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Thursday 13 February 2020

‘Play Dead’ by Anne Penketh

Published by Joffe Books,
3 September 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78391-170-9 (PB)

Someone is targeting with lethal intent members of the Norfolk Festival Orchestra, a group of skilled classical musicians, some with professional experience, others not. But who could wish to harm any of these people who are partaking in such an apparently harmless activity which gives so much pleasure to the inhabitants of Norwich and its environs? And why?

The first Detective Inspector Sam Clayton is aware of this is, when out with his girlfriend Melissa one Sunday afternoon, he is summoned by his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Bligh, and told to go to a house in a village, Costessey, near Norwich where the body of a dead woman has been found. She is Kristina Manning, a cellist with the NFO who also worked as a music therapist at the local hospital, and she has been stabbed in the stomach by the spike of her own cello. But who could want to kill such a beautiful and talented young woman? The night before she died she had given a party; most of the guests, apart from her boyfriend, Nigel Henderson, an accountant, had been members of the orchestra and it is among them that Clayton and his sergeant, Julie Everett, begin to make enquiries among members of the orchestra.

They start with the conductor Massimo Romano but he has only been in that position for a couple of months and can tell them very little. The previous conductor, Michael Proctor, had been forced out by members of the orchestra because he had fired two orchestra members, it was felt unjustly, and this had created resentment. Proctor can’t give Clayton and Julie much useful information, except that it is clear that relationships among orchestra members were rather tense and there was at least some drug use. But then Proctor is attacked and nearly killed, and it appears that the opioid tramadol had been administered – it seems by force by two masked men. And the post-mortem on Kristina’s body reveals that she had taken a Class A drug on the night she died although her boyfriend had insisted that she was not a user. Then some of the orchestra members raise doubts about the death of another member, a trumpeter, some weeks ago. And then a violinist is found strangled with a violin string, and one of the orchestra members who had been fired has disappeared.

How many other orchestra members are at risk, even Clayton’s girlfriend Melissa who is a member of the orchestra choir? Clayton, himself a music lover and a guitar player, and Julie find themselves enmeshed in a web of drug dealing and seething resentment.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Anne Penketh is an author and journalist based in Paris. She is originally from Lancashire but has worked all over the world as a foreign correspondent. Her first crime novel, Murder on the Marsh, was published in 2016.  Her latest crime novel, Play Dead, is the third in a series of murder mysteries set in Norfolk and featuring DI Sam Clayton. In 2017 she wrote a one-woman show, Sugar Baby, which was performed on the Edinburgh Fringe.


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.

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