Denial of Credit by Peter Rowlands

16th June 2022.

In another convoluted story journalist Mike Stanhope finds himself up to his ears in more mystery, intrigue and heart-stopping moments. He’s asked to replace a missing ghost writer to complete the autobiography of Alan Treadwell, an ironically named public figure.

Naturally, Mike wants to know what happened to the previous writer. His curiosity gets him into more scrapes than he could ever have imagined as he travels the length and breadth of England to investigate. Meanwhile, back in Cornwall, his relationship with Ashley seems unable to take the strain of his frequent travels, especially when he meets Sam while working with Treadwell.

Mike’s an entertaining character with a cynical sense of humour that keeps him going when the bad guys try to thwart his enquiries. The story’s complex, convoluted and filled with enough drama and tension to satisfy the most demanding mystery readers, which includes me.

If you enjoy something a little different and complex, filled with characters you root for, look no further than this excellent series.

Description

When a noted public figure invites journalist Mike Stanhope to ghost-write his autobiography, Mike jumps at it. He can use the money, and his life needs a new direction. But he quickly realises that Alan Treadwell is a tough and unforgiving taskmaster, with strange ideas about how his book should be tackled.

Frustration changes to concern as Mike discovers things about Treadwell’s life that he’d rather not know: things, moreover, that someone else also seems keen to keep quiet. Mike hopes he’ll learn more from Joe, the original writer he’s been recruited to replace, but worryingly, Joe is nowhere to be found.

As Mike tries to piece together Treadwell’s complex history, his hard-won relationship with his girlfriend is faltering, and his repeated absences don’t help. When the prospect of an appealing new involvement beckons, Mike’s loyalties are torn and his integrity is on the line. With everything at stake, the action builds to an explosive climax as Mike finally understands what he’s stumbled into.

The taut narrative and tight plotting of this fast-paced book mark it out as much more than just a sequel to its two predecessors, Alternative Outcome and Deficit of Diligence. It works in its own right as a compelling stand-alone mystery, delivering an intricate story line, vivid characters and dialogue, and a steady build-up to its dramatic conclusion.

Denial of Credit by Peter Rowlands

The Haunting of Roderick Usher by Colin Garrow

20th April 2022.

Like all good spoofs, this sixth outing for Watson and Holmes is witty, irreverent and hugely entertaining. From the saucy Mrs Watson, who’s more than a match for Sherlock Holmes, to her husband’s often resentful account of the detective’s brilliance, this collection is constantly inventive as the trio go from one series of mishaps to the next, always managing to pull something out of the bag at the last moment.

While poking fun at literature’s most enduring detectives, it’s done with a fondness and lightness of touch that never reduces them to caricature. As Dr Watson writes, it may be their last adventure, which would be a pity. But I can also see how it would be a challenge to maintain the high standard of invention and satire set by this and previous adventures.

Whatever happens next, this is another witty and entertaining journey that somehow manages to combine the essence of the original stories, while blending them with more modern events and characters, such as Scooby Doo and the gang. Priceless.

Description

An invitation. A ghostly spectre. A criminal mastermind.

When Sherlock Holmes is invited to visit an old school friend, he and Doctor Watson are plunged into the first of three adventures involving the Dark Arts and the supernatural. From the ghostly spectre of a dead sister to the search for an ancient book of spells, the detecting duo learn that each case is connected, leading them into a final showdown with their deadliest adversary yet.

The Haunting of Roderick Usher by Colin Garrow

The Truth is Out

Do you know what it’s like when an idea grabs you and won’t let go?

No, me neither.

Only joking.

Occasionally, an idea grabs me. But instead of filling my waking thoughts, it sits in my subconscious, slowly developing and gathering momentum. Then, when the time is right, out it pops.

Thanks to my childhood, I became a practical child, helping to make sure what little money we had was spent wisely. I ignored the temptation of luxuries, school trips and holidays, convincing myself they were reckless and overrated. When I needed a bike to do a paper round, I built one from old parts and spares.

But my imagination wasn’t cautious or practical. It roamed free, having the adventures and thrills I could never enjoy or afford.

Reading set my imagination free, especially the Famous Five and Narnia books. At secondary school, I discovered I had a love and talent for writing stories. Being an author appealed to my imagination. My sensible head told me to take care. With no experience and no one to point out the pitfalls, I was forced to tread carefully.

In many respects, that’s what I’ve done most of my life – played safe.

Kent Fisher, the investigator in my crime novels, is an environmental health officer like me. Okay, I never solved any murders during my professional career, but it didn’t stop me wanting to. And when this nagging desire burst from my subconscious one day, it led to a new kind of sleuth.

Seven books later, the desire to write something different became irresistible.

It started with a concern that I couldn’t keep coming up with ideas for new Kent Fisher novels. Readers piled on the pressure by telling me each novel was better than the previous one.

Sooner or later, I’d have to plateau or write a dud.

Then Sheryl Holmes stepped into the middle of this doubt and prevarication.

She started her fictional life as Sheryl, housekeeper to a failed crime writer, who became involved with Paige Turner, the glamorous wife of a publisher he was trying to impress.

Criminal ShortsA Real Paige Turner was my contribution to an anthology of short crime fiction stories, produced to raise money for charity. When the call went out for submissions, I wasn’t interested. Over thirty years had elapsed since I’d written a short story.

But I have this strange quirk – the moment something is too easy to decline, I want to do it.

I laboured for several weeks to write and polish this short story. Somewhere in the final revision, I realised the name Sheryl wasn’t far removed from Sherlock. Sheryl Holmes was born. My crime writer was given the middle name of Watson, and the seeds were sown.

Shery Holmes

Over a year later, feeling intimidated by the prospect of writing Kent Fisher #8, which was going to stretch me in new directions, the idea for Home Truths burst from my subconscious.

At best, it was a yearning to write something new. At worst, it was an excuse not to write the next Kent Fisher. In truth, it was probably a bit of both.

It took a while for the premise of the book to take shape. Like Kent Fisher, I was going to use an ordinary person, or persons, to solve murder. Ordinary people don’t wake up in the morning, peer into the wardrobe and think, ‘Is that skirt too short for solving a murder?’

I needed something compelling to draw my Watson and Holmes into an investigation.

It had to be something personal – which is what Home Truths suggests.

It wasn’t long before my imagination reminded me of an incident in our first house back in 1983. There I was, at the top of a stepladder, peering into the loft space. Satisfied the pipes were properly lagged, I was about to descend when I noticed a small attaché case between the joists. I teased it out and took it downstairs to show my wife.

Inside, we found a typewritten manuscript. I can’t recall the title, but it was referred to as an autobiographical novel. That meant personal – something a previous owner had left behind.

Attache case

Naturally, I closed the case, got onto the estate agent who sold the property and asked if he could get in touch with the previous owners as I had something of theirs to return.

No, of course I didn’t. I read the first page.

No, I read the first few lines. They were enough to convince me I wasn’t about to read a literary masterpiece. The next paragraph confirmed my doubts. But I’ve never forgotten the opening lines, which described the woman of the author’s dreams.

She was standing at the sink, caught in the glow of the morning sun. I walked up behind her, slipped my arms around her and cupped her breasts. They were quite small, but as I’ve always said, more than a handful is a waste.

You now have a rough idea of how Home Truths starts. The difference is, in my novel, the story is written by James Watson’s mother.

And she’s not referring to his father.


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Fatal Lies by Andrew Cunningham

20th October 2021.

The second book in the series is another fast moving, thoroughly entertaining and exciting investigation. Del and Sabrina travel the length and breadth of the USA when they become embroiled in another complex murder mystery.

The brutal murder of Daisy Leduc sparks off another investigation when her estranged daughter is asked to contact Sabrina. The only link is the time they spent together in gaol. It soon becomes clear Del and Sabrina are not the only ones interested in what Daisy has left behind, especially when they discover she didn’t die at the hands of a serial killer when she was 17.

Who exactly is trying to kill them and preserve Daisy’s secrets? As Del and Sabrina uncover the clues, the list of suspects grows, leading to a thrilling climax.

I love the self-deprecating humour, the light touch that propels this entertaining caper, and the spirit of adventure that’s on every page. Del and Sabrina are great creations, ably supported by some quirky and likeable characters. The story is also lifted by some sly comments about being a murder mystery writer, which had me chuckling as I read.

Terrific stuff!

Description

Daisy Leduc was forgotten and alone. That was just how she wanted it. But when she is discovered stabbed to death in a dusty little Texas town, it plunges Del Honeycutt and bestselling mystery author Sabrina Spencer into a 30-year-old mystery involving murder, hidden identities, dangerous family secrets, political intrigue, and a long-forgotten serial killer.

When they discover that Daisy, under a different name, supposedly died 30 years earlier, they find themselves squarely in the crosshairs of killers whose deadly secrets lie in Daisy’s mysterious past.

Fatal Lies by Andrew Cunningham

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.


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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

I’m with the Band by BL Faulkner

25th June 2021.

In this sixth outing for the serial murder squad, DCS Palmer immerses himself in the world of rock music, namely a band whose members are being killed off one by one. This is the assertion of the band’s manager, who soon finds himself on the mortuary table.

This is the cue for Palmer, Gheeta and Claire to swing into action, investigating the deaths of previous band members. With only one member of the band left alive, they must also protect him from a killer who shuns the shadows to lay down a challenge to Palmer.

In common with the other books in the series, this is another fast-paced thriller with an original premise, a twisting plot and an adrenaline fuelled climax at the NEC in Birmingham. There’s plenty of witty banter among the team, humour from Palmer’s battles with neighbour, Benji, and great writing throughout. I simply breezed through the story, enjoying every moment.

Whether you read the books in order or as stand alones, this is an excellent and hugely enjoyable series.

Description

A worried Rock Band manager asks for help when his band members appear to be being murdered one by one. Palmer is sceptical until the manager himself is killed. The trail leads the team into the band’s past and the many people who could harbour a long held grudge. It’s a needle in a haystack job checking them all until the killer shows himself on Facebook and defies Palmer to find him before the last band member is murdered. As usual B.L.Faulkner knows the business he is writing about and takes the reader on a fast paced thriller to the explosive end at a major NEC concert. And even then his signature ‘twist in the tail’ catches you unawares.

I'm with the Band by BL Faulkner

Murder at Home by Faith Martin

30th May 2021.

The murder of Flo Jenkins appears motiveless. This elderly lady is well loved and close to dying from cancer. Why would anyone stab her in her own front room?

This is the mystery facing DI Hillary Greene and her team in their fifth outing. Problems at headquarters also muddy the waters with a stalker sending nasty messages to Janine, who is about to marry the Chief Superintendent, Mel. Then there’s the new detective constable, transferred out of London after an incident.

And a former chief superintendent, who left under a cloud threatens to cause trouble for Hillary.

It’s all in a day’s work for Hillary as she rallies the team, deals with the internal problems and gets down to solving the murder with an inspired bit of lateral thinking. The murder is intriguing, the relationships within the team fascinating and laced with humour, and at the heart of it all, Hillary Greene shines, even though her love life is getting complicated.

This is another excellent and exciting episode in the series. Like all the books in the series so far, it can be read as a standalone, but then you’d miss out on the character development and relationships that are an integral and delightful part of stories.

Highly recommended.

Description

Flo Jenkins is found murdered in her armchair, a paperknife sticking out of her chest. The old woman was well liked and nothing seems to have been stolen from her home. And it was common knowledge that she only had weeks to live.

Why kill a dying woman? This is going to be one of the toughest cases yet for Hillary to solve.

Hillary also has to deal with a new colleague who has a terrible temper and a rocky past.

With no forensics, no leads, and only a drug-addict nephew as a suspect, will this be Hillary’s first failure to solve a murder case?

Murder at Home by Faith Martin

The Torso in the Town by Simon Brett

25th May 2021.

This is the third book in the Fethering mystery series, feature chalk and cheese neighbours Carole and Jude.

It starts with a dinner party at Pelling House, where Jude finds a mummified torso in the cellar. It isn’t long before Jude and Carole are returning to the small market town where it happened to investigate. Carole, however, is smarting from a breakup in a recent relationship, and isn’t as motivated as usual.

But it isn’t long before Jude’s befriending the locals, getting them invited to an important dinner party, and interviewing everyone with a connection to Pelling House over the years. As you would expect, there are plenty of characters in the town and even more suspects, once the body is identified.

Carole and Jude’s progress is a joy to behold as they get behind and under the façade of this sleepy town and its often pompous residents. I loved the author’s gentle mocking of middle class foibles, values and attitudes and the undercurrent of humour that keeps the story jogging along at a merry pace.

The descriptions and social commentary are a delight, the characters beautifully, an occasionally tragically, portrayed, and the investigation leads to an exciting climax, followed by an unexpected twist that adds to the reader’s pleasure.

If you enjoy a cosy mystery that’s original, sophisticated and fun, then this series is a treat and fast becoming one of my favourites.

Description

Grant and Kim Roxby had hoped that their first dinner party at Pelling House would make an impression with their new neighbours. And the next day it’s certainly the talk of the village in Fethering. For their guests – including the couple’s old friend Jude – had been enjoying a pleasant meal when they were rudely interrupted by a gruesome discovery. A human torso hidden in the cellar.

Carole and Jude turn amateur sleuths once again. They begin to question the locals, but they can’t help wondering why a town notoriously distrustful of outsiders is proving so terribly amenable to their enquiries . . .

The Torso in in the Town by Simon Brett