A family day out at Briar’s Hall ends in tragedy when a young boy goes missing – and his body is found at the bottom of a disused well in the orchard.
It looks like a simple case of an eleven-year-old exploring where he shouldn’t: a tragic accident. But Coroner Clement Ryder and Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday aren’t convinced. If Eddie had been climbing and fallen, why were there no cuts or dirt on his hands? Why would a boy terrified of heights be around a well at all?
Clement and Trudy are determined to get to the truth, but the more they dig into Briar’s Hall and the mysterious de Lacey family who live there, the murkier things become.
Could it be that poor Eddie’s death was murder? There are rumours of blackmail in the village, and Clement and Trudy have a horrible feeling that Eddie stumbled on a secret that someone was willing to kill for…
I received a copy of this book from HQ DigitalUK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is the second Ryder and Loveday historical crime mystery I’ve read. Although the mysteries are standalone, the relationship between the two unusual detectives develops with each book. So, if you get the opportunity, start with book one.
Clement Ryder, former surgeon, now coroner, and Trudy Loveday, a probationary policewoman in the Oxford constabulary, in the early 1960s investigate cases referred to Ryder by various powerful sources. After their first meeting, Ryder sees the intelligence and potential detecting skill in Loveday, and always requests her assistance, despite the resistance of her misogynous bosses in the police force.
Loveday, is ambitious, intuitive and hard-working, the perfect police officer, yet in the 1960’s she is thwarted every time she seeks practical experience in police work, by jealous and bigoted colleagues and bosses. Their attitude to a working woman reflects the societal view of women in the workplace, and society. The idea of the 1950’s woman as a homemaker was challenged in the 1960s by women like Loveday and forward-thinking intelligent men like Ryder. The book showcases 1960s’ society and attitude well. I was a child in the 1960s, and recognise many of the attitudes and societal norms portrayed in this series, which is well- researched.
The plot is in the murder mystery style, nothing too graphic, although serious crime and issues are explored throughout the investigation. There are many suspects and numerous clues, many of which lead nowhere. The pacing is good, even though you follow Ryder and Loveday’s investigative pace. This is detective work in the 1960s, so forensics and technological help are minimal. Deduction and observation are key skills used here, and it makes interesting reading.
Perfect if you’re a fan of ‘Inspector Gently’, ‘Morse’ and ‘Prime Suspect. This series explores policing in the 1960s, with a unique partnership, astute observations of 1960’s society, and a well-plotted murder mystery.
Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One-shot at love…
are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie
Midwinter isn’t one of them.
the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’
grown-up. She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a
year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second
pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop
asking her out. The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the
Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.
when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is
forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally
time for her to grow up?
Gloriously irreverent, badly behaved romantic comedy from the author of Meet Me at the Lighthouse.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Another original romantic comedy from the author, whose love of Yorkshire is evident from reading her believable, hilarious and romantic stories.
This story’s characters are the members of a pub quiz team, a quintessentially British pastime, ‘The Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers’. A friends to lovers trope, this a gentle romance, despite the often raucous goings-on, and language that dominates the story.
Clarrie and Si have been friends since pre-school, Clarrie harbours a secret and inconvenient passion for her friend, who constantly asks her out, but never she believes in seriousness. She of course, always makes a joke of it and refuses. Now Si has changed the rules, he wants Clarrie to agree to a date if the team win the pub quiz league, what will she do?
The romance is predictably full of obstacles, most of which are Clarrie’s internal battle over her feelings and whether she is brave enough to take a chance on love. Suffering from anxiety issues that already make her life choices difficult, whether or not to risk the friendship they have, for something romantic is a major issue for Clarrie.
The village life experience is interwoven into the story, the gossip, the interfering, well-meant of course, and the secrets that everyone knows. The sense of community and the tight friendship amongst Clarrie and Si ‘s group are realistic and give this story depth and interest.
The romance although slow to start is lovely and worthwhile, enough to satisfy the romantics, and melt the cynics a little.
If you are unfamiliar with the author’s take on life in a Yorkshire village, this book is an experience you won’t forget, and for those of us, who are already fans, this is another great story full of fun, heartache, quirkiness and romance.
Guest Post – Mary Jayne Baker – A Question of Us
Maserati Tim’s Big Pub Quiz – Mary Jayne Baker
In my new Yorkshire-set book A Question of Us, which is published this month, heroine Clarrie’s ladykiller best friend Simon bets her a date their team will win that year’s pub quiz league. As Simon starts putting every spare minute into trivia revision and their team The Mighty Morphin’ Flower Arrangers find themselves climbing up the leaderboard, Clarrie is forced to confront her true feelings for her oldest friend. It looks like Clarrie is going to lose the bet – the question is, does she want to?
To celebrate the release of A Question of Us, quizmaster Maserati Tim has put together twenty fiendish questions to test those little grey cells. Get yourself in the mood for a trivia-filled read below! Hint: you can find some of the answers in the book…
What type of monkey commonly accompanied organ-grinders?
What was the favourite food of Dandy cowboy Desperate Dan?
By what name is the peace agreement reached in 1998 between the British and Irish governments commonly known?
By what nickname was Louis Armstrong known?
“The lighter way to enjoy chocolate” was an advertising slogan for which chocolate treat?
What were the names of the seven dwarves in the Grimm Brothers fairytale Snow White?
In 1951, which area became Britain’s first national park?
Which persona did David Bowie retire in 1973?
What animal has the Latin name ursus arctos horribilis?
Which movie monster’s enemies include Mothra and King Ghidorah?
Which king did Shakespeare refer to as the “bottled spider”?
In 1477, King Edward IV ruled which traditional sport illegal?
Which dinosaur’s name means “swift robber”?
Who succeeded Richard II to the throne of England?
Who was the fourth actor to play The Doctor in Doctor Who?
James Hargreaves invented what piece of industrial equipment in 1764?
Until the 1980s, which football team’s players were known as “The Biscuitmen”?
Which planet in our solar system is the sixth furthest from the Sun?
In the Old Testament, what were the names of Noah’s three sons?
So get reading ‘ A Question of Us’ this weekend, answers next Friday
Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature, she dallied with living in cities including London, Nottingham and Cambridge, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales, where she first started telling stories about heroines with flaws and the men who love them.
For those of you who had a go at Mary Jayne’s quiz, here are the answers.
Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of tranquillity and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder…
Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight. And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with fatal head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong. The victim deserves more. However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.
Is this story inspired by a real event? If not, what are the inspirations behind this story?
Most of the ideas I have are sparked by incidents I’ve heard about or been involved in. However, they do get greatly adapted to fit the plot. For example, the idea to set the main narrative of The Fourth Victim in Whitechapel came from walking past Lehman Street police station and wondering what a modern-day Jack the Ripper might be like. It didn’t take me long to decide that the events if enacted today, would be more mundane – less sensational in this jaded age – and Jack would be psychoanalysed to death. Though he or she would, no doubt, be a Twitter celeb – at least for a day!
Given that I wanted to write something about how the police deal with mental health issues, and how this impacts on the nature of criminality and victimhood; then that ‘Whitechapel Ripper’ setting seemed to put everything into place.
Is it important to create memorable detectives in this genre? Why do think this is?
In general, I would say it is important to create a memorable team of detectives. Even if it is mainly a partnership – Morse had Lewis but also Dr Max DeBryn and Strange, while Poirot had Hastings and Japp. Although neither Morse nor Poirot could function in a modern police force. A better example would be Vera or Montalbano, both of whom have their teams and sidekicks. It is the people around the central character and their relationships which define them and make them memorable.
It is, therefore, necessary to create characters which are relatable, well-roundedhumans with flaws and inconsistencies. The interactions of these characters are what creates interest and bring the story alive. I tend to find ‘lone wolf’ characters unrealistic, especially in the police as these are organisations based on teamwork. If you consider some of the more modern ‘classic’ detectives, like Martin Beck or Wallander, they may not be the best team players but they are still part of a team and interact with them. This is as true of the criminals – no one is all good or all bad – and the victims. Both of which are often used as mere plot devices and quickly forgotten, while in reality, they are central to the crime.
Do your detectives have to be likeable? Why is this?
No, not essentially, in reality, how many of the detectives you read about would you want to spend an evening with (Holmes would be insufferable and Jimmy Perez would be maudlin)? I would say it is more important to make them understandable, to show their weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as their strengths – this is what makes a character interesting and, hopefully, why people want to read about them.
Take Maigret or Elise Wassermann, these characters only become likeable once you start to understand their backgrounds and relationships. Both these characters might seem to be the typical ‘lone wolf’ detective but neither would be anything more than a cypher until you realise that Maigret needs his wife to give him a strong anchor in life and Wassermann, who is autistic, is really doing her utmost to fit in. Otherwise, neither of them would be particularly likeable.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
Sometimes, someone, I come across sparks an idea for a character and, at other times, I realise a character I have written reminds me of someone I know. But, on the whole, I find the characters develop a life of their own – once you have a few basic characteristics defined for a character it is surprising how complex they can become.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I enjoy books that teach me something: whether it is about writing technique, a moment in history or life in general.
Treasure Island is technically the best book ever written. Not a word is wasted, the plot is fast-paced, the characters are well rounded and every scene comes to life. Which is quite a feat?
Though I like anything by PG Woodhouse for his wordplay, and CJ Sansom and C Hibbert for their impeccable research.
These days I generally read crime fiction – usually, police procedurals – and the masters of this genre are Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö who wrote the Martin Beck series.
What are you currently writing?
Having decided to write a trilogy based on the Metropolitan Police’s Major Investigation Team East – who deal with murders in modern-day East End of London – I have discovered this is actually a ‘trilogy’ in four parts. And I am currently working on the final two parts of this series, the second book in the series – Geraldine – is being published at the end of September.
However, I am also working on the plot of another book, an allegorical story of modern life. It’s about a paranoid white suprematist who befriends a homeless Muslim woman – now if I can pull that off who knows what will come next …
What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?
I absolutely love the act of writing, editing and all aspects of the process – I become totally absorbed by it. Unfortunately, because I am naturally lazy, I completely hate the thought of having to start writing, editing or anything else connected with the process, and do all I can to put it off.
Life is full of contradictions.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The iconic setting of Whitechapel for this book puts you in the correct frame of mind for murder. Although this part of the EastEnd of London, is much changed, it seems the possibility of a serial killer is an uncomfortable echo of its gruesome past.
Detective Inspector Merry, who on the surface is anything but, and Detective Sergeant Lukula make an interesting an investigating duo. The other members of the murder investigating team are also distinctive, and despite their personality differences, the team functions well.
This is a character-driven police procedural, with well-drawn realistic characters whose multiple human frailties make them authentic. The plot gives heavier emphasis on the police team’s personal lives than is usual in a police procedural. This adds interest to the more routine parts of the story, but for some will detract from the main storyline.
The investigation of the crimes is detailed and well researched. There is also a mental health theme in this story, which is contemporary, and again, shows copious research.
The plot has twists and false information, and the ending draws everything together in a satisfying way.
John was born in the mid-fifties in East
London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first
pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now
taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life
working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a
senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young
people with physical and mental health needs.
He has travelled extensively, from
America to Tibet, and he enjoys visiting the theatre, reading and going to the
pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that he is an avid ‘people watcher’ and loves
to find out about people, their lives, culture and history. When he is not
travelling, going to the theatre or the pub; he writes.
Many of the occurrences recounted and
the characters found in his novels are based on real incidents and people he
has come across. Although he has allowed himself a wide degree of poetic
licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the
killings that are depicted.
John is currently working on a series of novels set in modern-day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.
When fourteen-year-old Roxy says she’s going for a sleepover at her best friend Ellie’s house, Cathy sees no reason to check her daughter’s story. The two families are neighbours, and the girls are in and out of each other’s homes every day.
It is a decision she will regret. A day later, Roxy is found murdered in exclusive Linnet Lane, miles across town, in a house owned by two brothers with no apparent connection to Roxy. Detective Natalie Ward, called to lead the investigation, is determined to get to the bottom of why Roxy was in the basement of this grand Victorian mansion when she should have been eating chocolate in her pyjamas with her best friend.
As Natalie begins to look closely at Roxy’s stepfather and three brothers, she discovers that Roxy had recently been admitted to hospital with suspicious injuries. Her mother Cathy seems very jumpy and Ellie refuses to talk. Who are the people that knew Roxy best in the world protecting?
Then Roxy’s mother Cathy disappears.
When Cathy’s body is discovered close to where her daughter was found, Natalie is forced to face the grim fact that the killer is just getting started. She is troubled by the reaction of Roxy’s brother Seth to the tragedies and when his alibi falls through she brings him in for questioning, certain she is making headway.
But while Seth is in custody, one of Roxy’s school friends is found murdered and Natalie knows she must cast her net wider. Things take a more sinister turn when Ellie vanishes, her mobile phone switched off. What is Ellie hiding about the night Roxy died that could put her in terrible danger? And can Natalie work it out before another innocent life is taken?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review
This is the second book I have read in the Detective Natalie Ward series. It is an excellent police procedural and crime fiction novel. Fused with family drama, the characters are believable and complex, they have flaws and secrets, which make them realistic.
The fast-paced plot is suspenseful, building with each new character, and incident. The initial case appears normal, straightforward, but it isn’t, and as the crimes compound, so do the suspects and possible reasons. The twists are clever and keep you guessing, and there are plenty of heartstopping moments.
The urban setting is authentic and grounds the events that occur, making you believe they could happen. The story doesn’t lose sight of the human element and there is plenty of poignant emotion in this book.
The police team is what makes these stories resonate. They all have different personalities, problems and personal lives, but they are a team. They act, and think as one entity, each person in the team matters, they care, cover for, and criticise each other and this makes them believable.
The ending demonstrates the power of careful detective work, as the web of lies and secrets are exposed, and the antagonist is finally revealed. I did work it out but changed my mind several times because of the wide cast of suspects and the plot’s many twists.
A well thought out police procedural with a complex, dynamic detective team, and a clever twisty plot, which gives the reader a believable, emotional story.