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Friday 12 November 2021

‘Friday the Sixteenth’ by Peter Coombs.

Published by Matador,
28 August 2021.
ISBN:  978-1-80046390-5 (PB)

Andrew Packard is enjoying life. After a career as a lorry driver, he has been able to follow his passion for antiques by becoming a dealer, a business in which his restoration skills serve him well. And he had time to indulge his other passion for motor bikes and cars.  Little does he realise the role that these interests will play in his future.

At a local auction a woman, Mrs Harrison, buys most of the lots he is interested in and his only purchase is a small sewing table in need of repair, but likely to provide a decent profit.  The day after the auction, he goes for breakfast in a local café and ends up reading the local paper, which has a very sad story about a family hit by tragedy- though he doesn’t realise it at the time, this story will prompt him to make a decision that will affect his life and the lives of many others.

Local papers feature again that day, when he sets about restoring the table and has the fun of emptying out the odds and ends in the drawers.  As used to be the case, the drawers had been lined with old newspapers.  Taking one out, he glances at the yellowed pages and there is a much younger Mrs Harrison in a photograph with her husband and another couple. He decides to take a day off from antiques and pursue his other interest with a visit to the Donington Park race circuit where, much to his surprise, he sees Mrs Harrison in the race paddock.  Is this mere co-incidence or fate?  

The characters range from likeable to extremely unpleasant and the story is told from a number of viewpoints.  Some of the themes - local council corruption, poorly-built houses - are always relevant.  References to local papers bring to mind the kinds of articles they often cover –small events, bigwigs at receptions, tragedies with local resonance.  But the action isn’t all local and moves to Belgium via the racing link.  This is a not a high-voltage read, but has pace and moments of tension and anxiety, as well as happiness and optimism.  But Andy is the key character, the catalyst who makes things happen - a person who cares and who finds himself in the position of being able to make a difference, if he dares.

Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood

Peter Coombs ran his own transport company, worked as an antique dealer and later a motorbike dealer. At the age of fifty he took up rock climbing and became a freelance instructor. Until recently he worked as an extra on TV and films. Friday the Sixteenth is his first novel.

 Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.

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