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May 2022

THE FRITH BANK HORROR . . . A savage murder in 1901 (part two)

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SO FAR – March, 1901. William Kirk, by trade a plate-layer for The Great Northern Railway lives with his wife and younger children in a modest cottage beside Frith Bank Drain, just north of Boston, Lincolnshire. He has been unable to work for some time, and is convinced that his wife Ellen is having an affair with a younger man – farmer Henry Robinson. Ellen has temporarily gone to stay with the Robinsons – just the other side of the Frith Drain – as Mrs Eliza Robinson is due to give birth, and has asked for nursing.

A newspaper reported on the violent events of Friday 22nd March 1901.

The Murder

Kirk, having virtually decapitated his wife, and threatening to do likewise with Henry Robinson – the man he thought was cuckolding him – headed back to his own home, covered in Ellen’s blood, and with her desperate screams no doubt echoing in his head. Was he insane, as his legal defenders were to claim late, or was it that terrible male anger – repeated in murder after murder over the years – at his woman becoming more attracted to someone else?

Kirk made no attempt to escape the area, but put up a fierce struggle with the police and was soon in custody. The next step was the inquest into the death of Ellen Kirk, and it was held in a back room of The Malcolm Arms, a nearby pub (pictured below)

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The proceedings were grim for all those present, but the law had to take its course. Unlike today, where news is instant and digital, court reports sold newspapers.

THE INQUEST AT SIBSEY. VERDICT OF WILFUL MURDER AGAINST KIRK

The inquest was opened by the District Coroner (Dr. F. J. Walker, at the Malcolm Inn, Anton’s Gowt, Sibsey, at three o’clock this afternoon. The inn is a quaint brick building, with an old-fashioned swinging sign standing up from pillar on a stone base in front of the house, and is in a picturesque situation. The gowt’s bridge, from which the neighbour takes its name, is close to hand. The inquiry was held in the large parlour, and Mr. Charles Gilliatt was foreman of the jury. Supt. Wood, of the Spilsby police, Supt. Costar, the North Holland police, and Supt. Adcock, of the Boston Borough police, were present. The Coroner having formally opened the inquiry, the jury retired to view the body. On their return Fred Kirk, the accused’s son, was the first witness called. He identified the body as that of his mother, and said she was 46 years of age. He last saw her alive on Friday night. He did not see her again until that day.

In reply to Supt. Wood, witness said was in service at a farm close by, and went home on Thursdays and Sundays. On Thursday night, in answer to a note from his mother, he visited her at the house of Mr. Robinson, Frith Bank. In the kitchen he found his father and mother with Mr. Robinson and   the servant girl. Some unpleasantness had evidently occurred between his father and mother. His father said he should not. allow her to stay at Mr. Robinson’s until Tuesday. Witness tried to persuade his father to treat his mother more kindly.

After a time witness and his father left the house together, and went to his father’s house, where they slept, instead of witness returning to his situation. On the way his father promised to treat his mother more kindly, and said he would go and see after a job at Higdon’s. He would go there on Lady-day. On Thursday morning, at about 11.30, witness was passing Mr. Robinson’s house, and he saw his mother near the front gate. His father was standing also some distance off. His mother made complaint to witness of his conduct towards her. His father came up and said, “What is she she telling you now?” After further conversation, witness went along the road in the direction of his own home.

Henry Robinson, a pleasant-looking young farmer, was the next witness. He said he lived on Frith Bank. On Tuesday evening, Ellen came to nurse his wife. On Friday morning Kirk came into the house, and sat in the kitchen. Witness was in the room about a quarter of hour, and while he was there, there were some words between Kirk his wife. Witness afterwards went about the premises as usual about his work. At about 9.30 maid-servant, Amy Barber, called him into the house where he saw Ellen Kirk lying on the ground with her head on a block wood. Kirk was leaning over her with knife razor cutting the back of her neck, holding the head with his hand.

Witness at once shouted “What are you doing?” Kirk did not answer, but got up, and ran at witness with the weapon in his hand. Witness fetched a manure fork, and told Kirk leave his wife alone, he would knock him down. Kirk then went away. Witness fetched a man named William Bedford, who was at the brickyard close by. On looking at the body, witness found it was lifeless.

Dr. Reginald Tuxford was called. He said on Friday morning went see Mrs. Robinson and found he had already been sent for to see a woman who was lying in the back yard with her throat cut. She was quite dead, and death had taken place immediately. Witness had further examined the body that day and found a large gaping wound in the chin, running across the neck. The blood vessels on the left side were completely divided, and the wind pipe and gullet were separated. There were two or three gashes on the left of the face, near the jaw bone. In addition to these there was a wound at the back of the neck reaching nearly from ear to car, and also a wound down the vertebral column. Witness had also examined the internal organs of the deceased and found them healthy, with the exception of the kidney. The body was absolutely bloodless. He came to the conclusion that death was caused by shock following upon haemorrhage from the injuries caused to the threat.

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Screen Shot 2022-05-29 at 20.07.34Inevitably, William Kirk was found guilty of murder, and his case was sent to the July Assizes in Lincoln. The trial, presided over by Mr Justice Wright (left) was a formality, and Kirk was sentenced to be hanged. Just days before he was due to meet James Billington for the first – and only time – the powers that be judged that he was insane at the time of the killed his wife, and he was reprieved, and sent to Broadmoor.

The future lives of the Kirk children are beyond the scope of this story, but one can only hope that they were not permanently traumatised by the killing of their mother. It is reported that Kirk wrote several letters to them while he was awaiting execution, but none of them ever came to visit him. Public records show that the death of a William E KIrk was registered at Easthampstead, Berkshire, in the summer of 1916. Easthampstead was almost certainly where deaths in Broadmoor were registered, so it seems Kirk reached his allotted three score years and ten without ever leaving the secure hospital. The one flicker of light in this sad tale is that the 1901 census records that the Robinson household now included Walter, aged just two weeks, so it is good to know that the murder of Ellen Kirk had no lasting effect on the woman she was nursing, or the baby she was hoping to help bring into the world.

FOR OTHER LINCOLNSHIRE MURDER STORIES, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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THE FRITH BANK HORROR . . . a savage murder in 1901 (part one)

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Frith Bank Drain is one of the innumerable channels which bisect the flat lands around Boston. Parts of the area are fens, meaning land reclaimed from fresh water inundation, while others are marshland, i.e. land recovered from salt water flats. Needless to say, the land rarely rises to much more than a couple of metres above sea level and, visually, it presents the visitor with huge skies and long horizons.

Our story centres on two people who lived beside the Frith Bank Drain. William Enoch Kirk was born in the village of Kirkstead in 1846. Kirkstead sits on the River Witham and at Anton’s Gowt, the Frith Bank Drain branches eastward. Gowt, by the way, is believed to be a corruption of ‘go-out’, meaning a sluice or outlet. Ellen Mountain was born in Boston in 1853. Her parents lived in Blue Street. A newspaper report contemporary to the tragic events about to unfold wrote:

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Will and Ellen lived at Kirton for a time, but eventually moved to Frith Bank. Will had a decent job as a plate-layer with the Great Northern Railway Company, and their modest cottage overlooking the Frith Bank Drain was described as “a pleasantly situated dwelling of the plain brick type, comfortable if not exactly roomy within. Attached is a piece of garden land, whereon much produce is cultivated, and the rent is only £5 year, and there were a couple of pigs in the sty, so the family lived “passing well.”

The 1891 census tells us that the Kirks had six children ranging in age from Herbert (14) to Arthur (1).

1891

The address is given as 1 Frith Bank Road which, if we follow modern numbering, puts in north of the drain, but a newspaper reported that the Kirk’s house was on the Boston side of the drain. The adjacent page of the census mentions Pepper Gowt Lot and part of Tattershall Road, which seems to confirm that.

It is rather ironic that when the 1901 census was taken, on the evening of Monday 1st April, the Kirk family were no loner a unit. Arthur, for example, now 11 years old, was described as a boarder in the house of George and Ellen Taylor, of Frithville, while Frank Kirk, again described as a boarder, was living with Henry and Caroline Nixon, Henry Nixon being a stockman on a nearby farm.

The circumstances that led to the terrible events of 22nd March, 1901 are, again, best described in the words of a contemporary newspaper report.

Illness

Money – or the lack of it – was clearly preying on Ellen Kirk’s mind, and she was glad to be offered paid employment as a nurse to supervise the impending birth of a child to Eliza Robinson, the wife of Henry Robinson, who ran a farm on the other side of the Frith Bank Drain. Although the two households were almost a stone’s throw from each other, Ellen Kirk had to cross a trestle footbridge (almost certainly the one pictured below) across the drain to be at the Robinson home. She told William that she would be staying there until the new baby was safely brought into the world.

Footbridge

For reasons best known to himself, William Kirk was convinced that the main reason for Ellen’s visits to the Robinson’s house was that she was having an affair with Henry. In the days leading up to 22nd March, he was haunting the house, turning up at all hours and demanding to speak to his wife.

IN PART TWO
The dreadful events of Friday 22nd March 1901
A family is destroyed
Another job for Mr James Billington

THE FIRE KILLER . . . Between the covers

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Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 19.02.27Late again!
My excuse is that I am a one-man-band here at Fully Booked, and notwithstanding  the occasional erudite contribution from Stuart Radmore (who has forgotten more about crime fiction than most people will ever know), there are only so many books I can read and review properly. My first experience of Peterborough copper DI Barton  is the fifth of the series (written by Ross Greenwood), The Fire Killer. Peterborough is a big place, at least for us Fenland townies, but is rarely featured in CriFi novels. I am pretty sure that Peter Robinson’s DI Banks grew up there (The Summer That Never Was) and Eva Dolan’s Zigic and Ferreira books are certainly set in the city.

Peterborough is a strange city in some ways. Its heart is divided in three. One third is its medieval heritage and its magnificent cathedral; another third is its railway history, while the final slice belongs to the fact that some anonymous civil servants decided, in the 1950s, that it should be a ‘new town’. Hence its sprawling suburbs, divided by interminable dual carriageways and countless roundabouts, stippled with anonymous housing developments, most with the faux-pastoral suffix – choose your own – such as Meadows, Leys, Gardens, Fields and even Waters. I digress. No matter that Peterborough isn’t quite sure whether it is in Cambridgeshire or Northamptonshire, this novel is rather good.

We are in standard police procedural territory here. DI John Barton is large, bald, busy, rather unglamorous, but a decent copper. He and his team are called in to investigate a body found in a skip that has been deliberately set alight. The body is eventually identified as that of a young woman whose life has unraveled after she had fleeting success as a fashion model. Barton and his ‘oppo’, Sergeant Zander, are sure that the culprit lives in one of a row of four shabby terraced houses not far from the skip, but which one is the home of the arsonist?

Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 19.51.23Ross Greenwood (right) has fun inviting us to make out own guesses, but also makes the game a little more interesting by giving us intermittent chapters narrated by The Fire Killer, but he is very wary about giving us too many clues. The dead girl, Jess Craven had been involved with a very rich dentist with links – as a customer – to the London drug trade.

There are a couple of other mysterious blazes, but when one of Barton’s suspects meets a horrifying end in another fire – but this time in a torched Transit van – the search for The Fire Killer just seems to be chasing its own tale. The rich dentist, Stefan Russo, is clearly hiding something, but he is ‘lawyered up’ and even though he has some very questionable contacts in London, the police are unable to get close to him.

Then, there is a breakthrough – or at least Barton thinks it is – and someone confesses to being The Fire Killer. As readers we can judge how much of the book is left, and it is clear to us that Barton has some work still to do before he closes the case. There is, as we might predict, a very clever twist in the tale, but when an exhausted Barton finally goes off for a family caravan holiday in Sunny Hunny (Hunstanton), we suspect that at the back of his mind there is still a some doubt about the true identity of The Fire Killer.

John Barton is an excellent creation, and this book is cleverly plotted, with one or two spectacular bursts of serious violence. It is published by Boldwood Books, and will be available in paperback and Kindle from 30th May.

THE MIRROR GAME . . . Between the covers

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Even before I read the first page, this book ticked a number of important boxes for me, including:
1920s ✔️
London ✔️
Great War background ✔️
Beautifully imagined cover graphics ✔️
I’m happy to say my initial optimism was not to be shattered. So, what goes on? We are in 1925 and in a London that has borne relatively little structural damage from the recent war compared to what it was to suffer less that two decades later. The major damage, however is to the people and families of the city. Across Britain, the war has claimed the lives of  886,000 participants, mostly men between the ages of 18 and 40, and London has more than its fair share of widows, children without fathers and parents without sons.

TMG FIGURE013Investigator and journalist Harry Lark fought for King and Country and emerged relatively unscathed although, like so many other men, the sounds, smells and images of the trenches are ever present at the back of his mind and he has also become addicted to laudanum – a tincture of opium and alcohol. When he is contacted by a friend and benefactor, Lady Charlotte Carlisle, she tells him that she thinks she has seen a ghost. Sitting in Mayfair’s Café Boheme, she has seen a man who is the image of Captain Adrian Harcourt, a pre-war politician who was killed on the Western Front in 1918, and was engaged to be married to her daughter Ferderica. But this man is no phantom who can fade into the wallpaper. Other customers notice him. He is flesh and blood, and approaches Lady Charlotte’s table, stares into her eyes, but then leaves without saying a word. She asks Lark to investigate.

Harry’s search takes him to Harcourt’s father who throws him out on his ear. He then visits an exclusive gentleman’s club, where he asks one too many questions, and is beaten within an inch of his life by thugs in the pay of someone powerful. Helped by an old friend, retired policeman Bob Clements, he learns that Adrian Harcourt was listed as being killed in a firefight near a ruined French village, when the company he commanded were slaughtered. There were a mere handful of survivors, one of which was the son of an influential London gangster, Alec Ivers.

Harry Lark begins to get the sense that something terrible caused the death of most of Harcourt’sTMG FIGURE012 company, and that some seriously well-connected people have ensured that the truth about their demise has been successfully covered up. Iver’s son has been committed to an institution for mentally and physically damaged WW1 soldiers, and Filton Hall is Harry’s next port of call.

As he tries to learn the truth Harry himself takes both mental and physical batterings, while there are a string of deaths around the fringes of the affair. His growing love for Ferderica seems to be reciprocated, but then they both receive a huge shock which turns the case on its head.

Author Guy Gardner’s day job – or, more likely, night job – was jazz pianist, but now he teaches piano at home in  Dorset and is planning to write more novels. He also says he enjoys a glass of single malt, so I raise a glass of my favourite, Lagavulin, in his honour!

The book is certainly not short on action, intriguing characters and plot twists but, unsurprisingly, Guy Gardner is at his best when describing the occasions when music (Ferderica is a violinist, and Harry is a music journalist) is woven into the story. The Mirror Game is atmospheric and has a convincing sense sense of time and place. It would be good even coming from an established novelist, but as a debut it is excellent.  It is published by The Book Guild, and is available now.

FOR MORE FICTION WITH A GREAT WAR BACKGROUND, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Kara & Rickman

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Two cracking new hardbacks arrived last week, one written by Lesley Kara, whose previous four domestic psychological thrillers have all been best-sellers and, the other by a writer who has created one of the most original amateur detectives that I have encountered. It has been five years since we had a Merrily Watkins novel from Phil Rickman, but now he brings her back in The Fever of the World.

THE APARTMENT UPSTAIRS by Lesley Kara

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 19.03.43Lesley Kara (left) specialises in creating tension between ordinary people in humdrum surroundings – in other words, normal circumstances experienced by the vast majority of us. I reviewed her excellent debut novel The Rumour, and her new book is centred around – as the name suggests – a murder that took place above Scarlett’s flat. The victim was her aunt, and as Scarlett tries to live as normal a life as possible with such a terrible event – almost literally – hanging over her head, it is up to her to make the funeral arrangements for her relative. As she does so, she meets Dee, the funeral director. Dee has problems of her own, but an unexpected link binds the two women together, and both are now in terrible danger. The Apartment Upstairs will be published by Bantam Press on 23rd June.

THE FEVER OF THE WORLD by Phil Rickman

Screen Shot 2022-05-24 at 19.07.31For the uninitiated, Merrily Watkins is a single mum, and vicar of a village in Herefordshire. She also serves as Diocesan Deliverance Consultant – aka an exorcist. The series began in 1998 with The Wine of Angels, and seemed to have terminated rather abruptly with All of a Winter’s Night in 2017. A new book titled For The Hell of It was billed to come out in 2020, but this seems to have been reimagined as The Fever of the World. Here, Merrily becomes involved in a murder investigation led by local copper David Vaynor who, in a previous life, was an expert in the poetry of William Wordsworth. Aficionados of the work of Wordsworth may well recognise the provenance of the book’s title, taken from the poem composed on the banks of the River Wye near Tintern Abbey:

“In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart.”

My appreciation of the Merrily Watkins novels is here, and I am anxious to see what has become of the  repertory company of characters Rickman (above right) used in the earlier novels. The book is published by Atlantic Books, and will be out on 16th June.

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:

Coroner

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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