Well, you can blame Cleopatra Loves Books for this one…
Apparently My Name In Books was a meme that went around over the summer (and over my head as well – never noticed it) but I thought I’d give it a go – namely spelling out my name in the titles of my favourite books. Now, there’s an obvious problem with a name like The Puzzle Doctor – can you spot it? But nevertheless, I thought it was worth a go. But try as I might, the only thing I could come up with for Z was Zzzz for any of the Brother Cadfael books. But this is a friendly blog, so I couldn’t possibly say that. Instead, I thought I’d do My Blog Name In Books. Here goes…
The music halls of Victorian London are being plagued by “accidents” – a shortened trapeze rope, mustard on a sword-swallower’s sword, the replacement of the lyrics for a sing-a-long with naughtier words… it’s only a matter of time before things actually turn nasty.
Enter Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackerey. The incidents have already caught Cribb’s eye and when he gets a tip-off, he heads to the theatre to witness a disaster involving a strongman and a bulldog. With seemingly no rhyme or reason behind the incidents, why are the victims disappearing off the face of the earth? Why is Cribb so intrigued by the case? And is anyone actually going to get murdered? Note: one of these questions won’t get answered.
We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog with some news that might be of interest for crime readers. Or not.
London, May 1381, and the Great Uprising, the Peasants’ Revolt, is nigh. As the Upright Men move their foot-soldiers into position and John of Gaunt seeks to turn matters to his benefit, the Herald of Hell is stalking the streets. Pronouncing doom and destruction to those loyal to King Richard II, he strikes fear into the populace. And when he threatens Amaury Whitfield, clerk to Thibert, Gaunt’s Master of Secrets, he starts a chain of events that will have far-reaching consequences…
Did Whitfield, terrified by the Herald’s pronouncements, really hang himself in the upstairs chamber of the Golden Oliphant, a Southwark brothel? Brother Athelstan, conscripted to find the truth by Thibert, has his doubts. But how could a murderer pass through a locked door and kill the terrified Whitfield without leaving a mark on his body? What is the secret of the cipher that Whitfield was carrying? Why was Whitfield helping out with a treasure hunt when he was in fear for his life? And with the city about to erupt into violence, will anyone be safe from the Upright Men?
Sergeant Bobby Owen is spending the weekend at Cambers, the country seat of Lady Cambers. Well, Lord and Lady Cambers but they don’t exactly spend much time together. But in the morning, Lady Cambers is found dead – strangled. But why was she out of the house in the middle of a field?
Her jewellery has been taken but Bobby believes there’s more to it than that. Is it a husband wishing to be free of a loveless marriage? The local vicar, determined to prevent the blasphemy of a local dig? A greedy heir determined to gain his inheritance early? Or another motive lurking beneath the surface? Bobby has to get to the bottom of things while treading carefully – he is out of his Scotland Yard jurisdiction and the local police may have other ideas.
Harry Devlin, Liverpool lawyer, hasn’t the best choice in women. He has started a relationship with Juliet May, the wife of Casper May, the biggest villain in all of Merseyside. A weekend away in the cottage belonging to Juliet’s work associate seems the ideal solution to their attempts to keep things under wraps. Of course, nothing is going to go wrong…
Arriving in the middle of a storm, their evening is disturbed when a tree crashes through the roof. Juliet heads round to ask the neighbour for help – and quickly returns after finding him dead, killed almost ritualistically – most notably by having his head cut off.
While Harry is desperately trying to keep his cover story intact – the one that explains why he was in a remote cottage with a gangster’s wife which won’t result in him having his kneecaps (or worse) removed – he can’t help but stick his nose into the investigation. But when another lawyer is killed in the same way, it seems that someone very dangerous is prowling the city. And if their target is lawyers, is Harry next on their list?
David Wilson is a photographer – that’s true, by the way, not the introduction to a story – and his beautiful black and white photographs of parts of Pembrokeshire in South Wales have been taken as the inspiration for this collection of short stories.
The Murder Squad – Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Margaret Murphy, Chris Simms and Cath Staincliffe – and six accomplices, Mary Sharratt, Jim Kelly, Valerie Laws, Toby Forward, Helena Edwards and Christine Poulson were each given a photograph and asked to write a short story about it. Needless to say, they did exactly that and this collection is the result.
But crime short story collections can be funny things. It’s a true art to be able to tell an effective mystery tale in a handful of pages. So how does this collection hold up?