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Friday, 4 March 2022

‘Slipknot’ by Priscilla Masters

Published by Allison & Busby,
19 June 2007.
ISBN: 0-74908-174-0 (HB)

Single mother and coroner Martha Gunn is dealing with the wrench of her thirteen-year-old son Sam going to the Liverpool Football Academy to follow his dream. His twin Sukey seems unconcerned but Martha is finding it difficult to let go.

Not that far away another thirteen-year-old is also leaving home but for a different reason.  After months of constant bullying, Callum Hughes has finally turned, and somewhat ferociously knifed his tormentor, Roger ‘DreadNought’ Gough.  Now Callum is awaiting appearance in the magistrate’s court.

This second book in the new series featuring Coroner Martha Gunn deals with the seemingly increasing problem of bullying and the age-old situation of a mother’s feelings when her children flee the nest. 

When Callum is found dead in his cell, the initial thought is suicide - he had told his mother that he could not cope with being locked up. but all may not be as it looks on the surface. The stories of the two prison wardens on duty - veteran Walton Pembroke and fledgling Stevie Matthews - tally, and Callum’s cell mate Tyrone Smith declares that he slept the night through. 

Investigating the death is DI Alex Randall, who keeps Martha abreast of developments. But Martha pursues her own investigations into the background of both boys.  Whilst nearly everyone she initially speaks with denies the bullying she gets a totally different picture from Callum’s history teacher Adam Farthing, who describes Callum as an intelligent but mild boy. And Martha is sceptical that a timid boy such as Callum would have killed himself. 

This is a serious subject that is dealt with by the author with sensitivity.  Flashes of humour are provided by Martha’s

Assistant, gossipy Jericho.  There’s also the promise of romance, with the rather secretive widower Simon Pendlebury, and the enigmatic Alex Randall – my money is on the latter.  I didn’t get a good feeling about Simon Pendlebury.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
There are eight books in the series featuring DI Joanna Piercy. Also three stand-alone novels, Night Visit (1998) A Fatal Cut (2000) and A Plea of Insanity (2004). In 2003 she published Disturbing Ground, set in South Wales featuring Dr Megan Banesto, which I understood is the start of a new series.        

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.  There are now fifteen books in the series. She has also written several medical standalones and a series set in Shrewsbury, featuring coroner Martha Gunn. Her most recent series features Dr Claire Roget who is a forensic psychiatrist who has some very unpredictable patients

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