Like my last entry in Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Books series, Patterns in the Dust was an auspicious debut novel by a writer of distinction who, in the 1980s, seemed sure to be a major figure in the genre for many years to come. Yet Lesley Grant-Adamson has produced very little crime fiction in recent times, and that is a pity, for as Patterns in the Dust shows, she is highly accomplished.
This short novel (published by Faber, one of the choosiest of publishers) appeared in 1985, and it introduced Rain Morgan, a journalist with a penchant for detection (as well as conversation – she has a gossip column.) Rain’s creator was also a seasoned journalist, and the character is both appealing and credible.
In this story, Rain encounters murder while on holiday in Somerset, and the story blends a rural setting reminiscent of Golden Age mysteries with elements that were (at least in 1985) bang up-to-date, including punks and answerphones. The final words of the book convey character and nuance with Grant-Adamson’s customary economy as Rain looks out on a hunt taking place on the hillside: ‘She could not see the fox but her heart was with it.’
Rain appeared in four more books, before Grant-Adamson turned her attention to stand-alones. A change of publishers didn’t work out, and her principal work in recent years so far as our genre is concerned is a teach-yourself book about crime writing, which has run to a couple of editions. But her books are worth seeking out, not least this first effort. I bought the paperback edition when it came out in 1986, and although I couldn’t have guessed it, the cover artwork was done by the same artist, Nick Hardcastle, who would later create the artwork for my first four paperbacks.