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Thursday, 20 February 2020

‘Little Boy Lost’ by J P Carter

Published by Avon,
23 January 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-00831-330-2 (PB)

Three days following a tragic accident when the wife of a gang member was killed during a police raid, riots broke out south of the River Thames where DCI Anna Tate lives and works.  Currently on leave after finally being
re-united with her daughter* Anna has offered to report for duty and been told to stand by and wait for a call back.

When she is called by Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Nash, despite the severity of the riots she is asked to take the case of the death of a young boy who was killed when the rioters set fire to a derelict pub in Camberwell. He died of smoke inhalation as he couldn’t escape owing to being chained to a wall in the cellar.

As the riots continue and move closer to Anna’s home, she asks her boyfriend, Tom Bannerman who is a social worker and lives only a mile away to go and stay with her daughter Chloe. He responds that he will go straight there.

The dead boy is quickly identified by the label in his blazer as Jacob Rossi, the ten-year-old son of Mark Rossi, a TV presenter and Celebrity with a capital C. The boy had disappeared while walking home from school.

While Anna is examining the crime scene the leading officer in the search for the missing boy arrives introducing himself as DI Benning, who was clearly devasted to find the boy dead. ‘How do I tell the parents, I told them there was hope and that I would bring their boy home to them’. He said, with anguish. When Anna explains its now an MIT investigation he asks if he can stay on the case to help bring those who did this to justice.

Confident that her daughter Chloe is safe with Tom Anna sets her mind on the case. But are Chloe and Tom safe?  Caught up in her investigation Anna is unaware that the rioters have reached her street.

As Anna investigates it becomes clear that a number of people have grudges against the boy’s father. But would any of them go so far as to abduct his son?  

Little Boy Lost is the third book in the DCI Anna Tate series. The story is narrated in the third person by Anna, and by Chloe, who provides some back story to her earlier life.  

It is often said of a book that it was a ‘thought-provoking’ read.  This book is certainly that. It is about ‘consequences’.  The actions that we take and the decisions that we make that can lead to unthought of, and unforeseen situations that may have dramatic and heartbreaking results.   In 2015 I reviewed a book by this author written as James Raven called  Random Targets  and if you have read it you may understand that when travelling on a motorway I still find myself scanning the bridges.

This is a truly gripping read, with a jaw-dropping ending.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

J P Carter is a pseudonym for James Raven who has been a journalist for most of his working life. After reporting for local, regional and national newspapers he moved into television as a news scriptwriter. He then worked his way up to become Director of a UK News Division. He now runs his own TV production company. James spends much of his time writing and travelling. He is also an accomplished magician.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

‘Shamus Dust’ by Janet Roger

Published by Matador,
28 October 2019.
ISBN: 978 1-838590 93-7 (PB)

London, Christmas Day, 1947, and one of the coldest winters ever to hit the British Isles: deep snow, ice, bitter winds. Britain had been victorious in World War II but everywhere were the scars inflicted by the bombing, particularly in London where this story is set. And to add to physical damage inflicted on the landscape there are the privations arising from the strict control necessitated by the conflict which increased after the war was over so that even bread was rationed. And the cold made everything much worse, the sea freezing over, coal impossible to get out of the ground, electricity supplies often intermittent.

The protagonist of this story, Newman (no first name), had first arrived in London nearly twenty years before and had found himself a job as an insurance fraud investigator in the City of London and then, when the war began, tracking down military supply fraud. Now he’s back in London and going it alone as a private investigator, private eye, gumshoe, shamus – call it what you will. He knows his way around both England and the English, but he is, and always will be, an outsider.

Early in the morning of Christmas Day, Newman receives a call from a Councillor Drake to the effect that a driver will call for him with a set of keys and then will drive him to an address in the City where he is to hand the keys to a detective inspector who had just called Drake to request access to a property owned by him because of an ‘incident.’ But when Newman gets to his destination, which is the church of St Bartholomew’s near Smithfield, the detective inspector has gone and there is a body with gunshot wounds in the porch. The constable on duty tells Newman that the body was actually discovered by a neighbour, a nurse from Barts Hospital nearby. Newman looks round the church, sees two candles burning, lights a couple more himself and then, armed with the keys Councillor Drake has supplied, enters the building to which the keys belong. The second floor flat was plainly occupied by a skilled photographer whose favourite subject was boys in various seductive poses on a divan. One photograph, however, is of a grown man, the man whose body is now in the porch of St Bartholomew’s. But that is not all: in the next room is the divan featured in the photographs and in the bathroom is a hole in the wall with a camera focused on the divan. A scenario clearly set up for blackmail.

But blackmail is only part of what this story is about. Much of the City of London had been largely destroyed during the Blitz and property developers are eyeing the opportunities offered by the devastation. When Newman speaks to the nurse who found the body, she tells Newman his name – Raymond Jarrett – but refuses to say anything more. Drake, however, is very perturbed to hear of his tenant’s death and of his activities about which he claims to know nothing. Then Newman finds himself following leads: to an elderly prostitute called Dillys Valentine but when he is talking to her he is attacked and wounded, and she is killed. And it all goes on from there: tough City of London cops who may or not be corrupt, a nervous City solicitor, an enigmatic temporary forensic medical examiner, an edgy nurse, a frightened boy from a good family, a missing archaeologist, City bankers and property developers, a tangled web of soured family relationships. And more bodies.

I was very impressed with this book. The author, although English, writes in a highly effective pastiche of the traditional U.S. hard-boiled style but which is at the same time very literary – one chapter heading refers to the Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein and another to a famous chess player. The plot is very complex with strong characters, although it is not always easy to follow. The author on her website ( ,which is well worth reading, scrupulously tells us that the bitter winter which forms such a vital part of the story had actually happened the year before, but she certainly paints a totally convincing picture of what it was like. She also describes, not just on her website, but in the course of the story the peculiar jurisdiction of the City of London police which is quite distinct from that of the Metropolitan police. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Janet Roger says as a teenager I’d read all of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe detective stories - not so long after they were written as I’d like to think - and they knocked my socks off. He wrote about a Los Angeles of neon-lit boulevards, a sour, gritty downtown and gun-toting cops (a novelty to this young European) and made them exotic. But what really got under my skin was Marlowe's voice guiding me around the next street corner, and beyond it into a stale apartment block or a down and low bar. He invited me in to look over his shoulder, let me see the highs and the lows, talked me through them and then put me in the seat beside him to drive me home. It was heady stuff, up to the point where the story began to seem incidental to the city, its moods and characters and speech patterns. What really mattered was a time, a place and the people you might run into there. I’d discovered a new kind of mystery writing and got hooked. I wasn’t the only one. Pretty soon it just wasn’t possible to take the Chandler out of anyone’s idea of LA. By now you might have the same thought about Leon and Venice, Lehane and Boston, or Block and New York. And when that happens, you know they’re getting under your skin too.

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.

Mystery Fest. 7 March 2020

Portsmouth Central Library

 7 March 2020  Saturday 10.00am - 4.45pm

Mystery Fest is Mystery People’s own Crime Fiction Day in collaboration with the
Portsmouth BookFest

Our Guest of Honour, award winning author  
L.C. Tyler
will be in conversation with successful
actress and author
Linda Regan.

Other Authors, Expert Witnesses taking part are: 

 Carol Westron, Organiser
Jeff Dowson
Barbara Nadel
Charlie Cochrane
Peter Tickler
Sally Spedding
Linda Stratmann
Christine Hammacott
Donna Fletcher Crow
Mia Emilie
Debbie Young
Dot Marshall-Gent


10.15am Welcome from Clare Forsyth

10.20 - 11.20  The Right Place to Kill. 
Choosing the place to set your Fictional Crime.
Panel: Peter Tickler, Debbie Young, Charlie Cochrane,
Christine Hammacott
Participating Moderator:
Carol Westron.

11.20-11.30  Break

11.30am12.30pm: Expert Witness
Professor Becky Milne of the University of Portsmouth who will be talking about
Police Interviewing - the reality

12.20-13.15 Lunch

13.15-14.00 - Guest of Honour L C Tyler in conversation with author Linda Regan

14.00- 15.00  Supernatural & Religious Beliefs in Crime Fiction
Panel: Barbara Nadel, Sally Spedding, Linda Stratmann,
Mia Emilie. Donna Fletcher Crow
Participating Moderator: Dot Marshall-Gent

15.00 -15.20-Coffee-Tea Break

15.20-15.45 Short talk by Jeff Dowson on Screenplays, Crime Thrillers, Marlowe and Me.
       15.45-16.30  Discussion with audience participation 
                              - Fictional favourites
    Peter Tickler will lead the discussion of favourite books in the
                           crime fiction genre,
assisted by
Charlie Cochrane and Carol Westron
               Tickets are available in any Portsmouth Library or at
                                  £15 including a light lunch.