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Thursday 10 February 2022

‘Peril in Persia’ by Judith Cranswick

Independently Published,
31 January 2022.
ISBN: ‎ 979-840855144-6

The narrator of the Aunt Jessica series is Harry, a young man whose life has improved immeasurably in the past year. Harry had been brought up in an all-female household, cosseted and defended by his gentle mother and disapproved of by her two much older sisters, Maud and Edwina, who never hesitated to voice their criticisms of Harry ‘s abilities and lifestyle. When Harry lost his job and was unable to continue paying his rent he felt desperate, dreading his mother’s distress and his aunts’ scorn. Fortunately, another aunt came to his aid: Harry’s Aunt Jessica is completely different from the others: she had a stellar career as an archaeologist and now works as the lecturer on high-class tours to exciting foreign locations. Aunt Jessica invited Harry to join her as her assistant and they are about to leave on their third trip together, a tour of Persia, which is now known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Peril in Persia starts with a Prologue, set in 1978, in which a young English girl is distressed because she believes that her Iranian lover will be prevented from keeping his promise to remain in Britain and marry her. The main story commences over forty years later, with Harry as the narrator. He is happy that he has a new small flat in London and his newly established design business is going well, although he also has a job as a sous-chef to make sure he does not again face homelessness and despair. Harry is looking forward to his trip to Persia, despite some worries about the health of his Aunt Maud and his concern about leaving his mother and Aunt Edwina to cope with the invalid. His doubts are over-ruled by his mother and aunts, and Harry is pleased to discover that most of his fellow passengers seem friendly, although one man appears to be very unsociable and Harry suspects that he is not what he seems. He also thinks that another passenger, also travelling alone, has a previous acquaintance with the manager of the hotel in Tehran where they are staying. He shares his suspicions with Aunt Jessica, but she tells him that he is being over-imaginative.

While they are sightseeing in Tehran the tourists are shocked when one of their number is mown down and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Harry is unsure whether his suspicions are fuelled by the trauma of witnessing this event, but he cannot shake off his feeling that the hit-and-run driver deliberately drove at his victim. Aunt Jessica aids Harry to search the dead man’s hotel room and they discover that he was not who he had claimed to be. Harry and Aunt Jessica are due to leave Tehran with their party of tourists and they cannot investigate any further but soon it becomes clear that danger is travelling with them. As Aunt Jessica and Harry escort their party around glorious palaces and vibrant markets, their pleasure is marred when further apparent accidents occur. It is impossible to tell who amongst the tourists and tour staff are responsible and Harry becomes suspicious of many of his fellow travellers, whom at the start of the tour he had regarded as innocuously pleasant.

As Harry continues to investigate, it becomes obvious that his activities have been observed and his own life is in danger from an unknown and ruthless assailant.

This is the third book in the series featuring Harry and Aunt Jessica. It is a fascinating series and Peril in Persia is a delightful addition, with subtle mentions of customs and dress codes of the country, and glorious descriptions of scenery and historic buildings that transport the reader to an enthralling country they may not have the opportunity to visit in real life. Peril in Persia is a delightful read with engaging protagonists and magnificent background descriptions, which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

 Judith Cranswick  was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’

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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