Author: Jan Edwards
Published: July 2020 by Penkhull Press
Category: Historical Fiction, Cosy Murder/Mystery, Book Review
November 1940. The Battle of Britain has only just ended and the horror of the Blitz is reaching its height.
Two deaths in rapid succession on the Sussex Downs brings Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector Wright together once more. What could possibly link a fatal auto accident with the corpse in a derelict shepherd’s hut? The only clue the pair have is a handwritten list of the members of a supper club that meets at London’s Café de Paris. Two of those on that list are now dead and the race is on to solve the mystery before any more end up on the mortuary slab.
Listed Dead is the third in the Bunch Courtney series and told from her perspective in the third person. There’s much more insight into the Courtney sisters’ background, the environment in which they grew up and the family dynamics in this book. Things have changed drastically for Bunch since the start of the war. The family home, Perringham House, has been requisitioned by the military and Bunch is left to run the estate with the help of Land Girls, while living at the Dower House with her Granny Beatrice.
When a body is discovered in a fatal car wreck close to Perringham House Bunch goes to investigate, hoping it’s no-one from the estate. She knows there’s something suspicious about the accident when she finds Chief Inspector Wiiliam Wright at the scene. The victim is familiar to Bunch as a friend of her sister’s, one of a group of young pleasure seekers who got together several years ago to form a supper club. When a second member of the club is found dead, Bunch finds herself acting as a police consultant (once she and Wright overcame the issue of her title) finding out what she can about the victims and those members of the club who are still around.
‘I’ve no doubt you will. I’m grateful for your helping us out.’
‘Consulting,’ she said. ‘Remember that. A consulting detective.’
‘Ahh. Consulting detective.’ He laughed with little humour. ’Somehow I can’t picture you as Sherlock Holmes.’
‘Try harder, because I have no intention of being your Watson, I can assure you.’
‘Hmm. Your help was most welcome today.’ He hesitated, looking down at his mud-splattered brogues. ‘As for the future? There’s just the small matter of the Commissioner. I cannot believe he is going to agree to this. The whole idea is contrary to a few dozen regulations.’
‘Uncle Walter? Oh pish. You leave him to me.’
I enjoyed the interaction between Bunch and Chief Inspector Wright and their joint investigation. They make a good team and there’s scope for more of a relationship. Bunch is familiar with the lifestyle of the privileged younger set, who want to live as they did before the war and which couldn’t be further from the lives of ordinary people and those serving in the military. Her knowledge of people and places help, but as she invites gossip from friends and contacts someone is not happy with her interference. There’s a darker undercurrent to this story than previously and the trail leads Bunch into life threatening situations.
The writing and characterisations are realistic and authentic for the time, as is the atmosphere which is re-enforced by a strong sense of place. Bombing raids, rationing, air raid shelters and blackouts are becoming part of everyday life all across the country, although the cities are hit the hardest, most notably London. The descriptions of the air raids, the shelters and life generally was very evocative.
Bunch is an extremely likeable protagonist, resourceful, determined and quick to notice things. Not much would cause her to deviate once her mind was made up. A very enjoyable read.
I chose to read and review Listed Dead for Rosie Amber’s book review team, based on a digital copy kindly supplied by the author.
About the Author
Jan Edwards – Winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize (with her crime novel ‘Winter Downs’). Recipient of a Karl Edward Wagner award (British Fantasy Awards). Winner of the Winchester Slim Volume award (for Sussex Tales). Short listed for both the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction and Best Collection.
Her short fiction has appeared in many crime, folk horror, horror, pulp, weird fiction, main stream and urban fantasy anthologies. For full list of writing credits follow the link to: Author Bibliography (Details here) inc Bookmuse Reccommended Read award for her crime novel, Winter Downs!
She is part of the script team writing Olive Hawthorne: Daemons of Devils End – a 3 disc Dr Who DVD. As an editor Jan has produced fiction anthologies with editing partner Jenny Barber for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Press. Jan has ghost written for several other titles.
Born in Sussex, despite her thoroughly celtic parentage, Jan is currently living in Staffs Moorlands with 3 cats and husband, Peter Coleborn. In addition to being a writer she is also a Reiki Master Teacher and Meditational Healer and has been (in no particular order) Master Locksmith, motorcycle seller, bookseller, civil servant, ostler, market gardener, librarian…
BA hons, Eng. Lit. with creative writing; past chairperson of the British Fantasy Society and Fantasycon organiser.