A Credible Threat by Janet Dawson

26th August 2021.

In the sixth novel in the series, Oakland PI, Jeri Howard, investigates a dangerous stalker. It starts with hostile phone calls, moves on to damaging plants and in particular decapitating lemon trees, and escalates to a pipe bomb.

The targets are a mixed group sharing a house. Each one has something that makes them a target, which makes Jeri’s job difficult, to say the least. Vicki, the daughter of her ex-husband, called her in to help, but not everyone in the house is happy about it.

With tensions high and suspicions rife, Jeri finally gets on the right track when her mentor and former employer is mugged in Carmel. Suddenly, the case takes a sinister turn as Jeri has a race against time to prevent a murder.

The Jeri Howard novels are always interesting as they tackle different issues from the usual missing persons and murder. Many of these are social issues, and this story is no different. While it starts as a classic stalking, it turns into something much more dangerous. There’s also a personal element to the story, which increases the stakes and tension, leading to a highly enjoyable and satisfying read that kept me turning the pages.

I would also say that the story is easier to follow than some of the previous books, which may be why I read it fairly quickly. Or it could be that it’s an excellent story that gripped me from intriguing start to exciting climax.

Looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

Oakland PI Jeri Howard is now taking house calls. At least when her ex-husband’s daughter, Vicki Vernon, is on the other end of the line. Vicki, who is an undergrad at prestigious UC Berkeley, fears the worst when her shared house receives multiple threats from an unknown antagonizer.

First, it’s hostile phone calls. Then vandalism and stalking. And everything becomes real when Jeri picks up the house phone and hears the stalker’s chilling voice herself.

As if that weren’t enough, a nasty flyer circulates around the law school filled with bigoted epithets against students of color and women — and it’s uncannily similar to the anonymous caller’s hateful words. But with so many possible targets in one household, Jeri’s just not sure which of the housemates is the target.

After all, Rachel volunteers at an abortion clinic. Ben is an African-American student on scholarship. Marisol spends her time helping victims of domestic abuse. And Vicki and Emily have been harassed on campus by a sexist chemistry student.
But when someone throws a pipe bomb through the students’ window, the case all but explodes.

A Credible Threat by Janet Dawson

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

17th August 2021.

When I first read Sherlock Holmes as a teenager, I didn’t fully appreciate or understand his character or the subtleties of his relationship with Dr Watson. These developed over the series of short stories which make up this collection. While Watson is in awe of Sherlock’s brilliance, the good doctor is not oblivious to the negative traits either.

The stories are not your usual detective fayre. Holmes has a flair for the unusual cases, which grow in complexity as the series develops. All the clues are there as he deduces what is happening based on observations and logical reasoning. In addition to his mental abilities, he’s also portrayed as a man of action, always willing to right an injustice.

This makes the stories memorable and a little different. The narrated style makes for an easy and entertaining read. These stories, written over 120 years ago, have stood the test of time, which probably explains why Sherlock Holmes is still popular today.

Description

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published on 14 October 1892. It contains the earliest short stories featuring the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, which had been published in twelve monthly issues of The Strand Magazine from July 1891 to June 1892. The stories are collected in the same sequence, which is not supported by any fictional chronology. The only characters common to all twelve are Holmes and Dr. Watson and all are related in first-person narrative from Watson’s point of view.

In general the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes identify, and try to correct, social injustices. Holmes is portrayed as offering a new, fairer sense of justice. The stories were well received, and boosted the subscriptions figures of The Strand Magazine, prompting Doyle to be able to demand more money for his next set of stories. The first story, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, includes the character of Irene Adler, who, despite being featured only within this one story by Doyle, is a prominent character in modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations, generally as a love interest for Holmes. Doyle included four of the twelve stories from this collection in his twelve favourite Sherlock Holmes stories, picking “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” as his overall favourite.

The Adventures f Sherlock Holmes

The Winter Mystery by Faith Martin

The second book in the series sees roving caterer Jenny Starling taking a Christmas booking at a remote farm run by Stan. He’s an aggressive bully who rules with a rod of iron, keeping the rest of the family in check. His brother, Sid, who’s the rightful heir to the farm, is ill and in no position to fight.

When Sid’s found dead with a knife in his chest, the police arrive to investigate. The local inspector finds himself out of his depth and reliant on help from Jenny Starling, who’s already solved a few murders along the way.

It’s a very cosy mystery that’s well told with the usual red herrings and false trails to keep the reader guessing. Jenny Starling holds centre stage, slowly piecing together the clues to identify the killer. There’s a healthy helping of humour to lighten the mix and some well-drawn characters.

One of my pet peeves is police officers shown as incompetent or behaving unprofessionally to allow an amateur sleuth to shine. While it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story, I felt the portrayal of the police could have been handled better.

Description

Jenny Starling is spending Christmas in a snowed-in country house cooking all the traditional food she loves. But the family she’s working for are not full of the seasonal spirit. In fact, they seem to hate each other.

On Christmas Eve, someone is found dead on the kitchen table. And the head of the family is blaming Jenny!

But with an incompetent detective called in, and seemingly no motive for the murder, Jenny will have to give the police a hand.

She will stop at nothing to clear her name and find the real murderer.

The Winter Mystery by Faith Martin

Blackthorn Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

3rd August 2021.

I’ve enjoyed the previous two Addison Lockhart outings, liking the combination of murder mystery and the paranormal. Like all the author’s books, they’re easy to read, well written and filled with characters you root for.

This third novel follows the same path as its predecessors with Addison picking up visions of a lady dressed in black and a young boy, Billy, in and around the house. It’s clear the lady needs help, but why and how?

It’s just what you need on your wedding day.

Matters are complicated by Catherine, the owner of Blackthorn Manor. Far from a welcoming host, she goes out of her way to get Addison out of the place. But she’s not going anywhere until she’s solved the mystery. Assisted by her grandmother, she sets out to get to the root of the mystery with surprising results.

I must admit I felt some sympathy for Addison’s new husband, Luke, who was side lined at one point while she went off to investigate the mystery. Otherwise, it was another enjoyable adventure that started slowly, but soon built up a head of steam.

I’m looking forward to the fourth in the series.

Description

A woman in black stares at the sea, her body transparent, eyes brimming with tears.

Hoping to get a better look at the woman, psychic medium Addison Lockhart leans out over the manor’s windowsill, gasping when she feels an intense pressure pressing down on her back–someone thrusting her forward. She grabs the side of the window to brace herself, but it’s too late. She’s already falling.

Who is the strange, melancholy woman haunting Blackthorn Manor? And why is someone out to keep Addison from unlocking the manor’s darkest secrets?

Blackthorn Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

Death under the Dryer by Simon Brett

1st August 2021.

When Carole Sedden visits the local hairdresser, she gets more than a trim. Finding the body of Kyra, an assistant at the premises, triggers another investigation for her and her neighbour Jude in the Fethering series.

Kyra’s boyfriend Nathan has disappeared,  but his family seem unconcerned. Then again, they’re an eccentric bunch with their own rules and idiosyncrasies. Further suspects, including the hairdresser, her ex-husband and his new wife, provide Carole and Jude with plenty of opportunities to nose around and make a nuisance of themselves as they sleuth in their usual inimitable style.

All the elements of the previous stories are here – the chalk and cheese relationship between Carole and Jude, the middle class foibles the author loves to mock and a whole host of memorable characters to add to the gentle humour that underpins the stories.

While the Locke family’s eccentricities seem a little far-fetched, the story and resolution are still great fun and intriguing at the same time.

Description

The last thing Carole expects when she goes to Connie’s Clip Joint for a trim is to find the body of Kyra, Connie’s assistant, in the back room.

Kyra’s boyfriend, Nathan, has vanished, but his family, an eccentric, controlling bunch, don’t seem overly concerned. Instead, they are bizarrely obsessed with a family board game which seems to provide a host of clues as to Nathan’s whereabouts.

Carole and her neighbour Jude are determined to unravel the clues, but can they discover the truth before either someone is falsely accused or the killer makes a second move? And how many haircuts can a pair of middle-aged sleuths have before people start to become suspicious?

Death under the Dryer by Simon Brett

Getting fresh with a familiar favourite

The continued popularity of crime fiction is driving authors to find something new and different to tempt readers and feed their voracious appetites.

It was no different twenty years ago when I created Kent Fisher. The competition was not quite so intense then, but the desire to find something fresh and to stand out from the masses was just as strong.

Driven by a love of murder mysteries by authors like Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter, I wanted to create a detective as unique as Miss Marple or Morse to solve the most baffling cases. I also wanted to remain faithful to that familiar favourite, the classic whodunit.

No pressure then.

The idea for an environmental health officer (EHO) who solved crimes crystallised over many months while I was out on my district in the South Downs of East Sussex. EHOs are enforcement officers who deal mainly with environmental and public health issues, including the safety of the food offered to the public, health and safety in the workplace, pollution and substandard housing.

It’s a wide-ranging remit, but one that offers opportunities. People die from food poisoning and accidents at work. Frustrated residents have shot their neighbours for playing music too loud.

Unfortunately, working for a local council is hardly glamorous.

And let’s face it, you wouldn’t nip down to the town hall, ask to see an EHO, and report a murder, would you?

But how about a murder disguised as a work accident that’s investigated by an EHO?

Now that’s an entirely different proposition.

No AccidentNo Accident became the starting point for the Kent Fisher murder mystery series. Once he’d solved a murder, he had earned his stripes. He was then open to requests from family friends to track down a wife who had gone missing. (No Bodies).

The variety of businesses and premises EHOs visit offered possibilities – theme parks, luxury care homes, restaurants and hotels, public houses, caravan sites, children’s homes, farms, estate agents,. These have all featured in the murder mysteries.

Then there’s his life outside of work. As an environmentalist, I wanted to make this a key driver in Kent’s life. The animal sanctuary where he lives offers more possibilities to push environmental and welfare themes, setting Kent apart from other detectives.

I hoped his work, the backstory and the characters involved would make the stories more interesting to readers.

HarveyHe adopts one of the dogs he rescued – a West Highland white terrier, who becomes Columbo in honour of Kent’s favourite TV detective.

Kent Fisher was certainly different, if not unique, but would readers embrace him?

A strong element of humour might help. Ask anyone who works for a council or in the public sector and they’ll tell you a sense of humour is essential.

That left the plot. I wanted to give readers a traditional murder mystery with the usual crop of suspects, red herrings and a complex investigation that would keep people guessing till the exciting climax and reveal.

After all, that was the starting point, what I wanted to write.

Imagine my delight, and relief, when No Accident was first published in June 2016. Crime Fiction Lover posted the following review.

“Expect sharp dialogue and irreverent humour in this whodunit which manages to pay homage to the traditional murder mystery, while striking a contemporary and irreverent note.”

This was music to my ears.

Feedback and reviews told me readers loved the backstory and characters. What I didn’t realise at the time was how significant they would become.


If you’d like to find out more and receive updates, insights and a free Kent Fisher short story, why not sign up to my newsletter?

Family Secrets by Shawn McGuire

25th July2021.

I enjoy discovering new authors and series, especially at the cosy mystery end of spectrum. Family Secrets, the first of a series set in the town of Whispering Pines in Wisconsin, features ex-cop Jayne O’Shea and her Westie, Meeka. They arrive at the home of her late grandparents to find the body of a young woman on the lawn.

With the help of Tripp, another visitor to the community, Jayne slowly becomes involved in an investigation where nothing is as it first seems. The sheriff appears uninterested in the murder. His nephew and deputy, Reed, is openly hostile to Jayne’s involvement. And a whole host of local characters, from a green witch to some local councillors, become suspects.

It’s all lovingly written and described. Jayne’s a strong character with her own baggage to deal with, picking away at the loose threads to piece together the relationships and motives that will help her solve the case. It’s fairly standard fare, but lifted by the setting, the Wiccan religion that guides many of the people, and the distinctive characters who add warmth, humour and charm to the story.

It’s a gentle, easy to read novel that charms and leaves you looking forward to the next in the series.

Description

Sixteen years after a family feud drove her from the cozy Northwoods village of Whispering Pines, Wisconsin, former detective Jayne O’Shea returns to prepare her grandparents’ lake house for sale. Once there, not only does she find that the house has been trashed, her dog discovers a dead body in the backyard.

Jayne intends to stay out of it, but when it becomes obvious the sheriff isn’t interested in investigating the death, Jayne can’t stop herself. Her list of suspects grows faster than the plants in the commons’ pentacle garden. Could it be the local Wiccan green witch with her stash of deadly plants? The shopkeeper who slips into trances and foretells death? The visitor determined to practice black magic?

What Jayne knows for sure is that the closer she gets to solving this crime, the more the sheriff wants her to back off. And when a local fortune teller provides a crucial clue, Jayne knows it’s up to her to solve this murder.

Family Secrets by Shawn McGuire

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

19th July 2021.

The second Hercule Poirot story, published in 1923, is a complex murder mystery where nothing is ever as it seems. On two occasions, Poirot seems to have solved the murder, only to discover something new which turns everything on its head and forces him to start again.

Talk about a masterclass in how to wrong foot the reader.

It all starts with a cry for help from France. Hastings and Poirot arrive to discover a murder with the body lying on an adjoining golf course. All is not quite as it seems, though French detective Giraud seems to have worked it all out with this forensic approach to crime scene investigation.

The rivalry between the two detectives adds another layer of intrigue and entertainment to the story. Then there’s Hastings, losing his heart to a woman he meets on a train. She returns later to be part of the plot and a possible murder suspect, along with the man’s son, wife and next door neighbour.

The story is ably narrated by Hastings, who struggles to keep up with the deductions of his friend, Poirot. It allows Agatha Christie the chance to recap on what Poirot has deduced, helping the reader to keep up with the complexities of the investigation. But then we discover a new piece of evidence that casts doubt on all the great detective has deduced.

It’s easy to feel a little sorry for Hastings, whose struggles and efforts to form his own theories often result in gentle admonishment from Poirot and his superior intellect. But Hastings has to struggle with the investigation to ensure the author doesn’t give too much away too soon.

And, when the mystery is finally solved, you can’t help wondering how you missed all the clues.

This is a first rate whodunit that’s so complex, I wondered how Agatha Christie planned and worked it all out with such clarity and detail. But that’s why she’s known as the Queen of Crime. Her easy to read, direct style, takes you straight to the heart of matters without frills. Her characterisation is as succinct, creating believable characters and plenty of suspects.

But it’s her grasp of the small details that ultimately solve the crime that impressed me the most. Not once, did I truly feel I knew the identity of the murderer or the motive for the killings. Then again, it didn’t matter. This was such a complex, yet fascinating story that swept me along until it was time to reveal everything.

Description

On a French golf course, a millionaire is found stabbed in the back…

An urgent cry for help brings Poirot to France. But he arrives too late to save his client, whose brutally stabbed body now lies face downwards in a shallow grave on a golf course.

But why is the dead man wearing his son’s overcoat? And who was the impassioned love-letter in the pocket for? Before Poirot can answer these questions, the case is turned upside down by the discovery of a second, identically murdered corpse…

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Rosecliff Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

17th July 2021.

This is the second story in the series featuring Addison Lockhart. She dreams about twin girls who died as children many years ago in a nearby manor house. It seems like they fell to their deaths from an attic window. But did they?

This is another entertaining and well-written murder mystery with a supernatural twist. Though Addison is psychic, she uses determination and deduction to solve the murder and bring peace to the spirits of the children.

If you like a cosy mystery with strong characters and a bit of a twist, this series is well worth a try.

Description

Psychic medium Addison Lockhart jolts awake, her brow sweaty, head throbbing. The dream had seemed so real.

The twins, eleven-year-old Vivian and Grace, were so full of life she wanted to reach out, touch them. But she couldn’t. The girls had been dead for forty years. Why then had they appeared to her, summoning her help? Were their untimely deaths really an accident, or was something far more sinister to blame?

Rosecliff Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

The Stabbing in the Stables by Simon Brett

14th July 2021.

When Jude’s asked to help heal one of her friend’s horses, she doesn’t expect to find a body at the riding stables. But this is Fethering and murder is never far away. Jude’s friend and fellow sleuth Carol has her own problems. She senses marital problems for her newly-wed son and his wife.

With the police releasing no information about their investigation, Jude and Carole have to resort to what they do best – make their own enquiries. They soon latch onto a former Irish jockey and horse whisperer, who seems to know a lot more about the murder than he’s willing to tell.

Like the previous books in the series, this one is filled with the usual red herrings, humour and puzzles to solve. Jude and Carole slowly work their way to the truth, putting themselves in danger once more as events twist in an unexpected direction.

Their chalk and cheese relationship provides additional layers of conflict and humour as their friendship and partnership overcomes all challenges to solve another murder.

If you like a cosy mystery with a strong underbelly of humour and social comment, the Fethering Village mysteries may be just what you’re looking for.

Description

When healer Jude pays a visit to Long Bamber Stables one evening – to meet her unusually horse-shaped new client and his owner Sonia Dalrymple – she does not expect to stumble across a man lying in the darkness. Walter Fleet, co-owner of the stables, has been viciously stabbed to death.

Sleuthing neighbours Jude and Carole begin to make discreet enquiries, but it soon becomes clear that Long Bamber Stables is a hotbed of dangerous passions, murderous rivalries and hidden truths . . . and this horsing community will do anything to protect their reputations.

The Stabbing in the Stables by Simon Brett