Summer Crime Reads
Summer Crime Reads
What better for holiday reading than a twisty mystery or a tightly plotted thriller, especially if it’s set in south London? Local author Julie Anderson gives her recommendations.
Reissued this summer by Bookouture, the Beth Haldane series of cosy crime thrillers by Alice Castle is set in Dulwich and follows intrepid single mum, Beth, surrounded by the wealthy and competitive yummy mummies of Dulwich Village. The first, The Murder Mystery (formerly Death in Dulwich) sees our heroine stumbling, quite literally, over a body, as she takes up her new position at the prestigious Wyatt’s School. It is that of her new boss. Does the ancient school have secrets to hide? You bet it does. And it’s not long before Beth herself is under suspicion that she bumped her boss off to get his job. The Murder Museum is the second, when Beth’s contemplation of old masters in a local gallery is interrupted by the discovery of an unconscious teen on a bench. No snoozing schoolchild, the girl is taken to hospital but fails to come round, leaving parents in the leafy London suburb all aflutter with gossip and anxiety that their offspring will be next. The third, The Murder Question sees a major character remarrying, to an impossibly perfect man, then going missing. Beth is called upon, not only to look after the missing woman’s child, but to track down her mother. These ebooks are quietly addictive and full of hidden twists. Perfect for your Kindle at the beach.
Another series with new editions, by Red Dog Press, the Hannah Weybridge books by Anne Coates are set in 1990s Dulwich and central London. The first, Dancers in the Wind, is based, in part, on the author’s own experiences as a journalist for the national press. Investigative journalist and single mum Hannah interviews a Kings Cross sex worker and is drawn into the murky world of the sex trade, serving high society as well as the average punter. Three women are murdered and Hannah fears she may be next. Death’s Silent Judgement is the second in the series, in which Hannah’s friend is brutally murdered and, when Hannah tries to discover if this is linked to the work her friend did for a Somalian charity, she finds herself in the sights of a remorseless killer. Songs of Innocents, Perdition’s Child and Stage Call are the next three books in the series, all set in London, the last in Theatreland. Hannah is decisive and engaging, not always likeable but always empathetic as she solves crimes and wrestles with some very relevant issues. To curl up and lose yourself in at the holiday cottage or on the plane.
Newly out in paperback is The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee, twice winner of the CWA Historical Dagger prize and this year listed for the CWA Gold Dagger. The fifth in the Wyndham and Bannerjee series which began in 2016 with A Rising Man. Captain Sam Wyndham arrives in 1919 India to take up a post with the Calcutta police only to have to solve the murder of a senior official, whose corpse is left with a note warning the British to quit India or else. The series follows the relationship between Wyndham and his sergeant and friend Surendranath Bannerjee as they solve crimes in pre-independence India, via opium addiction and old flames. This latest installment involves religious tensions in 1923 Calcutta when a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home. The city teeters on the brink of an all-out religious bloodbath which must be averted and this also represents the greatest threat to the friendship between the two detectives. Abir Mukherjee will be appearing at this year’s Clapham Book Festival at Omnibus Theatre on 15th October, when I’ll be talking with him about his engrossing historical mysteries.
Three mystery series, two set in south London, contemporary or in the near past; and one series set in post-World War One India (and London). If you haven’t encountered these before, now’s the time. All are cracking holiday reads.
Julie Anderson’s latest crime thriller Opera will be published in September.