poem written by aspiring satirist Tom Bristowe, Mrs Trotter’s lodger, and is used as evidence when the publisher-printer John Morphew is detained for sedition, and later for murder.

Mrs Trotter is not a woman who gives in easily and, with the help of Tom and his friend, Will Lundy, a law student, she ventures into a world of political intrigue and treachery. Despite the danger, Mrs Trotter is determined to discover the truth behind the seditious verse and whether it has led to murder, before it destroys the lives of innocent men and ruins her plans for a magnificent chocolate house.

Chocolate House Treason is a book that is full of rich historical detail and brings to life the world of Queen Anne’s London. It is well written and meticulously edited and it is clear that the author is deeply nowledgeable about this period and its complex politics. The plot is intricate and many of the characters are engaging, especially the good-hearted, feisty Mary Trotter. Chocolate House Treason is a book that I would recommend for history lovers who wish to immerse themselves in the world of early 18th century London and the book being 700 pages have the time to devote to doing so.
Reviewer: Carol Westron 

David Fairer is a Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Leeds University. He has spent most of his life researching and writing about the early eighteenth century and bringing it to life for students. He's published books on the period and has lectured regularly in Europe, the Far East, and the USA.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
www.carolwestron.com To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

‘Murder by the Minster’ by Helen Cox

Published by Quercus,
31 October 2019.  
ISBN 978-1-52940-220-9 (PBO)

Kitt Hartley is a librarian at the Vale of York University who has a temper that she must keep under control.  She can cope with the eccentrics who visit the library but is easily riled by the questions asked by some library patrons.  However, she forgets these pinpricks when her best friend, Evie Bowes is accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend.  The investigating officer, DI Halloran, seems disinclined to believe Evie’s alibi which was that she spent the night at Katt’s place.

Kitt has an investigative streak so she sets off to exonerate Evie.   Her conversation and inner musings are frequently enlivened by her memories of mystery novels that she has read.   Her library assistant, Grace, assists in Katt’s efforts too - mainly by investigating online.  Katt manages to reach several relevant witnesses before the police which does not really endear her to the investigating officers.

Other events complicate the story as other individuals are involved but Katt pursues the exonerating of Evie with steely determination allowing her own private life to be put on hold.  The finale is thrilling and well developed.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is Helen’s first cosy crime fiction book, but she has written non-fiction and romance.  A second adventure for Kitt has already appeared.

Helen Cox is a Yorkshire-born novelist and poet. After completing her MA in creative writing at the University of York St. John Helen wrote for a range of magazines and websites as well as for TV and radio news. Helen has edited her own independent film magazine and penned three non-fiction books. Her first two novels were published by HarperCollins in 2016. She currently hosts The Poetrygram podcast and works for City Lit, London. Helen’s new series of cosy mysteries stars librarian-turned-sleuth Kitt Hartley and is set in York.                        

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries. 

‘She Will Rescue You’ by Chris Clement-Green

Published by Joffe Books,
30th May 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78931-127-3 (PB)

Based on animal cruelty, this gripping debut about animal abusers getting their just deserts and a piece of their own medicine had me hooked.  Ellie Grant, no oil painting, lives on the breadline employed at a minimum wage by an animal rescue centre and she will stop at nothing to save and protect ill treated and exploited animals.

Lonely and isolated after the death of her mother from cancer, Ellie stumbles across a winning lottery ticket and comes into a fortune. She deploys the cash to open several animal shelters and musters a team of committed like-minded people in order to wreak dark-ops revenge on perpetrators. 

When a man is brutally murdered in a Norfolk turkey shed that raises police suspicions that it’s something rather more than a violent incident, enter Dr Mia Langley, a clever, elegant, criminal forensic psychologist working for the National Crime Agency.   As further gruesome killings and maimings occur, Mia goes under cover, her investigations lead her to Ellie and entanglements ensue.

Well crafted and plotted with a compelling, unique and gritty story line and credible characters, this talented writer has mastered the art of   natural dialogue and keeps the pace galloping with lots of twists and turns.  Some readers might not welcome the introduction of a romance element or the fate of a prominent character unless that’s simply camouflage, and he returns to fight another day in another novel. I look forward to reading more by this author. 
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax 

Chris Clement-Green retired from Thames Valley Police after sixteen years as a uniform sergeant followed by five as a civilian investigator on serious and organised crime teams in Humberside and Wiltshire – which included working on several murder incident rooms. She started writing in 2007 when she entered the National Association of Writer’s Groups annual short story competition. It was her first competition and she won with Pebbles. The win encouraged her to undertake the Open University Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing courses, which she completed with distinction. In 2013 she was accepted onto the prestigious Bath Spa University Creative Writing MA, where she  completed a humorous but gritty life-writing manuscript Into the Valley which was subsequently published by Mirror Books in 2017.  She has had several articles and letters published in national UK magazines, most notably Writing Magazine, and in September 2016 was published in The New Guard Volume V a literary journal based in New York. She Will Rescue You  her debut novel was published on the 30th May 2019 by Joffe Books and she is currently working on a new crime novel – Rage Hard which is another police procedural set in Oxford revolving around a white WPC and black criminal during the race riots of Thatcher’s Britain. She also runs tutored and untutored writing retreats from her home in mid Wales. 

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things. 

Sunday 24 November 2019

‘The Christmas Egg’ by Mary Kelly

Published by The British Library,
October 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-7123-5310-6 (PB)

The Princess Olga Karukhina spent the first half of her life in power and luxury in her native Russia and the second half in poverty and squalor in lodgings in Islington, London, and it is there that she died in suspicious circumstances. 

The old lady’s death is investigated by Detective Inspector Brett Nightingale and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Beddoes. The discovery of an empty trunk under the princess’ bed causes the detectives to suspect that the princess may have hoarded treasures from her luxurious past, and the fact that she has given a couple of magnificent items to a neighbour helps to confirm this. The police have been aware of a gang of thieves who started their career of crime in Hampstead and Nightingale suspects that the princess may have been their latest victim. However, the detectives must also focus their attention on tracking down the princess’ grandson, Ivan, who returned from his work as a clerk in the office of St Pancras Station and then fled. Ivan is a drunkard who is frequently on bad terms with his grandmother, so he is the detectives’ main suspect. To confuse things further, they have to take into consideration the fact that the princess claimed to be afraid of Bolsheviks hunting her down.

In the course of his investigation, Nightingale interviews Mr Majendie, a wealthy jeweller. Majendie admits to being summoned by the princess and inspecting her jewellery and other treasures because she was considering selling them. Nightingale is uncertain whether to trust Majendie. Nor can he understand the role played by Stephanie Cole, Majendie’s youngest and most junior sales assistant, who keeps appearing in the enquiry. Some drunken words spoken by Ivan describe one of his grandmother’s treasures, ‘The Easter egg... All white an’ glittering, lovely, like ice an’ frost an’ stars.’ This confirms that, despite living in squalor, the princess still possessed treasures worth a fortune.

As Nightingale and Beddoes track down the treasures, in the hope of discovering the murderer, their job becomes increasingly dangerous, and soon Nightingale is in peril of his life.

The Christmas Egg is the third book in the series featuring Nightingale and Beddoes, but it is the first of her books republished by the British Library Crime Classics. It is an interesting book based on a fascinating premise and with several subtle psychological insights. The structure of the book is unusual, starting as a police procedural, with some skilfully described historical investigation and explanation, but transforming into a thriller, which culminates in kidnapping and car and helicopter crashes. Nightingale and Beddoes are both likeable and engaging characters with a good working relationship. First published in 1958, The Christmas Egg explores the harm done by those who cling to the past at the expense of those dependent upon them. It is an interesting link between the classic books of the Golden Age and the new wave of outstanding crime writers in the early 1960s, such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. As with all the British Library Crime Classics, it is enhanced by the excellent introduction by Martin Edwards. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody who enjoys traditional crime fiction.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Mary Kelly (1927-2017) was an English crime writer best known for the Inspector Brett Nightingale series. Writing in the 1950s and 1960s, Kelly was celebrated for the sense of refreshingly dark suspense in her mysteries. Her novel The Spoilt Kill, published in 1961, won the Gold Dagger Award.


Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel,
The Deadly Dames. 
Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. 
The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

‘Gone in the Night’ by Mary-Jane Riley

Published by Killer Reads,
11 July 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-00-834026-1 (PB)

The central mystery in Gone in the Night is why anyone who didn’t absolutely have to would deliberately go out of their way to become a homeless person living on the streets.  For this is just what Rick Winterton has chosen to do.  The most straightforward of Rick’s reasons for taking such a desperate path is that as an ex soldier suffering from PTSD he feels guilty about what he has done and for all the dreadful scenes he has witnessed.  The other reasons he has adopted this unusual lifestyle are more complicated.  One is revenge for something that happened to his sister years ago, whilst another is to discover what is happening to homeless people in Norwich: several have disappeared or have supposedly committed suicide.  Rick believes these deaths and disappearances are linked to devious shenanigans taking place on a mysterious island located just off Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Journalist Alex Devlin comes across the injured Rick after he crashes a stolen vehicle on a quiet back road near Woodbridge.  She is walking home from a party given by the affluent and charitable Rider family - father, mother and three brothers who own the island Rick is interested in. One of the brothers, Jamie has taken a liking to Alex.  She likes him but isn’t sure if she can trust him.  Rick just has time to give Alex a piece of paper with his sister’s name and phone number on it before he is whisked off in a white van by two men who insist they will take him to hospital.  Alex is worried about the men’s motives. Subsequent checking reveals that Rick has not been treated at any of the local hospitals.  He, too, is now missing.

Alex contacts Rick’s sister Cora.  She isn’t very forthcoming about her brother and what he is involved in and Alex thinks Cora knows more than she is letting on.  Slowly, as more homeless people die, it becomes clear that there is a considerable backlog of animosity between the Rickman and the Rider Families. Alex calls in favours from DI Sam Slater, who tries, unsuccessfully, to divert her attention away from both Rick and Cora Winterton and The Rider family.

Eventually Alex and Cora agree to combine their resources. They make a clandestine trip to the forbidden and fortified island where, in a literally explosive episode, Alex uncovers what has been happening on the island.

In Gone in the Night Mary-Jane Riley has given us a brilliant insight into the lives and fates of homeless people who choose to live on the streets in Norwich - sadly there are a goodly number of such in habitants.  The action moves between Norfolk and Suffolk and provides a well-established sense of place.  Some locations are named whilst others, like the island, are borrowed and adapted to suit the story.  For animal lovers- and you would need to be one in this instance- there is a characterful hound called Ethel who does her best to flavour the tale.  All in all, despite the harrowing nature of its subject, I found Gone in the Night an intriguing and enjoyable read.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter, when she was eight. When she grew up, she had to earn a living and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing crime thrillers drawing on her experiences in journalism. Her fourth book set in East Anglia and featuring investigative journalist Alex Devlin, Gone in the Night, was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads in July 2019.

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.

‘An Air That Kills’ by Christine Poulson

Published by Lion Fiction,
22 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78264-283-1 (HB)

Katie Flannagan is pleased to be back from Antarctica not least because she can catch up with her friends Daniel, Rachel and their daughter Chloe.  Katie met them through her work as a researcher in blood disorders, as Chloe has the rare and serious blood condition DBA. Now Rachel is expecting another child.  There is an outside chance that the new baby may be a match for Chloe which could alleviate her illness. Katie is also pleased that Justin whom she met when she was out in Antarctica has been in touch to arrange a meeting. 

When she arrives for dinner at Daniel and Rachel’s house, she is greeted by ‘surprise’ from Daniel and there is the wealthy entrepreneur Lyle Lynstrum. Over supper he says he believes that there is likely soon to be a flu pandemic with the potential to kill billions and there is a need to research the mechanism which causes the virus to jump from the insect species to the humans. Basically, he has invested a great deal in the research, which is set up at Debussy Point, off the coast of North Devon, but he feels there is something wrong, but he can’t put his finger on what.  One of the anomalies is a high turnover of lab technicians which while for seemingly perfectly good reasons, still seems high. Katie offers to go undercover to see what she can suss out, but Lyle says no. She is totally overqualified for a job as lab technician.  But Katie says, well she is currently unemployed. When another lab technician gives notice, Lyle accepts Katies offer to go undercover to see if she can pinpoint the problem. 

For Katie it’s a job well below her capabilities and all she has to do is take an opportunity to check the work being done and see if she can spot any irregularities.  However, the reader is aware from the opening of the book that there is someone who has access to the high security lab and who has deadly intent. 

She receives a warm welcome from Casper Delaney, the head of the facility.  Her accommodation is pleasant rather like a holiday let.  On her first morning there after collecting her security pass from Siobhan, she meets Maggie in the malaria lab, the glamorous Claudia for whom she will be directly working, Tarquin, and Bill whose main interest is moths.  On her second day she is introduced to Professor Gemma Braithwaite who makes it clear that a mere lab technician is beneath her.  Katies wonders if Gemma’s rudeness might have contributed to the high turnover of lab technicians.  Katies tries to discover by casual probing why her predecessor Sophie left so suddenly but the answers she receives are vague offering no concrete reason. 

Then Katies decides on another way to check the work.  Unexpectedly, one of her colleague’s is struck down with a mystery illness. Could a deadly virus have escaped?  Are they all at risk?  

This is an on the edge of your seat read and is highly recommended for lovers of mystery.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Christine Poulson writes, I was a respectable academic, lecturing in art history at a Cambridge college before I turned to crime. My first three novels featured literary historian and accidental sleuth, Cassandra James.  I then wrote Invisible, a standalone suspense novel. Something that I didn’t expect when I started writing crime fiction was that other crime writers would be such good fun and so convivial. Christine’s latest series features Katie Flanagan. There are two books in the series. Read a review of the first here.