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Tuesday 28 September 2021

‘Bridge of Sighs’ by Priscilla Masters

Published by Severn House,
31st October 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-72788838-9 (HB)

In the early hours of a Friday morning in March beautiful barrister Gina Marconi leaves her home and drives her car into a stone wall. 

Coroner Martha Gunn learns of the death on reaching her office on Monday morning unusually not from her assistant Jericho, who always liked to be first with any news, but this morning she was informed by DI Alex Randall himself. A suicide he says – ‘well, it looks like a suicide’.   Gina Marconi was thirty-six years old, a successful barrister in criminal law, due to be married in September. One son Terrance, aged 8.  With everything to live for inexplicitly she gets out of bed at 3am and drives her car at 60 miles an hour straight into a brick wall’.

As Martha reads through the case file, she begins to form a picture of the dead woman and feels that something is very wrong.  Despite enquires, or as Martha puts it, her ‘digging around’, she can find no explanation in her life for a suicide and the results of the post-mortem find nothing abnormal.  The only other possible area is her connection with criminals through her work. But both Martha and Alex continue to feel uneasy about the ‘suicide’.

Two weeks later twelve-year-old Patrick Elson jumps off an A5 bridge. Witnesses say they saw him standing on the parapet and then he jumped.  Although there is no connection between the boy and Gina Marconi, neither suicide makes any sense.  He was a clever boy, perhaps something of a ‘swot’.  He wasn’t depressed and didn’t take drugs, no reason can be found for him taking his own life.

Then Alex Randall’s wife dies, deemed to be a suspicious death.  Over the years Martha and Alex have become friends and more recently more than just colleagues, and although Martha is a widow, Alex is married, and although unhappily and they have maintained a certain distance. And now his wife is dead. And the case is being referred to her.

In this the 7th book in the series featuring Coroner Martha Gunn, she is jolted to a certain degree from her comfort zone. Although she dines occasionally with Simon Pendlebury, who was the husband of her late friend, and who clearly would like to take their relationship to another level Martha has not been so inclined.  The friendship with Alex Randall has grown slowly over the years and while he remains married Martha’s life has continued in its usual pattern, although now her twins have both left home. But Alex has always been there to discuss her cases with, to brain storm difficult situations, but now she is adrift. She has two unexplained suicides and a cloud of suspicion has settled firmly over Alex Randall’s head, and maybe also her own!  

There are two clever and intriguing stories here.  Can Martha solve the three unexplained deaths? If she does get to the truth will she be able to handle it? and if she doesn’t will the lovely easy camaraderie she has enjoyed with Alex be gone forever?

This is a brilliant episode in this series, and I heartily and highly recommended this as a ‘not to be missed’ read.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Priscilla Masters was born in Halifax, and brought up in South Wales, one of seven multi-racial children adopted by an orthopaedic surgeon and his Classics graduate wife. Priscilla trained as a registered nurse in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. She moved to Staffordshire in the 1970s, had an antiques business for a while and two sons. She started writing in the 1980s in response to an aunt asking her what she was going to do with her life! Winding up the Serpent was her first Joanna Piercy story, published in 1995.  Although that series is still continuing the latest Crooked Street published 2016, she has also written several medical standalones and a new series featuring coroner Martha Gunn, set in Shrewsbury. Her latest book is Deceiver a psychological thriller featuring Dr Claire Roget who is a forensic psychiatrist who has some very unpredictable patients. It is set in Stoke on Trent.  

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