I’ve mentioned The Mystery Press (an imprint of The History Press) before, and this Bank Holiday Monday, I’d like to highlight a couple of the crime novelists on their list, as well as mentioning a true crime book published by Quercus.
Janet Laurence, who chaired the CWA a few years back, is one of the most charming of crime writers, and her Darina Lisle culinary mysteries won her a considerable following some time ago. She later wrote an excellent book about the craft of mystery writing, but there haven’t been any crime novels from her for a while. Happily, that has now changed, with the appearance of Deadly Inheritance, a book set in that fascinating period, the Edwardian era. The protagonist is Ursula Grandison, an American who comes to Britain and finds herself embroiled in a mystery surrounding the death of a nursemaid. Janet is a stylish writer, and I’m sure this novel will find favour not only with existing fans but also historical mystery lovers who may not be familiar with her work.
Linda Stratmann, a more recent arrival on the scene, is an expert on true crime who wrote an excellent book about chloroform and has turned with success to fiction. A follow-up to The Poisonous Seed, in which young Frances Doughty turned detective to solve her father’s murder, has now appeared. In The Daughters of Gentlemen, Frances has turned her detective work into an embryonic career – she contemplates advertising: “Lady detective. Discretion assured.” An enquiry about the distribution of feminist pamphlets duly turns into a lively murder mystery. Both books contain a note at the end, explaining the factual elements of the story , and I always find these interesting. History-mysteries have an enduring appeal, I think.
Very different, yet almost a slice of modern history in itself, is The Curse of Brink’s-Mat, by veteran true crime writer Wensley Clarkson. The sub-title is “25 years of murder and mayhem”, and I must say I was fascinated to learn what unpleasant fates have befallen so many people who were involved in this celebrated heist. But one of the gang members who survived is, of course, the notorious Kenneth Noye. At present, however, Noye remains in prison, having failed in an appeal against his conviction for killing the motorist Stephen Cameron. All in all, it’s a remarkable story which Clarkson tells in a lively, journalistic way.