Recent Events

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2021 Announces Full Programme


22-25 July 2021 | Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

Programming Chair: Ian Rankin

Special Guests: Mark Billingham | Ann Cleeves | Elly Griffiths |

Mick Herron | Clare Mackintosh | Val Mcdermid

Richard Osman | Cl Taylor

Taking place from 22-25 July at the Old Swan Hotel – the infamous scene of Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance in 1926 – the festival features crime-writing royalty in the form of one-on-one interviews with some very Special Guests and group discussions that go to the heart of what’s happening in crime fiction right now.

This year’s panel discussions take in everything from the perennial appeal of historical crime fiction to the rise of cutting-edge science and tech; the demise of the police procedural to Agatha Christie’s inimitable genius; and the appeal of both gung-ho action heroes to slick political thrillers – and so much more. See full programme below.

Special Guests include producer and presenter Richard Osman with the second instalment in his record-breaking cosy crime caper The Thursday Murder Club series; espionage expert Mick Herron, author of the highly acclaimed Slough House series; mystery maestro Elly Griffiths and her latest Ruth Galloway whodunnit; fan favourite Vera and Shetland author Ann Cleeves; the masterful Mark Billingham with his Tom Thorne prequel Cry Baby; and an in-conversation with the queens of domestic noir Clare Mackintosh and CL Taylor.

Ian Rankin, best-selling Rebus author, said: “It is with great pleasure that I can finally share with you the full programme for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2021. After nearly a year-and-a-half of successive lockdowns and restrictions, it is going to be absolutely marvellous to be able to safely gather together and celebrate the genre that we all love so dearly.”

Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, Sharon Canavar, said: “It has been a real journey to bring this year’s festival to life – working in festivals during Covid is not for the faint-hearted! Ian Rankin has brought together a killer line-up of Special Guests and thought-provoking panels that explore our beloved crime genre in a completely unique way. We are so grateful and proud that – after so many challenges – we are at long last able to share this programme with the public.”

Simon Theakston, Executive Director of Theakston, said: “It’s finally here – the crime fiction event of the year! What an incredible line up of criminal masterminds and devious debutants! We are always so proud to support the biggest and best crime writing festival in the world and this year’s event feels like a long time coming. We can’t wait to welcome you to Harrogate this summer and look forward to seeing you there, with a glass of Old Peculier in hand, of course!”

Full Festival Programme:

Thursday 22 July

8pm: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of The Year 2021 Award Ceremony

Shortlisted this year are: Chris Whitaker who hopes to claim the trophy on his first ever nomination with We Begin at The End, Sunday Times bestselling author Rosamund Lupton with her thrilling Three Hours, Elly Griffiths with her latest Ruth Galloway whodunnit The Lantern Men, Scottish-Bengali author Abir Mukherjee with his latest Wyndham & Banerjee novel Death in the East, Northern Irish author Brian McGilloway with his political thriller The Last Crossing, and New Blood alumni Trevor Wood with his acclaimed novel The Man on the Street.


Friday 23 July

9.00 AM: Special Guest Mick Herron Interviewed by N.J. Cooper

10.30 Am: Gung-Ho Action Hero

Join A.A. Dhand, Holly Watt, Simon Kernick, Steph Broadribb and Charles Cumming as they discuss the rise and fall (and rise) of the gung-ho action man hero (and heroine). What is next for this well-worn and much beloved crime character?

12.00 Pm: Historical Crime Fiction

Abir Mukherjee, Antonia Hodgson, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, S.G. MacLean and S.J. Parris join forces to discuss the future of historical crime fiction, taking Philip Kerr’s (alternative) history novels as a starting point. Together, they’ll ask and answer questions like – why does historical crime fiction make for such excellent storylines and gripping characters? Do readers always need real historical characters to underpin the stories? And what are the new trends in the genre?

2.00 pm: Planners Versus Pantsers

Readers are often incredulous when certain crime writers say they do hardly any planning, preferring to see where a story and its characters takes them. Other authors absolutely need to know every twist and turn before starting to write. There are no hard and fast rules of course and this playful panel of Erin Kelly, Helen FitzGerald, Mark Edwards, Sarah Pinborough and Luca Veste will explore the merits and pitfalls of both routes.

3.30 pm: Who Killed The Police Procedural?

It’s been said that some readers are turning away from fictional detectives and heading instead to psychological mysteries and standalone domestic noir titles. We invite a panel of Mari Hannah, Olivia Kiernan, Parker Bilal, Will Dean and James Oswald to interrogate the truth here. Can the police procedural as we’ve known and loved it survive?

5pm: Special Guest Ann Cleeves Interviewed By Steph Mcgovern

8.30pm: Special Guests: Cl Taylor And Clare Mackintosh In Conversation

10pm: Top Of The Cops

To close out the first full day of festivities, we ask a group of experts to go head-to-head battling for their favourite detectives! Elly Griffiths, Ian Rankin OBE, Mark Billingham, Martyn Waites and Abir Mukherjee to debate who’s ‘Top of the Cops’. Once they decide on a shortlist – the audience will crown the winner by show of hands. Who will it be? Marple or Columbo? Morse or Tennyson?


Saturday 24 July

9.00 am: Special Guest Elly Griffiths Interviewed By Joe Haddow

10.30 am: Napoleons Of Crime

Join C.J. Tudor, Craig Robertson, Liz Nugent, Luca Veste and Barry Forshaw as they consider what makes a great villain. Asking themselves and each other – who are the greatest baddies of crime fiction and what makes readers so interested in those who plan and commit terrible crimes? Perhaps they tell us something about ourselves or perhaps it is the vicarious thrill we love.

12.00 pm: New Blood

Val McDermid’s sought-after New Blood panel returns on Saturday 24 July, with this year’s hotly-tipped debut authors including Anna Bailey, Greg Buchanan, Patricia Marques and Lara Thompson.

2.00 pm: The Writing Life Scientific

Panellists Fiona Erskine, Lin Anderson, Sarah Vaughan, Lesley Kelly and Professor Niamh Nic Daeid together explore the science behind a good crime novel, forensics to pathology. This is your chance to hear how crime writers build believable details into their works, and how the experts feel when the facts are misunderstood.

3.30 pm: Watching Me, Watching You, Ahh Ha

Crime fiction has always addressed readers’ fears and right now we seem to be concerned about surveillance, online stalking, identity theft, and more and writers have started using these tropes along with fictionalised podcasts et cetera to address problems and worries. Join Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Louise Candlish, Matt Wesolowski and Mark Lawson as they explore the impact of new and rapidly evolving technology on the fiction we read.

5.00 Pm: Pleasures and Pitfalls Of The Short Story

In 1920, Black Mask magazine was launched, helping to establish a golden age for American pulp fiction and the crime short story. We ask our panellists Cath Staincliff, Jane Casey, Stuart Neville, Susi Holliday and Ian Rankin to share their perspectives of the pleasures and pitfalls of the short story.

8.30 pm: Special Guest Mark Billingham Interviewed By Ian Rankin

10.00 pm: Late Quiz Night: Val Mcdermid And Mark Billingham


Sunday 25 July

9.30 Am: Christie’s Enduring Allure

2020 saw the centenary of iconic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot’s first foray into crime fiction. We ask Ragnar Jonasson, Ruth Ware, Sarah Phelps, Stuart Turton and Elly Griffiths to discuss the highs and lows of the crime genre’s Grand Dame: Agatha Christie, who famously disappeared from the festival’s home, the Old Swan Hotel.

11.00 am: The Politics Of Crime

The political thriller is as popular as it has ever been - especially on TV. Join Brian McGilloway, Doug Johnstone, George Alagiah, Sarah Vaughan and Alan Johnson as they explore the rise and rise of the political drama, asking if uncertain political landscapes increase the desire for Machiavellian novels?

12.30 PM: Special Guest Richard Osman Interviewed by Mark Billingham

Tuesday 29 June 2021

‘Murder in Outline’ by Anne Morice

Published by Dean Street Press,
5 July 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-914150-15-9 (PB)

(Originally Published
28 June 1979).

Actress-detective Tessa Crichton is enjoying one of her ‘rest periods’ staying with her cousin Toby at his house at Roakes Common, when a visit from her husband Robin, who is a detective at Scotland yard, bring a bundle of mail that includes an invitation for her to be one of the judges at the annual in-house talent competition at her old school The Waterside Drama and Ballet School.

The school was founded and is still run by Dr and Mrs Bland. With her nose for sniffing out information it isn’t long before Tessa has the run down. It seems that Mrs Bland, a powerhouse of energy and organisation is not quite herself and seems to have some unidentified malady.  Tessa is surprised and pleased to find that one of her former classmates Teeny is teaching there. Although Tessa is quicky admonished for calling her Teeny.  Later while visiting Tina (Teeny), Tessa discovers that Dr Bland is playing away!

The other judges are a broadcaster, Eddie Harper, whom Tessa had met before and who appears to have modelled himself on a Wodehouse character, and his current wife Vera (there are three that go before her, or went before her).   Vera proves to be on the dumpy side with a mournful expression and is a martyr to migraine.  After watching the plays in the competition only one girl really stands out as having massive talent- interestingly the one that is leaving at the end of term.

Later Tessa accidentally learns that the school is currently experiencing a spate of petty pilfering.  Quickly followed by the news that one of the girls is dead.  Suicide is mooted, but Vera is close to hysterics, saying a shadow was there, and she had an intuition, or instinct – call it what you like, sorry but my English is not all that good. Eddie jumped in quickly with.

            ‘There you are then!’  ‘Better not try, that’s my advice. Slippery customers, these instincts and intuitions. Always creeping up on you uninvited and then leaving you in the lurch when you need them.’

This was a joy to read. Some terrific characters and a tantalising mystery that kept me turning pages. Wonderful dialogue.  I discovered that I have two of these books purchased in the 1970’s. The only mystery is – why didn’t I buy more?  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Anne Morice, née Felicity Shaw, was born in Kent in 1916. Her mother Muriel Rose was the natural daughter of Rebecca Gould and Charles Morice. Felicity’s older sister Angela became an actress, married actor and theatrical agent Robin Fox, and produced England’s Fox acting dynasty, including her sons Edward and James and grandchildren Laurence, Jack, Emilia and Freddie.
Felicity went to work in the office of the GPO Film Unit. There Felicity met and married documentarian Alexander Shaw. They had three children and lived in various countries.
Felicity wrote two well-received novels in the 1950’s but did not publish again until successfully launching her Tessa Crichton mystery series in 1970, buying a house in Hambleden, near Henley-on-Thames, on the proceeds. Her last novel was published a year after her death at the age of seventy-three on May 18th, 1989.

‘The Scorpion’s Tail by Preston & Child

Published by Head of Zeus,
7 January 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-83893123-0 (HB)

Rookie FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson is sent to an unusual death: a mummified man half-buried in a ghost mining town in a remote area of New Mexico. She enlists the help of archaeologist Nora Kelly and soon, helped by a Colt-toting local sheriff and Nora’s brother, Skip, they’re caught up in a search for hidden treasure, pursued by other ruthless parties determined to get there first.

The plot is fast-moving, with a lot of interesting history of New Mexico along the way, and the spiky interaction between the two leads is great fun. I also really enjoyed the drawing of the minor characters – I was hopingfor a romance between Corrie and the Sheriff.

The outback setting is beautifully described, and the ending satisfying, with a couple of clever final flips, including of course a walk-on from the mysterious Prendergast.

A thoroughly absorbing FBI investigation / archaeology mystery with great characters, snappy dialogue, a vivid New Mexico setting and plenty of twists and turns.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the suburb of Wellesley. Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy before settling down to English literature. His first job was as an editor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. His stint at the museum resulted in his first nonfiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, as well as his first novel, Relic, co-authored with Lincoln Child which was made into a movie by Paramount Pictures. Relic was followed by a string of other thrillers co-written with Child, many featuring eccentric FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. Preston spends his free time riding horses in New Mexico and gunkholing around the Maine coast in an old lobster boat. He counts in his ancestry the poet Emily Dickinson, the newspaperman Horace Greeley, and the infamous murderer and opium addict Amasa Greenough.

Lincoln Child was born in Westport, Connecticut, in 1957. Lincoln graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, majoring in English. He secured a position with St. Martin's, Press where he was associated with the work of many authors, including that of James Herriot and M. M. Kaye. He edited well over a hundred books. Henow writes full-time and is the co-author, with Douglas Preston, of a number of bestselling thrillers including Relic, Riptide and The Ice Limit. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death From a Sheland Cliff 

Monday 28 June 2021

‘The Herring in the Library’ by L C Tyler

Published by MacMillan, 6 August 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-230-71468-7
(Hardback edition)
.(See jacket above left)
Published by Allison & Busby, 21 January 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-74901943-3

(Paperback edition). (see jacket above right)

When writer Ethelred Tressider bumps into Rob (Shagger) Muntham outside the village Post Office, last seen considerably inebriated celebrating his degree, he expects nothing more than a quick nod, but having advised Ethelred that he is now Sir Robert Muntham of the large pile up the road called Muntham Court he invites himself into Ethelreds bijou residence - a couple of rooms across the village green.  Following this accidental meeting Robert adopts the habit of dropping in on Ethelred, but tonight Ethelred accompanied by his agent Elsie Thirkettle are to dine at Muntham Court. Elsie has mistaken ‘dine at their estate’ for ‘they live on an estate’ and has a sort of Gypsy Rose Lee meets Vivienne Westwood outfit which gave me an instant picture of Elsie.

Arriving at Muntham Court their host is surprisingly absent, but Lady Annabelle Muntham leads them to meet the other guests - a somewhat diverse crew. Colin and Fiona McIntosh who seem quite at home helping themselves to a drink, Clive Brent, a former banking colleague, the writer Felicity Hooper, whose book it transpires Elsie had turned down as a non-starter, which has subsequently made copious amounts of money - oops, and Gerald and Jane Smith.  When Robert does appear, he seems in a strange mood and makes a toast to his chums, promising them an evening none of them will forget.  Shortly afterwards he is found strangled in his locked study.

This is the classic whodunit, with a good cast of suspects whose motives gradually come to light, as Ethelred investigates at the request of Annabelle Muntham. But above all it is a fun read. The story is told by Ethelred and Elsie in alternate chapters. They are marvellous well-fleshed out characters, who you so want to meet. The prose is witty and beautifully delivered.  This book is highly recommended, and whilst I await the next instalment of Ethelred and Elsie I will catch up on the earlier ones – you should do too, if you haven’t already.

Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

L. C. Tyler
was born in Southend, Essex, and educated at Southend High School for Boys, Jesus College Oxford and City University London. After university he joined the Civil Service and worked at the Department of the Environment in London and Hong Kong. He then moved to the British Council, where his postings included Malaysia, Thailand, Sudan and Denmark. Since returning to the UK he has lived in Sussex and London and was Chief Executive of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for eleven years. He is now a full-time writer. His first novel, The Herring Seller's Apprentice, was published by Macmillan in 2007, followed by A Very Persistent Illusion, Ten Little Herrings, The Herring in the Library, Herring on the Nile, Crooked Herring, Cat among the Herrings and Herring in the Smoke, . The first book in a new historical series, A Cruel Necessity, was published by Constable and Robinson in November 2014. Since then he has published five further books in this series. The latest being Death of a Shipbuilder.

His latest Ethelred and Elsie is Farewell My Herring

‘Bleak Encounter at The Cape’ by Richard Trahair

Published by The Book Guild,
28 May 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-91355183-4 (PB)

Petroc Tomlyn and his wife Jill live on the Cornish coast at St. Just not far from Lands End. Petroc is a volunteer coastguard and one day after very violent weather, as the seas slowly recede with the tide, he discovers a man's body floating in a tidal seawater swimming pool.


Making his way down over slippery rocks he sees nearby what looks like a body bag. On closer inspection he notes it was made in Switzerland. Lodged nearby is a metal tag which he puts in his rucksack and picks up the bag before it can be washed away. He informs the police and that evening he takes the bag into the local police station, forgetting all about the tag.


It's not until days later that he remembers the metal label and on inspection he deduces some of the letters stand for Lausanne.  When two men visit him saying they are from the Metropolitan Police, he gives them the tag denying he noted anything embossed on it. They seem satisfied and leave.


Having recently fancied a holiday, Petroc and Jill decide to go to Lausanne and satisfy their curiosity as to where the body could have come from. Imagine their surprise when they discover certain letters on the tag stand for a centre for the investigation into infectious diseases.


Unknown to them back in Cornwall, one of the mortuary technicians dealing with the body becomes seriously ill.


We then learn of an embassy in London, bent on threatening a certain state with a virus attack unless they do as requested.


Action now moves between Switzerland, Germany and England. The Tomlyns are unwittingly caught up in the tangle of intrigue, putting themselves in grave danger. What they envisaged to be a relatively quiet holiday turns out to be anything but.


It all leads to a final surprising ending on the West Cornwall coast.


A really absorbing story, especially in the present climate, and it gives food for thought. The author's intimate knowledge of Cornwall shines through every line. His description of the rugged landscape brings the area alive and when he writes about the crashing of the wild seas on the rocks, it's almost possible to taste the salt in the air.

I thoroughly recommend this fast moving, gripping book.


Reviewer:  Tricia Chappell

Richard Trahair grew up on the borders of Devon and Cornwall, spending holidays every year at the far end of that peninsula. He has strong farming roots in the area around Cape Cornwall, where his family farmed from c1750 until his enterprising forebears moved on as merchants and manufacturers of foods, notably a baby and toddler rusk that became famous. Richard is a retired chartered surveyor with a BA (Hons) in Textile Management and holder of the Aldhelm Cross from the Bishop of Salisbury. He lives in Salisbury, Wiltshire where he is also the Church organist. This is his second published novel.

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.