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Wednesday 17 March 2021

‘The Cyanide Ghost’ by Linda Stratmann

Published by Sapere Books,
22 February 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-80055197-5 (PB)

In the past few years, ever since an unscrupulous medium had targeted Mina Scarletti’s widowed mother, Mina has become renowned in Brighton for defeating the machinations of fraudulent mediums. Mina has no objection to mediums who give their services for free or make moderate charges and offer comfort to the bereaved, but she loathes those who exploit the vulnerable. Mina’s investigations have unmasked many fraudulent mediums and caused some to be prosecuted and sent to prison. Her success has made her some dangerous enemies amongst spiritualists and their supporters, especially Arthur Wallace Hope, who is famous as a spiritualist and explorer. Hope is an arrogant, vengeful man who has come to hate Mina and is determined to destroy her.

Mina suffers from scoliosis, but despite her small frame and twisted back she has a quick, incisive brain and a will of iron. She has always looked after her feckless brother, Richard, a charming and irresponsible young man and has helped to conceal his shortcomings from her demanding, self-centred mother. Mina is pleased that her brother is holding down a job, although sceptical about how long this will last. Unfortunately, Richard’s employment is with Mr Beckler, a photographer who has just opened a new shop in Brighton. Mina already has good reason to distrust Beckler who is a follower of Hope and, in their last encounter, Beckler had followed his mentor’s commands and attempted to destroy Mina’s reputation. Mina is extremely suspicious when Beckler claims to have photographed a ghost while he was taking a photograph of Miss Hartop, an unattractive heiress. Miss Hartop declares the ghost is the spirit of her mother and, encouraged to believe that she has special powers, she sets up as a medium in Beckler’s shop. Mr Hope returns to Brighton and immediately starts his campaign to destroy Mina, even insinuating that she is guilty of a serious crime. Mina has to use all her intelligence and determination, as well as the support of her friends, to combat Hope’s evil plans.

The Cyanide Ghost is the sixth book in the series featuring Mina Scarletti but the story is completely stand-alone, with the backstory skilfully inserted so that it does not slow down the pace. Although the book is in Mina’s viewpoint, it starts with a prologue in Beckler’s viewpoint, which offers the reader a different aspect of the story. The plot is fascinating, the historical detail is enthralling and authentic, and the characterisation is excellent. Mina is a powerful and engaging heroine, with a delightful team of friends and family. The Cyanide Ghost is a page-turner, which I recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Linda Stratmann was born in Leicester in 1948 and first started scribbling stories and poems at the age of six. She became interested in true crime when watching Edgar Lustgarten on TV in the 1950s. Linda attended Wyggeston Girls Grammar School, trained to be a chemist’s dispenser, and later studied at Newcastle University where she obtained a first in Psychology. She then spent 27 years in the civil service before leaving to devote her time to writing. Linda loves spending time in libraries and archives and really enjoys giving talks on her subject.

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 This Game of Ghosts click on the title.    

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