I am enjoying my retirement by writing. My favourite genres are science fiction and horror and I have have had some success with my short stories.
I began reading Ray Bradbury while still at school and became besotted with Dr Who from the first moment I watched the programme back in November 1963. Each incarnation is my favourite until the next one but I have to admit to preferring Matt Smith's version to any other.
My specialist subject on Mastermind would most likely be 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.
The action starts in Exeter Crown Court in 1986 during a multimillion pound drugs trial. The blast from a powerful handgun brings a halt to proceedings as the defendant makes his escape taking his barrister with him as hostage. Three days and two hundred miles away a mutilated and burnt corpse is found in a Staffordshire beauty spot – there seems to be no connection between the two but diligent and lengthy police work alongside pathology establish a link. Detective inspector Doug Taylor is a determined man – the body found in Staffordshire belonged to an Exeter man and didn’t the defendant in the drugs trail originate from Staffordshire? And then the barrister from Exeter is found dead in a burnt-out jaguar on Cannock Chase.
The two police forces work together and uncover rape, murder and corruption at a high level. Matters become all the more curious when a bizarre secret held by a cathedral and a church appear central to the affair – it is a secret surrounded by lies, a secret which stretches back decades and one which the main players will go to any lengths to obtain and regardless of who they are prepared to hurt or kill in the process.
If you like a well-written, fast-paced crime thriller that has more twists and turns than the Corkscrew at Alton Towers then you’ll love this book.
I can’t wait to start the second book in the Doug Taylor series.
The Persolus Race is an interesting concept in that it is an anthology of collected science fiction stories written by different people from different countries but all embracing the same theme which is “Are we alone?”
The stories explore the concept of “Rare Earth” and why complex life is likely to be rare in the universe.
The stories have a common setting in that the human race has been around for a very long time; time enough to realise that intelligent life is so rare that it is confined to humankind.
So, no aliens? Not quite. Humankind has evolved in different ways; science has made sure of that. Cybernetics have enhanced human existence and not always to our advantage. (The Snake in Eden.) Meddling in genetics has had severe consequences for those caught up in it. (Oisettio.)
The concepts explored are thought provoking. Teleportation always works in the films but have you ever considered the science? Not so much fun in this story. (The Man in the Mountain.)
The science may have moved on in this fictional future and other planets explored but humankind still has to battle with wear and tear, worn out machinery and the need to survive.
As a collection the book reminds me of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, and I applaud everyone involved for getting together so diverse a group in the midst of the pandemic and publishing such a well thought out anthology.
I have deliberately not included spoilers. If you want to know more then buy the book. If you, like me, enjoy old-school science fiction you won’t regret it.
The house at Kingsfield that stands above the estate at Western Ridge, hides a violent history. Built by a slave owner for his beloved wife, it is a place of lost children, where time fractures and two lonely girls from different centuries cut their fingers and swear to be best friends for ever.
When Jo returns as an adult, long buried memories of her childhood begin to surface. As she slips in and out of time, she realises that she has to face the consequences of her actions, and a friendship forged in blood two hundred years ago will force her to make to a heart-breaking choice.
Jo’s mind is in turmoil following a miscarriage and she decides to retreat to the house she has bought as a studio in order to work. This is a converted barn on the Kingsfield estate overlooking the Weston Ridge council estate where she had grown up.
On arriving she decides to throw herself into her work but instead of the eighteenth-century elegance of the house set against the brutal architecture of the factories she found she had drawn a figure, a girl in a blue dress with her arms stretched out as if pleading for help.
When buying furniture for the Granary Jo befriends Mother and daughter Helene and Cecile who, when they heard where she was living, reminded her of the Satan Stones that stood at the end of the west drive.
Jo is not religious, nor does she believe in the supernatural but her beliefs are put to the test by the unexplained happenings. The house has a disturbed history and its ghosts are set on revenge. When Jo’s step-daughter arrives, the fact she is heavily pregnant brings things to a dramatic finale for a child has been lost and its mother want a replacement and will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
This well-crafted book will have you turning pages long after you should have turned out the light. In fact you may well not want to turn out any lights until you have checked the dark corners of your house. A riveting read from start to finish.
Sadie and Thea were abandoned as babies and were brought up by Great-Aunt Jane. When Jane dies they inherit her house in Belvedere Crescent, the only home they have ever known. It is a place where time slips and slides, and what once might have seemed safe is revealed to be full of dark secrets and hidden dangers.
As twins they are both incredibly close but also very different with Sadie an actress with hidden abilities and Thea a lawyer wishing her sister didn’t keep secret them secret from her.
When Sadie meets with an accident Thea struggles to retain a grip on reality. Her fiancé, William takes over, but his actions are smothering and Thea finally manages to escape his care and return to the home of her childhood feeling ready to continue with the clearance at her own pace. But all is not what it seems. Thea is drawn deeper and deeper into the house as time slips and flutters straining relationships.
I have no intention of including spoilers. Suffice it to say this beautifully crafted book is well worth a read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will looking to read other books by this talented author.
Things seem to be getting back to some sort of normal in my little world. On Saturday I attended my first book sale since covid struck.
Covid has had a specific effect on the sale of my first novel due to the fact that it was published by a company called Corona Books. The name had been chosen long before the corona virus struck but it had connotations and life slowed considerably.
St Andrew’s church in Porthill, Stoke-on-Trent hosted and warm and friendly event. I sold a number of books, renewed an acquaintance (I hesitate to say ‘old’) and was able to chat with new ones. And to top it all there was tea and cake!
There will be more such events, it will be lovely to see you there.
Teenager Poppy Hunt disappeared on her way home from school in the summer of 2008 and detectives were left baffled, as she seemed to have disappeared into thin air. Missing Persons cases are never closed, but after several months with no new leads the enquiry team was disbanded, and the file made its way down to the lower levels and became another cold case.
Eleven years later, a young face in the midst of Poppy’s best friend Annie Shepherd’s new pupils causes her to report her suspicions. Private genealogy specialist and self-professed DNA detective, Madeleine Scott, doesn’t want to step on detectives’ toes, but knows she’s hit on a clue to the girl’s disappearance. Detective Sergeant Eve Brenan’s scepticism about Scott turns into jaw-dropping incredulity as the pieces of a terrifying jigsaw slot into place. The Poppy Hunt case is given centre-stage once again and it’s soon clear that there’s more than one awful puzzle to investigate.
The world of family tree research joins forces with high-tech forensics and good old-fashioned detective work in an investigation which becomes more chilling with each passing day. True to life characters from different walks of life act out their parts as edge of the seat action combines with humour and even the possibility of a romance. Eventually an accumulation of appalling facts bring the story to an action packed and disturbing conclusion.
The old police station’s deep basement holds many secrets. Ghosts lurk among the cold case files down there – victims whose stories have never reached their ending – silent screams waiting to penetrate the mind of a lone visitor and invade the imagination.
John Pye is an ex-policeman living in the Stoke-on-Trent area so it’s no wonder he uses his knowledge of policework and the area as a setting for his compelling crime novel. His attention to detail is awe-inspiring but doesn’t detract from the story which had me reading into the night. While I was anxious to discover the outcome I was also sorry to say good-bye to the characters I had come to bond with.
Where the Silent Screams are Loudest is an excellent, well-written story. John has written other novels and after enjoying this one I am definitely going to look them out and indulge my enjoyment of crime.
Having read Jan’s first two Bunch Courtney books I decided to finish the short series and read the third before starting other authors. What I find particularly interesting are the historical facts which are neatly woven into the story.
We are all complaining about the limitations put on us by covid, but people had all manner of limitations due to the war. Food was in short supply; travel was difficult due to fuel shortages and entertainment was curtailed because of the bombing.
The Battle of Britain had just ended at the beginning of the book and the Blitz was reaching its height. People were being forced out of their homes and everything was shrouded in secrecy. Some worked hard to get through the difficulties, but others found it difficult and shut out the obvious.
Into this mix add a fatal accident on the edge of the Perringham Estate. On closer examination it appears that it is not what it seems. Could the driver have already been dead before the car crashed? When a second body connections with the first is discovered clutching a hand-written list of names Bunch joins forces with Chief Inspector Wright to try and discover what is going on and find out who is next on the list.
If you are a fan of well-researched historical novels with a dash of intrigue and a healthy dollop of crime this is the book for you. Well written and an absolute page turner.
I enjoyed Jan Edward’s Bunch Courtney’s first adventure so much that I decided to read the second book next.
In Her Defence begins six months after the end of Winter Downs. The so-called phoney war is becoming a thing of the past, rationing is biting and the black-out is causing a few problems despite the onset of summer and the lighter nights.
Another issue to raise its ugly head is xenophobia. Anyone with a foreign sounding name or accent is a target for the frightened locals. The German army is marching relentlessly through Europe and soon there is only the Channel between the Sussex inhabitants and the enemy.
Starting explosively with the death of a young Dutch woman in a crowded pub in which Bunch just happens the be having lunch, she is then contacted by an old school chum whose father has just been poisoned leaving her homeless and penniless. The two had been working in Germany for some time and are now under suspicion by others. Bunch takes her in but soon finds her friend’s behaviour suspicious and disquieting.
In the meantime life goes on and Bunch has issues with the new CO living in her family home. He and the men under his command are taking liberties and abusing the property, Chamberlain stands down and Churchill takes over and advocates internment camps for all foreign nationals exacerbating the mistrust of anyone with a foreign background and the number of attempts on life and those resulting in deaths mounts up.
Neither Bunch nor the detective on the cases, Chief Inspector Wright believe in co-incidences and end up working together to find out who is behind the dreadful deeds.
The book is a ripping yarn delicately interlaced with historical fact and beautifully written. And a neat twist – but no spoilers!
Set in Sussex in January 1940, the beginning of the war in Europe, this murder mystery is beautifully researched and urges the reader to continue well into the night to discover the truth behind the crime.
With the family seat commissioned by the army Bunch (Rose) Courtney is left making do at the Dower House. Despite having enough to do running the estate while her father is heavily engaged in war work she finds the time to investigate the death of an old friend whose body was found on the family land while the police are busy following their own enquiries.
Not wishing to add spoilers the result is somewhat of a surprise.
Jan takes us into the world of the landed gentry during the time of great upheaval and sacrifice. The book is well researched, something I have a bit of a thing about, and you can well imagine that you are there among the cold, wet snow and warm, steaming horses.
We may not be used to the hierarchy that existed in the day, but Jan reminds us that everyone had a place and knew what was expected of them. That was the way the world turned in 1940.
Winter Downs is well written and easy to read but not lightweight keeping you guessing until the very end. It is the first of a series of books with Bunch Courtney helping Chief Inspector Wright to reach the right conclusion about a case regardless of how he feels about it.
‘There’s too much flesh,’ I mutter as I survey my handy work.
‘You should have thought of that,’ my husband tells me in that “I told you so” manner he has that I have grown to loathe. ‘If you’d have thought things through properly you would have taken that into account.’
‘Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?’ I moan.
‘Show off. You always thought you were so much better than me.’
‘Never,’ I correct him as I study the body before me.
‘At least I know you’re quoting Lady Macbeth. Which, if you ask me, I find very apt.’
‘You can shut up. Shut up!’ I stamp my foot, but the warm sticky blood reduces the effect I had hoped for. ‘If you’d shut up in the first place I wouldn’t be in this mess,’ I tell him.
‘You’re in a mess? What about me? At least your mess will come out in the wash which is more than can be said for me.’
‘O that this too too solid flesh would melt,’ I sigh.
‘Good God! Am I to become a Shakespearian tragedy?’ he snarls. ‘That would just suit you, wouldn’t it?’
‘As you won’t melt, I suppose I’ll have to cut you up. You won’t fit in the freezer in this state.’
‘If it was up to me, I wouldn’t choose to go in the freezer in any state,’ hubby whines.
I leave my husband lying on the floor of the blood splattered wet room and go in search of some sort of blade. The one I stabbed him with isn’t strong enough for sawing through bone and sinew. I find nothing suitable.
‘Where have you left the saw, you miserable old bastard?’ I weep.
‘As if I’d tell you,’ he sniggers. ‘You’ll only saw me up for dog food if I did.’
‘You never put anything away. You just leave your stuff around and then pinch mine from my hobby bag. The freezer’s too good for you.’ I am crying openly now.
‘You should have put your tools ready before you started the job,’ he quotes me at me in a put-on whiney voice. ‘Isn’t that what you are always telling me?’
That really makes me see red. The claw hammer is to hand so I smack it into his mouth to stop the prattle. Then I smack it into his eyes so he can’t see what I’m doing. I just hammer away at him because he has annoyed me so much. I hammer away until I feel all my frustrations leak over the floor and mingle with the blood drying on the tiles. I hammer away until I am exhausted and empty. I drop the hammer and head towards the kitchen where I flick the switch on the kettle. If I do something different – take my mind from the task – I might remember where the saw is hiding.
A nice cup of tea will help.