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Friday 24 December 2021

‘Murder Now and Then’ by Faith Martin

Published by Joffe Books,
15 September 2021.
ISBN 978-1-78931-875-3 (PB)

This is book 19 in the DI Hillary Greene series. Those who have read recent books in the series will know that after a brief experiment with retirement, Hillary has returned to work as a civilian consultant solving cold cases for the CRT (Crime Review Team) at Thames Valley Police’s headquarters in Oxford. She is helped by Claire Wooley, a retired police sergeant in her early fifties and Gareth Proctor who has been invalided out of the army. Gareth is in his mid-thirties and carries both the physical and mental scars that accompany such a background.

The case Hillary’s team is given to examine dates back to 2011. A young medieval history graduate, Michael Beck, went out on his bicycle one morning and was found dead in a water meadow a couple of miles from his home later that evening.  He had been hit over the head with a round instrument of unknown origin, and was dead before he was put in the water.

The original investigation had identified two main suspects, Michael’s tutor, Dr Timothy Durning and his, rather too ardent, lover Dr Mia de Salle. Hillary begins by interviewing Michael’s parents, Timothy Durning, and Mia de Salle, and Michael’s old school friend, the amiable, but not terribly bright, Kevin Philpot. Her investigations gather momentum when she learns that Michael’s main hobby at the time of his death had been using a metal detector to hunt for buried treasure.

Six months before Hillary started looking into Michael’s death, two criminals - a fence for stolen goods and a money lender-were murdered on the same day.  DI Robin Farrell is determined to finger Oxford’s king of crime, Larry Spence, for the murders, but Hilary is not so sure.  Her gut feeling tells her there might be a link between Michael’s death all those years ago, and the deaths of these two criminals six months ago.  Unfortunately, she has no evidence to support her feelings and no idea what the link might be, and DI Farrell remains set on arresting the man he fancies for the killings.  Hillary is also worried about what sort of a fix Gareth might have got himself into whilst trying to help an old army mate suffering with death-inciting PTSD.  Will she risk her own reputation to help him?

In this easy to read and intriguing Hillary Greene mystery, Faith Martin moves the story along at a good pace. The book is peopled by a variety of realistically human characters who actually eat and get cross when they’re tired. In Murder Now and Then, Michael’s relationships with his tutor, his girlfriend Mia, and his old schoolfriend Kevin, are at the heart of the story. Mia is a little mentally challenged, but in the end, it is her kinky behaviour that inadvertently provides the police with a delightful stratagem for corroborating their suspicions. At the beginning of the book, I felt a little sad to learn that Hilary’s old boss and would-be husband, Chief Supt Steven Crayle, had died, thus depriving her of a happy resolution to her personal life. That may yet come in a later book.  Hilary is still only in her mid-fifties, so plenty of time for romance.

Reviewer Angela Crowther.

Faith Martin is a pen name of English author Jacquie Walton who was born in Oxford. She is best known for writing a series of books set around Oxfordshire, with the starring character being DI Hillary Greene. She also has a series set in Oxford in 1960 featuring PC Trudy Loveday, who is assigned to help coroner Clement Ryder. Writing as Joyce Cato she has published 7 books featuring Jenny Starling, a travelling cook and amateur detective. And four books featuring Monica Noble, a vicar's wife with a taste for solving crimes.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.


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