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Clive Tuckett

THE ROOKS DIE SCREAMING . . . Between the covers

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T redhe dramatic events of The Rooks Die Screaming take place in the spring of 1921 in the Cornish market town of Bodmin. The bare bones of the story are that Detective Inspector Cyril Edwards of Scotland Yard has come to Bodmin to investigate murder and treachery involving a group of spies known as The Four Rooks. This book is a sequel to The Woman With The Red Hair, and to say there is a back-story is something of an understatement. The eponymous young woman is called Morag and, amongst other things, is Edwards’ sister-in-law. Elisha Edwards was one of the millions of unfortunates taken by an agent even deadlier than high explosives and machine gun bullets – Spanish Influenza.

The-Rooks-Die-Screaming smallerMorag is now Lady Frobisher. Her husband Harry, heir to The Fobisher Estate on the outskirts of Bodmin, is blind, victim of a grenade in the Flanders trenches. In the previous novel, Frobisher Hall was the scene of great torment for Morag, as she fell into the clutches of Morgan Treaves, an insane asylum keeper and his evil nurse. Treaves has disappeared after being disfigured with a broken bottle, wielded my Morag in a life or death struggle.

If you are picking up a sense that this novel has something of a Gothick tinge (note the ‘k’) you will not be far wrong. It is high melodrama for much of the way; secret tunnels; a sinister woman in the woods who, guarded by a lumbering giant mute forever silenced by the horrors he witnessed in the war, mixes deadly potions; a cottage where a sensitive soul can still hear the ghostly creaking of the former occupant’s body swinging from her suicide beam; a woman who, in falling prey to her own desires, has two terrible deaths forever on her conscience.

Clive-TuckettThat said, The Rooks Die Screaming is inspired escapist reading. It would be unfair to say that Tuckett (right) writes in an anachronistic style. This is much, much better than pastiche, even though there are elements of Conan Doyle, the Golden Age, John Buchan and even touches of Sapper and MR James. So, eventually, to the plot, but we need to know a little more about Cyril Edwards. Like many a fictional detective inspector he is his own man. In another nice cultural reference Tuckett adds a touch of Charters and Caldicott as Edwards explains to the bumptious Standish, a mysterious officer from Military Intelligence;

“‘I love cricket …. When I’m not turning down invitations to join dubious organisations, and thumping arrogant members of the royal family, I love nothing more than to relax at Lord’s and watch a game of cricket.’

Edwards stretched and picked up his Fedora hat, thinking of getting up and walking out of the room.

” I’m hoping to see the Second Test at Lord’s next month against Australia.”‘

S redtandish orders Edwards to investigate the possibility that Harry Frobisher is one of the Rooks, but one who has betrayed his country. Arriving in Bodmin his first task is to explain to the local police how a corpse found on a train is that of a notorious London contract killer. Tuckett’s Bodmin is full of stock characters, including a stolid police sergeant, an apparently tremulous clergyman and a punctilious but respected solicitor who is privy to all the secrets of the local gentry, but is oh, so discreet. To add to the fun, Frobisher Hall also has its requisite roll call of faithful retainers.

The secret of The Four Rooks is eventually revealed, but not before the author throws a few red herrings onto the table. I could probably have done without the finer details of Lady Morag’s marriage bed, and some tighter proof-reading coupled with a more enticing cover would have done wonders for the book. That said, I enjoyed every page and I hope Clive Tuckett has another Inspector Edwards case up his sleeve, especially if it involves the redoubtable Morag Frobisher.

The Rooks Die Screaming is published by The Book Guild and is available now.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Roger, Tuckett & Whitelaw

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I love the expression “dog days”. Apparently it has its origins in astrology, and refers to the position of Sirius, the Dog Star. The dog days of summer are round about now, when everything seems to slow down, schools are out, parliament is in recess, and newspapers struggle to find newsworthy headlines. There are no dog days in crime publishing though, and I have three intriguing novels to highlight.

SHAMUS DUST by Janet Roger

This has the best subtitle ever – “HARD WINTER, COLD WAR, COOL MURDER” A well-earned bonus for whichever PR person thought that one up. If it lives up to the cover description –  “A British Big Sleep” –  then it will be bloody good! It’s 1947, and an expat American PI called Newman is hired to solve a series of killings.
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Shamus Dust will be published by Matador on 28th October. Keep an eye open for the Fully Booked review nearer the time.

THE ROOKS DIE SCREAMING by Clive Tuckett

More historical crime fiction here, but we are in Cornwall in the 1920s. The normally placid and peaceful residents of Bodmin are bolting their doors early of nights, as a determined killer picks off members of a local organisation one by one. Enter Inspector Edwards, who author Tuckett introduced in his 2018 novel The Woman With The Red Hair. Edwards’ latest case is published by Book Guild and will be available from 28th August.

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THE MAN IN THE DARK by Jonathan Whitelaw

In most crime fiction books, the Devil is a metaphor, but Jonathan Whitelaw has decided that the Evil One is far too interesting a character to just float around at the edge of people’s consciousness. In Hellcorp (2018) the chap with the horns and the scaly tail advanced beyond the metaphysical and was set the task of solving an ancient crime. Now, he returns to help the cops in London solve the mystery of a terrorist kidnapping. The Man In The Dark will be published by Urbane Publications on 26th September.

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