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Friday, 18 June 2021

‘Murder by Fraud’ by Judith Cutler

Published by Joffe Books,
10 August 2020.

(Originally published in September 2001 as Will Power)

Detective Sergeant Kate Power has settled into life in Birmingham. She gets on well with her superior officer and close colleagues and is on track for promotion thanks to the accelerated promotion scheme. Also, she is sorting out the dilapidated house that her great-aunt gave her, despite the damage by arson that had occurred during a recent major case. Her personal life is still a mess, as she is torn between her affection for two men, both senior officers, one of whom is married.

To Kate’s dismay, she is moved away from her supportive team to the Fraud Squad under the acerbic Detective Inspector Lizzie King, who makes it clear that Kate is too inexperienced in fraud to be of any use. The whole Fraud Squad is desperately overworked and Kate seeks for a role that will not demand too much of her more knowledgeable colleagues’ time in instructing her. One of the jobs Kate takes on is interviewing Mrs Duncton who has turned up at the Fraud Squad offices to complain that Sylvia Barr, her elderly mother, has recently died and has left a will that leaves all of her considerable estate to her handyman, Max Cornfield. Mrs Duncton alleges that Cornfield has forged the will and also implies that Cornfield killed Mrs Barr to gain the inheritance. However, when Kate interviews Mrs Duncton’s brother, who has also been disinherited, he insists that Cornfield deserves the money, as he has looked after his employer without support for years and none of her family has been near her. When Kate meets Max Cornfield, she likes him and finds it hard to believe that he is a callous criminal, but she knows that liking somebody does not mean that they are innocent of all wrong doing. Despite the fact that she finds Max a more admirable person than Mrs Barr’s children, Kate has a feeling that there is something amiss with the will and continues to investigate.

Soon after this, people connected with the case start to die. Kate and her colleagues have to consider whether Sylvia Barr’s will is responsible for the violence, as well as the possibility that, as Mrs Duncton claimed, Mrs Barr had not died a natural death. The investigation takes Kate on a brief trip to Europe in search of the will’s witnesses and on an even darker journey of discovery into the earlier life of Sylvia Barr, her children, Max Cornfield and the cruel secrets of their past.

Murder by Fraud is the fourth book featuring Kate Power, but it works well as a stand-alone. It was first published in 2002 as Will Power. The plot is fascinating, with several clever twists. The descriptions of the stresses of police work are vividly described, as are the difficulties of fitting in with different teams and a variety of senior officers. Kate is an engaging protagonist, intelligent and persistent but also fallible. Murder by Fraud is an engrossing read, which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

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 seven books in this series. There are three 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 more recently a series feature a head teacher Jane Cowan (3 books). Judith has also written three standalone’s Staging Death, Scar Tissue, and Death In Elysium. Her new series is set in Victorian times featuring Matthew Rowsley. There are three books in this series.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. 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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