Recent Events

Wednesday 29 November 2023

‘Who Killed the Curate?’ by Joan Coggin.

Published by Galileo Publishers, 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-91553013-4 (PB)

Lady Lupin Lorimer Hastings (Loops to her friends) goes to a 21st birthday party with her friends, Duds and Tommy Lethbridge. She is seated next to a clergyman (which would not have been her choice) and discovers that he is the most attractive man she has ever seen, somewhat older than her but with a very charming voice, and greying hair that only adds to his general attractiveness.  The Rev Andrew Hastings is likewise enchanted by Lupin and within a few months they are married, and Lupin is living in the vicarage of St Mark’s in the small seaside town of Glanville, Sussex.

Lupin finds life as a vicar’s wife somewhat busier than she had imagined - she is invited to any number of social events and finds that she is expected to be active in many local organisations, with important roles in the Girl Guides, the Mothers’ Union and the Sunday School.  Her confusion about her role and the expectations of Andrew’s parishioners lead to some gently humorous situations, but she begins to make friends and to understand the relationships which exist in her new community.

Christmas approaches and friends are invited to spend time at the vicarage.  They join the church choir and other auxiliary singers at the practice for the carol concert.  Charles Young, Andrew’s curate, is in charge, but obviously not well.  In fact, he is so unwell that he is unable to attend the Christmas Eve service and dies later that evening.  Mr Young has been murdered and Lupin, her London friends and Glanville colleagues try to find out what has led to this.  With the help of Jack Scott, a guest who is a British secret service agent, information is pieced together and the unexpected and sad explanation for the murder is revealed.

Originally published in 1944, this story is set in a fast- vanishing way of life – the author herself was born in 1898.  Lupin is a scatty, kind-hearted, spoilt but not totally un-aware young woman, who manages to contribute to the investigation, providing information from the contracts she has had with the people involved and her own observations of their behaviour.  Some of her conversations will entertain or infuriate, or possibly both.

The story focuses on Lupin and her new life in Glanville and the murder feels like a part of that, rather than the centre of the whole story.  The characters involved have their own stories and old mistakes haunt lives, some being resolved but others having significant effects on the lives of individuals.  This story, has two main story lines which are given the time to develop.  It holds the interest as the individual characters become more familiar and hidden histories are revealed.

This is the first of four stories involving Lady Lupin. 

Other books in the Lady Lupin Quartet:  The Mystery of Orchard House, Why Did She Die? Dancing with Death.
Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood

Joan Coggin (1898 - 1980) aka Joanna Lloyd, was born in 1898 in Lemsford, Hertfordshire, the daughter of the Rev. Frederick Ernest Coggin. Her mother, who was the daughter of Edward Lloyd, founder of Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, died when she was eight, and the family moved to Eastbourne, where Coggin lived until her own death in 1980. She was educated, together with her sister Enid, at Wycombe Abbey, a setting she would later use for her girls' school stories, written under the pseudonym Joanna Lloyd. Leaving Wymcombe in 1916, Coggin became involved in the war effort, working as a nurse at Eastbourne. After the war she worked with the blind, and returned to her schoolgirl interest in Guiding. She suffered from a mild form of epilepsy, but aside from the inability to drive, it did not greatly impact her life. Her first novel, And Why Not Knowing, was published in 1929, and was followed by a series of mysteries featuring the amusingly inadvertent detective, Lady Lupin Lorrimer.

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.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

‘The Psychologist’s Shadow’ by Laury A. Egan

Published by Enigma Books,
18 November 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-915905-20-8 (PB)

 “Dear Ellen, I’m waiting and watching for your signal.”

This intriguing psychological thriller opens in September 1992 as Dr. Ellen J. Haskell prepares to welcome the first clients to her new office in Princeton. 

Some sixth months earlier the psychologist had been working in Manhattan when one of her sessions ended in tragedy.  To recover from her physical and mental injuries, she moved to the Princeton home of her supportive parents, yet despite their encouragement and a period of therapy, Ellen still blames herself for what happened.  Nonetheless, she is now eager to return to her vocation.  A poet and writer herself, Ellen has a special interest with those who work in the creative arts, and she already has a list of clients seeking her help.

Just as her self-assurance begins to re-emerge, Ellen receives a series of abandoned and silent calls.  This dents her fragile confidence, a situation that worsens when she starts to receive written notes and unwanted “gifts.”  Ellen realises she is being stalked by an obsessive admirer and begins to wonder whether it could be one of her patients.  As her would-be lover’s behaviour becomes ever more bizarre, the psychologist decides she must find out and help the person whose fixation is making her life a misery.  Little does she know just how far her admirer is prepared to go to prove their devotion.

The writer creates a kaleidoscope of characters around Ellen any of whom might prove to be the psychologist’s deranged devotee.  The pursuer’s point of view is revealed through his or her journal entries.  Preceding each chapter, each entry is a constant reminder of Ellen’s predicament, even when things seem to be going well!  Giving voice to the stalker is unnerving but appropriate as Ellen follows her chosen profession.

Ellen’s experiences echo the stalking and murder of Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer in1989.  The author’s allusion to this real-life crime reminds the reader that the protagonist’s ordeal has been, and continues to be, a shocking reality for some people.  The book’s title also endows the tale with chilling authenticity when it references Carl Jung’s concept of “the shadow” within each human being.  He once described the “shadow” as “the thing a person has no wish to be.”  These factual allusions never distract from a spell-binding narrative that leads, and sometimes misleads, as it unfolds.  The novel is a wonderful combination of tension and compassion as Ellen tries to balance care for herself against care for her clients, this makes for a mesmerising read. 

The Psychologist’s Shadow blends the discordant perspectives of hunter and hunted into a gripping thriller.  Deliciously disorientating and highly enjoyable.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Laury A. Egan is the author of five crime fiction novels. She also writes, Fantasy, Gay Romance and general fiction.  Her work has appeared in over 85 literary journals and anthologies. The Psychologist's Shadow, is her most recent book published 2023.



Dot Marshall-Gent
worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  


‘A Quiet Contagion’ by Jane Jesmond

Published by Verve Books,
28 November 2023.
ISBN: 978-0-85730849-8 (PBO)

What do you do when your grandad jumps, quite deliberately, off a railway bridge seventy miles from home into the path of an approaching train? You ask questions, of course. Why did he do it? Why was he there at all? Why hadn’t he confided in anyone? So it is with Phiney Wistman. When she has stopped reeling from the initial shock, she is desperate for answers – especially when she is attacked shortly afterwards.

Her grandad Wilf was a victim of polio, a disease which wrecked many lives in the first half of the twentieth century, before a vaccine was found. As a teenager sixty years earlier he had worked briefly at a pharmaceutical company producing the vaccine, though it had come too late for him – and when Phiney starts to dig around for information, she soon begins to wonder if there was a link between that and his suicide.

Together with Dora, her step-grandmother, and Mat, a curious but ethical journalist, Phiney follows a trail of clues which lead her into mortal danger. It becomes plain that someone has something very big to hide: something that happened back in the 1950s, when polio was rife. The skilfully tangled story of their quest for answers in both past and present is peopled with characters so sharply drawn that you’d recognize them if they walked into the room. Dora is clumsy, awkward, loquacious; Mat is cheerful, astute and knowledgable; Phiney herself is determined and a little reckless, and her relationship with Dora is spiky and chafing. Then there’s sensible Meghan, Phiney’s friend; Harry, Wilf’s father, long dead but a key player in the 1950s strand; shady businessman James Poulter, heir to the pharmaceutical company. I especially enjoyed Jonathan the flamboyant actor, and Jean, the ambitious but overlooked scientist who has a lot to lose. And then there’s the elusive Victor, one of the biggest surprises Phiney and her companions unearth.   

Most crime novels have a relatively narrow focus, and explore crimes one person commits against another, or several others. A Quiet Contagion takes a wider view; here the crime is against a large slice of humanity, and the lengths some people will go to in order to cover up their misdoings. At least, that’s one way to look at it. From another point of view, the only actual crime is the way the covering up is done. Whichever way you choose to approach it, this is a novel that will keep you gripped to the final page.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Jane Jesmond was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, although she was raised on Liverpool, and considers herself northern through and through.   On The Edge is Jane's debut novel and the first in a series featuring dynamic, daredevil protagonist Jen Shaw. Jane's family comes from Cornwall, and her lifelong love of the Cornish landscape and culture inspired the setting of On The Edge. Jane has spent the last thirty years living and working in France. She began writing steadily six or seven years ago and writes every morning in between staring out at the sea and making cups of tea.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Sunday 26 November 2023

‘A Well Earned Death’ by L. C. Tyler

Published by Constable,
16 November 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-47213508-7 (HB)

It was with great delight that I received a copy of Len Tyler’s latest book in the historical series featuring John Grey, lawyer, and former spy for Lord Arlington. Now Sir John Grey, is a magistrate. His journey has been  challenging, but he is however now settled and married to Aminta, a childhood friend, who is a renowned playwright.

Set in 1671, we meet the Umfravilles living in Barbados. Hubert Umfraville despite paying his slaves nothing has managed by his own incompetence to incur huge debts. And so, Hubert had decided to return to England. Let me rephrase that: they are doing a midnight flit leaving behind several unhappy, disgruntled, and lighter in the wallet locals.

Arriving in Essex, Drusilla, the adopted daughter of Hubert finds life in England less than clement. She misses the rich green of Barbados, although her sister Mary seems pleased with the current situation. Their father has promised that soon the time will come  when he has recovered Brandon Hall. The house he was cheated out of.  Or was he?

Meanwhile, they will reside at New House owned by Sir Felix Clifford, who lives at the Manor House with his daughter and son-in-law Sir John and Lady Grey.

When Hubert Umfraville’s body is found in the orchard of the house he has just rented, there is no shortage of suspects. He had accused Mr Jenks, the carter who had transported their goods, of theft, and the result has been physical on both sides.  Also under suspicion are the Grice brothers Natham and Jacob. And so, the list grows. Disturbingly, a member of his own family puts John Grey under extreme stress to seek out the killer.

Within a mere eleven years Charles 1 was executed, a republic was formed by Oliver Crowell, and then King Charles 11 is on the throne, which illustrates the mid 1660’s as a difficult time for all.  John Grey remains a
republican to his core, but occasionally he has risked his life for Charles 11.  As a result, he has a family and a pleasant house. There are others who have been more rigid in their allegiance, and their heads are now exhibited on spikes on London Bridge.

Then a second body is discovered. Oh! did I not mention that the body of Hubert Umfraville has now disappeared? Also, a family member who has been missing for 20 years reappears, but all is not total rejoicing. In fact, matters get even more difficult. And John finds himself  under huge pressure.

I love this series. The characters leap off the page at you, and the dialogue is witty and marvellous. There were so may passages I wanted to include in my review for their sheer brilliance, but I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, read it for yourself.  Not to be missed. Most highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

L. C. Tyler was born in Southend, Essex, and educated at Southend High School for Boys, Jesus College Oxford and City University London. After university he joined the Civil Service and worked at the Department of the Environment in London and Hong Kong. He then moved to the British Council, where his postings included Malaysia, Thailand, Sudan and Denmark. Since returning to the UK he has lived in Sussex and London and was Chief Executive of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for eleven years. He is now a full-time writer. His first novel, The Herring Seller's Apprentice, was published by Macmillan in 2007, followed by 8 further books in the series featuring Ethelred Tressider and his agent Elsie Thirkettle. The first book in a new historical series, A Cruel Necessity, was published by Constable and Robinson in November 2014. Since then, he has published eight further books in this series..