Recent Events

Monday 31 July 2023

‘Who Killed Alfred Snowe’ by J. S. Fletcher

Published by Oreon,
The Orleander Press, 2022.
ISBN: 978-191547501-5 (PB)
Originally published 1933

Who Killed Alfred Snowe? is a further issue in the Oreon Golden Age series. Joseph Smith Fletcher (1863-1935) wrote more than 100 detective stories as well as a considerable number of books on a wide variety of subjects. He was also a journalist.

The Alfred Snowe in question is an apparently well-liked and eccentric antiquarian who is murdered in his home by an intruder. Initially robbery does not appear to be the motive, but gradually more possibilities for the incursion are introduced. It is fortunate for Aubrey Snowe, the nephew of Alfred, that Ronald Camberwell (a favoured sleuth in Fletcher’s later novels) of the Chaney and Camberwell Detective Agency is staying in the town of Wrenchester whilst playing cricket and is persuaded to investigate the death.

Camberwell and the local police work together following false trails and confusing inheritances. The marshes close by Wrenchester and the routes across them feature prominently, as do village inns, remote dwellings and a stolen boat. The action spreads out from the town to Brighton, London and France. Hotels, meals, coffee and cigars occur regularly, and it seems that there are no expenses (sic) spared as the detectives travel about. They encounter financial shenanigans, lawyers, locals and rustics as well as some harmless stereotypes (a barmaid, a Spanish woman and tinkers, for example) who would probably struggle to get past the PC police these days – although I have to say that the tinkers come out of it very well! It all leads to a quite bloody conclusion.

Who Killed Alfred Snowe? may be sober in style but is full of incident. It is a fairly typical example of the Golden Age genre and will be enjoyed by those (like me) whose taste includes this period.
Reviewer: David Whittle

Joseph Smith Fletcher (1863-1935) was a British journalist and writer. He wrote about 200 books on a wide variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction. He was one of the leading writers of detective fiction in the "Golden Age".

David Whittle is firstly a musician (he is an organist and was Director of Music at Leicester Grammar School for over 30 years) but has always enjoyed crime fiction. This led him to write a biography of the composer Bruce Montgomery who is better known to lovers of crime fiction as Edmund Crispin, about whom he gives talks now and then. He is currently convenor of the Midlands Chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Sunday 30 July 2023

‘Wolf Pack’ by Will Dean.

Published by Point Blank,
22 June 2023.
ISBN 978-0-86154-201-7 (PB)

Tuva Moodyson, a deaf journalist, is the assistant editor of Gavrik’s local newspaper, The Posten.  She has developed efficient tactics to deal with her deafness, but is having to work on developing a new way of living, as she copes with the personal repercussions of a shooting at the end of the last book, Bad Apples

Tuva learns that a young woman, Elsa Nyberg. has disappeared, and phones the local police station for information.  The police haven’t yet received any report, which is not unusual, and the general feeling is to wait a few days before taking action.  However, it’s possible that Rose Farm, where Elsa worked in the café, holds the answers and Tuva sets about looking for those answers.  Rose Farm is a curious place;  as well as the farm and the café, it has a nail salon, and is run along the lines of a survivalist commune.  The inhabitants don’t welcome nosy visitors.

Will Dean introduces the reader to new characters and gives a nod to familiar faces from previous stories.  His world is enthralling and disconcerting, ordinary and odd, and not a little violent.  The stories he tells are full of tension and surprises, as are the people.  The book does work as a stand-alone, but new readers might like to take the opportunity to start this compelling series from the beginning.
Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood
Other books by this author:  The Tuva Moodyson series: Dark Pines, Red Snow, Black River  stand-alone novel:  The Last Thing to Burn, First Born and The Last Obe.

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying Law at LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.  Dark Pines was 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.

Friday 28 July 2023

‘The Case of the Uninvited Undertaker’ by Cathy Ace

Published by Four Tails Publishing,
24 July 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-99055013-3

Mavis, Carol, Christine and Annie, the four women who form the WISE Enquiries Agency, are growing concerned about their financial situation because, recently, they haven’t had enough lucrative cases and their bank balance is decreasing. Mavis is especially concerned; she is the oldest of the WISE women and the one who is mainly responsible for organising the agency’s workload. She is pleased when a paying client asks for their services, even though the case is unusual and potentially sinister. A female undertaker, representing her own business and several of her colleagues, approaches the agency because the undertakers are worried about wreaths that are being delivered by an unknown person who appears to be driving a hearse. The undertakers are concerned because the anonymous wreath giver delivers their offering before the person they are mourning dies.

Mavis accepts the case and hopes that Carol, the agency’s computer expert, will be able to turn up some insights. Carol is willing to do everything she can, but she is preoccupied by caring for her toddler son while her programmer husband is working on an international assignment that involves working all night and sleeping during the day. She is also distracted by a request for aid from a close childhood friend, Ellie, who is the Sister-in-Charge at a nursing home. Ellie wants Carol’s help because she is suspicious that one of the junior nurses may be stealing the drugs which are left when patients die, instead of using the official method of disposing of them. Ellie will not tell Carol the name of the nurse she suspects because she is uncertain whether she is right and does not want to be responsible for destroying the girl’s career. Carol wants to help Ellie, but she knows that Mavis will not approve of the WISE agency taking on an unpaid investigation.

However, Mavis is a retired nurse and she has strong feelings about the integrity of her profession, therefore she agrees to go undercover as a nurse at Ellie’s nursing home to try to identify the potential culprit and discover whether she is guilty of illegal practices. While Mavis tackles The Case of the Suspicious Sister, Carol, Christine and Annie will continue to investigate The Case of the Uninvited Undertaker.

The WISE women’s agency is situated in the Welsh village of Anwen-by-Wye, part of the estate of Henry Twyst, the Duke of Chellingworth and the estate owns much of the village. The Twyst family have been generous to the WISE women and Mavis lives with Althea, the Dowager Duchess in the Dower House. If the family need anything investigated, it has always seemed reasonable for the agency to do so, even when they are desperately busy. Now the Duke’s volatile sister, Clementine, has become engaged to a man with a mysterious background and her mother wants to know what her wayward daughter has got into this time.

As well as Carol’s struggles to balance family and work, two of her colleagues have things going on in their personal lives. Annie is gloriously happy in her relationship with Tudor, the landlord of the local public house, but they are tempted by the opportunity to buy a much bigger pub in the village, which would allow them to extend his business and offer rooms for holidaymakers, and, more important, have sufficiently large living quarters that they could move in together permanently with their two beloved Labradors, Gertie and Rosie. The problem is that they are uncertain whether they can afford to purchase the larger premises without compromising their financial security, especially when the seller is increasingly greedy. Christine’s problem is very different to that of her friend. Money is not a problem for her, as her father is wealthy and so is her fiancé, Alexander Bright, but having fallen in love with a man with a wild and somewhat disreputable past, Christine finds herself increasingly restless when she thinks he is settling down to respectable domesticity.

Mavis finds the pursuit of the nurse she suspects of drug theft both exhausting and perilous. In the meantime, the need to discover the identity of the person delivering unexplained wreaths becomes increasingly urgent as the suspicion grows stronger that the wreath giver may not merely be predicting deaths but also be responsible for them. The urgency becomes even more intense when friends in the village receive an unexplained wreath, but catching the perpetrator proves to be as dangerous as the investigators had feared.

The Case of the Uninvited Undertaker is the eighth book in the series featuring the women of the WISE Enquiry Agency and their friends and neighbours in Anwen-by-Wye. It is another excellent addition to a series of lively, fun books, full of warm and engaging characters, with a true sense of community and inventive, multi-stranded plots. The Case of the Uninvited Undertaker is an example of cosy crime at its liveliest and best. It is a page-turner, which I recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Cathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. With a successful career in marketing having given her the chance to write training courses and textbooks, Cathy has now finally turned her attention to her real passion: crime fiction. Her short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies. Two of her works, Dear George and Domestic Violence, have also been produced by Jarvis & Ayres Productions as ‘Afternoon Reading’ broadcasts for BBC Radio 4. Cathy now writes two series of traditional mysteries: The Cait Morgan Mysteries (TouchWood Editions) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (Severn House Publishers)

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 6 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
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin
click on the title

Thursday 27 July 2023

‘Resurrection’ by David Gilman

Published by Head of Zeus,
5 January 2023.  
ISBN: 978180110804-1 (HB)

Dan Raglan is an ex-member of The Foreign Legion and the French counterintelligence service. He also works freelance for British and American intelligence agencies. MI6 want Raglan to retrieve a document of vital importance to British security before the Russians can get their hands on it. The document is in a plane that crashed in a central African desert many years ago.  With his language skills and extensive network of contacts, Raglan was a natural choice for the job, but MI6 also applied emotional bait. Raglan’s father, a British army defense attaché who died in a car crash when Raglan was still at school, had been the officer originally responsible for getting the document out of Africa.

Raglan wants to do the job on his own, but French intelligence insist he is accompanied by a team of about a dozen ex-legionnaires. They also insist that the team is flown into the desert in a Hercules - not the smallest of planes to slip unnoticed into the desert.  Raglan believes that Dragonovic, the Serbian in charge of the ex-legionnaires, intends to kill him once they’ve found the document.

Nothing, including the team’s arrival in Africa, goes to plan. Those who survive the journey to the desert, or who aren’t killed by a local militant group led by Faraj Hamad, are taken to Hamad’s luxurious desert quarters. Here a glamourous blonde – a French doctor with dubious medical skills whom Hamad has kidnapped – pops up. As the mission enters its final stages, the document, Raglan and one or two others of uncertain allegiance end up in Moscow. Elena, a police lady and former girlfriend, helps Raglan. Emotions resurface but time is short.

As the story travels from London to France to Africa and finally Moscow, Resurrection makes for compulsive reading. The action is non-stop. Dan Raglan is a likable hero even though he is undoubtedly more than a little over-talented when compared to the rest of us when it comes to finding his way around and communicating with the locals in foreign climes.
Reviewer Angela Crowther

David Gilman has had an impressive variety of jobs - from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment's Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for an international publisher. He has countless radio, television and film credits before turning to novels. From 2000 until 2009 he was a principal writer on A Touch Of Frost.  David currently lives in Devon with his wife.

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.

‘Prey For The Shadow by Javier Cercas

Published by MacLehose Press,
6 July 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-52942-164-4 (HB)
Trabslated from the Spainsh byAnne McLean

Prey for the Shadow is the second book in the Terra Alta trilogy by acclaimed author Javier Cercas, whose novel Soldiers of Salamis, about the Spanish Civil War, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He also writes for El Pais and is professor of Spanish literature at the University of Girona.

The Terra Alta series is Cercas’s first foray into crime fiction. His detective Melchor Marín was introduced in the initial volume Even the Darkest Night (which I have not yet read). His backstory was told there, and we are reminded of it in Prey for the Shadow; amongst other matters, how his mother met an untimely end for which the perpetrators have not been identified, his father’s unfortunate political career and his own spell in prison for drug-dealing after which he joined the police. Since the first novel his wife has died and he is left to look after his young daughter. Marín is a complicated character, not afraid to dish out violent unofficial retribution. In prison he was encouraged to read by a fellow lag (who becomes an important character in this book), and Les Misérables has a great influence to him, not only in naming his daughter Cosette.

During this novel Marín is involved in reading submissions for a school literary prize and is thinking of quitting the police to become a librarian. However, he is persuaded to back to his old haunts to join the investigation into the blackmailing of the female mayor of Barcelona. A sex tape has surfaced, and the mayor’s political demise would benefit both her ex-husband and her deputy. Corruption, dishonesty and disloyalty are never far away. The story moves along swiftly with interesting characters, and contemporary themes are prominent: Catalonian independence, the Islamic attacks of 2017, inter-racial relations, bitcoin and the pandemic feature, and there is a discussion of the relative merits of Franco and democracy. Cercas uses different tenses for different sections of the plot, and you have to concentrate during a vital late episode when he combines these in the same passage. He also employs the unusual device of references to the first novel as Marín is made aware by others that he has been put into fiction. It somehow doesn’t seem out of place.

Prey for the Shadow is a well-plotted and thought-provoking contemporary novel about justice and retribution. Marín’s investigation reveals more about his past and the death of his mother, all of which encourages him to redouble his efforts to bring matters to a conclusion. And, as one would expect at the end of the second novel in a trilogy, we are left wondering what is going to happen to him. I for one will be keen to read the final instalment.
Reviewer: David Whittle

Javier Cercas was born in 1962. He is a novelist, short-story writer and essayist, In the 1980s he taught for two years at the University of Illinois, and since 1989 has been a lecturer in Spanish Literature at the University of Gerona. He is a regular contributor to the Catalan edition of El Páis.

David Whittle is firstly a musician (he is an organist and was Director of Music at Leicester Grammar School for over 30 years) but has always enjoyed crime fiction. This led him to write a biography of the composer Bruce Montgomery who is better known to lovers of crime fiction as Edmund Crispin, about whom he gives talks now and then. He is currently convenor of the Midlands Chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

‘None of This is True’ by Lisa Jewell

Published by Century,
20 July 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-52919597-2 (HB)

Ask any police officer who has ever interviewed witnesses: there are as many versions of the truth as people involved in a crime. Or incident. Or any part of life.

But Alix Summer is used to interviewing people who only have their own truth to tell: people she selects for her podcasts, about ordinary women who do something extraordinary with their lives. Until she meets Josie Fair. Alix and Josie are birthday twins, born the same day in the same hospital, and celebrating their 45th birthdays in the same restaurant, which is where they meet for the first time. But not the last.

Their lives are very different. Alix lives in a large house with her high-earning husband and two small children. She records her popular podcast series in a custom-built studio in the garden, and on the surface enjoys all the comforts of a trouble-free middle-class existence. Josie was brought up on a council estate and works part-time as a seamstress. Home is a shabby rented flat shared with her elderly retired husband and their grown-up daughter who never leaves her room. Another daughter left home at sixteen and Josie hasn’t seen her for years. 

Josie claims to be on the cusp of major changes, and Alix begins to record her story for a podcast. There is something a little odd about Josie, and Alix can’t resist being drawn in. But Alix has problems of her own, and nothing is quite as it seems...

The best kind of psychological thriller is a rich mix of intriguing characters and brooding atmosphere, and in this novel Lisa Jewell has created an abundance of both. From the outset there is something a little flaky, almost dark about Josie, which counterpoints the brightness of Alix’s world. Josie’s husband Walter is dour and taciturn, and gives nothing away; Nathan, Alix’s spouse, is openly flawed, and wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Other characters come and go, including Josie’s narcissistic mother, and Alix’s noisy and supportive sisters. The novel is cleverly structured, with here-and-now scenes interspersed with extracts from a documentary built from Alix’s recordings of Josie, allowing various people from Josie’s past to offer their versions of her truth. The overall effect is of a picture unfolding which is much wider than and rather different from Josie’s narrow and specious view of herself, and the reader is left wondering about the nature of truth.

It’s one of those books which will make you think, and doubt, and question. Above all it will keep you reading into the small hours.   
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lisa Jewell was born in London in 1968. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication. She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year. She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh. She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Sunday 23 July 2023

‘The Old Rogue of Limehouse’ by Ann Granger

Published by Headline,
6 July 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-9014-4 (HB)

It is 1871 and the London Season is in full swing. These are the months in which wealthy and well-born young ladies are introduced to fashionable society, which causes problems for Scotland Yard because it results in the theft of valuable jewellery that the young ladies wear.

Inspector Ben Ross has been instructed to pay a visit to Jacob Jacobus, an elderly resident of the rough area of Limehouse. Jacobus is an old rogue who is suspected of sometimes handling stolen goods, although he has never been caught. Occasionally, he will discreetly pass on snippets of information to the police, when the matter does not involve any of the professional thieves with whom he deals. Jacobus appears happy to welcome Ben to his tall, thin, four-roomed house, which is crammed with treasures, all of which Ben is welcome to examine, but Jacobus claims to have no information about any stolen jewellery. When leaving Jacobus’ house, Ben is surprised to encounter Daisy Smith, a woman he had met a few years ago when she was working as a prostitute. Now Daisy works at the public house next door to Jacobus’ house, both of the buildings are owned by Jacobus, as well as other property in the area. The landlord of the pub has a key to Jacobus’ house and lends it to any visitors that the old man wants to be admitted. Because Jacobus finds it hard to get around and very rarely goes outside, Daisy is paid to bring him his food and look after him.

When Ben returns to Scotland Yard, he finds that Superintendent Dunn is waiting for him impatiently. Mrs Charlotte Ruxby has come in person to report the theft of a magnificent emerald necklace that has been stolen from the dressing table of her young niece, Isabella Gray, at their Hampstead home. Ben thinks it was extraordinarily careless to have left such a valuable piece of jewellery lying around, which arouses his suspicions. Nevertheless, his initial assumption is that it is the work of a ‘ladder gang’, thieves who come from London to country houses just outside the city and use ladders to enter the bedrooms while all the residents are downstairs at dinner.

Mrs Ruxby is a domineering, demanding woman, and she is part of an extremely influential family. Ben assures her that he will go to her Hampstead house to examine the scene of the theft the next day. However, that evening, while Ben and his wife, Elizabeth, are eating their evening meal, Daisy Smith arrives in a distraught state to tell Ben that Jacobus has been murdered. Ben goes straight to Limehouse and confirms that Daisy’s story is true, Jacobus died still sitting in his chair, his throat was cut, and the room has been ransacked.

Ben is expected to head the two investigations, and soon discovers that both of them involve dysfunctional families. In the case of the stolen necklace, it seems that Mrs Ruxby and her companion, Miss Chalke, are both concealing something, while Isabella Grey is an eager advocate for her cousin, Harry Ruxby, the profligate son of the implacable head of the family firm, Jeremy Ruxby, who has refused to pay any more of his son’s debts. Although a hard-headed businessman, Jeremy Ruxby firmly believes in the family legend that the good luck and prosperity of the family depends on their possession of the necklace. The investigation into the murder of Jacob Jacobus takes an unexpected twist with the arrival of Jacobus’ estranged daughter, her husband and solicitor, who are very angry when they are denied immediate access to his house.

Ben’s wife, Elizabeth finds herself involved in both cases. At Ben’s request she visits Jacobus’ daughter at her hotel to keep her company while her husband formally identifies her father’s body. Elizabeth is also approached by Isabella Grey, who wishes to persuade her to convince Ben that Harry Ruxby is innocent, and later, Miss Chalke calls upon Elizabeth at home, but does not confide in her, although Elizabeth is sure she wishes to. While Elizabeth plays no active part in the investigations, her insights help Ben as he struggles to determine the truth.

There is no proof that the two cases are linked, especially as Ben is sure that Jacobus would not handle a necklace that was so dangerously distinctive. However, Ben has an instinct that there is a connection between the two cases and, as he works to solve them, tragedy strikes again.

The Old Rogue of Limehouse is the ninth book in the series featuring Ben and Elizabeth Ross. It is an intriguing book in an outstanding series and Elizabeth and Ben are engaging protagonists who have not forgotten that they worked hard to survive poverty and bereavement in order to reach their present comfortable situation, and who are always willing to help others. The plot is complex, and the period detail is excellent. The Old Rogue of Limehouse is a beautifully crafted page turner, which I recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Ann Granger was born in Portsmouth where she was a pupil at the then Northern Grammar School for Girls and went from there to London University where she achieved a BA in Modern Languages (French with German). After a period spent first teaching English in France and then working in the Visa Section of British Embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy, in Prague, and together they received postings to places as far apart as Munich and Lusaka. She is the author of the Mitchell and Markby Mysteries, the Fran Varady series and more recently the Lizzie Martin mystery series. She lives in Bicester, near Oxford.

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 6 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 click on the title
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin