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American crime fiction  Australian crime fiction.
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ish crime fiction  
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CRIME FOR THE COGNISCENTI!

WELCOME TO FULLY BOOKED! If you are a fan of crime writing – old, new, true or fiction – you should find something to entertain you here. Among the regular features will be a focus on real life crimes, both in the UK and further afield, the classic fiction of The Golden Age, and the latest new releases from top authors and publishers. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook by clicking the buttons.

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DEATH COMES TO BINSWOOD END . . . a dark deed in 1920s Harbury (2)

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SO FAR –  Harbury, 1922. Rugby ne’er-do-well William Rider bigamously married Rosilla Patience Borton in 1918. As well as mistreating her, he has become  involved with her (under-age) sister Harriet. Rosilla has left the house in Pennngton Street, Rugby, to seek protection with her mother in the house at Binswood End, Harbury.

Rachel Freeman, Rosilla’s mother, hearing rumours that William Rider has been the seen the previous evening in the area, on the morning of Thursday 7th September had tried to make the house secure fearing that he was a threat. At the coroner’s inquest into the death of Rosilla, Mrs Freeman was questioned about her fears:

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The next witness called was Harriet, who had been an apparently willing victim of Rider’s womanising. Despite the fact that she knew Rider had just murdered her sister in cold blood, she was what the papers called ‘a recalcitrant witness.’

Harriet

Rider claimed that he had taken the gun only to scare Rosilla into returning to him, and that it had gone off accidentally when she grabbed it in self defence. Rosella had been shot dead with a cartridge from a 16 bore gun. The medical examiner estimated that there were over one hundred pellets from the cartridge embedded in her skull. Neither the coroners inquest nor the magistrates’ court considered Rider’s version of events credible, and he was sent to face trial at Warwick Assizes in November. Meanwhile local papers covered the mournful event of Rosilla’s funeral.

Funeral

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Rider’s trial began on Friday 17th November 1922. Mr. O’Sullivan and Mr. Bartholomew appeared for the prosecution, and Rider, who pleaded not guilty in a firm voice, was defended by Mr. Harold Eadon. In his opening address Mr. O’Sullivan, after outlining the facts of the case, submitted it was clear case of deliberate and premeditated murder. When Rider finally came to the witness box his story was that he had spent the night in the lavatory of the house, and had the gun so he could go out in the morning to shoot rabbits. He said that he went upstairs to see Rose, and she made a gesture from the bed which he interpreted as her wanting him to kiss her. As he stooped down to do so, Mrs Freeman ‘mistaking his kind gesture as a threat’ sprang from her bed and tried to grab the gun, at which point it went off, killing Rosilla instantly.

As preposterous stories go, Rider’s was up there with the best, and the jury took little time in pronouncing him guilty, at which point the judge donned the black cap.

Presiding over Warwick Assizes that November was Montague Lush ( above left) Wikipedia says of him:

“He retired from the bench in 1925 due to deafness, and was made a Privy Counsellor the same year, although he never sat on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Although highly regarded as a barrister, he was not a successful judge: he was said to be too diffident and sometimes let personal feelings influence his decisions.”

William Rider’s legal team may have sensed that Mr Justice Lush’s mediocre reputation  gave them a chance of overturning the death sentence. It was not to be. The appeal was made before The Lord Chief Justice, Gordon Hewart but, like the relatively lowly Southam coroner and magistrates before him, he believed that William Rider was, by the standards of the time, unfit to walk among his fellow men. Regional newspapers across Britain carried this simple story on Tuesday 19th December 1922:

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FOR MORE WARWICKSHIRE MURDERS, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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DEATH COMES TO BINSWOOD END . . . a dark deed in 1920s Harbury (1)

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I’ll be quite upfront. I am in my seventies and most people consider me a reactionary. I rant on with the best (or worst) of them about the decline in modern morality and the collapse of traditional family values, but as I research these old murder cases, it becomes increasingly apparent that the ‘good old days’ of sound and stable families may be something of a false recollection. This case involves a terrible murder in the village of Harbury in September 1922. The victim was a 24 year-old woman called Rosilla Patience Borton.

Rosilla was born in 1898, and she first appears on public records in the census of 1901. She is living in Cross Green, Bishop’s Itchington  a member of a large household headed by William Freeman, and his wife Rachel. Seven of the ten children have the Freeman surname, while Alice Violet (9) Arthur Henry (7) and Rosilla share the surname Constable. Rosilla is described as ‘daughter of the wife’. William Freeman, like many other men in the village was a stone quarryman. So, already, there is something of a puzzle. It seems that Rachel Freeman had a dalliance with someone called Christopher Constable, long enough to produce three children. Constable, incidentally, died in 1898 at the age of 35. Whatever the truth, we mustn’t ponder too long, because there are more mysteries ahead.

Borton Census 1911

In the summer of 1915, Rosilla married Edward James Borton. He and his family are listed in the 1911 census as living in Binswood End, Harbury (above) He was 18 years senior to Rosilla, and died at the age of 36 in April 1917. Rosilla may have mourned his passing, but she was young, and had cause to hope that her best years were yet to come. In January 1918, Rosilla married William Rider, again a much older man. He was a chimney sweep and window cleaner who lived in Rugby. He was, to put it mildly, a ‘wrong ‘un’. It transpired that he had never divorced his first wife, who was still alive. The home, in Pennington Street, Rugby (below),  which Rosilla joined, already had two young women in residence. One was Rider’s daughter by his legal wife, and two were the fruits of Rider’s relationship with yet another woman.

Pennington Street

It was not a happy house, at least for Rosilla, as Rider had started knocking her about. To make matters even worse, Rider seems to have tired rather quickly of his new ‘wife’ and instead began making advances to Rosilla’s half-sister Harriet. Harriet was born in 1906, so she was only just ‘of age’ by the time Rosilla was killed, and it seems she had fallen under Rider’s spell some time before this.

Rosilla had, on several occasions fled the house in Rugby to seek refuge with her mother who, by this time was living in Binswood End, Harbury. Was this the same house previously occupied by the Borton family? I can’t answer that question, sadly.

The Gloucester Echo of 11th September 1922 carried this chilling story:

A Village Tragedy

FOLLOWING, IN PART TWO

A murder
Trial and conviction
A job for Mr John Ellis

ELLIS

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT . . . LM Weeks and Mark Zvonkovic

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BOTTLED LIGHTNING by LM Weeks

Bottled Lightning is an international legal thriller set in Japan with a tech lawyer, Tornait “Torn” Sagara and his super-scientist client, Saya Brooks (both Japanese-Americans with past relationship issues) trying to protect themselves and the world-changing energy technology invention destined to make existing energy industries obsolete. Saya has invented what she calls lightning on demand. When dangerous operatives threaten to bury them and this bleeding edge technology, they are forced into survival mode even as their complicated personal relationship heightens the stakes.

Screen Shot 2022-05-17 at 18.38.37L. M. (Mark) Weeks is a Senior Counsel and former Partner in the global law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. He has practiced law in New York and Tokyo for more than 30 years and served as Managing Partner of Orrick’s Tokyo office from 2007-17. Mark speaks, reads and writes fluent Japanese. In addition to his work at Orrick, Mark has done pro bono work with young HIV+ parents, indigent criminal defendants, and fisheries conservation organizations. Mark’s passion is tournament fly fishing for tarpon and record chasing. A traveling angler, he has fished all over the world. He was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and raised in Nampa, Idaho. Bottled Lightning is his debut novel, and will be available on 13the June.

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BELINDA by Mark Zvonkovic

Belinda “Lyn” Larkin is at a crossroads. A beautiful and experienced attorney who is married to the law, faces the end of a long and successful law practice at the hands of the “men in suits” who run her firm, when a man once her lover suddenly appears after a long and mysterious absence. Set in the conference rooms of white shoe Houston law firms and the stunning coastline of Baja California, Belinda is the story of a woman’s bravery and resourcefulness as she navigates the end of her career and a complex world of international intrigue, legal infighting, and unexpected romance. This character-driven third book in The Raymond Hatcher Collection (which easily reads as a stand-alone novel) explores questions of dedication, loyalty and love as Lyn contemplates what’s next in her life. Belinda will be out on 14th June.

Screen Shot 2022-05-17 at 18.55.11Mark Zvonkovic lives in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico with his wife Nancy and their two dogs, Finn and Cooper. He has written two novels. He also writes book reviews and essays that have appeared in several online publications. Before retiring to Mexico, Mark practiced law in Houston, Texas and in New York City. He attended college at Southern Methodist University and at Boston University, and his law degree is from SMU School of Law.

Both novels are handled by PR By The Book, who operate out of Round Rock, Austin, Texas. Their website is here.

ON MY SHELF . . . Mara, Massen, Perks & Spain

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There’s some good stuff in the offing for crime fiction fans judging by this quartet of fine  writers. In alphabetical order, we have:

HIDE AND SEEK by Andrea Mara

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 18.23.42Confession time: while I have read and enjoyed previous novels by mesdames Massen, Perks and Spain, Andrea Mara is a new name to me. Turns out she is a compatriot of Jo Spain, also lives in Dublin’s fair City, and her previous novel All Her Fault was a bestseller. So, the loss is all mine. In Hide and Seek, it’s worst nightmare time, especially if you are a parent or, like me, a grandparent. The back-story is that little Lily Murphy goes missing from her Dublin suburb and is never found. Years later, Joanna moves into what was Lily’s home and from here, things just become more scary and spine tingling. This will be published by Bantam Press on 4th August.

FROM THE ASHES by Deborah Masson

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 18.25.37Eve Hunter is well established now in the sharp-elbowed assembly of fictional Detective Inspectors. Her beat is The Granite City of Aberdeen. I reviewed – and enjoyed –  two earlier novels, Hold Your Tongue (2019) and Out For Blood (2020) Ms Hunter returns now in an investigation into a fatal fire in an Aberdeen house used as a home for underprivileged children. There appears to be only one person who perished, but further enquiries uncover a rats’ nest of secrets and guilt which means all of the adults who were paid to care for the children may be implicated in an awful crime. From The Ashes is from Transworld Digital/Penguin and will be available from 21st July’

THE OTHER GUEST by Heidi Perks

Screen Shot 2022-05-14 at 18.27.12Heidi Perks is another writer whose previous books The Whispers (2021) and Come Back For Me (2019) were seriously impressive. Click the links to read my reviews. Here, we are basking in the sun in White Sands, an expensive resort on a remote Greek island. Laila and her husband have paid top dollar for their holiday in the hope that they can repair their increasingly fractured relationship. She becomes  what might be called ‘over-interested’ in another family at the poolside –  a woman called Em, her husband and their teenage sons. Then there is a horrifying event which forces Laila to question her own sanity, and what follows involves the exposure of family secrets, and human frailty stripped back to the bone. This is a very early ‘heads-up’ for a book which will be available in January 2023.

THE LAST TO DISAPPEAR by Jo Spain

This is a tiny bit of a cheat, as I have already read this book on my Kindle, and reviewed it here. However, the publishers, in their wisdom, have sent me a mint hardback copy of the book, so I am offering it as a prize to anyone in UK or RoI who retweets this post. What are you waiting for?

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A SEA CAPTAIN SPURNED . . . A Grimsby murder, 1893 (part two)

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SO FAR – It is November 1893. 39 year-old Grimsby fishing smack captain Henry Rumbell (widely called Rumbold in press reports) has been having an affair with a young Grimsby girl, Harriet Rushby. Rumbell, fearing that Rushby was ‘playing the field’ had arranged for her to stay under the watchful eye of one of her relatives while he and his ship set to sea for a long trip.

Rumbell’s fishing trips normally lasted eight weeks, but Harriet Rushby was clearly playing on his mind, and after just two weeks at sea, he turned Nightingale round and headed back to Grimsby. On reaching port on the afternoon of Tuesday 7th November, Rumbell made straight for the house in Ayscough Street where he had hoped that that Harriet had been staying under the watchful eye of her cousin Charles. The news that he had seen neither hide nor hair of the young woman sent Rumbell into a barely controlled rage. He set off for Victoria Street where he purchased a revolver and a box of cartridges from a gunsmith’s shop.

He visited a woman called Ann Widall in Emmerson’s Terrace, and she told him that Harriet had been seen heading for what the press called The Empire Music Hall. This is another of the mysteries in this story. Where it was, I don’t know, as what became known as the Empire Theatre in Cleethorpes wasn’t built until 1895. Eventually Rumbell caught up with Harriet on the Cleethorpes Road. She was in the company of a woman called Mrs Bowdidge and a man called William Burns, who lodged with her at 124 Tunnard Street. The four of them continued an evening’s drinking, ending up at a long-since-closed pub, The Barrel in Lock Hill. At about eleven o’clock, Rumbell and Rushby went to the house in Tunnard Street, where Rumbell demanded to know what the girl had been doing behind his back. When Bowdidge and Burns arrived at the house a short time after, what they heard was reported in a local newspaper:

The Killing

From here, the path from Grimsby police station to the gallows at Lincoln Gaol was straight and smooth. This, once again from a contemporary newspaper:

“Rumbold was tried at Lincoln Assizes on Wednesday, November 29th, before Mr. Justice Charles. There was practically no defence, the only efforts of counsel on behalf of the prisoner being directed to obtain a verdict on the less serious charge of manslaughter. The summing up of the judge was distinctly unfavourable to this view of the case. His Lordship said he did not suppose anyone could have any doubt of the sort of life led at the woman Bowdidge’s house, and there it was that the girl took up her abode whilst the prisoner was away at sea, but in point of law nothing took place that would justify them in reducing the criminality of the charge After nine or ten minutes consideration the jury returned a verdict of guilty, and then it was that the prisoner, who had presented a calm demeanour throughout the four hours’ trial, made most extraordinary statement. He expressed his satisfaction with the verdict, and asked his Lordship to grant him, as he was a great smoker, as many cigars and cigarettes as he wished for between then and the day of his death. ” I want to die an English hero,” said the wretched culprit, ” though,” he added, ” I know it is a disgrace to my country and my friends and comrades.”

Henry Rumbell’s demise on 19th December 1893 was described graphically in a Grimsby newspaper report:

Execution

Tragically, male on female violence, whether fueled by jealous rage or not, shows no sign of abating as we supposedly become more civilised. The list of men who have murdered women is a long one, and includes such infamous names as Dr Crippen, Reginald Christie, John Haigh, Fred West, Harold Shipman, Levi Bellfield and Wayne Couzens. It remains a matter of debate whether the death penalty would have acted as any deterrent in the more recent cases.

FOR OTHER LINCOLNSHIRE MURDERS, FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW

The Killing of Minnie Kirby

Death comes to Newmarket

The madness of a daughter

A chapter of horrors

The Spalding poisoner

The strange death of Catherine Gear

A SEA CAPTAIN SPURNED . . . A Grimsby murder, 1893 (part one)

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Tunnard Street in Grimsby is in the East Marsh area of the town, cited recently as the most dangerous areas in Lincolnshire in terms of reported crime. Many of the houses just wouldn’t be built today. They are tiny two up-two down terraces, built by 19thC profiteering builders and financiers, eager to make a quick profit. Perhaps violence is embedded in the very ground beneath residents’ feet. But that violence isn’t a recent phenomenon. One of the town’s most infamous murders took place there. 

As far as I can judge, the house that was numbered 124 Tunnard Street no longer exists. Along with its neighbouring houses, it has been demolished and replaced by more modern – and spacious – dwellings. The old chapel on the corner still stands, but rather than being a place where Grimsby’s Pentecostal congregation worshiped, it is now a boxing club.

The old 124 Tunnard Street was, in November 1893, witness to a brutal murder that shocked townsfolk and  attracted attention across England.The two leading players in this fatal drama were Harriet Rushby and Henry Rumbold.

HarrietThe early life *(see footnote) of Harriet Rushby has been difficult to trace. One newspaper report says that she was 24 in 1893, while another says she was 20. There is a death record for December 1893, where a Harriet Rushby was buried in Caistor, aged 22, and a census record for 1881 which gives us a Harriet Rushby living in Lower Burgess Street with her grandparents, but she is listed as being born in 1874.

RumboldHenry Rumbold proved just as problematic, until I realised that his actual surname was Rumbell, and that his family were well known seafarers from Yarmouth. On the night of Sunday 3rd April 1881 he was listed in the census as being on board the ship Tempus Fugit, moored off the Suffolk Coast. It looks as though he was described as Master, while his younger brother Walter was Mate

Census

By 1893, Rumbell was master of Nightingale, a fishing smack operating out of Grimsby. Later reports stated that he had previously been married in Yarmouth, but that the union was  an unhappy one and had not lasted long. In Grimsby, Rumbell had become enchanted by Harriet Rushby, almost half his age, and described as being of ‘very pleasing appearance’. The problem for Rumbell was, however, that his trade meant lengthy absences from Grimsby, and it seems that Harriet Rushby was ready neither to settle down nor to remain faithful to her lover. A contemporary newspaper report primly stated:

“She came of an old Grimsby family, was very respectably connected, but she fell into evil ways, and was the habitual associate of bad men and women. At what time she made the acquaintance of Rumbold is not clear, but at all events an illicit intimacy had existed between them before his last fishing cruise, from which he returned unexpectedly on the fatal 7th of November. “

The pitiful scenario of an older man becoming entranced by a younger woman, and then possessiveness and jealousy leading to tragedy, is as old as humanity itself. It seems that Rumbell had become aware that he was not the only person in Harriet’s life, and in late October,  as he prepared to take Nightingale out into the wintry North Sea for another trip, he had made arrangements. This, from a contemporary newspaper report:

“He had expected being way at sea for eight weeks, and from motives probably of a personal kind had arranged that she should lodge in his absence at the house of her own cousin, Charles Rushby, in Ayscough Street. She did not, however, fall in with his plans. ”

 IN PART TWO

a surprise return
a revolver is purchased
a job for Mr Billington

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* Of the many such cases I have written about over the years, this has been the hardest to research in terms of the people involved. Normally it is possible to trace participants through census and birth/marriage/death records, after picking up the gist of the story from old newspaper reports. This time, however names either don’t exist at all, or don’t match addresses. I suspect, as with Henry Rumbell, names were either miss-spelled or misheard by court reporters and other journalists.

A TASTE FOR KILLING . . . Between the covers

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Sarah HawkswoodThose of us who are lucky enough to be sent printed copies of novels for review almost certainly have “keepers” – books which don’t go off to friends, free libraries or charity shops once they are read. Looking across at my shelves, I see books by Jim Kelly, Christopher Fowler, Philip Kerr, John Connolly, Phil Rickman, James Oswald, Peter Bartram – and Sarah Hawkswood (left). I was a late arrival at the ‘Bradecote Ball’, but these superb stories of medieval Worcester have joined my list of favourite books which I will not be parted from. A Taste For Killing is the tenth in this splendid series featuring the 12th century Worcester trio of Hugh Bradecote, Serjeant Catchpoll and Underserjeant Walkelin.

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It is a bitter January afternoon in Worcester, 1145. The wells have frozen, the streets are empty, and decent folk are huddled around their fires. In the house of Godfrey Bowyer – remember the origin of many surnames – a skilled, but widely disliked maker of longbows, it is supper time. As Godfrey sups his pottage with his wife Blanche, the servants cower in another room, listening to the customary arguments and smashing of crockery. Godfey and Banche (his second wife) frequently disagree, but they are as one when it comes to the adage about it being better to let it all out than to keep it in. Tonight’s row takes an unexpected – and fatal – turn, as both Godfrey and Blanche collapse with the symptoms of poisoning. Blanche recovers quickly enough, but it is to be Godfrey’s last night on earth.

Catchpoll and Walkelin are summoned and are joined – reluctantly – by Bradecote, who was anxiously at the side of his heavily pregnant wife. She has miscarried before, and he is reluctant to leave her, but  suspected murder is what it is, and he joins his two colleagues. The row between Godfrey and Blanche which culminated in a dish of pottage (a soup thickened with grain, containing vegetables and – when available – meat) being thrown at the wall raises the crucial question – the contents of whose bowl redecorated the wall of the house? Was it Blanche’s, and did Godfrey then sup from the bowl intended for his wife? What was the poison, and who put it in the pottage?

It transpires that the Bowyer ménage is far from simple. Runild the servant girl is pregnant, but by whom? Alwin, Bowyer’s apprentice is out of the frame as he is too shy to even look at a girl, let alone do anything more physical, but there is another suspect. The late Godfrey’s  hands often followed not far behind his roving eye, as more than one Worcester woman can testify. Furthermore, what was Blanche’s relationship with the Steward of Worcester Castle, Simon Furneaux, a pompous individual who has a hate-hate relationship with Hugh Bradecote? There was little love lost between Godfrey Bowyer and his younger brother Herluin the Stringere, also a maker of bows, and a man who has his eyes on his late brother’s business. There is even a rumour that they do not share the same father.

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One of the many captivating qualities of this book is the reminder of the potent symbolism of the Yew tree in human history. The traditional home of the Yew tree in England is the village churchyard, and there is a deep irony that its wood was used to produce the fine – and lethal – bows that were to dominate medieval warfare. The Yew is also a more direct cause of death, however, as its wood contains toxins that bow makers had to wash from their hands before eating, and the seeds in the delightful red berries contain a deadly alkaloid.

When there is yet another death in the Bowyer household, a local herbalist and bone-setter called Roger the Healer, who has thus far been on the fringe of events, takes centre stage. He suspects that Yew killed Godfrey Bowyer, but a glance at the cover of the novel will give readers a clue as to what caused the second tragedy.

The chemistry between Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin is a work of alchemy in itself. Bradecote is, I suppose, minor nobility, quick-witted and well educated, while Catchpoll is grizzled, rough round the edges, but wily. Walkelin, in the earlier books, was simply a clever but callow lad. Now, however, he uses his apparent naivety and lack of guile to extract information from people who would otherwise be too deferential to Bradecote, or too fearful of Catchpoll’s reputation as a street fighter.

A Taste For Killing is raw-knuckle historical crime fiction which, while it never flinches from describing the often brutal lives of people in 12th century England, still paints a picture of decent, thoughtful folk living honest lives as best they can. Thanks to Sarah Hawkwood’s skill, that picture has a timeless quality. The book is published by Allison & Busby and is out today, 12th May. Click on the images below for my reviews of earlier books in the series.

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THE LAST TO DISAPPEAR . . . Between the covers

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No-one will ever accuse Jo Spain of being unadventurous. With a best-selling series of police procedurals under her belt – the superb Tom Reynolds novels – a lesser writer might hunker down and play safety first by sticking to the familiar. But that’s not Jo Spain. Her last standalone thriller, The Perfect Lie (click for review), was set in Newport, Rhode Island, and now she takes us to the ski resort of Koppe in icy Finland, where Brit Alex Evans has travelled to identify the murdered body of his sister, Vicky. She was something of a ‘free spirit’, having wandered half the way round Europe doing a variety of temporary jobs (including pole dancing in a Spanish bar), always broke, but always looking for the next big adventure. Her body has been found by an ice fisherman, and has been in the water for some time.

Handling the investigation is local police chief Agatha Koskinen, but Alex is determined to ask his own questions. He discovers that Vicky had been working at a local  hotel and had made friends with an American tourist who is now back in the states, but has an alibi for the time when Vicky disappeared. Agatha has demons of her own to contend with, however, as somewhere out there is the abusive parent of her three children – Luca – and she fears for them should Luca come back into their lives.

As ever, Jo Spain weaves a complex mystery, and gives us a split time narrative. She takes us back to 1998 where we are a fly on the wall in the house of Miika and Kaya Vartinen. Miika is a Sami – one the ethnic people of what used to be known as Lapland. He is a reindeer herder. Kaya is pregnant, but Miika is not the father. She is carefully managing the usual symptoms so that when she tells him,  Miika will believe the child is his.

The significance of the book’s title becomes clear when Alex visits Agatha at her home, and she reveals that Vicky is the latest woman to disappear in a ten-year period, and that Kaya Vatinen was the first. She also tells Alex that Miika Vartinen is widely suspected as being involved in the disappearances, but no evidence has ever emerged to connect him to the cases.

With the most delicate of touches, Jo Spain hints at the darker aspects of life in Koppe, where there is an undercurrent of racism towards the Sami people, and she reminds us of the familiar theme of movers and shakers in tourist resorts – think the Mayor of Amity Island in Jaws –  not wanting anything to disturb the inward flow of visitors and their cash. There is also the spectre of an international mining company sensing a million dollar windfall from the minerals sitting beneath the pristine and picturesque Finnish landscape.

Jo Spain’s tricksy thrillers are very cleverly written. She relies on us making assumptions. She invites us to make these assumptions rather like a fly fisherman casting the cunningly constructed fly on the water, hoping it will fool the fat trout (aka the reader). When we realise we have been gulled, we might turn back a few ages and react with something like, “hang on – didn’t she tell us that …?“, only to find that what she wrote was  perfectly ambiguous, and that we have jumped to the wrong conclusion. Perhaps there’s a few too many mixed metaphors there, but I hope you get my drift.

There are only two predictable things about a Jo Spain thriller. The first? There will be a dramatic plot twist. The second? You won’t see it coming! The Last to Disappear is published by Quercus, and will be out on 12th May. For more of my reviews of Jo’s books, click the image below.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Barton, Gough, Kellerman & Leavers

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LOCAL GONE MISSING by Fiona Barton

Detective Elise King moves to the apparently placid seaside town of Ebbing after illness threatens her career. What should be a period of rest and recuperation turns distinctly nasty when tension between locals and  rich weekender visitors bubbles over into violence. When two teenagers end up in hospital and a local man vanishes without trace, Elise searches for answers from the community, but all lips are sealed. This will be out on 9th June from Bantam Press. Back in 2019 I read and reviewed Fiona Barton’s The Suspect, and you can see what I thought by clicking this link.

THE CHEERLEADER by Richard Gough

The Cheerleader is a psychopathic serial killer who is terrorising London. On the trail is maverick Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Cortes who, with a reputation for arrogance and a very individual approach to policing, has to try to get inside the mind of a mentally disturbed person who – just like her –  makes their own rules. The Cheerleader is available now, and is published by The Book Guild.

THE BURNING by Jonathan  and Jesse Kellerman

The latest case for Deputy Coroner Clay Edison involves the mystery of a millionaire found dead in his luxury hilltop home. The matter becomes personal when, at the crime scene, evidence is found that links to Ckay’s own brother Luke, recently released from prison. This came out in hardback last year, and you can read my review here. This paperback edition will be out on 12th May and is published by Penguin.

DON’T PLAY DEAD WITH VULTURES by Jack Leavers

Author Jack Leavers is a former Royal Marine with over thirty-years’ experience spread across the military, private security, corporate investigations, maritime counter-piracy, and risk management. This fast paced novel reflects his own experiences, and features mercenary John Pierce as he battles greed, intrigue, a ferocious climate and international gangsters in the inhospitable jungle of what used to be known as French West Africa. Don’t Play Dead With Vultures is published by The Book Guild and is available now.

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