Seventy Summers

Seventy Summers, the short story novella about my characters Amy Rowlings and lifelong friend Alice Mollison will be started on soon. Look out for posts and clips from the book on this page.

Amy Rowlings and Alice Mollison her best friend for life are reunited on Alice’s 70th birthday. The book will share snippets of their lives and mysteries that Amy was involved in that were not covered in the two series, Unspoken and The Amy Rowlings Mysteries.

Check back regularly for updates

 

Seventy Summers

Seventy Summers (An unbreakable bond) is the new short story compilation featuring conversations between a seventy year old Amy Rowlings and her lifetime friend Alice Mollison. The stoirs will feature snippets of their lives not covered in either the Unspoken or Amy Rowlings Mysteries series.

An audio chapter from Tracy’s Hot Mail.

An old audio reading of the chapter WORMS from the hilarious novella. Tracy’s Hot Mail. This chapter is read by Emma Newman. A full version of the audiobook is now in production with a different reader. This new video includes a host of new images making the chapter into a story book. ©T.A.Belshaw 2009. ©Emma Newman 2009. All rights reserved.

Amy Rowlings.com

Amy Rowlings, the star of the 1930s based murder mystery series now has her own website. The site is live, but a lot more will be added over the next few weeks. Readers can look forward to news of future releases and glimpses inside the plot for the next book in the series, Ten Years After. There will also be a new short story serial featuring Amy and Alice 50 years on from the events detailed in the novels.

https://amyrowlings.com

 

It’s Here!

It’s here. The first copy off the presses of Murder on the Medway in paperback. My bulk author copy order will be going in tomorrow so if there are readers who want a signed copy just get in touch.

Publication Day Murder on the Medway Paperback!

I am delighted to announce that the paperback version of Murder on the Medway, the FOURTH instalment of the Amy Rowlings Mysteries is released today. Linky thingy https://mybook.to/D0WVXG  To celebrate I have released a new poster. Signed copies available from me on request. In other news my occasional author newsletter will be dropping into inboxes today. If you’d like to subscribe, there’s a popup link on this website. If you miss that, please get in touch with your email address.

Publication Day! Murder on the Medway goes LIVE!

Murder on the Medway, the FOURTH Amy Rowlings Golden Age mystery is now available in eBook form on Amazon. The paperback will follow in the next couple of weeks. As always, signed copies will be available on request.

The book tells the story of amateur sleuth Amy, a Hercule Poirot fan and Inspector Bodkin with whom she has begun to form a relationship outside of the investigations. In Murder on the Medway, a young woman’s body is found in the reed beds on the banks of the Medway River. WHODUNNIT? WEll, you;ll have to read it to work your way through a number of possible susupects.

I’d like to thank Sumaira and Nikki at SpellBound books for all their hard work. A book isn’t just a solo project, it’s a team effort and I’m very thankful to these two fabulous ladies.

I’d also like to thank my Arc readers for getting a few of those all important early reviews in. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the book.

If you are interested in the series you can find the books here. https://mybook.to/l4CmEyq  while the direct link for Murder on the Medway can be found here https://mybook.to/nB7vbV

Murder on the Medway Bookmarks and Postcards

The latest promo material for the upcoming release of the FOURTH Amy Rowlings Mystery. Murder on the Medway are now available. They will be sent out with signed copies of the paperback version of the book but collectors can get hold of them by getting in touch. Postal charges will apply.

Murder on the Medway Pre-Order news

Murder on the Medway, the fourth book in the Amy Rowlings Golden Age mystery series is now available to pre-order from Amazon.

The book will be officially released on April 30th 2024 so if you’d like to pre-order a copy so you’ll be sure to get it on release day, here’s the back of the book blurb and the pre-order link.

MURDER ON THE MEDWAY.

An Amy Rowlings Mystery.

July 1939

WHODUNIT?

Amateur sleuth, Amy Rowlings and Inspector Bodkin are spending a pleasant afternoon at the side of the gurgling, Silverstream, when the body of young Effie Watkins is discovered in the reed beds.

An overstretched Bodkin is desperate for some extra help at the police station and the last thing he needs is another murder to solve.

All the early clues point towards the exclusive Highwater Boat Club and against the wishes of Bodkin, Amy and her best friend Alice decide to go undercover at the club’s posh annual ball.

Amy soon finds that party girl Effie wasn’t exactly the flavour of the month, especially among the wives and girlfriends. Hercule Poirot fan Amy, builds a list of suspects which includes the club captain and some of the pillars of the local business community.

As the investigation intensifies, Bodkin is forced to confront the ghosts of his own past and Amy is left to reflect on the strength of their relationship.

https://mybook.to/nB7vbV

Murder at the Mill Audiobook release.

Today, Sumaira, my publisher, received the first-ever copies of the Murder at the Mill audiobook in CD format. This is the version that Ulverscroft, who took up the rights to the book will send to UK libraries via its Ulibrary service.  The digital version of the book will be available through Audible and all other audiobook online companies on Monday April 1st 2024.  Readers who bought, or decide to buy, the eBook version for 99p will be able to add on the audiobook for just £2,99. The book is narrated by the wonderful Gemma Lawrence who you may have seen on TV in episodes of Luther, Casualty, Holby and Father Brown amongst many other appearances.

I’d like to thank Ulverscroft for taking up the option on Murder at the Mill but I’d like to thank Nikki East and Sumaira Wilson from SpellBound books in particular for all the work they put in to make this possible.

T. A. Belshaw 28th March 2024.

All You Need To Know About Murder On The Medway

Q) What is Murder on the Medway?

A) Murder on the Medway is the fourth book in the Amy Rowlings, Golden Age, Cosy Crime Mystery series.

Q) What’s it about?

A) The book tells the story of the murder of a young party girl, Efie Watkins whose body is found in the reed beds at the side of the river Medway.

Q) Okay. So, who is Amy Rowlings?

A) Amy Rowlings is a young amateur sleuth who works at the Mill, a clothing factory in the fictional industrial town of Spinton. Amy is a movie buff. a collector of American records and a huge Hercule Poirot fan who uses his techniques when investigating crimes alongside the handsome police inspector, Bodkin.

Q) What era are the books set in?

A) The books are set in the late 1930s.

Q) What were the previous books in the series?

A) Murder at the Mill, Death at the Lychgate, and The Murder Awards. All published by SpellBound Books Ltd. You can find them here. Amazon Linky thing. 

Q) What formats are the books available in?

A) The books are available in eBook, priced at an incredible 99p. They are also available in paperback (signed on request) and are FREE to read with a #KindleUnlimited account. On April 1st, the first book in the series will be released in audiobook format by Soundings, part of the Ulverscroft group. The book is narrated by the wonderful TV, stage, and film. actress, Gemma Lawrence.

Q) When will the new title be published?

A) Murder on the Medway will be published by SpellBound Books on April 30th 2024.

 

Murder on the Medway promo images. First look.

Here’s a first look at the initial promo images from the upcoming Amy Rowlings Mystery. Murder on the Medway which will be released in April.

The scenes are from the Highwater Boat Club Ball which Amy and her best friend Alice are invited to. The two girls are the stars of he show but where on earth did those fabulous dresses come from?  The Amy Rowkings Mysteries. On Amazon.   Click here.

Amy Rowlings Mysteries Cover Reveal. Murder on the Medway

I am beyond delighted to announce that SpellBound Books Ltd has revealed the wonderful cover for the latest Amy Rowlings mystery. Murder on the Medway. The cover was designed, as usual by the hugely talented, Nikki East and is the perfect continuation of the art deco theme that graced the earlier books in the series.

Murder on the Medway is the fourth book in the Amy Rowlings, Golden Age, mystery series and will be released in the spring of 2024.

Thank you Nikki and thank you Sumaira Wilson of SpellBound books for all she does.

 

Mrs 3DU’s Christmas

Mrs 3Du’s Christmas

 

I haven’t seen much of Mrs 3DU over the holiday as, once I’d done my Christmas shop, I parked the car up outside my house and left it there for a week. I did another small shop on the Saturday morning before the New Year but she had already dragged Mrs 4DU around the supermarket on the Friday, though she did get her to ‘nip out’ for a few last-minute bits for her on New Year’s Eve.

I have news about Mrs 3DU’s daughter’s car, but I’ll add that bit at the end.

As usual, I received all the news from the street gossip collective which includes, Mrs 4DU, Mrs 5DU, MRs 2DD and Mrs ATSADAB (Across The Street And Down A Bit.) Surprisingly, we have recently had a new member added to our ranks. I say surprisingly because she lives right down at the bottom of the street, so she has now become Mrs BOTS. I have no idea how she gets all the news as she’s miles away from the rest of us. We are all pretty much clustered together near the top end of the street. She must be getting the gossip via tom-tom drums or something… mind you, Mrs 4DU does have a log burner, so she might be sending out smoke signals. Continue reading

Soundings Audiobooks snap up Amy Rowlings.

I am delighted to announce that Soundings, the huge audiobook company have taken up the rights to publish Murder at the Mill. Soundings is owned by Ulverscroft, the biggest audiobook distributor in the UK. They also own ULibrary, a company which connects to every library in the UK providing them with audio and large print books. They distribute and make audiobooks for all the biggest book publishers and have many imprints of their own. It doesn’t get much bigger than them. Thanks so much, Sumaira Wilson from SpellBound Books Ltd for negotiating with Ulverscroft and getting me such a fab deal. They did mention the Amy series so MATM may just be the start for Amy Rowlings on audio. Soundings use the biggest names for narration so I can’t wait to see who they ask to read for them. oh… there was also a tidy advance on royalties as part of the deal. Whooo! Amy is taking off https://www.ulverscroft.com/ .

Out and about.

Last night I was out and about, signing books and chatting at the fab Creative Cogs cafe in Long Eaton, Derbyshire.

It’s always nice to meet readers and chat to other authors about booky things. I don’t often get the chance.

The Murder Awards. Release Day!

It’s finally here. The THIRD book in the Amy Rowlings Mystery Series, The Murder Awards was released in the early hours of this morning. (Nov 5th 2023) in eBook format by SpellBound Books. I’d like to thank Sumaira and Nikki from SpellBound for all their hard work, the lovely production and the fabulous cover. The books is available at present in eBook format and is free to read on Kindle Unlimited with a subscription. The paperback version will be available in a couple of weeks.

In The Murder Awards, Amy and her handsome crime fighting partner (are they an item or aren’t they) Inspector Bodkin, are on hand at an awards presentation at the Spinton Town Hall, when the recipient of the Businessman of the Year award, Nelson Kelly, is found stabbed to death after leaving the stage to answer a telephone call.

Will Amy and Bodkin be able to find a way through the morass of lies and corruption to bring to justice a brutal killer?

Linky thingy The Murder Awards on Amazon 

The two previous books in the series, Murder at the Mill and Death at the Lychgate can be found by using the same link.

 

 

The Murder Awards available to pre-order on Amazon

Today marks the day that The Murder Awards, the third Amy Rowlings mystery is made available to pre-order for eBook and Kindle Unlimited. The paperback version will be available during the third week in November. Hopefully signed copies will reach you by Christmas.

About the Murder Awards.

The Murder Awards

May 1939

When Amy Rowlings and Inspector Bodkin are invited to a black-tie civic awards ceremony at the Town Hall, they expect to be met with the usual boring speeches and toe-curling sycophancy, but when the recipient of the night’s ‘Businessman Of The Year Award’, Nelson Kelly, is found stabbed to death after being called from the stage to answer the telephone, the evening begins to liven up.

Nelson’s company has just won a lucrative contract to build a new armaments factory and many of the town’s elite, having backed a rival bidder, aren’t happy at missing out.

When the CID department at the local police station is suddenly reduced in manpower, Bodkin is told he will have to manage the murder investigation alone.

Into the breach steps young Amy Rowlings, the twenty-one-year-old with a mind every bit as sharp as her fictional hero, Hercule Poirot.

Amy, an avid crime fiction reader, movie buff and collector of American records, brings her insight and intelligence to the aid of the overstretched inspector as he attempts to find a way through the morass of lies, deception and corruption.

Once again, Amy must utilise all the investigative techniques she has learned from Agatha Christie’s famous detective to help bring a brutal killer to justice.

 

Linky thingy https://tinyurl.com/mr4yk447

Relative Strangers. An Unspoken Christmas Novella.

Work is well underway on the latest addition to the Unspoken series. Relative Strangers is set a year after the events in my last Unspoken book, Betrayal. The new story will appear as a novella and will feature many of the characters from that novel. Jane Dixon-Smith, my fabulous cover designer has come up trumps again and I’ll share the cover with you when it is finalised.

The Unspoken series is a dual timeline family saga told over four books so far. The novels can be found on Amazon UK.

The Murder Awards. Introducing The Characters. #7. Amy Rowlings.

Amy Rowlings, the feisty, fiercely independent young amateur sleuth. Amy is a movie buff, a collector of American music and an avid crime reader. Particularly the novels of her hero Agatha Christie.

The Murder Awards is published by SpellBound Books on November 5th 2023.

The Murder Awards is the third Amy Rowlings mystery. Catch up with the first two, Murder at the Mill and Death at the Lychgate for just 99p on Amazon Uk. Also available in eBook, paperback and on Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

 

 

Ai Generated Image

The Murder Awards. Introducing the Characters. #7. PC Ferris.

Crooner PC Ferris. Friend of Amy and Bodkin, singing in the Milton Cocktail Bar.

The Murder Awards is published by SpellBound Books on November 5th 2023.

The Murder Awards is the third Amy Rowlings mystery. Catch up with the first two, Murder at the Mill and Death at the Lychgate for just 99p on Amazon Uk. Also available in eBook, paperback and on Kindle Unlimited.

Amy Rowlings Mysteries. Reader’s Questions Answered

An AI generated image of Amy and Alice.

The announcement of the publication of the third Amy Rowlings Mystery, The Murder Awards by SpellBound Books on 5th November 2023 means my mailbox is once again pretty full of questions from my readers about the forthcoming book.

For those unfamiliar with the mysteries, Amy Rowlings, our amateur sleuth is a machinist at a North Kent factory nicknamed, The Mill. Amy is a collector of American music, a movie buff and an avid reader of crime fiction, particularly the novels of Agatha Christie.  Amy is 21, pretty, and has formed a close relationship with the handsome inspector Bodkin of the fictitious, Spinton Police.  The first three novels are set in pre-war England in 1939. War is looming, though the events leading up to the Second World War only play a small part in the back story of the books.

So, on to the questions.

Q. What is the best thing about writing crime stories during this period in history?

A. I like the freedom an author gets when he/she doesn’t have to worry about using, DNA, CCTV or Social Media and phone records, all of which seem to provide the clues that lead to the capture of the perpetrator. None of those things existed in 1939, so it’s always down to the voracity and ingenuity of the investigating team to find the clues without the use of modern technology. I also like the fact that the post mortems of the time only gave investigators a limited amount of information about the deaths.

Q. What is the worst thing about writing crime stories during this period in history?

A. Getting the facts right. A lot of research has to be done before the book can be sent to the publisher. Attitudes, living conditions, retail products, fashion, music and the films of the day all have to be meticulously researched. Because Alice, Amy’s best friend, lives on a farm, particular attention has to be taken regarding farming practices, equipment, machinery, and even the vehicles that were in use at the time. The method of dispatching the victim also has to be carefully researched. It’s no good allowing the murderer to use a poison or medication that couldn’t be detected in the body back then, for instance.

Q. Do you find it difficult to describe the attitudes and language used by the characters in the story?’

A. Not really, as I was born only 14 years or so after the events I’m describing, so social attitudes, much of the language used, and even the food we ate was very similar. Smoking was rife and many characters in the books smoke cigarettes or a pipe. I deliberately chose to make all of my lead characters, non-smokers, though all of them like a drink or two on a Saturday night. Attitudes to women didn’t really change at all until the 1960s when the fledgling women’s liberation movement began to put pressure on the lawmakers. In the late 1930s a woman’s place was in the home and any money they did make from their employment, although desperately needed, was looked upon as pin money.  Domestic violence was rife, and even in the better off households, the man was considered the master of all he surveyed, although it was universally acknowledged in private that it was women who held everything together at home.

Q. Why doesn’t Amy join the police force?

A. Simple answer. She would only have been allowed to join as a female policewoman and her main duties would have been making tea, standing silently by when women suspects were being questioned, or being assigned to look after the children of crime victims while the investigation went on around them. At that time, women couldn’t question witnesses and had no power of arrest. Amy would not have been happy in that  role and she would never have been allowed to join the CID. This did not really change until the 1970s, but even then their presence was only grudgingly accepted by the men in the force, and their pay was well below what male officers earned when performing the same roles. Amy was far too independently minded to accept such constraints.

Q. Which part of the novels do you enjoy writing the most?

A. As has been said in a few of my reviews, these stories are as much a social commentary as murder mysteries. I do enjoy watching the investigation evolve in front of my eyes, but I also enjoy writing about the dire conditions a lot of people had to endure during that period. Slum housing was the norm in many of the industrial towns at the time. Spinton was no different and I do like to get myself, and Amy involved in their struggle for survival.

You can find the Amy Rowlings mysteries  here. Ebook, Paperback and Kindle Unlimited.  The Amy Rowlings Mysteries. 

If you have a question for the author, please get in touch in the comments section of find me on Facebook.

T. A. Belshaw Author

 

 

The Murder Awards. Introducing the Characters. #1 Karen and Beth

Living in abject poverty. Karen and her daughter Beth scratch a meagre living doing other people’s washing. Read their touching back story in The Murder Awards, the third Amy Rowlings Golden Age mystery. OUT NOV 5th. ‘The stories are as much as social commentary as a murder mystery.’

The Murder Awards. The third Golden Age, Cosy Crime Amy Rowlings Mystery. Published by SpellBound Books. Nov 5th 2023.

A SAD ANNIVERSARY

Today, 15th Sept 2023 marks the eighth anniversary of my beautiful wife’s funeral. Doreen, if you’re reading. You’re still missed as much as that first day.

I’d like to mark the anniversary by posting the poem that I wrote for her. It was read on the day by my daughter, Tamsyn who did a wonderful job. I was a gibbering wreck and couldn’t have got the title out let alone the rest of the poem.

Anyway, here it is. To you, Doreen. Until we meet again in one of those multi-universes or dimensions we all move into after we pass.

For Doreen. The Bench (remembering)
The blossom’s gone for this year,
the seat beneath the tree,
is empty now, devoid of life
for anyone but me.
I still feel your presence here
I never feel alone, in
our special nook, our secret spot,
the place we made our own.
I make this journey every week,
it isn’t hard on me.
I’m happy knowing you are here,
sad, things weren’t meant to be.
The tribute plaque was fitted
without a lot of fuss,
the sun reflects upon the words
as I reflect on us
‘In memory of Doreen,
my beautiful, best friend,
you’re with me in this lovely place
until the very end.’
And when at last my life is done
we’ll make that final climb,
my ashes strewn along with yours,
together for all time.
Soft winds will blow us through the grass,
the rain will make us whole
Autumn leaves will hide us, ‘til
spring breezes free our souls.
Our bond will be eternal and
whenever lovers meet
they’ll feel our love around them
unified, complete.

New Amy Rowlings Mystery. The Murder Awards

Attention Golden Age Murder Mystery fans.
In just under 8 weeks time, Amy Rowlings will be setting about solving the latest mystery to cross her path. The eagerly awaited, Murder Awards will be released in eBook format by SpellBound Books Ltd on November 5th. The paperback will follow shortly afterwards which means there should be plenty of time to order author signed copies for Christmas.
Every Amy Rowlings story is as much a social commentary as a murder mystery.
If you haven’t yet met Amy, you will find her previous mysteries here. At only 99p they’re a bit of a bargain. https://bit.ly/3UgN6hc
Here’s the back of the book material to give you a taster.
The Murder Awards
May 1939
When Amy Rowlings and Inspector Bodkin are invited to a black tie, civic awards ceremony at the Town Hall, they expect to be met with the usual boring speeches and toe-curling sycophancy, but when the recipient of the night’s ‘Businessman Of The Year Award’, Nelson Kelly, is found stabbed to death after being called from the stage to answer the telephone, the evening begins to liven up.
Nelson’s company has just won a lucrative contract to build a new armaments factory and many of the town’s elite, having backed a rival bidder, aren’t happy at missing out.
When the CID department at the local police station is suddenly reduced in manpower, Bodkin is told he will have to manage the murder investigation alone.
Into the breach steps young Amy Rowlings, the twenty-one-year-old with a mind every bit as sharp as her fictional hero, Hercule Poirot.
Amy, an avid crime fiction reader, movie buff and collector of American records, brings her insight and intelligence to the aid of the overstretched inspector, as he attempts to find a way through the morass of lies, deception and corruption.
Once again, Amy must utilise all the investigative techniques she has learned from Agatha Christie’s famous detective to help bring a brutal killer to justice.

Tales on Trent Author Book Signing Event. Sat 2nd Sept. 2023

 

 

TALES ON TRENT AT THE KING’S HALL STOKE ON TRENT

I would like to thank the organisers, support staff, the book buying public and my fellow attending authors for making the Tales on Trent Author Book Signing Event such a fantastic experience. It was truly wonderful to get to speak to so many people and I know I have made some new friends in the author community.

Special thanks go to organisers Claire Birkin and Hayley Bibbey. Also to author, promoter and panel host, Donna Morfett who, despite the loss of her voice, still managed to host all those meet the author sessions on stage.

Much fun was had at the after event party in the Glebe. As if he hadn’t been noticeable enough in his flouro-yellow suit during the evet, Author Darren Walker upstaged everyone again by appearing at the party in a kilt. Well done mate.

I can’t end without mentioning the forces of nature that are James Biddulph and his wonderful nine year old granddaughter, Nunu, who stole all our hearts. Amongst her other remarkable achievements, Nunu runs her own library from a telephone box, she also does a lot of work in the community getting books to families that otherwise would never get to see one. She is quite a remarkable young lady and has the wonderfully supportive grandfather she so thoroughly deserves.

Thanks for the company my fellow writers, Esther Chilton, her partner Greame Cummings and the fabulous author Jon Richter among many others. Many thanks to the members of the public who took time to speak to me at my table, big wave to Isobelle Cate, and last but not least, huge thanks to Claire’s mum for supplying me with the copious amounts of coffee that helped get me through the day.

Looking forward to next year already.

 

My table

 

The wonderful Nunu with her new books donated by the authors at the event.

Nuno with her fantastically supportive, flamboyant grandad, James Biddulph and the always understated, Darren Walker

 

 

Amy Rowlings. The New Face of the Golden Age Mystery.

Over the years I’ve read hundreds of murder themed novels. My favourites were from the Golden Age of murder mysteries, books set in the twenties, thirties and forties. One thing about the vast majority of the famous authors at the time, was the disparaging attitude they took towards the working class. No one had a good word to say about them, they were always portrayed as, rude, subservient, uneducated or just plain criminally minded and I include the wonderful Agatha Christie in that criticism. It’s easy to see why they did it. The working class wasn’t their intended audience. Their books were aimed squarely at the middle classes. Dorothy L Sayers even made her investigator a lord and he hated anything to do with the smelly, unwashed. They have to be forgiven though, they were all wonderful writers and their books were just, of a time.

Continue reading

August Newsletter Now Available

My latest author newsletter (August 2023) is now available to download.

This month I talk about the uncertainly I felt when I was writing my latest novel, Betrayal. There is also news of a book signing event I’m attending in September. If you’d like to subscribe there is a button on the top left hand side. To easily unsubscribe, lick the link at the bottom of the page.

Thank you for your interest.
T.A.Belshaw

You can download the newsletter, here.  August 2023 newsletter.

Betrayal eBook Release!

BETRAYAL. Unspoken Family Saga. Series two, book one.

I am delighted to announce the release of the eBook version of my latest novel, Betrayal. The Unspoken saga continues with book one of the second series.

Betrayal.

Jessica Griffiths is in a relationship with police sergeant Christopher Kent, and for once, things are going well, despite the country being placed into lockdown by the government as they attempt to slow down the spread of Coronavirus.

Great Aunt Marjorie is back from her ill-fated cruise. Now living alone, she is visited by Iris of the Afterlife Society, who is convinced that the spirit of her dead sister, Martha is attempting to make contact. As lockdown approaches, she is befriended by her kindly neighbour, Selena who moves in with Marjorie, after all, two can live almost as cheaply as one, especially when you aren’t the one paying the bills. Jess is initially delighted at the arrangement, but is Selena really the sweet old lady she appears to be?

Nicola Griffiths, Jessica’s mother is still battling her alcohol demons but finds love in the form of Lenny Relish, an ex-con, jailed for manslaughter, but freed from prison on licence. Nicola is besotted but Lenny has some seriously dodgy acquaintances.

As the country eases into lockdown, Jessica gets news that will test her relationship with Christopher to the limit. Is he really the lover that will finally break the circle of the Mollison family man curse? Will she finally rid herself of her ex, the narcissistic, Calvin? And why has the beautiful, but menacing, Leonora, suddenly reappeared?

BETRAYAL. OUT NOW!

AMAZON.CO.UK  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

AMAZON.COM  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Read for FREE! on KINDLE UNLIMITED

The Betrayal. Part 1 of the second Unspoken Trilogy. Opening paragraphs

Today, I started work on Book1 of the second Unspoken series trilogy. The novel will be called, The Betrayal and will continue the adventures of Jessica, Nicola and Aunt Marjorie as the family begin to heal after the ill fated cruise that Marjorie and her older sister Martha had embarked upon.

I’m hoping to see publication of the new novel sometime in the mid to late summer, 2023.

As an appetiser, here’s the short, opening chapter.

THE BETRAYAL

Chapter One

Here she is now,’ Jessica Griffiths said excitedly to Detective Sergeant, Christopher Kent as they stood behind the flimsy metal barrier at the arrivals point at Heathrow airport’s terminal three.

Jessica stood on her tiptoes and waved at the confused-looking elderly woman as she came out of the exit, followed by a young man pulling a caged, trolley containing five large pieces of luggage. Perched precariously on top, was a huge, florescent orange travel bag.

Aunt Marjorie was seventy-six with short, silver hair. She wore an unbuttoned, knee-length beige mac over a pretty, flower-patterned, print dress. She was carrying a small, clear, plastic fronted box which contained a helmeted, London police doll. Perched on top of her silver hair was white, baseball cap with a picture of Mount Fuji and the famous Bullet Train. Underneath, in inch high letters was the word Shinkansen.

Marjorie stopped so quickly that the young man pushing the trolley almost crashed into her. She stood under the arrivals sign with her hand shading her eyes as she looked into the crowd of friends and relatives that had come to meet the passengers arriving on the Japan Airways flight.

‘She looks so lost and lonely,’ Jessica whispered to herself as she pushed her way past an excited, Japanese family group and shouted at the top of her voice.

‘Auntie Marjorie! It’s Jessica.’

Marjorie did a double take when she heard the familiar voice, and as Jessica appeared out of the crowd, her eyes filled with tears and her lip began to tremble.

‘Oh dear, Jessica,’ she said. ‘I’ve lost Martha.’

The Murder Awards. Cover Reveal and Back of the Book Blurb

As the latest Amy Rowlings mystery, The Murder Awards hurtles towards its conclusion, SpellBound Books Ltd have issued a publication date of November 5th 2023. Thank you Sumaira Wilson from SpellBound for the social media reveal yesterday.

I am now in the happy position to be able to reveal the cover, designed once again by the fabulous Nikki East.

The Murder Awards

May 1939

When Amy Rowlings and Inspector Bodkin are invited to a black tie, civic awards ceremony at the Town Hall, they expect to be met with the usual, boring speeches and toe-curling sycophancy, but when the recipient of the night’s ‘Businessman Of The Year Award’, Nelson Kelly, is found stabbed to death after being called from the stage to answer the telephone, the evening begins to liven up.

Nelson’s company has just won a lucrative contract to build a new armaments factory and many of the town’s elite, having backed a rival bidder, aren’t happy at missing out.

When the CID department at the local police station is suddenly reduced in manpower, Bodkin is told he will have to manage the murder investigation alone.

Into the breach steps young Amy Rowlings, the twenty-one-year-old with a mind every bit as sharp as her fictional hero, Hercule Poirot.

Amy, an avid crime fiction reader, movie buff and collector of American records, brings her insight and intelligence to the aid of the overstretched inspector, as he attempts to find a way through the morass of lies, deception and corruption.

Once again, Amy must utilise all the investigative techniques she has learned from Agatha Christie’s famous detective to help bring a brutal killer to justice.

© Copyright T. A. Belshaw 2023

© Copyright SpellBound Books Ltd 2023

Hopes and Fears audiobook released.

I am delighted to announce the release of my first ever audiobook. Hopes and Fears, my wartime, home front, winter themed novel, narrated by the wonderful Deborah Balm, was released on the 17th January 2023. The audiobook is available on Amazon and iTunes at £7.99 and for 1 credit for Audible members.

FEATURING AMY ROWLINGS!

Christmas 1940. Despite the rationing and the Blackout, excitement at Mollison Farm is building as Alice and her workforce prepare for the annual Christmas Eve party. The snow has arrived, bang on time.

And this year, Alice has a big secret.

She has invited her evacuee children’s mother to spend a few precious days with her kids at Christmas, but disaster strikes and Alice is given the shock news that Rose’s home is now nothing more than a pile of bricks and the woman herself is missing, lost in the Blitz.

Amy, Alice’s best friend is despatched to the capital in a race against time, to find Rose and if possible, get her out of London.

As the search intensifies and the bombs start to fall again, Amy meets Rose’s sleazy husband Terry, a draft dodger, and Kevin, the ARP man with something to hide.

Meanwhile, on the farm, Stephen and Harriet discover the truth about their mother’s disappearance and Alice finds herself having to deal with the consequences.

The snow will fall and the farmyard carols will be sung, but will it be a happy Christmas on Mollison Farm?

 

Reviews

‘A very sweet and heart-warming read, perfect for the Christmas period, but enjoyable at any time. I loved the story and the cosy mystery vibe. ‘ Lynda Checkley.

‘In short, this is a race against time, with the backdrop of World War 2, and heavy snow, interspersed with wonderful characters a brilliant story and great ending. I may have shed a tear.’ Donna Morfett.

 ‘I loved the settings which were described so perfectly that I could have jumped into the book in amongst everything and not felt out of place.’  Kirsty Lock.

 

Hopes and Fears is the perfect audiobook to listen to in your favourite chair with a hot drink as the ice and snow covers the streets outside.

For anyone wishing to sign up to buy the book from Audible, please consider using SIGN UP FOR AUDIBLE AND BUY HOPES AND FEARS

For Amazon buyers here is the AMAZON UK LINKY THINGY

For US buyers. here is the AMAZON US LINKY THINGY 

The audiobook is also available on iTunes by searching for Hopes and Fears audiobook.

Before you go. Here’s a sample.

What Tracy Did Next Tour

 

I am delighted to announce the book tour for the third in the Tracy’s Hot Mail series, What Tracy Did Next, The Kiss and Tell Diaries.

Organised once again by the fab Zoe-Lee O’Farrell and her wonderful team of reviewers, the tour kicks off on the 9th January 2023.  http://zooloosbooktours.co.uk

What Tracy did next is the usual mix of emails sent to her best friend Emma but this time we also get a few WhatsApp messages and posts copied from her last year at school diary and her first ever holiday diary.

TRACY RETURNS!

The gossip machine is back with more juicy titbits as Tracy casts her all-seeing eye over the lives of the people around her.
Tracy is in a quandary. Should she accept Detective Sergeant Neil Hartley’s marriage proposal? Is she truly ready for a life of domesticity while there are so many men she hasn’t met yet, so many places she hasn’t been, so many clothes she hasn’t tried on.
A lover of cloned, market stall fashion and the Primark sales rail, Tracy is still working the promotions circuit under the guidance of her uber-iffy agent, Shayne Slider.

What on earth are Faliraki Flaps? What really happened when Tracy went on holiday with her best friend, Emma? Get an insight into what she got up to in her last year at school as Tracy dips into her personal diaries and lifts the lid on her most intimate secrets.
What Tracy Did Next. An eye-opening giggle fest.

Buy it Linky Thingy

Hopes and Fears Audiobook UPDATE!

I am delighted to announce that the audiobook version of my Unspoken Christmas novel, Hopes and Fears is now complete.

Narrated by the extraordinary Deborah Balm, the title should be available on Audible by mid January.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Deborah for all her hard work and the speed with which she delivered such an exceptional production.

She is a very talented lady and I cannot recommend her highly enough.

For those thinking of putting their own books on audible, here’s a sample of her work on my book below. Her website, which contains many more samples can be found here. https://www.deborahbalm.com/

The book is also available in eBook and paperback formats.  AMAZON LINKY THINGY   You can also read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited account.

BRAND NEW TRACY’S HOT MAIL. BOOK 4

I am delighted to announce the release of the fourth Tracy’s Hot Mail novella. Tracy’s 20’s Hot Mail.

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!

Tracy is shocked to find that she’s hit her mid-twenties. Worried about her sagging boobs and her broadening bottom, she has scary visions of being thirty, middle aged and unable to get any celebrity work.

Fed up of the endless battles between her Marxist father and a grandmother that makes Attila the Hun look like Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies, she decides it’s time to flee the nest and moves into an ex-council flat on the rough side of town.

Deciding to hold a sophisticated dinner party, Tracy struggles to compile the perfect guest list. More problems arise when she is unable to follow a Nigella Bites recipe.

Will the party go with a bang? Will the people on her hastily assembled guest list hit it off? Why is that ‘tart’ Olivia suddenly in her thoughts? And what could possibly go wrong when Tracy lands a starring role in a remake of the pottery scene from the film, Ghost?

Tracy’s 20’s Hot Mail. Older doesn’t always mean wiser.

The book is available NOW on Amazon. eBook or paperback. FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

TRACY’S 20’s HOT MAIL ON AMAZON UK CLICK HERE

Season’s Greetings

 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my wonderful readers a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

I’d also like to add a little bit of exciting news.

My Winter themed novel, Hopes and Fears is, at this moment, being recorded as an audiobook by the hugely talented, Deborah Balm. The recording should be available early in the New Year.

Peace and Love

T. A. Belshaw

End of year book awards.

 

2022 has been a good year for me book wise. I have released four books including two, new Tracy’s Hot Mail novellas and two Amy Rowlings mysteries that were published by SpellBound Books and sales have gone pretty well.

As a bonus, this month I got a mention in the fab Donna Morfett’s books of the year list and I was the recipient of an award and trophy, bestowed by the  wonderful, Tales on Tuesday book group.  I was honoured to be awarded the title, Professor of Poisons, following my authors talk to the group earlier in the month. The title was awarded because of my collection of research books on the subject and my use of three different poisons in my cosy crime novel, Death at the Lychgate.

Huge thanks to Donna for her support and to Claire Birkin and all the wonderful members of the Tales on Tuesday group for the fab award. Professor of Poisons has now been added as a by-line to my author name.

 

Dinner For Two

This was my fist effort at romance writing and was included in the bestselling, charity anthology, 100 Stories for Haiti, back in the day.

Dinner for Two

Has that clock stopped?  No, my watch says the same time. Stop looking every thirty seconds, will you?

Maisie Connolly, this is your bloody fault. If it all goes wrong, I’ll never speak to you again.

Right, check the food, Sarah, it’s fine, you know it’s fine, you only checked it two minutes ago. Wine, where’s the bloo…okay, it’s on the table, should be room temperature by now. Maisie Connolly, if this wine isn’t as good as you promised you’ll be wearing it tomorrow. At twelve quid a bloody bottle it ought to be dynamite.

Check the mirror, sigh, I’m sure those lines round your mouth are getting deeper; you’ll need cement to fill them in if they get any worse.

What’s that?  Was that a car? Dare you peek through the window? You don’t want him to catch you looking. Count to thirty and listen for the car door closing… thirty, no, can’t have been him.

I hope he likes classical music; those free CDs from the Sunday papers were worth keeping after all. Classical is a bit more sophisticated than Simply Red.

Hang on, daft girl; Simply Red is fine for that close up chat on the sofa later in the evening. Damn, where the hell is it?

Had to be in the bloody car, didn’t it?  Right then, that’s Mozart for dinner and Mick Hucknall for afters, lovely.

Twenty-five past eight. This has to be the longest night of my life, are we stuck in a time warp or something?

Hope he likes the dress; check the mirror, not too much cleavage, not too short. Come on, Sarah, you’ve been through all this; it took you two hours to choose it. What if he comes in a suit though? Are you formal enough? No time to do anything about it now. I bet he wears a sodding suit.

Let’s hope it goes better than last time, eh?  Note to self, if you spill the red wine over his trousers, don’t dab at his crotch with a napkin.

Why did you do that? You should have left it at a horrified, ‘sorry.’ It was his house; he could quite easily have nipped through to change. He ended up being more embarrassed than you did, and why did you keep bringing it up throughout the meal? Oh my God, then you go and lose a contact lens in the Beef Stroganoff.

Continue reading

Tales on Trent pre order signed books.

I am one of the authors appearing at the 2023 Tales on Trent Multi Genre Author event. Signing opportunities on the day may be limited to how many books I can realistically take with me, so if you are attending and would like to pre order any of my novels I’ll make sure you get your copy at the event.

Books

Unspoken Trilogy.

Unspoken.  the Legacy. The Reckoning,

Hopes and Fears. Unspoken Christmas story. Featuring Amy Rowlings

Amy Rowlings Mysteries.

Murder at the Mill. Death at the Lychgate.

Tracy’s Hot Mail Series.

Tracy’s Hot Mail. Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail. What Tracy Did Next. Tracy’s twenties Hot Mail.

Out of Control.

 

Payment by Paypal  or on the day.

Thank you for your interest.

T. A. Belshaw

    New book of short stories for kids.

     

    The Little Christmas Tree and Other Stories. The first new Trevor Forest children’s book to be published for five years is now available in eBook priced 99p and on Kindle Unlimited for FREE.  Also available in paperback. Signed copies on requeast. A separate version of Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies is also available.

    A small collection of short stories for kids of reading age or for parents to read to them at bedtime.

    Stories include.
    The Little Christmas Tree
    Horace the Ogre
    Harry’s Present
    A Boxful of Wishes
    Celia’s Question
    Old Tom The Catnip King. (A poem about a lazy cat)
    Clicking Gran. (Halloween Poem)
    Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies (Full Book)

    Linky Thingy

    EPUB version available to reviewers on request.

    A New eBook for kids COMING SOON

     

    The Little Christmas Tree and Other Stories will be released on Amazon within the next few days. The book is for kids of reading age or kids too young to read themselves but like a good story read to them in bed.

    The book comprises of Five short stories and One funny poem.

    The Little Christmas Tree (the last pine tree before the north pole. A 3300 word Christmas story.)

    Horace the Ogre.

    Harry’s Present. (a very short Christmas story.)

    A Box Full Of Wishes.

    Celia’s Question. (a short Christmas story.)

    Clicking Gran (my almost famous Halloween poem.)

    Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies (Complete Book)

    The book will be priced at 99p.

    Paperback will follow shortly.

    More to follow.

    What Tracy Did Next.

    I’m delighted to announce the release on Amazon of What Tracy Did Next, the third book in the Tracy’s Hot Mail series.

    TRACY RETURNS!

    The gossip machine is back with more juicy titbits as Tracy casts her all-seeing eye over the lives of the people around her.
    Tracy is in a quandary. Should she accept Detective Sergeant Neil Hartley’s marriage proposal? Is she truly ready for a life of domesticity while there are so many men she hasn’t met yet, so many places she hasn’t been, so many clothes she hasn’t tried on.
    A lover of cloned, market stall fashion and the Primark sales rail, Tracy is still working the promotions circuit under the guidance of her uber-iffy agent, Shayne Slider.
    What on earth are, Faliraki Flaps? What really happened when Tracy went on holiday with her best friend, Emma? Get an insight into what she got up to in her last year at school as Tracy dips into her personal diaries and lifts the lid on her most intimate secrets.
    What Tracy Did Next. An eye-opening giggle fest.

    Priced at a mere £1.99 for the eBook, that’s around a penny a chortle.

    Artwork by the fabulous Zoe-Lee O’Farrell from Zooloo’s Book Tours (zooloosbooktours.co.uk)

     

    Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail. The Tell Tale Tit Tour

     

    I am delighted to announce the Tracy’s Tell Tale Tit Tour to promote the sequel to Tracy’s Hot Mail: Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail.

    Once again, Tracy is sending her best friend Emma all the juicy gossip about her private life, family, friends and enemies.

    Tracy has put her cloned SHOO high heels on the first rung of the celebrity ladder, starting with a soft butter spread promo at the local ASDA store.

    The tour has been organised once again by the fabulous Zoe and he truly excellent team of bloggers from  http://zooloosbooktours.co.uk

    Starting on the 10th of Oct, the tour runs until the 16th.

    Thanks in advance to everyone taking part.

    The book is available on Amazon

    https://amzn.to/3Md6hFg 

    Death at the Lychgate, PUBLICATION DAY!

    The sequel to Murder at the Mill is finally here. Death at the Lychgate was released by SpellBound Books Ltd on Sept 30th. Many thanks to Zoe from http://zooloosbooktours.co.uk for putting together such a fabulous collection of book bloggers for the tour.

    AMY ROWLINGS RETURNS!

    The book is set in Kent, during the spring of 1939.

    AMY ROWLINGS RETURNS!

    Sunday morning, and the body of Reverend Villiers has been found propped up on the vigil seat in the church’s lychgate. It appears that he has been poisoned.

    When amateur sleuth and regular churchgoer, Amy Rowlings arrives she finds DI Bodkin already at the scene. Bodkin tells her about a cryptic scripture reference that has been scrawled in chalk on the stone slabs beneath the body. What the citation hints at, shocks everyone.

    Amy, a huge Agatha Christie fan is determined to get involved in the investigation and despite a stern warning from the detective’s boss, Amy and Bodkin team up again to try to solve the most complex murder case he has ever been involved in. When the toxicology report comes back from the lab, the results only add to the mystery.

    Meanwhile, Amy looks to her favourite Agatha Christie character, Hercule Poirot for help, and using his techniques, she narrows down the list of possible murderers to just nine suspects.

    An Interview With Tracy (From Tracy’s Hot Mail)

    An Interview with Tracy

    Never one to pass up on an exclusive (nor Thornton’s Continental chocs for that matter, but that’s another story) Maureen Vincent-Northam was delighted to be asked to dig deep into Tracy’s sack of fan mail for Writelinkers. Disregarding the less genteel communications (toad in the hole will never seem the same) Maureen has chosen letters from typical Tracy fans and the star herself tells her many, and varied, admirers what they really want to know.

    Tracy is a rarity in this day and age: a young woman whose underwear is not always in free-fall. The woman whose Hotmail exchanges with best friend Emma is about to take the literary world by storm is driven by the same modest ambitions all young women have: fame, fortune and an alphamale celeb hanging onto her arm.

     

    Which celebrity would you say is most in need of a make-over?

    Chelsea Trumper, Broadbottom, Cheshire

    Tracy: Hello Chelsea. Is your dad one of those annoying people like David Beckham who name their kids after places they’ve visited?  It’s a good job little Brooklyn wasn’t conceived in Peckham isn’t it?

    Are we talking hair, clothes, or everything?

    I think Janet Street Porter’s teeth could do with a serious file down. If I was her, I’d have them pulled and get a nice, new, even set of dentures put in. She could sell her real teeth to ivory poachers. That might save an elephant’s life and not only would she look better, she’d have something to feel good about.

    Kim Kardashian really should do something about that arse and Brad Pitt looks like he’s been dragged through a dozen hedges, backwards. I wouldn’t mind having the job of tidying him up though.

    If I had to choose someone that needs a total makeover, I’d go for that tart, Olivia. She looks like a slut on drugs at the moment. Her clothes look like she’s slept in them for a month and her makeup looks like its been applied with a pastry knife. That hair has to go; I bet there’s at least a dozen combs, two styling wands and a colony of bats in there. I saw her once in the queue outside Slappers nightclub. It was pissing down with rain but she didn’t need an umbrella, nothing got past that hair. I heard a rumour that David Attenborough is going in with a film crew soon.

    Another one I’d like to see sorted out is Russell Brand. He’s a right scruffy bugger and has exactly the same hair as Olivia. What is it with these people, have they never heard of shampoo?

     

    Why do you think you’ve been so unlucky with romance?

    Ron Lovall, Herts

    Tracy: Hi, Ron. Unlucky? I think I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve managed to get rid of the useless swine without too much trouble. Some women get stuck with a bloke for life. Imagine what Simon will be like in a few years time? He’s already porn obsessed. By the time he’s twenty-five he’ll be sneaking around in the fog wearing nothing but a dirty old mac and a pair of trainers. I reckon I had a lucky escape there.

    As for Tim, I think I was lucky there too. He wants to be a farmer. That would mean me being a farmer’s wife. Sod that for a lark. I really can’t see me in wellies and a smock, can you? Some people are meant to wake up at the crack of dawn to the smell of cow shit, and some aren’t. I’m definitely in the second category. I would look ridiculous trying to dodge the cowpats in my fake Lanvin sandals, and the closest I ever want to come to a pig, is when it’s been sliced and fried and lying in a roll with some brown sauce.

     

    You’d make a perfect WAG. Have you ever pursued a gorgeous footballer – or even Wayne Rooney?

    Tiffany Pratt, Isle of Dogs

    Tracy: Hi Tiffany. I think I’m too young for Wayne, he’d be more likely to go for Gran, and I’m not on the game so he wouldn’t be interested in me. I did go out with a footballer once, but he only played for the local pub team and I only went out with him because I wanted to prove a point to the Ginger minger he was seeing at the time.

    Dad says I should become a WAG, but Gran says there’s a reason they call them that. They’re all dogs.

     

     Given these two choices, would you rather be stinking rich or mega famous?

    1. Windsor, London

    Tracy: Is that you Prince William? Nice to hear from you again. How’s the chopper? Still getting it up, I hope.

    Hmm, tough question. I suppose if I had to choose I’d go for mega famous as I could always drop in on a celebrity mate if I had no money and I needed somewhere to crash for the night. Not that there would be many nights like that. Most celebs seem to cop-off with someone after they’ve been to one of those glitzy parties and I don’t think I would be any different. Anyway, if I was mega famous and skint, I could always go to a party wearing something a bit naughty and get interviewed by the Sun for a few quid.

    Mega famous people probably get lots of free stuff when they open things, so I’d make sure I opened lots of supermarkets…and shoe shops of course. Stinking rich people tend to want to keep it all to themselves. That would rule Olivia out; she can’t keep anything to herself, especially her vagina.

     

    When you go on Celebrities on Ice in the Jungle, what will you miss most about everyday life?

    Precious Little, Watchet, Somerset

    Tracy: Hi, Precious. I’d probably miss daydreaming about going on Celebrities on Ice in the Jungle.

     

    What is your beauty routine and do you have any tips for your uglier fans?

    Poppy Belcher, Diss, Norfolk

    Tracy: Hello, We used to have a dog called Poppy but we got rid of her because she farted all the time and Dad was sick of getting the blame.

    I don’t spend much time in front of the mirror because my housemate, Kiwi, will almost certainly be using it every time I want it. I’m lucky in that I can get away without having to do too much. Kiwi spends hours tarting herself up, and she still ends up looking like she’s let her seven-year-old sister do her face for her.

    My best tip would be to buy the best make up you can afford. Don’t go for that crappy stuff they sell on the market, most of it doubles up as paint stripper. If you can’t afford good stuff, get some new friends who can. Girls are always on the lookout for ugly friends, as they make them look better on a night out. They’ll almost certainly let you use their make up if it means they’ll stand out in a crowd of munters.

    Spotty Irene doesn’t look too good at times because of the terrible acne she suffers from. It doesn’t stop her trying to do something about it though. She once went to a fancy dress party, with a brown paper bag on her head. She told them she’d come as shopping.

    There are a few ways of hiding your hideousness. You could be mysterious and wear a dark veil, but then people might just think you like going to funerals.

    If you’re really ugly and desperate for a bloke, my tip would be to find one who wears specs like the bottom of beer glasses. If their eyes are that bad, they probably still won’t be able to see out of them properly. Of course you could just do what Olivia does, let blokes know you’re available, that always works after they’ve had ten pints.

     

    If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play you?

    Scarlet Shufflebottom, Hollywood, Birmingham

    Tracy: It would have to be Lady Gaga or someone classy like that.

     

    What do you keep in your handbag?

    Tarquin DeVere, Odness, Orkney Islands

    Tracy: Hmm, you ought to know, Tarquin. It was you that opened it up in front of everyone at that student’s party. Playing mousy on a string with a Tampax wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be, funny.

    For anyone who doesn’t know though, apart from the usual girly things like panty liners, a sanitary towel and a spare pair of knickers, I have a my iPhone, lip gloss, mascara, compact, needle and thread, a condom, hair scrunch, brush, comb, purse, bus pass, pen, notepad, tissues, mints, tube of superglue, attack alarm and mace spray.

     

    What possession could you not do without?

    Billy Lillycrap, Quidhampton, Hampshire

    Tracy: My TV. I couldn’t live without Strictly and X Factor. If I’m allowed more I’d have to say my laptop and my fake Gucci bag…Oh and my signed photo of Beckham in his Speedos.

     

    If you were a type of vegetable, what would you be?

    Moonchild, a field in Glastonbury 

    Tracy: You’d have to ask Kiwi that, she’s the hippy, and she’s named after a fruit.

     

    If you were abducted by aliens, what would be the first question you’d ask them?

    Prof. Mycroft Nutt, Lower Piddle on the March, Glos.

    Tracy: Do you get the X Factor in the Vernuvian Quadrant?

     

    Who do you think you were in a past life?

    Napoleon Bonaparte, Crackpot, North Yorkshire

    Tracy: I sometimes have strange dreams about snakes, so Cleopatra probably.

     

    BRAND NEW! Saturday Night Live. Sept 22

    Saturday Night Live… ish

    Out on the eight, back on the ten-fifteen which came at ten-twelve and almost made me run to catch it. In the end I just performed a sort of quick shuffle down the street and made it with seconds to spare, who says this gym thing doesn’t work?

    Tonight’s mission was to explore the sights and sounds of Parliament Street in Nottingham. There are lots of dens of iniquity to choose from, so I stepped off the bus and launched myself into the first of many pubs blasting out old seventies’ hits to their aging clientele. No pub or aging clientele names will be mentioned in this piece, partly to protect the innocent, but mostly to protect me the next time I go in any of them. I wrote a Saturday Night Live about my home town, Ilkeston once and it didn’t go down well in the Neanderthal Arms I can tell you.

    The disco was in full swing as I walked into the pub. The queue at the bar was so long I had to queue to get into the queue. I thought I’d got the wrong bus and ended up in London at one point.

    Finally, armed with a pint of John Smiths Extra Smooth bitter I fought my way through the melee and grabbed a foot of prime real estate next to the door where I could see the dancers giving their all, in front of a thirty-five-foot flat screen TV on which the old nineteen-seventies videos were being shown to accompany the music. They need a screen that size so the people who haven’t had their cataract operations yet, and came out without their hearing aids (AGAIN!) can join in with the fun.

    I nearly shat myself when Phil Collins’ massive balding pate suddenly hit the screen. I was thirty feet away but it felt like he was right on top of me. Now, me and Phil don’t get on, so I tore my eyes away from the screen as Phil did his Voldemort impression whilst singing, ‘You can’t hurry love.’

    You can hurry love, actually, Phil, I’ve managed to do it for years.

    Sadly, Phil couldn’t hurry the song either, so I concentrated on the elderly dancers as they cavorted across the dance floor, waving arms, swinging hips and other body parts. One poor old sod was knocked clean off his feet by a pair of low-slung boobs that hit him right in the kisser as the owner of the said breasts, swung around to scream, ‘love don’t come easy,’ to the wrinkly old gal who was swinging her own bits, a few feet away.

    I never did get Phil, but by the looks of it most of the geriatric gyrating ensemble did. The dance floor was heaving, a plethora of nineteen sixties style mini dresses, stocking tops, caked on makeup, slipping wigs and zimmers on wheels, and that was just the men.

    I hung around, alternating between sips of my pint and mouthing the words to the Drifters, Saturday Night at the Movies. Mouthing to songs is a tradition in that pub. Everyone does it, even the people, like me, who actually know the words. The ones that don’t just open and shut their mouths like goldfish, as I said, it’s a tradition in there, no one wants to be seen flouting the rules.

    From there I wandered across the road to the pub near the Theatre Royal. A DJ was installed at the end of the bar and I was treated to the rousing chorus from the Killers hit, Mr Brightside as I entered. This bar is populated by the late forties, early fifties set, you know the sort I mean. Men with shaved heads and women wearing push up bras so load bearing that their boobs are almost under their chins. There was so much bare flesh is on show, that they look like they’ve got a couple of the bald heads stuffed down their dresses.

    The weird thing about this group of piss heads is their love for the Ibiza club anthems. It’s a scary sight when the first, boom boom, bass notes thud out, people don’t head for the dance floor, they just start thrashing around where they stand. Beer, gin and bald head tits are suddenly flung into the air as the middle-aged revellers relive their 1980s Spanish holidays.

    I didn’t last long in there I can tell you. I’d already washed my hair before I went out, I didn’t need a beer shampoo.

    The streets very packed as I stepped out of the bar and made my way down the slight incline towards the famous Motown pub. On the way I passed a few ‘homeless,’ people who were propped up in blankets calling out for loose change, gripping their cans of special brew as though it was their prized possession. I always give at least one of them a few coins as I pass by. I don’t judge. I’m about to get pissed so why shouldn’t they?

    I haven’t been to Nottingham for about a year now, but I still recognise some of the ‘pro beggars’ that only ever show up on a Saturday. Their blankets are always spotless so it’s easy to pick them out.

    The Motown pub was rammed, as usual. I spent a while in another long queue and looked around for David Beckham. Sadly, he wasn’t in this part of the queue so I smiled at the woman next to me and said,’ busy, isn’t it?’

    She curled up her lip and looked at me like I’d just asked her for a shag. Turning to her flat faced mate, she flicked her head towards me and rolled her eyes. Her mate was not only flat faced, she had an incredible turned up nose. Now, I don’t mean one of those cute little noses you see in those period dramas, this one was turned up so much, she could look directly into her flared nostrils with just a slight movement of her eyes. I’d hate to be her if she got a bad cold. She’d be blinded with snot every time she sneezed. I got my revenge for the sullen looks by pushing in front of them at the bar. I won’t repeat the insult that flat face used when I turned away smirking into my pint, but it rhymes with punt.

    I found a six-inch square piece of territory at a table near the front windows and spent an enjoyable ten minutes watching the septuagenarians swing their hips to the proper version of, you can’t hurry love. There were some younger women in there, but they were all surrounded by groups of bald, Junior Soprano lookalikes, who looked like they were waiting to dive into the buffet at a wedding. Lips smacked, saliva drooled and hands were reaching out in expectation. The women didn’t seem to mind, they were obviously used to being slavered over like some tasty morsel presented on a plastic platter.

    Just then I was poked in the ribs by a bony elbow. I looked to the side where a woman wearing glasses as thick as the shatter-proof front window was looking up at me.

    ‘Sorry,’ she lied.

    I smiled and went back to watching the men of the musical, meat market, stick out their chests and attempt to muscle the competition out of the way.

    Suddenly the bony elbow found its target again. I winced. It felt like I had been skewered. She looked me in the eyes again. ‘Sorry,’ she lied, again.

    She was a painfully thin woman of about sixty-five, wearing a tight-fitting dress that showed of her skeletal frame to perfection. She had a mop of red-dyed hair that perfectly matched the daub of lipstick that was smeared across her face. She looked like The Joker from the Batman movie.

    ‘Are you gay?’ she asked as I turned away again. ‘Only I’ve been trying to get your attention for ages and all you do is look at those men.’

    I was sorely tempted to tell her that I was indeed, gay, and hope the news would encourage her to piss off. Like a fool, I told her I wasn’t.

    ‘Really,’ she replied. ‘You look gay.’

    By now her three mates had become interested. They surrounded me, looking me up and down, pulling faces as they tried to make up their minds whether I was or wasn’t.

    I gulped down my pint as fast as I could and headed towards the door.

    ‘He is,’ I head the chorus of crackly voices call as I stepped away.

    Back on the street I found a doddering, ancient, foul mouthed, excuse for a man, trying to negotiate the price of a blow job with a middle-aged, blanket covered, greasy-haired woman whose mouth was ringed with scabs and sores. Apparently, he felt that a quid was a fair price. She wanted a tenner. I hope he raised his offer. She deserves the money and he deserves whatever disease he’ll wake up with in the morning. I shuddered at the thought of them performing and headed up the hill towards the bus stop.

    The bus was pretty full but I managed to get a seat opposite a couple of pretty young girls. I didn’t smile at them; I’m a modern man and I know I’d only be accused of being an old pervert if I did.

    One of the girls was wearing jeans and a crop top thing that left the bottom quarter of her breasts, exposed. The other was wearing a strip of fabric, so flimsy, it looked more of a waist sash than a dress. I gave her a cursory glance for five minutes, then looked to my side where a fifty-something woman with a mouth so small she would struggle to even make the ‘ooh,’ sound, was giving the girls a withering look.

    ‘Disgusting,’ she said, suddenly staring at me.

    I didn’t know if she meant me or the girls to begin with. Then all became clear.

    ‘When I was young, I wore more than that when I had sex.’

    I looked from her back to the two girls. That was another vision I desperately tried to push out of my mind.

    The girl in the sash noticed that I was looking at her and gave me the finger. I blew out my cheeks. I didn’t have a lot of choice really as she was sitting directly opposite and I had to look somewhere. It was either that or pretend to be asleep but even then I’d probably be accused of thinking filthy thoughts.

    The old codger on my right didn’t seem to care what the young girls thought of him.

    ‘KINNEL,’ he gasped as the girl crossed her legs. ‘It’s been a long time since I saw anything like that.’

    ‘I’ve NEVER seen anything like that,’ muttered his wrinkly mate on the seat next to him. ‘And I lived in Coventry for years and they used to give it away for a drag from your fag there.’

    The girl gave them both the finger, then looked back at me as if she thought I had instigated the whole thing.

    ‘Pervert,’ she spat.’

    I shrugged. I’ve been called worse and she was probably right anyway. So, not giving a flying one any longer. I stared straight ahead and gave her my best smile.

    I ended up back at my local in Ilkeston where I am among friends… Mostly. I had a few more pints and managed to grab the last slow dance with a nice blonde lady of about my own age who, thankfully, wasn’t wearing either a wig, two inches of makeup or a nineteen sixties Mary Quant mini dress.

    As I mentioned earlier. I am a modern man. I didn’t even try to copy a crafty feel.

     

     

     

     

     

    New Tracy’s Hot Mail. The Queen. A Tribute.

     

    Hi Emma,

    I suppose you’ve heard the news about the Queen dying, it’s such sad news, isn’t it? She’s been on the throne so long that everyone on TV seems to have a different memory of her. I’ll always remember her producing a marmalade sandwich from her handbag when she had tea with Paddington Bear. That just shows what a good sense of humour she had. I mean, that sandwich must have made a right mess in her bag. Her lippy must have been covered in it.

    She was a really lovely lady, wasn’t she, Emma? It was like the sun coming out from between dark clouds when she smiled and her eyes were piercing, even when she got a bit old and doddery.

    What are we going to do without her, Em? I mean, she’s always been there hasn’t she. No matter how bad things got in the world she was there, giving us that smile and telling us everything was going to be okay. And it always was in the end. Remember in the pandemic when she said, ‘We’ll meet again?’ Even Gran cried at that. Apparently, she nicked the line from an old war time song, but so what? She can’t be expected to use a Taylor Swift song at her age, can she?

    Mum says she’ll be back with Prince Phillip again now, so that’s something good to come out of it. I hope there’s someone waiting for me when I go, Em. As long as it’s not my ex, Simon. I can’t think about spending another hour in his company let alone eternity. I hope there’s someone else waiting for the queen too. I mean, she’ll be really happy to see Phillip I would imagine but she’ll want some friends around to have a good girly goss with, won’t she? Blokes never talk about anything other than football and politics, so she’d need a break from that. I’m sure she’ll want to know what her mates thinks about the latest episode of TOWIE or Love Island. That’s if they can get FREEVIEW up there… they must be able to… it’s beamed down from space, so she’ll probably get to know what happens before we do.

    Mum has been crying a lot. She bursts into tears every time the BBC newsreader repeats the headline. Gran, an arch royalist, is made of sterner stuff. She took herself off to her room for a few moments of quiet reflection, then came back wearing a Sex Pistols t shirt she bought for the jubilee in 1976 and her union jack bloomers. Dad said she was being disrespectful, but Gran called him a commie fifth columnist. who had never liked, ‘Little Lizzie,’ and should be hung as a traitor.

    Gran always calls the queen, ‘Little Lizzie as though she’s a girl that lived on her street when she was growing up. When we were having our tea, she told us about VE night in London on the day the war officially ended. The area outside Buckingham Palace was swarming with people and Gran, although she was only thirteen, went out to join them. She reckons she saw, Little Lizzie and her sister Margaret, dancing and singing along with the crowd on the Mall.

    Gran told us about how she got snogged by a sailor that night. (Her not Little Lizzie). Dad said, that would have been the first of many over the years. Gran narrowed her eyes and said Dad was just jealous because even the most desperate of sailors wouldn’t snog him.

    Dad is in a bit of an awkward place. He’s always been a republican and has often said, (mainly when under the influence of drink,) that the lot of them will be put up against the wall and shot when the revolution comes.

    ‘I didn’t mean her,’ he bleated when Gran reminded him of his drunken rants. ‘If she had stood for president, I would have voted for her.’

    The news has hit Dad a lot harder than he will admit to. His voice keeps going croaky and he claimed the tears that were running down his face were the result of Mum putting too much chilli powder in the dinner.  He finished his meal in silence, then said he was going to organise a whip round for her at the Labour Club. She has a lot of fans down there. He thinks they’ll easily raise enough to get a decent painting of her to go in the refurbished bar.

    Mum and Gran are going to get the train to London tomorrow to lay some flowers outside Buckingham Palace. Dad said he hopes she’s going to put some clothes on before she goes but Gran said she intends to show her patriotism, so she’s going in her bloomers. Mum said she ought to wear a mac at least, just in case it rains.

    I’m worried about money now, Emma. I got paid £300 cash in hand for judging that wet t shirt competition in Norks night club last Saturday and it might not be worth anything now she’s gone. I wonder if they’ll have an exchange scheme to swap the old coins and banknotes for ones with King Charles’s face on them when they’re minted?

    It’s going to be really weird for Charles, isn’t it, Em? I mean, he’s going to have to stand at public events singing God Save The Queen even though he’s the King. I think they might bring out a new anthem for him to save him having to do that. I hope they make it something a bit livelier. Maybe they could get Ed Sheeran to write a new tune, he’d soon knock up a jolly ditty. I hope they don’t ask Adele; her songs are more dirge-like than our old anthem.

    Right, I’m off now, Emma. I’m going to start a campaign to see if we can get our street renamed to Queen Elizabeth Way.

    R.I.P. Little Lizzie. Thank you for everything you did for us.

    Tracy. Sad.

     

     

    Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail. Back of the book blurb.

    The back matter for book four of the Tracy’s Hot Mail series. Look out for the cover reveal. OUT SOON!

     

    HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!
    Tracy is shocked: she’s hit her mid-twenties. Worried her boobs are sagging and her bottom broadening, she has scary visions of being thirty, middle aged and unable to get any celebrity work.
    Fed up of the endless battles between her Marxist father and a grandmother that makes Attila the Hun look like Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies, she decides it’s time to flee the nest and moves into an ex-council flat on the rough side of town.
    Deciding to hold a sophisticated dinner party, Tracy struggles to compile the perfect guest list. More problems hit when following a Nigella Bites recipe as her culinary idol only, ‘cooks in French.’
    Will the party go with a bang? Will the people on her hastily assembled guest list hit it off? Why is that ‘tart’ Olivia suddenly in her thoughts? And what could possibly go wrong when Tracy lands a starring role in a remake of the pottery scene from the film, Ghost?
    Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail. Older doesn’t always mean wiser.

    What Tracy Did Next. Back of the book blurb.

    I’m delighted to reveal the back of the book blurb for the third book in the Tracy’s Hot Mail series, What Tracy Did Next.

    TRACY RETURNS!

    The gossip machine is back with more juicy titbits as Tracy casts her all-seeing eye over the lives of the people around her.

    Tracy is in a quandary. Should she accept Detective Sergeant Neil Hartley’s marriage proposal? Is she truly ready for a life of domesticity while there are so many men she hasn’t met yet. So many places she hasn’t been, so many clothes she hasn’t tried on.

    A lover of cloned, market stall fashion and the Primark sales rail, Tracy is still working the promotions circuit under the guidance of her uber-iffy agent, Shayne Slider.

    What on earth are, Falaraki Flaps?  What really happened when Tracy went on holiday with her best friend, Emma? Get an insight into what she got up to in her last year at school as Tracy dips into her personal diaries and lifts the lid on her most intimate secrets.

    What Tracy Did Next. An eye-opening giggle fest.

    TRACY’S HOT MAIL. RELAUNCH!

    TRACY’S HOT MAIL REVAMP AND NEW TITLES

    I’m delighted to announce the revamp and relaunch of my ever popular,  Tracy’s Hot Mail series.

    The books are being re-themed to give Tracy a new fresh look.  The cover has been designed by the uber-talented Zoe O’Farrell from ZooloosBookTours https://zooloosbooktours.co.uk and I couldn’t be happier with what she came up with.

    Their are now four books in the Tracy series. Tracy’s Hot Mail, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail, What Tracy Did Next and Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail. All the books will be released in September 2022.

    Here’s the cover of the first book. Zoe imagined Tracy exactly as I do when I’m writing the books. She’s perfect.

    I’ll be releasing the rest as they launch.

     

    COMING SOON! TWO BRAND NEW TRACY’S HOT MAIL BOOKS

    September not only sees the release of my second Amy Rowlings cosy crime, murder mystery: Death at the Lychgate but also two BRAND NEW Tracy’s Hot Mail books.

    What Tracy Did Next and Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail will be released very soon. The two existing books in the series, Tracy’s Hot Mail and Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail are having a revamp and all four books will now be seen with brand new, series themed covers designed by the wonderful Zoe O’Farrell.

     

    Publication Day! Murder at the Mill

     

    Hello everyone. Thanks for dropping by on the publication day for Murder at the Mill, my Agatha Christie era, cosy crime novel.

    Firstly I’d like to thank everyone at SpellBound Books for making this possible. Hon mentions must go to Sumaira, Nikki, Dee, Zoe and Kate, thank you for making this such a pleasant and easy process for me.

    The sequel to Murder at the Mill is called Death at the Lychgate and once again stars Amy, our twenty one year old amateur sleuth, and DS Bodkin, the policeman with more of a heart than he admits to owning. The book will be released by Spellbound Books in November 2022.

    Finally I’d like to thank all of my lovely, loyal readers who have stuck with me through thick and thin. You are all wonderful.

    Murder at the Mill is only 99p for the kindle version. A true bargain. Buy link below.

    https://bit.ly/3yLUtof

    About Murder at the Mill

    Where is Murder at the Mill set?
    The story begins in January 1939, in the fictional Kentish town of Spinton.
    Who Is Amy Rowlings?
    Amy Rowlings is a vivacious, quick-witted collector of imported American music, a movie buff, a buyer of nearly new fashion and an avid reader of crime fiction. Unlike many of the amateur sleuths of the era, Amy is a working class, twenty-one-year-old who works at a clothing factory known locally as The Mill.
    Who is DS Bodkin?
    Bodkin is a rugged, no nonsense, untidy-looking detective sergeant in the Spinton police who would look scruffy in a tailormade suit. His mantra is, everyone is a suspect until they aren’t.
    So, what’s the story about?
    The book features some of the characters from the dual timeline novel I wrote during lockdown, the Family Saga, Unspoken, but this time one of the minor characters is promoted to the lead role. The novel is set in Kent, in January 1939 and is the first of what I hope to be a long series of books featuring the same characters. 1939 was such an historically interesting year that would eventually see the country in a war that will give me a myriad of future storyline opportunities.
    Amy Rowlings is a twenty-one-year-old machinist at Handsley’s Garments, known locally as, The Mill. On her way to work one snowy, morning she meets Detective Sergeant Bodkin, at the scene of a break in. After pointing out an obvious clue to the police, Amy goes to work, but on the following day, she meets the detective again, this time at the Mill where the owner’s son, an almost universally despised philanderer, has been found dead.
    Amy offers to help the police inquiry by providing some local knowledge to Bodkin, who is new to the area but is soon drawn into the murder investigation.

    Amy Rowlings! Death at the Lychgate, back of the book blurb.

    Provisional back of the book blurb for the new Amy Rowlings cosy crime murder mystery.

    Set in the spring of 1939.

    AMY ROWLINGS RETURNS!

    Sunday morning, and the body of Reverend Villiers has been found propped up on the vigil seat in the church’s lychgate. It appears that he has been poisoned.

    When amateur sleuth and regular churchgoer, Amy Rowlings arrives she finds DI Bodkin already at the scene. Bodkin tells her about a cryptic scripture reference that has been scrawled in chalk on the stone slabs beneath the body. What the citation hints at, shocks everyone.

    Amy, a huge Agatha Christie fan is determined to get involved in the investigation and despite a stern warning from the detective’s boss, Amy and Bodkin team up again to try to solve the most complex murder case he has ever been involved in. When the toxicology report comes back from the lab, the results only add to the mystery.

    Meanwhile, Amy looks to her favourite Agatha Christie character, Hercule Poirot for help, and using his techniques, she narrows down the list of possible murderers to just nine suspects.

    Can Amy fit together the jigsaw of clues to solve this, the most complex of cases?

    In the pipeline. Amy Rowlings. SpellBound Books Ltd

    If you are a fan of  cosy crime, Agatha Christie era novels, you might like my  Amy Rowlings mysteries.
    The  first two, Murder at the Mill, and Death at the Lychgate are to be published by SpellBound Books this year. Murder at the Mill is due for release on July 7th 2022
    There are also more Amy mysteries in the pipeline.
    The Murder Awards
    Amy and Bodkin are asked to attend a civic event at the town hall. where an awards presentation is being conducted. Things go awry when one of the recipients is found crawling away from the gent’s cloakroom with a knife in his chest.
    Deadly Anniversary
    Amy is drawn into a murder investigation when a friend of her uncle dies suspiciously on her silver wedding anniversary.. A few days later, another body is found, again on a date when the victim should have been celebrating his sixth wedding anniversary.
    A Model Murder
    Amy’s photographic portrait has been entered into a national photographic competition by the local photographer and his picture reaches the final at an event held in London where all the short listed models have to appear. On the day of the event, one of of the favourites is found dead, shot through the heart in her hotel room. . As Bodkin is at the event with Amy, he is asked to investigate by the local police.

    Death at the Lychgate

    So, that’s it. Death at the Lychgate, the new, 107500 word Amy Rowlings mystery is with my lovely editor for its final read through. It’s been edited as it was being written so there shouldn’t be a lot to do before I send it off to my fab publisher, SpellBound Books Ltd. Maureen loved it, so if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. 🙂
    I’d like to thank my wonderful, comma nuking, editor, Maureen for all her hard work as usual. Chapter one of the next book in the Amy series, The Murder Awards should be with you next week.
    Next time you’ll hear about it will be for the cover reveal.

    Murder at the Mill Cover Reveal

    I’m absolutely delighted to reveal the new cover for my cosy crime murder mystery, Murder at the Mill.

    The Agatha Christie era cover was designed by the fabulous Nikki East of Spellbound Books Ltd who will be publishing the novel on July 7th.

    📗𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐄𝐑 𝐑𝐄𝐕𝐄𝐀𝐋📗
    We are ending the week with a gorgeous cover reveal for you !
    Taking you back to the Christie Era of crime , we are thrilled to share the cover for Murder At The Mill by T.A. Belshaw.
    Out 7th July and available to pre order shortly.
    𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗧𝘄𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘆-𝗼𝗻𝗲-𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿-𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗔𝗺𝘆, 𝗮 𝘃𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀, 𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗰𝗸-𝘄𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗔𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗺𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗰, 𝗮 𝗺𝗼𝘃𝗶𝗲 𝗯𝘂𝗳𝗳 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻.
    𝗝𝗮𝗻𝘂𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝟭𝟵𝟯𝟵 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗻𝗼𝘄-𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗲𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝘀𝗺𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗞𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝘀𝗵 𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗼𝗿𝗿𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰 𝗻𝗲𝘄𝘀.
    𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗴 𝗔𝗺𝘆 𝗥𝗼𝘄𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗺𝗲𝗲𝘁𝘀 𝗗𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝗸𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗰𝗲𝗻𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗯𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗮𝘁 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗶𝗹𝗹, 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘀𝗻𝗼𝘄𝘆, 𝗝𝗮𝗻𝘂𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴, 𝘀𝗵𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝘂𝗻𝗮𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗺𝘂𝗰𝗵 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲.
    𝗦𝗵𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗱𝗿𝗮𝘄𝗻 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗸𝘆 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗘𝗱𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗛𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘆 𝗶𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗹𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆. 𝗘𝗱𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱, 𝗮 𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗿, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗚𝗲𝗼𝗿𝗴𝗲, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗲𝗿, 𝗮 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗺𝗶𝗲𝘀, 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗳𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗹𝗲.
    𝗕𝗼𝗱𝗸𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗮 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁𝘀 𝗔𝗺𝘆’𝘀 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄𝗹𝗲𝗱𝗴𝗲 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝘀𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗼𝗻 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗮𝗹𝘂𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻. 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗔𝗱𝗮𝗺 𝗦𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗵𝘄𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿, 𝗔𝗺𝘆, 𝗮 𝗳𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗹𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗱, 𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗲𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗮𝗻.
    𝗔𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗰𝗲𝗲𝗱𝘀, 𝗔𝗺𝘆 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝘂𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗽 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝗸𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝗽𝘂𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝗸𝗶𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗹𝘆 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗱, 𝗔𝗺𝘆 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗻𝘂𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗮𝗰𝗵 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗲, 𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗻 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝗔𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗮 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗲 𝗯𝗼𝗼𝗸𝘀
    𝗠𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗶𝗹𝗹 is a 𝗚𝗿𝗶𝗽𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗡𝗲𝘄 𝗖𝗼𝘀𝘆 𝗖𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼𝘂𝗰𝗵.

    Brand New! Two Tracy’s Hot Mail Novellas

    I have just typed The End on the second of the new Tracy’s Hot Mail novellas. This one is called Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail and the story, as the title hints, takes Tracy from her wild teens and into (as she sees it) a more mature and sophisticated era. As the panto line goes, Oh No It Doesn’t.

    The first of the novellas has yet to be given its final title. At the moment it has a working title of Tracy’s Hot Mail, The Missing Years. The book takes a look at Tracy’s life and what happened to her after the final chapter of Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail which was published in 2016.

    Both books will be published by Spellbound Books Ltd at a date yet to be announced.

    An old Interview with Tracy from Tracy’s Hot Mail

    An Interview with Tracy, conducted by  y fab editor Maureen Vincent-Northam

    Never one to pass up on an exclusive (nor Thornton’s Continental chocs for that matter, but that’s another story) Maureen Vincent-Northam was delighted to be asked to dig deep into Tracy’s sack of fan mail for Writelinkers. Disregarding the less genteel communications (toad in the hole will never seem the same) Maureen has chosen letters from typical Tracy fans and the star herself tells her many, and varied, admirers what they really want to know.

     

    Tracy is a rarity in this day and age: a young woman whose underwear is not always in free-fall. The woman whose Hotmail exchanges with best friend Emma is about to take the literary world by storm is driven by the same modest ambitions all young women have: fame, fortune and an alphamale celeb hanging onto her arm.

     

    1. Which celebrity would you say is most in need of a make-over?

    Chelsea Trumper, Broadbottom, Cheshire

    Tracy: Hello Chelsea. Is your Dad one of those annoying people like David Beckham who name their kids after places they’ve visited?  It’s a good job little Brooklyn wasn’t conceived in Peckham isn’t it?

    Are we talking hair, clothes, or everything?

    I think Janet Street Porter’s teeth could do with a serious file down. If I was her, I’d have them pulled and get a nice, new, even set of dentures put in. She could sell her real teeth to ivory poachers. That might save an elephant’s life and not only would she look better, she’d have something to feel good about.

    Jennifer Saunders really should do something about that arse and Brad Pitt looks like he’s been dragged through a dozen hedges, backwards. I wouldn’t mind having the job of tidying him up though.

     

    1. Why do you think you’ve been so unlucky with romance?

    Ron Lovall, Herts

     

    Tracy: Hi, Ron. Unlucky? I think I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve managed to get rid of the useless swine without too much trouble. Some women get stuck with a bloke for life. Imagine what Simon will be like in a few years time? He’s already porn obsessed. By the time he’s twenty five he’ll be sneaking around in the fog wearing nothing but a dirty old mac and a pair of trainers. I reckon I had a lucky escape there.

    As for Tim, I think I was lucky there too. He wants to be a farmer. That would mean me being a farmer’s wife. Sod that for a lark. I really can’t see me in wellies and a smock can you? Some people are meant to wake up at the crack of dawn to the smell of cow shit, and some aren’t. I’m definitely in the second category. I would look ridiculous trying to dodge the cowpats in my fake Lanvin sandals, and the closest I ever want to come to a pig, is when it’s been sliced and fried and lying in a roll with some brown sauce.

     

     

    1. You’d make a perfect WAG. Have you ever pursued a gorgeous footballer – or even Wayne Rooney?

    Tiffany Pratt, Isle of Dogs

     

    Tracy: Hi Tiffany. I think I’m too young for Wayne and I’m not on the game so he wouldn’t be interested in me. I did go out with a footballer once, but he only played for the local pub team and I only went out with him because I wanted to prove a point to the Ginger minger he was seeing at the time.

    Dad says I should become a WAG, but Gran says there’s a reason they call them that. They’re all dogs.

     

     

    1. Given these two choices, would you rather be stinking rich or mega famous?
    2. Windsor, London

     

    Tracy: Is that you Prince William? Nice to hear from you again. How’s the chopper? Still getting it up, I hope.

    Hmm, tough question. I suppose if I had to choose I’d go for mega famous as I could always drop in on a celebrity mate if I had no money and I needed somewhere to crash for the night. Not that there would be many nights like that. Most celebs seem to cop-off with someone after they’ve been to one of those glitzy parties and I don’t think I would be any different. Anyway, if I was mega famous and skint, I could always go to a party wearing something a bit naughty and get interviewed by the News of the World for a few quid.

    Mega famous people probably get lots of free stuff when they open things, so I’d make sure I opened lots of supermarkets…and shoe shops of course. Stinking rich people tend to want to keep it all to themselves. That would rule Olivia out; she can’t keep anything to herself, especially her bed.

     

     

    1. When you go on Celebrities on Ice in the Jungle, what will you miss most about everyday life?

    Precious Little, Watchet, Somerset

     

    Tracy: Hi, Precious. I’d probably miss daydreaming about going on Celebrities on Ice in the Jungle.

     

    1. What is your beauty routine and do you have any tips for your uglier fans?

    Poppy Belcher, Diss, Norfolk

     

    Tracy: Hello, We used to have a dog called Poppy but we got rid of her because she farted all the time and Dad was sick of getting the blame.

    I don’t spend much time in front of the mirror because my housemate, Kiwi, will almost certainly be using it every time I want it. I’m lucky in that I can get away without having to do too much. Kiwi spends hours tarting herself up, and she still ends up looking like she’s let her seven year old sister do her face for her.

    My best tip would be to buy the best make up you can afford. Don’t go for that crappy stuff they sell on the market, most of it doubles up as paint stripper. If you can’t afford good stuff, get some new friends who can. Girls are always on the lookout for ugly friends, as they make them look better on a night out. They’ll almost certainly let you use their make up if it means they’ll stand out in a crowd of munters.

    Spotty Irene doesn’t look too good at times because of the terrible acne she suffers from. It doesn’t stop her trying to do something about it though. She once went to a fancy dress party, with a brown paper bag on her head. She told them she’d come as shopping.

    There are a few ways of hiding your hideousness. You could be mysterious and wear a dark veil, but then people might just think you like going to funerals.

    If you’re really ugly and desperate for a bloke, my tip would be to find one who wears specs like the bottom of beer glasses. If their eyes are that bad they probably still won’t be able to see out of them properly. Of course you could just do what Olivia does, let blokes know you’re available, that always works after they’ve had ten pints.

     

     

    1. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play you?

    Scarlet Shufflebottom, Hollywood, Birmingham

     

    Tracy: It would have to be Lady Gaga or someone classy like that.

     

     

    1. What do you keep in your handbag?

    Tarquin DeVere, Odness, Orkney Islands

     

    Tracy: Hmm, you ought to know, Tarquin. It was you that opened it up in front of everyone at that student’s party. Playing mousy on a string with a Tampax wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be, funny.

    For anyone who doesn’t know though, apart from the usual girly things like panty liners, a sanitary towel and a spare pair of knickers, I have a my phone, ipod, lip gloss, mascara, compact, needle and thread, a condom, hair scrunch, brush, comb, purse, bus pass, pen, notepad, tissues, mints, tube of superglue, attack alarm and mace spray.

     

     

    1. What possession could you not do without?

    Billy Lillycrap, Quidhampton, Hampshire

     

    Tracy: My TV. I couldn’t live without Strictly and X Factor. If I’m allowed more I’d have to say my laptop and my fake Gucci bag…Oh and my signed photo of Beckham in his Speedos.

     

     

    1. If you were a type of vegetable, what would you be?

    Moonchild, a field in Glastonbury 

     

    Tracy: You’d have to ask my flatmate, Kiwi that, she’s the hippy, and she’s named after a fruit.

     

     

    1. If you were abducted by aliens, what would be the first question you’d ask them?

    Prof. Mycroft Nutt, Lower Piddle on the March, Glos.

     

    Tracy: Do you get the X Factor in the Vernuvian Quadrant?

     

     

    1. Who do you think you were in a past life?

    Napoleon Bonaparte, Crackpot, North Yorkshire

     

    Tracy: I sometimes have strange dreams about snakes, so Cleopatra probably.

    Hot News From Tracy!

    HOT NEWS!

     

    Hi, I’m Tracy of Tracy’s Hot Mail fame and I’m so excited to tell you about the new book that’s going to be written about me.

    If you can remember that far back, I was first seen in a book called Tracy’s Hot Mail where I shared all the office gossip from when I started my first job. The second book was called Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail and that was all about me and my new career as a D list celebrity, appearing at my local Asda store with a plastic knife and a stock of inch-long chunks of crusty bread, posing as Mary from the Dairy, (Mary Spreads Them For You)  trying to persuade people to buy their new tub of soft butter. I also appeared in a Get Me Out of Here clone event called Babes in the Wood with that hot lesbian celebrity, Fanny Tickle.

    The new book is all about me as I leave my wild teen years behind and hit my twenties (though there will be a few revealing extracts from the diary I kept in my last year at school. ) I’m going to let you have a bird’s eye view into my doings. (That sounds like something Gran might say after spending an hour on the loo, grunting and cursing. Her bowels aren’t what they used to be, bless her.)

    You’ll find I’m a lot more sophisticated now, at least I think I am. I’ll still be dishing the dirt on that old tart, Olivia though. Did you know some fool actually got her pregnant and married her? Not that it lasted, the old slapper was caught in fragrant … is that how you say it? in the back of a van with an East European painter and decorator called Ivan. Once a tart…

    There’s even more exciting news to come, but I’ll leave that until my new publisher, Spellbound Books Ltd announce it. Suffice to say, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about me on all social media platforms.

    The Zombie Poets. (Short Version.)

    The Zombie Poets 

    If you’d rather read the story on your tablet, phone of computer,  you can download it from the link above.

    Journal: 1st November. 2011.

    I’m sick to death of these bloody Zombies, they are everywhere now. I can’t walk down the street without being accosted by them. They’re in the library, my local pub, and the gym. When I’m at home they squash their faces up against my windows and peer through my letterbox. I can’t escape them. They don’t want to bite me, eat me or rip off bits of my body, it’s much worse than that. They want to recite poetry to me.

    It’s a waste of time trying to hide from them, they smell my fear. They know that as soon as I hear the opening line of ‘The Lady of Shalott,’ I break out in a cold sweat. They could sniff me out hiding in lead box in a disused tin mine.

    I wasn’t always afraid of poetry, I used to quite like Pam Ayers on that TV talent show. It’s the repetition that gets to me, the dreadful monotone chanting. Hearing one Zombie do it is bad enough but when there are thirty, fifty…

     That’s how they turn you. They don’t need to bite. It’s a slow brainwashing process and its effects are devastating. My girlfriend and my two best friends have already succumbed. One day they were normal people headbanging to Metallica, the next they were sticking their heads through my open bathroom window mumbling some Scottish nonsense about a wee timorous beastie.

    I bumped into then again when I went to steal supplies from the looted supermarket. They were staggering along the High Street with about half a dozen others, arms held in front, fixed stare, bits of rotting flesh dropping everywhere. Pam spotted me as I came out with my box of scavenged food. I started to run but tripped over a discarded foot and went my length on the tarmac. Before I could get to my feet, my ears were assailed by an horrific recital of a Lord Byron lament.

    And thou art dead, as young and fair

    As aught of mortal birth,

    And form so soft, and charms so rare,

    Too soon returned to Earth!

    After the tenth reprise I could stand it no longer and I kicked, spat and fought my way from beneath their fixed eyes and cruel tongues. I ran like the hounds of hell were on my tail and made it back home, bruised and soiled, but still able to sing Stairway to Heaven.

    Continue reading

    My review of Getting Away With Murder, by Joy Wood.

     
    Getting Away With Murder. Joy Wood.
    An enjoyable tale of secrets, ambition and obsession.
     
    Claire thinks she has everything. A beautiful house in the exclusive Sandbanks area of Dorset, a ten-year-old son she dotes on and a successful, if too often absent, husband, Max.
    Happy to play the role of the stay-at-home mum Claire gets involved with a local community choir and spends her time working on the final touches to their newly refurbished home as she looks after Julia, her mum who is staying with the family after suffering a mini-stroke.
    Max is the ambitious owner of a successful leisure company who is conducting a passionate, secret affair with the scheming, Anabelle, the beautiful owner of a rival leisure-based business who is intent on keeping the secret of her dark past, away from Max.
    Anabelle feels a desperate need to control the lives of everyone that comes into her orbit, including the love life of her company manager. Jealous to the point of obsession, Anabelle plans her wedding without consulting her, ‘fiancée’ Max, whilst plotting to be rid of. ‘Clingy,’ her nickname for Claire.
    Into the mix steps Adam, the strikingly handsome landscaper who has been brought in to clean up Claire’s extensive gardens that had been damaged during the house renovations.
    With Adam causing more than a flutter in the chest of both Claire and Julia, and with Anabelle’s interference reaching new heights, can Claire’s marriage survive the increased tensions?
    As usual with a Joy Wood novel, the characters are both believable and consistent. The plot is solid and intriguing. I read this enthralling book over two nights, reluctant to put it down, even for much needed sleep.
    A well deserved five stars.
    More please.
    T. A. Belshaw

    My Review of Carfax House by Shani Struthers.

    My review of Carfax House. A Christmas story by Shani Struthers.
    Not your run of the mill ghost story.
     
    Carfax House is not your usual run of the mill ghost story, but then Shani Struthers is not your usual run of the mill author.
    Set in the desolate winter landscape of the Leicestershire countryside, Carfax House sits alone in its overgrown, briar tangled acres. Neglected for too long, the big house has fallen into disrepair and is badly in need of more than a little TLC.
    Step in, Lizzie and Al, a London journalist married to a criminal lawyer who see an opportunity on a property website. Sure, the old house will need some work and it will cost, but with the money they can get from selling their nicely appointed London apartment and their combined incomes, they should be able to afford to restore the old house to something close to its former glory. Besides, Lizzie thinks to herself, what woman wouldn’t want to saunter down that beautiful open staircase wearing a designer creation to the wide-eyed acclaim of her party guests?
    So, the flat is sold and the deal is done. Carfax House, bought unseen, awaits their arrival.
    I won’t go into too much detail of the story as I don’t want to spoil it for future readers but what I will say is that Carfax House has great depth and tackles issues that other authors steer well clear of. As I said earlier, this is not a run of the mill ghost story, it is a story of loss, of isolation, of desperate emotions.
    Carfax House is all about memories. The repressed memory of childhood, dreadful memories of a shameful family secret that a mother and daughter weave a web of lies to attempt to hide, and the memories of an old house, memories that are baked into the bricks and mortar. Memories that make the floorboards creak, memories hidden behind a small but strong, oak door built into the walls of bedroom six.
    You will be able to read this one in bed without scaring yourself silly. It’s not that kind of book, but by the time you reach the end, you will have been so eloquently informed about the brutality of mental illness and how it was endured by two families born a hundred years apart.
    This book gets a well-deserved five-star rating from me. I lost myself in this short novel for a few hours, reading it in one session, broken only by my need to fuel my long-standing coffee addiction.
    T. A. Belshaw.  Dec 31st.  2021

    Cover Reveal: Death at the Lychgate

    I’m delighted to reveal the wonderful cover for my work in progress, Death at the Lychgate.

    The cover is, as usual designed by the uber-talented Jane Dixon-Smith, who was recently honoured for her work by the Romantic Novelists Association.

    The book, tells how  amateur sleuth, Amy Rowlings teams up once again with Detective Sergeant Bodkin to solve a fiendishly cunning murder mystery.

    The book should be available early in 2022.

     

    A short excerpt from Hopes and Fears. An Unspoken Christmas

    Alice

    Saturday 14th December

    At twelve o’clock we sat in the tea shop in town looking out of the fogged-up window as we sipped our hot drinks and nibbled at the dry cake that tasted as though it had spent a day too long under the glass counter. Stephen, bored as usual, began to draw with his finger in the condensation on the shop window. After twenty minutes I put him out of his misery and we got to our feet and made for the door, moving aside to allow a pair of elderly ladies to enter.

    ‘Thank you, dears,’ the first of the pensioners smiled at the children. ‘I’m ready for a cuppa, I’m parched.’

    ‘I wouldn’t bother with the sponge cake,’ Stephen advised. ‘You’ll be even parchder.’ He looked at me quizzically as I tried to usher him out of the café before he got us into trouble. ‘Is parchder a word?’ he asked.

    Outside, the Saturday lunchtime streets were full of shoppers. Jam-packed buses trundled along the narrow town roads as the half day Saturday workers made their way home from the factories. The bustling market place echoed with the shouts of, ‘Plums, get your lovely plums, they’re big, they’re beautiful just like your… mums,’ and ‘sprouts and cabbage, fresher than your lodger, put it on a plate for him, girls, he’ll love you for it.’

    New Author pics

    Just to frighten even more readers away I’ve had some professional author photos done. Many thanks to Paul Haynes from the Old Mill studio, Belper St. Ilkeston for the fabulous images.

    The Full cover reveal of Hopes and Fears

    As publication day approaches, I’m delighted to reveal the full cover of my Christmas novel, Hopes and Fears, designed as always by the wonderful Jane Dixon-Smith of JDSmith-Design

    Set in Christmas 1940 the story tells the tale  of Alice and her best friend Amy who are determined to reunite Stephen and Harriet, Alice’s evacuees, with their mother, Rose, who is lost in the Blitz.

    Hopes and Fears. An Unspoken Christmas Story. Back of the book blurb.

    Hopes and Fears. An Unspoken Christmas Story.

    Christmas 1940. Despite the rationing and the Blackout, excitement at Mollison Farm is building as Alice and her workforce prepare for the annual Christmas Eve party. The snow has arrived, bang on time.

    And this year, Alice has a big secret.

    She has invited her evacuee children’s mother to spend a few precious days with her kids at Christmas, but disaster strikes and Alice is given the shock news that Rose’s home is now nothing more than a pile of bricks and the woman herself is missing, lost in the Blitz.

    Amy, Alice’s best friend is despatched to the capital in a race against time, to find Rose and if possible, get her out of London.

    As the search intensifies and the bombs start to fall again, Amy meets Rose’s sleazy husband Terry, a draft dodger, and Kevin, the ARP man with something to hide.

    Meanwhile, on the farm, Stephen and Harriet discover the truth about their mother’s disappearance and Alice finds herself having to deal with the consequences.

    The snow will fall and the farmyard carols will be sung, but will it be a happy Christmas on Mollison Farm?

     

    Hopes and Fears. Christmas Novella Cover Reveal

    HOPES AND FEARS

    An Unspoken Christmas Story

    I am beyond delighted to reveal the fabulous cover for my work in progress, the Unspoken Christmas Novella, Hopes and Fears.

    As usual, the cover has been designed by the wonderfully talented, Jane Dixon Smith of JD Smith Design

    The story is set at Christmas in 1940 where Alice is at the farm with her young daughter, Martha and her two evacuee children, Harriet and Stephen who are both excited at the prospect of receiving a visit from their mother, Rose, who still lives in blitz ravaged London.

    Continue reading

    The Village (working title)

    The Village

    A Thousand Years of Division

    The village of Kirkby Sutton is a conglomerate and an enigma. Formed by the merging of two villages that had outgrown their ability to remain separate as an entity, it nevertheless retains two extremely different and specific identities. One half, as its name suggests, is built around the church and is a (mainly) well-to-do haven of respectability with its Georgian Manor, leafy wide-verged streets lined with large, detached houses, driveways, off road parking and a library. There is also a small 1960s estate, a mix of three bedroomed, privately-owned houses, with an enclave of housing association tenants bolted on for political expediency.

    Down the hill, the other half of the village contains a higgledy-piggledy, hotchpotch of stone cottages, modern town houses and rows of Victorian terraces, originally built for the employees at the local lace factory, brewery and estate workers, who made the short trip up the road to toil on the farms of Lord Beresford on the other side of the village. Nowadays, the descendants of those workers still live in the red brick terraces but are mostly employed by industries in the nearby cities of Nottingham and Derby.

    The rivalry of its residents compares to any found in much larger towns and cities. You would be hard pressed to find as much animosity at a local Derby football match in Liverpool or Manchester. The annual village fair, which includes a fiercely fought tug-of-war competition, held on a boozy bank holiday weekend, regularly turns violent. For years, a police sergeant from the small town of Higton was paid to referee the event, but when the ageing sergeant retired and the police station was closed down to save money in the 1950s, the residents were left to sort out their own mess, so a committee, made up of the vicar’s wife and a group of teetotal residents from both sides, sat in sober judgment over the proceedings. To this day, the committee still rules on complaints and accusations made by one side against the other. Most of the grievances are easily dismissed, but on a few occasions a vote has to be taken with the chairperson, a lady with no connection to either side of the village holding the casting vote.

    Continue reading

    The Reckoning eBook released

    I am delighted to announce the release of the eBook version of my new novel, The Reckoning.

    The Reckoning is the third and final part of the Unspoken trilogy, following on from the original Unspoken novel and the sequel, The Legacy.

    The Official back of the book blurb.

    Unspoken Book Three. The Reckoning.

    After a fractious few months trying to appease her dysfunctional family, Jessica Griffiths realises that her great grandmother Alice’s legacy has become a millstone around her neck.

    With her feisty elderly relatives cruising around the South China Sea she is hoping for a less stressful time, but when Leonora, the meddling ex-wife of her lawyer boyfriend begins to plot and with her own ex, Calvin unable to accept that their relationship is over, she begins to feel the pressure mounting again.

    Into the mix walks Josh, the handsome young café owner. Jess is drawn to him immediately. Will he be the one to finally break the Mollison man curse?

    Jessica discovers new family secrets as she continues to read through Alice’s wartime diaries but more shocks await as Martha hands over her own disturbing memoirs.

    With the cruise ship in trouble and problems nearer to home, Jess finds herself at the centre of another family maelstrom.
    Feeling desperately alone and with the weight of the world on her shoulders, can she weather the storm with her family and sanity intact?

    The eBook is available from

    Amazon UK

    Amazon US

    and also on Kindle Unlimited.

    A paperback version will be available in August.

    The Reckoning. Unspoken book 3 Latest News

    I am delighted to announce that The Reckoning is now complete and will be published in eBook format during the week beginning the 18-7-21. The paperback version requires more time to proof for printing so will be a couple of weeks later.

    The Reckoning is the third and final book in the Unspoken series and follows on from, Unspoken and The Legacy. It will also be the final time you see this set of characters together in a book.

    The back of the book blurb.

    Unspoken. Part Three

    After a fractious few months trying to appease her dysfunctional family, Jessica Griffiths realises that her great grandmother Alice’s legacy has become a millstone around her neck.

    With her feisty elderly relatives cruising around the South China Sea she is hoping for a less stressful time, but when Leonora, the meddling ex-wife of her lawyer boyfriend begins to plot and with her own ex, Calvin unable to accept that their relationship is over, she begins to feel the pressure mounting again.

    Into the mix walks Josh, the handsome young café owner. Jess is drawn to him immediately. Will he be the one to finally break the Mollison man curse?

    Jessica discovers new family secrets as she continues to read through Alice’s wartime diaries but more shocks await as Martha hands over her own disturbing memoirs.

    With the cruise ship in trouble and problems nearer to home, Jess finds herself at the centre of another family maelstrom.

    Feeling desperately alone and with the weight of the world on her shoulders, can she weather the storm with her family and sanity intact?

    A Short excerpt from The Reckoning. Unspoken, book 3

    Alice. September 1940.

    ‘Don’t forget we’re all going to Old Jack Tanner’s funeral tomorrow. They’re having a special evening service to allow as many people as possible to pay their respects.’

    ‘I haven’t forgotten, Barney. It’s not often we get to say goodbye to a local hero.’

    ‘The funeral is taking place at six-thirty. It’s family only in the church but we’re all allowed to line the path from the lychgate to the front porch. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get half the town turning out.’

    I walked slowly back to the farmhouse, deep in thought. Old Jack had been almost eighty. He had part-owned a small fishing boat that was kept at Margate. During June, Jack and his younger brother, Cecil, answered the government call and had met up with the rest of Operation Dynamo’s little ships at Ramsgate where they sailed across the channel to Dunkirk to rescue our army that was  besieged there. Not satisfied with rescuing a dozen men, as soon as they had disembarked, he set off again to bring back another dozen, but on that trip, he caught a bullet in his back, a wound from which he never fully recovered.

    On Wednesday evening, we arrived at the church to find hundreds of people lining the pavements waiting for the horse-drawn carriage carrying Old Jack’s coffin to arrive. Barney, Miriam, Stephen, Harriet and all of our remaining farm workers, found a place on the paved avenue that led from the lychgate to the church. By the time the hearse arrived, the crowd was three deep on either side of the path. We broke into spontaneous applause as Jack’s younger brother, Cecil, led Old Jack and his family down the hill towards the church. At the entrance, on either side, a dozen soldiers stood to attention and saluted as the coffin was carried in.

    Forty minutes later, the soldiers saluted again as Jack was carried out. By now, as Barney had predicted, it seemed that half of the residents of the town were lining the pathway, or standing among the gravestones to see our own hero off.

    No doubt, over the next few years, many a local hero will pass through the lychgate, or will be remembered in our prayers at the cenotaph on Armistice Day, but today was special, we buried our first.

    I had managed to hold it together until, as the coffin passed us by, Stephen, our child evacuee, stood rigid and saluted as though the king himself was standing in front of him. I placed my hand on his back and wept as I thought about the fathers, husbands and sons that Old Jack had rescued and how grateful they and their families must be feeling to an old man who had done his bit. Then I thought about our farm’s own heroes, the lads who had signed up on the first day of war and had been sent off to fight and maybe die in some foreign land. We had heard nothing from any of them since July, when Benny’s pregnant wife received a heavily redacted letter, saying he was alive and well and looking forward to seeing us all again.

    I’m not a particularly religious person, but as Old Jack’s coffin was lowered into his newly dug grave, I sent up a prayer to God, asking him to receive our hero into his care, then I begged him to ask his angels to keep an eye on our farm boys, wherever they were in the world.

    Unspoken Book 3 The Reckoning Cover Image Revealed

    I am delighted to announce that the cover for my work in progress. The Reckoning has been revealed today.

    I would like to thank my fab cover artist, Jane Dixon-Smith http://www.jdsmith-design.com/ once again for the wonderful artwork.

    The book, which is the final part of the Unspoken Family Saga trilogy, will be released on the Authors Reach label, in the summer.

    I always like to get the cover out early, not just to generate interest in the book but to help inspire me when writing it.

     

    The Legacy Publication Day

    The Saga Continues

    It’s here at last. The Legacy has been released on Amazon UK. Amazon.com are a few hours behind and the book will be released shortly.

    The Legacy

    In Unspoken, Alice is the feisty, almost 100-year-old who shares a dark secret with Jessica, her great granddaughter. She is also the naïve 18-year-old who, following the death of her father in 1938 is forced to take over the running of the family farm, whilst single and pregnant. In The Legacy, her voice crosses the decades again as she gives her take on the events leading to the start of WW2.

    Jessica

    Jessica is a journalist researching a novel based on Alice’s memoirs. She is in a relationship with the narcissist, Calvin. In The Legacy, we find out how that relationship has evolved and whether either of them can move on.

    Martha. The Matriarch

    In Unspoken we learned about Martha’s strained relationship with her mother, Alice. In The Legacy we find out much more about Martha and her motives.

    Marjorie The Mouse

    Marjorie is Alice’s youngest daughter. A spinster who hides behind her older sister’s skirts.

     

    Nicola and Owen. Addicted to drink, gambling, and each other.

    In Unspoken, Jessica’s parents have their own issues, both with Alice and Jessica. In The Legacy, their problems burst like an untreated abscess.

    Bradley

    The handsome lawyer with a link to Alice’s past.

    Ewan

    The charity worker who has been in love with Jessica since their schooldays.

    Wade.

    A much needed, I.T expert, but is he trustworthy?

    Amazon Link

    The Legacy. Who’s Who

     

    The Legacy. Who’s who.

    Alice… Alice? Who the f… is Alice?

    In Unspoken, Alice is the feisty, almost 100-year-old who shares a dark secret with her great granddaughter. She is also the naïve young girl who, following the death of her father in 1938 is forced to take over the running of the family farm, whilst single and pregnant. In The Legacy, her voice crosses the decades again as she relates the events that lead up to the start of WW2.

    Jessica

    Jessica is a journalist researching a novel based on Alice’s memoirs. She is in a relationship with the narcissist, Calvin. In The Legacy, we find out how that relationship has evolved and whether either of them can move on.

    Martha. The Matriarch

    In Unspoken we learned about Martha’s strained relationship with her mother, Alice. In The Legacy we find out much more about Martha and her motives.

    Marjorie The Mouse

    Marjorie is Alice’s youngest daughter. A spinster who hides behind her older sister’s skirts.

     

    Nicola and Owen. Addicted to drink, gambling, and each other.

    In Unspoken, Jessica’s parents have their own issues, both with Alice and Jessica. In The Legacy, their problems burst like an untreated abscess.

    Bradley

    The handsome lawyer with a link to Alice’s past.

    Ewan

    The charity worker who has been in love with Jessica since their schooldays.

    Wade.

    A much needed, I.T expert, but is he trustworthy?

    The Official Blurb for The Legacy, Released.

    Unspoken Book Two. The Legacy.

    Where there’s a will there’s a rift.

    The Legacy continues the story of Jessica Griffiths and her fractious relationship with her grandmother, Martha, her gambling addicted father and her narcissistic ex, Calvin who refuses to accept that their relationship is over.

    Jessica an aspiring novelist, is writing a book based on her great grandmother’s hand written memoirs. Still grieving for Alice, she receives a telephone call that will change her life, and her relationship with her family, forever.

    During the process she meets Bradley, a handsome young lawyer. Calvin, meanwhile, believes he can work his way back into Jess’s life by fair means or foul.

    When Martha, the matriarch, complains that she hasn’t been treated fairly, she puts pressure on her granddaughter to ‘do the right thing.’ Meanwhile, Jessica’s father returns with the loan sharks on his tail.

    As Jessica prays that the ‘man curse’ which has plagued the women in her family for generations, has finally been vanquished, she meets the beautiful, calculating, Leonora, a woman with a secret and a fondness for mischief.

    Unspoken book 2. The Legacy. Cover reveal.

     

    I am delighted to reveal the fabulous cover for my next novel, the sequel to the family saga, Unspoken.  I’d like to thank the wonderful Jane Dixon Smith, http://www.janedixonsmith.co.uk/  for the stunning artwork. I am truly delighted with it.

    The Legacy, is still a work in progress, but I hope to release the book in late March early April, hopefully on the Authors Reach platform.

    The novel continues the story of Jessica Griffiths and her ongoing relationship and family problems.

     

    Murder at the Mill. Released

     

    I am delighted to announce that my new, cosy crime novel, Murder at the Mill is released today on the KDP platform. The paperback version will follow shortly and the audiobook, sometime in the New Year.

    The book features a few of the characters from my last novel, Unspoken and is set in the English county of Kent in 1939. Amy, a machinist at The Mill, a clothing factory, is drawn into a murder investigation when she meets Detective Sergeant Bodkin on her way to work one morning.

    I’d like to thank two wonderfully talented ladies who have helped me produce the novel.

    Maureen Vincent-Northam, my fab editor and Jane Dixon-Smith my brilliantly creative cover designer. You can find her here should you need a beautifully designed cover for you own book.  www.jdsmith-design.com

    Cosy Crime is a new genre for me but I hope Murder at the Mill will be the first in a series of Amy Rowlings mystery books. For those waiting for a sequel to Unspoken, I hope this book will keep you going until Unspoken 2 arrives in 2021.

    Murder At The Mill: An Amy Rowlings Mystery eBook: Belshaw, T. A.: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

    Murder At The Mill: An Amy Rowlings Mystery – Kindle edition by Belshaw, T. A.. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

    Murder at the Mill Cover Reveal

    The Cover for my upcoming novel, Murder at the Mill is revealed today. Once again, it has been designed by the fabulous Jane Dixon Smith. http://www.jdsmith-design.com/

    To say that I’m blown away by it is an understatement.  Murder at the Mill is my first cosy crime novel and is a spin off book using one of the minor characters from my Family Saga, Dual Timeline, novel, Unspoken and will be published in early December in both Kindle and Paperback formats.

    Blasts a fanfare,, Da da da da da da daaaaaaa

     

     

    Murder at the Mill. The Official Blurb

    Murder at the Mill.
    The back of the book, blurb.

    Murder at the Mill. A Gripping New Cosy Crime Series with a light hearted touch.

    January 1939 and the residents of the snow-covered streets of a small Kentish town awake to horrific news.
    When young Amy Rowlings meets Detective Sergeant Bodkin at the scene of a burglary on the way to work at The Mill one snowy January morning, she is blissfully unaware of how much her life is about to change.
    She is drawn into the murky world of murder when the body of Edward Handsley is found lying on the floor of the clothing factory.

    Edward, the son of factory owner George is a libertine, philanderer, and a young man with a lot of enemies, many of them female.
    Twenty-one-year-old Amy is a vivacious, quick-witted collector of imported American music, a movie buff and an avid reader of crime fiction. A girl who can spot whodunnit long before the film star detective gets an inkling.
    Bodkin is new to the area and accepts Amy’s offer to provide local knowledge but she soon becomes an invaluable source of information.
    When Adam Smethwick is arrested for the murder, Amy, a family friend, is convinced of his innocence and sets out to prove that the detective has arrested the wrong man.
    Amy befriends Justine, the young French fiancé of the elderly George, and soon discovers that it was not all sweetness and light in the Handsley family home. Meanwhile, back at the factory, Amy is sure that the foreman, Mr Pilling, has something to hide.

    As the investigation proceeds, Amy finds that her burgeoning relationship with Bodkin is pushed to the limits as the detective becomes even more convinced that he has arrested the right man and while Bodkin relies heavily on the facts as they are presented, Amy has a more nuanced approach to solving the crime, born out of her beloved Agatha Christie books and the crimes she has witnessed in the movies.

     

    New! Unspoken Review from The Haphazardoushippo blog

    The Unspoken blog tour continues apace with a fantastic review from Neats, part of the Damppebbles Blog Tour.

    ‘If family saga’s and dual time novels are your thing, you’d be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable one than Unspoken. It’s got drama, love, intrigue, revenge and secrets – so basically everything you need for a captivating read and that’s exactly what I thought it was.’

    https://thehaphazardoushippo.blogspot.com/2020/10/blog-tour-unspoken-t-belshaw.html

    A Halloween poem for the kids

    Clicking Gran
    Last Halloween I took a train
    and travelled to the coast again,
    to execute my mother’s plan
    and spend some time with Clicking Gran.
    Clicking Gran has five black teeth
    with dark red gums sat underneath.
    Her face is wrinkled, like a peach,
    her pace is slow, just like her speech.
    Gran sucks bread and slurps her tea,
    she’s really not a bit like me.
    She has a beard and long white hair
    and owns a cat called Lucifer.
    Gran’s stiff knees go, click, click, click,
    as she hobbles with her stick,
    her back is bent, her ankles meet,
    she’s always looking at her feet.
    Gran lives in a creepy dwelling,
    how she got it, she’s not telling.
    Bats live in the broken eaves,
    her letterbox is full of leaves.
    On Saturday I got quite ill,
    I said to Gran, ‘I need a pill,’
    but Gran said she would give to me,
    ‘a bit of homemade remedy.’
    I drank some soup, then Granny said,
    ‘You’re really better off in bed.’
    Granny said that she would stay,
    ‘until the pain had gone away.’
    When I woke up in the night
    Gran had gone, I felt alright.
    I was hungry, wide awake,
    I thought I’d get a slice of cake.
    I put my slippers on before,
    I crossed the creaky timbered floor.
    I heard a noise, a weird sound.
    I crept downstairs and looked around.
    On the kitchen floor was Granny,
    searching every nook and cranny.
    Then she caught a hairy spider,
    Lucifer was right beside her.
    She dropped the spider in the pot,
    and stirred the brew, it looked quite hot.
    Then I saw my Granny stoop
    and drop five beetles in the soup.
    She cackled as she added snails
    and slugs and tiny mouse’s tails.
    Lucifer sat idly by,
    chewing on a hover fly.
    After that I saw her bake,
    a bat and frog and spider cake.
    Then she got a big old broom,
    I thought she meant to sweep the room.
    But granny pushed the big door wide,
    she called the cat and went outside.
    I saw her run and very soon,
    she was flying ‘cross the moon.
    I cut some cake and took a bite,
    it tasted nice, to my delight,
    I licked my lips and in a trice
    I ate another giant slice.
    I sped upstairs and packed my case
    and ran out of that awful place.
    But Granny caught me in the lane
    and took me back inside again.
    When I woke the sun was high,
    I yawned and stretched and breathed a sigh.
    Granny smiled and said, ‘it seems,
    that you’ve been having nasty dreams.’
    We went downstairs and had some tea,
    then Granny said, ‘My goodness me!
    What have you been doing, Keith?
    There’s spider’s legs stuck in your teeth.’

    Murder at the Mill. Chapter 3

    Chapter Three

    ‘Bodkin!’

    Both Amy and the detective turned towards the sound of the angry voice. Walking towards them was a fifty-year-old, thickset man, wearing a light-grey trilby and a heavy, double breasted, overcoat. He stamped his booted feet on the cold concrete of the loading bay floor and scowled at Bodkin.

    ‘This had better be bloody good, Bodkin. I’m supposed to be driving my wife to her mother’s in Tunbridge Wells this morning and, if Mrs Laws isn’t happy, then you can guarantee, Inspector Laws won’t be happy, either.’ A look of pain came over his face. ‘It’s a long drive to Tunbridge.’

    Bodkin straightened and pushed his feet together. Amy thought he was going to salute, but instead he snapped out a quick report.

    ‘There’s a body inside, Sir. The deceased is the factory owner’s son, one Edward Handley. He appears to have been attacked in the repair shop, which is to the left of the loading bay doors. The body is in the spare-parts section, which is connected to the main repair room. We don’t know yet how long the It has been there as the night shift maintenance team had no reason to go into that area during their stint, so Mr Handley could have been lying there since the shifts changed over, yesterday evening.’

    Bodkin stopped his report, waiting for a response from his superior, but when nothing came, he continued.

    ‘The deceased is lying on his front; he has suffered a traumatic head wound on the right hand side of his head. There is a large, adjustable pipe wrench, lying at the floor at his feet.’

    Bodkin stopped again.

    ‘That’s about it so far, Sir.’

    Laws looked past Bodkin to the interior of the loading bay.

    ‘Who reported it?’ he asked without looking at the sergeant.

    ‘One of the maintenance crew, Sir. He discovered it at six thirty this morning when he turned up for work. The two teams meet in the repair shop for a shift report before they begin their daily checks. The night crew let the new team know of any incidents they encountered with the machinery during—’

    ‘I think I can guess what sort of things they report, Sergeant,’ snapped Laws. He turned his attention to Amy. ‘Who is this? Don’t tell me the bloody press have got hold of it already.’

    ‘No, Sir. This is Miss Rowlings. She works here.’

    ‘Here! Outside in the freezing cold?’

    Bodkin did his best not to bite. He allowed Inspector Laws to get under his skin, far too easily.

    ‘Miss Rowlings is a machinist, Sir.’

    Laws pushed his head towards Amy. ‘Then, why aren’t you at your machine, doing what they pay you to do?’ he barked.

    ‘I’m just going,’ replied Amy, quietly. ‘I was…’ her voice tailed off, not wanting to add to Bodkin’s problems.

    Bodkin, spotting Amy’s nervousness under the inspector’s scrutiny, came to her assistance. ‘I was just asking Miss Rowlings when she last saw Mr Handley alive, Sir.’

    Laws shrugged. ‘And…’

    Amy responded quickly. ‘Five-thirty yesterday evening, Mr Laws. He was standing by those doors as the staff were clocking out.’

    ‘Inspector Laws,’ the detective corrected her.

    ‘Inspector,’ repeated Amy.

    ‘Right, get to your machine. There will be a team of officers deployed to take statements from all members of staff later this morning so, if you remember anything else, that’s the time to bring it up.’ The inspector narrowed his eyes and issued a dire warning. ‘If you breathe a word of what you have just heard out here, to anyone, and I mean, anyone, I will have you up for accessory to murder. Do I make myself clear?’

    Laws dismissed Amy with a flick of his head and turned back to Bodkin.

    ‘Let’s have a look at the scene of the crime, Sergeant.’ Laws pushed his way past the stragglers, still being directed to their places of work by the foreman, and stepped into the loading bay looking at his wristwatch. ‘Today, of all days,’ he muttered.

    Bodkin beckoned PC Davies towards him.

    ‘I want you outside the door of the maintenance room, Davies. No one goes in or out without my express permission, do you understand?’

    Davies nodded and took a quick look at the figure of Laws as he entered the factory.

    ‘Someone got out of bed the wrong side this morning.’

    ‘Constable, if you had met Mrs Laws, you’d know that whichever side of the bed you got out of, it would be the wrong one.’

    Bodkin turned to follow his superior officer into the building. At the entrance to the repair shop he stopped and looked back at Davies. ‘Once those few are in, shut those doors. Parkins and Wallis can keep watch over the yard, and cheer up, man, you’re inside in the warm this time.’

     

    When Amy reached the changing room, she found it to be a hotbed of conspiracy theories. Everyone seemed to have a different idea of who had killed Edward, and by what means he had been dispatched.

    Margaret Beech, a seamstress of some forty years’ experience, claimed to have, ‘cast-iron, proof’ that that Edward’s sister, Beatrice, had done the deed, whilst the twin sisters, Sarah and Louise Keddleston, both thought that he had taken his own life after being outed as a homosexual. Neither of the rather portly, forty-five-year olds had been the subject of Edward’s amorous attentions and that fact formed the basis of their theory.

    Jennifer and a few other trainees, were under the impression that Mr Handley had been shot. Rachel, another trainee, even claimed to have heard the bullet being fired when she took a toilet break at three-thirty the previous afternoon. No one contradicted her, even though he was seen alive on the loading bay at five-thirty.

    Katie Hubsworth, who worked on the machine behind Amy, insisted that he had been repeatedly stabbed, while her next-door neighbour, Wilhelmina, told everyone within earshot that she had been informed by the policeman on the door, who was a Saturday drinking partner of her husband, Bernard, that he had been strangled with his own cravat.

    Carole twisted the handle of her locker, pulled it shut, and ambled over to Amy.

    ‘Well, this is a strange state of affairs isn’t it? Hark at this lot. He’s already been stabbed, garrotted, shot, battered, choked, decapitated and disembowelled, not to mention committing suicide. You’d think they’d have more sense than speculating like this. A man has lost his life for pity’s sake.’

    ‘You can’t blame them,’ said Amy, looking around the room. Twenty conversations were taking place at once. She had to raise her own voice to be heard amongst the babble of noise. ‘It’s the most excitement they’ve had in years. The last time they got so animated was when old George Blenkinsop fell under a bus, and that was five years ago. Some of them are still adamant that he was pushed.’

    Carole rolled her eyes to the ceiling. ‘He was drunk, wasn’t he?’ She leaned closer to Amy. ‘Look, I don’t want to add to the mountain of conspiracies, but what have you heard?’

    ‘I can’t tell you. I’ll be in trouble if I do.’

    Carole’s eyes opened wide.

    ‘You do know something then? Come on, out with it, you know you can trust me.’

    ‘I’ll tell you later on, when all the witness statements have been taken,’ replied Amy. ‘I do know how he was killed… and I do trust you, honestly, but that grumpy inspector out there told me that if I breathe a word of it to anyone, I’ll be in court myself. I can’t risk being overheard, Carole.’

    Carole was appeased. ‘Fair enough, but if you tell anyone before you tell me, you’ll be up in the court of Carole and I’ll be the judge, jury and executioner.’

    Before Amy could reply, the door burst open and an angry, red-faced, Mr Pilling stood in the opening.

    ‘What the hell are you lot doing in here. Get to your machines this instant or the whole shift will be docked an hour’s pay.’

    Locker doors slammed and the foreman was unceremoniously brushed aside as thirty women, still chattering among themselves, rushed past him to get to their work stations. Amy and Carole were last out. As she walked by him, Mr Pilling grabbed her elbow.

    ‘I don’t know how you managed to hang around out there for so long, Rowlings, and it’s a good job that police sergeant vouched for you, because I was about to issue you with a verbal warning. That’s the second time in twenty-four hours he’s done that. He seems to care more for your employment status than you do.’ The foreman pointed to the shop floor. ‘Now, get on that machine, I expect ten percent more from you by way of finished garments today, and there had better be no shoddy work, either.’ He shook his head. ‘You’re a common or garden machinist, Amy, not an amateur sleuth. Stay away from those policemen.’

     

    At nine o’clock, the first of the machinists was called into the canteen to give a statement about their whereabouts and actions the previous day. Mr Pilling began with the workers in line five, the closest to the canteen. That week, Amy was working on line two. She kept a watchful eye on proceedings as she stitched together the parts of her allocated garments. By ten o’clock, she was well up on her usual rate, she was determined to get the extra ten percent done, it was a matter of honour. The bonus pay she would receive for producing the additional dresses, would be welcome too. Her uncle, who imported the latest records from America, had managed to get hold of a copy of the new Al Donahue release, Jeepers Creepers, and he had put it aside for her.

    Amy hummed an old Bing Crosby song as she worked. She was brought out of her reverie when she felt a tug at her sleeve. It as Emily Frost, who was working on the second machine on line two.

    ‘They want you next, Amy,’ she said.

    ‘Me? but there are a couple of dozen to go yet.’

    ‘I know, but they told me to get you. I couldn’t say no.’

    Amy stood up, brushed the loose pieces of cotton from her pinafore and walked smartly along her line of machines. At the end she turned left and crossed the room to the wide, blue painted, double doors at the far corner of the workshop. She felt forty pairs of eyes burning a hole into the back of her head as she went. The buzz of sudden conversations seemed to rise about the noise of the machines.

    Amy walked slowly down the three steps to the floor of the canteen. On the front row of tables were a line of uniformed policemen scratching details into notebooks as they questioned the factory workers. In the centre of the second row, sat Inspector Laws. Next to him was a police constable with an open notebook and a pen in his left hand. He seemed eager to be writing. Standing behind the constable was Bodkin. He raised his hand and gave her a quick wave and a nervous looking smile.

    ‘Ah, Miss Rowlings.’ Laws beckoned her towards him. As she approached, he stood and addressed the policemen on the front row. ‘When you have finished this batch of statements, get yourselves a cup of tea, go to the back of the room and wait until I give the order to resume.’ He turned back to Amy, who was standing patiently at the side of the Formica-topped, table. He reached across and pulled a low-backed chair towards him. ‘Sit,’ he commanded.

    Amy sat. The inspector tapped his foot impatiently until the last of the interviewees had left the canteen and the policemen had lined up for their drinks.

    Laws studied a hand-written sheet from the notebook on the table, flipped a page, then turned it back again.

    ‘Miss Rowlings,’ he said, sternly. ‘We have been given evidence that you had a confrontation with Edward Handley as recently as yesterday.’ A cold look came across his face. ‘Is this true?’

    Amy silently cursed Carole, who had been the only person she had told about the incident. She was puzzled as to how the inspector had got hold of the information, as her best friend hadn’t yet been called in for questioning. Something was amiss.

    ‘Yes, that is true,’ she said. ‘He came into the changing room at lunchtime, while I was there.’

    ‘I see,’ Laws read the statement again. He flipped over two more pages as he saw Amy twist her neck in an attempt to see who had given the evidence. ‘So, this altercation. What brought it about?’

    ‘I don’t really want to speak ill of the dead, Inspector.’

    ‘You’ll tell me what occurred, and you’ll tell me in detail, or I’ll have you carted off to the nick right now.’ Laws made a fist and slammed it down, hard.

    Amy sighed and took him through the details of the attack.

    ‘And was this something out of the ordinary?’ he asked.

    ‘He wasn’t called Wandering Handley for nothing,’ Amy replied.

    The policeman at the inspector’s side, snorted. Laws gave him a withering look.

    ‘Wandering Handley? I’ll be honest with you, Miss Rowling, that’s not the first time I’ve heard that nickname this morning. Didn’t anyone think to report him?’

    ‘HA!’ Amy retorted. ‘And just what would have you lot have done about it. We’d have been risking our jobs and you wouldn’t have done a thing to help.’

    ‘You seem to have a very low opinion of the police, Miss Rowlings.’

    ‘Not at all. I think the police have an extremely difficult job and they do it very well in the main. But, when it comes to the abuse of women, you always seem to turn a blind eye. My best friend, Alice reported—’ Amy stopped, not wanting to bring Alice’s former relationship with her abusive partner into the conversation.

    Laws made a note on a clean page of the notebook.

    ‘So, he allegedly attacked you. What then?’

    ‘There was no allegedly about it,’ snapped Amy. ‘He did it, I’ve probably still got the bruises.’

    ‘All right, let’s assume this attack actually took place. How did you get yourself out of the situation?’

    ‘I elbowed him in the throat and he went down like a sack of… coal,’ she replied.

    Laws put down his pen, laid his forearms on the table and looked hard at Amy.

    ‘Is that when you threatened to kill him?’ he asked.

     

     

    Murder at the Mill. Chapter 2

    Chapter Two

    Amy rushed into the factory and found the foreman in the stock room, tallying the different bales of cotton materials that the machinists would be working on that week.

    ‘Sorry I’m late, Mr Pilling, but there’s been a burglary over the road. There’s a detective at the staff entrance who would like a word with you.’

    The foreman checked his pocket watch.

    ‘Ten minutes late, you know the rules, you’ll be docked fifteen and if it happens again this month, you’ll lose a full hour.’

    ‘But—’

    ‘No buts, no excuses. Get to your machine now or you’ll be docked thirty minutes and receive a verbal warning. You can make up for this morning’s tardiness in your lunch break.’

    Amy walked quickly to the staff changing area, took off her big coat and hung it on a peg along with her hat. Then she took a pinafore from her locker and wrapped it around her body, tying it off at the back. She hurried through to the factory floor and slumped down on her seat, before letting out a deep sigh and reaching down to her side to pick out her first garment of the day.

    ‘It’s not like you to be so slack,’ said Dora, who worked the machine next to Amy.

    ‘I was assisting the police with their inquiries,’ replied Amy, knowing that it would be the talk of the workshop before morning break. She smiled to herself and slid the part-finished cotton dress onto the plate of the overlocking machine and pressed her foot onto the pedal.

    Amy was a diligent, hard working machinist and soon made up the time lost. When the bin on her left was almost empty, she called for the runner to bring her a new supply of dresses from the cutting room. By lunchtime her finished bin had been emptied twice and she was in front of her daily target.

    To keep on the right side of Mr Pilling, Amy stayed at her machine for an extra fifteen minutes before heading off for lunch. By the time she reached the canteen, the other workers had eaten their sandwiches and were mostly sipping hot tea while they gossiped and lit cigarettes.

    Amy bought a cup of tea and a buttered scone at the counter and not liking the smoky atmosphere of the canteen, she took her tray into the changing room, pulled a twice-read magazine from her locker and sat down to peruse the stills from the latest Hollywood movies.

    After eating her scone, she stood up to shake the crumbs from her pinafore. There were a couple of stubborn ones stuck to her bosom, so she rubbed at them to shake them loose.

    ‘Let me give you a hand with that,’ said a voice she recognised instantly.

    ‘I’ll manage, thanks, Mr Handley.’ Amy forced a laugh and brushed down her clothes again. Before she could turn to face him, his hands came around her sides and he squeezed hard on her breasts.

    ‘You can call me Edward when there’s no one around. Ooh, you do have a nice pair, Amy.’ His breath felt hot on the back of her neck.

    Amy struggled to move away but his grip was too strong. The next thing she knew, one of his hands had found its way up her dress.

    ‘GET OFF ME!’ Amy shouted and twisted in his loosened grip.

    ‘Come on, Amy, you know you like it.’ He pulled one leg back and kicked the door shut. His hand reached the bare area at the top of her stockings. She shoved her hips forwards before his groping fingers found their intended target.

    ‘Don’t struggle. You tried to defend your honour, so you can relax now. I won’t hurt you.’ His fingers pushed inside the elastic at the leg of her knickers.

    Amy bent over and pushed her backside into him as hard as she could. Her movement caused him to lurch forwards, and as he straightened, her sharp elbow caught him in the throat. He fell back clutching at it, struggling to breath.

    Amy left the cup and plate on the bench and hurried past the gasping factory owner’s son.

    ‘Never try anything like that again, or I’ll kill you,’ she spat.

    Amy tore open the door, marched back to the canteen and dragged out a seat next to Carole, one of her closest friends at work.

    Carole took one look at the furious Amy. It took her seconds to work out what had happened.

    ‘Wandering Handley?’

    Amy stuck out her chin, bit her bottom lip and nodded quickly. ‘He caught me in the locker room.’

    ‘The filthy bastard needs teaching a lesson,’ said Carole with a frown. ‘It’s not right, he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it just because he’s the boss’s son.’

    ‘He grabbed my chest, then shoved his hand up my skirt. I was lucky to get away this time,’ Amy wiped away an angry tear. ‘He’s picked on me once too often.’ She thought for a moment. ‘I met a police detective this morning. He seemed a nice man, I wonder what he’d make of Edward sodding Handley? Surely there’s something the law can do to stop him.’

    Carole patted her hand.

    ‘They won’t do anything, love. Don’t get your hopes up. Men, especially rich men, can do what they want with the likes of us.’

    Amy sniffed and turned her hand over to squeeze Carole’s.

    ‘I know. But it’s wrong. Why do they allow them to get away with it?’

    ‘Men looking after other men,’ said Carole, sadly. ‘It’s always been the same.’

    ‘I’d report him but it would probably end up with me being sacked,’ said Amy. ‘I don’t really fancy working at Goodman’s, they’re slave drivers.’

    ‘Do your best to forget about it and don’t get caught alone again,’ advised Carole. ‘He tends to pick on a different girl every week. He’s left me alone since I kicked his shins.’

    ‘I elbowed him in the throat,’ said Amy. ‘I left him in a heap, choking.’

    ‘Good!’ replied Carole. ‘It’s the least he deserves.’

    Ten minutes later, Amy nudged Carole and flicked her head in the direction of the canteen door.

    ‘Here he is, Wandering Handley himself,’ said Carole, loud enough for half the employees in the room to hear.

    If he heard the remark himself, Edward Handley didn’t seem to be bothered by it. He shot a look of anger at Amy, then made a beeline to the table where the trainee machinists, most of them fifteen or sixteen years old, were sitting. He pulled out a chair, put a foot on it, smoothed back his creamed, black hair, and leaned over the table to make a comment to a girl called Ronnie, who laughed aloud and looked around to see if her friends had got the joke. The other girls, already wary of Edward, got to their feet and made their way out of the canteen.

    ‘Come on, Ronnie,’ called a tall girl named, Jennifer. ‘We’re on cutting duties this afternoon. Frigid Freda will be after you.’

    Freda Brownlow was the factory’s skills instructor and was the owner of a sharp tongue and a fiery temper. She was nicknamed Frigid Freda because she was still single, at forty.

    Ronnie stood up as Edward whispered something into her ear. She giggled, then pushed a soft hand into his chest. ‘Oh, you,’ she chuckled.

    Edward turned around to see if the older girls on Amy’s table had noticed, to a woman they ignored his look and chatting between themselves, made their way out of the canteen.

    Amy checked the clock and realising she had time to visit the lavatory before resuming her shift, hurried to the toilet block and let herself into a cubicle. When she came out, Edward was standing with his back to her, an arm around Ronnie’s shoulder and he was again whispering something in her ear. Amy was tempted to cough, or make some sort of noise to distract him, but after her run-in with him in the locker room, she decided not to play with fire and walked quietly back to her machine.

    When Ronnie hurried across the shop floor a few minutes later, she was blushing, but had a huge grin on her face. Ignoring the caustic remarks aimed in her direction, she weaved a path through the machines to the cutting room where she knew Frigid Freda would be waiting.

     

    The next morning, Amy stomped, slipped, slithered and skated her way along the mostly frozen pavement and walked through the factory gates. The maintenance team, who usually spent their time repairing broken machines, or setting up new ones, had spread half a ton of salt over the frozen yard in an attempt to avoid the three broken arms that had occurred during the previous winter. At the staff entrance, Amy noticed a huddle of male figures, who were speaking to each employee as they entered the building. Among them were three uniformed policemen and Detective Sergeant Bodkin.

    Mr Pilling, the foreman, stood, like Lord Muck, snapping out instructions and directing the workers with a long arm.

    ‘Go straight to the locker room, then onto your machine. Do not linger, and keep away from the maintenance room.

    ‘Go straight to the secretary’s office. Keep away from the maintenance room.

    ‘Go directly to the cutting room, stay away from maintenance.’

    As Amy reached the big, double door, Bodkin took her arm and pulled her to one side.

    ‘So, Miss Marple, we meet again.’

    ‘What’s going on?’ asked Amy.

    ‘We’re keeping an open mind at the moment, but a serious incident has occurred inside the factory.’

    ‘A serious incident…Oh, my goodness… Something’s happened in the maintenance room, hasn’t it? Is that why we aren’t allowed in there?’ Amy put her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide.

    ‘I’m not at liberty to—’

    ‘Divulge that information,’ Amy interrupted the detective. ‘Come on, Bodkin, I’ll find out the moment I get into the changing room anyway. You may as well tell me now.’

    Bodkin took her arm again and led her away from the group of people at the door.

    ‘Fair enough, Miss… Amy. It’s the owner’s son. Edward Handley, he’s lying on the floor of the repair shop, and he’s stone dead.’

     

     

     

     

    Murder at the Mill. An Amy Rowlings Mystery

    Chapter One

    The shard of winter sun burst through the mass of black cloud like an archangel’s lance. The heavy snow that had fallen overnight, enveloped the thick layer that already covered the town, making the roads and verges indistinguishable from the pavements. January, 1939 had announced itself in spectacular style.

    Amy Rowlings shielded her eyes as she trudged through the thick, white blanket, stepping into footprints made by earlier travellers in an attempt to keep the snow out of her ankle-high winter boots. Another day spent at her machine at Grayson’s Garments factory wearing cold, soggy, woollen socks, was something she could well do without. Locals called the factory, The Mill, because it produced cotton fabric back in the 1800s, nowadays the workforce spent their days manufacturing women’s clothing; anything from underwear to winter coats. Ahead, Mildred, a fellow machinist, tripped on a hidden kerbstone and fell headlong into a drift that had covered the short privet hedge that lined the pavement. Before Amy could reach her, she picked herself up, and cursing, turned through the huge, wrought-iron, gates into the factory yard, where the snow had already turned into a slushy mess by the hundred pairs of feet that had tramped over it when the night and day shifts changed over.

    As Amy approached the gates, a car pulled up on the opposite side of the road, and a late-twenties, man, wearing a grey mackintosh, and a black fedora, opened the rear door and slid out in one movement.

    He swore as he realised, too late, that the snow would cover his patent leather, brogue shoes, and looking up to the heavens, trudged around the front of the car before nodding to a uniformed policeman standing at the ornate, snow-tipped, iron gates that guarded the forecourt of Wainwright and Sons Builders Merchant. The policeman wiped his runny nose on his sleeve, shuffled his booted feet, and blew into his hands.

    ‘Cold one today, Sir.’

    The man in the mac nodded and examined the police constable as he would an object left behind at the scene of a crime. The uniformed colleague stamped incessantly in the snow, his bright red cheeks and chapped lips told him he’d been there for some time.

    ‘Report, Davies, and make it snappy.’ He pulled his unbuttoned mackintosh tightly around himself and tied off the belt.

    ‘Reported robbery, Sir. Estimated at three o’clock this morning. No suspects. We don’t even know how they got in. Two men attacked the watchman, tied him up and took away the cash tin. We don’t know exactly how much was in it, but apparently, the company takes about a hundred pounds every day. Because they don’t close until after the banks, the money is kept on the premises. They bank it every morning.’

    The officer stamped his feet again and blew into his hands.

    ‘What do you mean, we don’t know how they got in?’

    ‘Well, Sir, there were no footprints.’ He turned to the gates and pointed. ‘The two pairs of prints, you can see, belong to myself and PC Watkins.’

    The detective rolled his eyes to the dark sky. ‘What about round the back?’

    ‘They can’t have got in that way, Sir. The building is tied to a twenty-foot wall that separates it from the railway. There are only two ways in and out of the premises, and they are both accessed from here.’ He pointed across the yard to a red-painted door at the front of the building. ‘That one, and the side door where the goods are delivered and collected. But, as you can see, they would have to get through the gates to reach either one, and, as I said, there are no footprints. Apart from ours, that is. Two sets going in and one set, mine, coming back out.’

    ‘Where is the night watchman now?’

    ‘He’s inside with PC Watkins, the lucky so and… Sorry, Sir. Watkins is St John’s Ambulance trained, so he’s provided a little bit of first aid. The watchman wasn’t badly injured. He’s got a black eye and split lip. He managed to free himself and ring the police at about six o’clock. Do you think he might be in on it, Sir?’

    The detective sighed.

    ‘I have no idea, Constable. I haven’t spoken to him yet.’

    ‘No, Sir, of course you haven’t. Sorry, Sir.’

    He stamped his feet again and shivered under his heavy navy overcoat.

    ‘Oh, for God’s sake man. Go and sit in the car. Tell the driver to come out to take your place for half an hour. His name is Hodges.’

    The policeman nodded gratefully and scurried around to the black Ford as Amy carefully crossed the road.

    ‘Has there been a burglary?’ she asked.

    ‘The detective swivelled on his heels to face her.

    ‘I’m not at liberty divulge that, Mrs…Miss.’

    Amy smiled.

    ‘Oh, I wasn’t trying to get any information that might help a criminal.’ She smiled again, showing off a perfect set of teeth. A whisp of blonde hair loosened itself from beneath her hat and wafted in front of her eyes. She brushed it away with the back of her gloved hand. ‘My name is Amy Rowlings and I work at Grayson’s over the road.’ She pulled up her sleeve and looked at her men’s style, leather-strapped wristwatch. ‘And, if I don’t hurry, they’ll dock me a quarter of an hour’s wages.’

    Amy turned away from the detective and began to make her way back, treading carefully in the footprints that she had made originally.

    ‘I didn’t think you were attempting to assist a criminal, Amy Rowlings,’ the policeman called after her. ‘I’m Detective Sergeant, Bodkin. I’m sorry I was a little abrupt just then.’

    Amy stopped and looked back over her shoulder. The man was in his late twenties and handsome in a rugged sort of way. He took off his hat and gave her a curt nod. His hair was thick, dark and was in need of a good cut. He had two days’ worth of stubble on his chin and the bags under his brown eyes, told her that he hadn’t been sleeping well, or for long enough. His coat had fallen open revealing a creased, white shirt with a badly starched collar, a pair of wide, striped braces, held up his baggy, black trousers that bunched around his ankles.

    Unmistakeably a single man, said Amy to herself.

    He smiled and his tired face lit up.

    ‘Don’t worry about being a few minute’s late… Miss, erm… Rowlings, was it? I’ll tell your boss you were helping me with my inquiries.’

    Amy laughed.

    ‘I’d get more than fifteen minutes docked if they thought you’d been questioning me, Detective. I’d be given my cards. They’re a suspicious lot over there. They think everyone is stealing from them.’ She thought for a moment. ‘A lot of them are, as it happens.’

    ‘No need for the formalities,’ he said, smiling again. ‘Everyone calls me Bodkin.’

    She raised a gloved hand and waggled her fingers at him.

    ‘Well, Mr… sorry… Bodkin, it’s been nice chatting but I really should be going in.’

    ‘Please don’t rush away. I’ll tell them you’re helping me with this case. I’ll say you’re a vital witness.’

    ‘Ooh, that will get them all talking in the canteen,’ replied Amy. She brushed the errant hairs away again. ‘As it happens, I can help you with the case.’

    ‘You can?’ Bodkin took a step towards her. He smiled again. ‘And what would you know about my crime scene, Miss Rowlings?’

    ‘They got in via a skylight.’ Amy pointed to the snow-covered roof where footprints were clearly visible across the gently sloping, snow-covered roof.

    Bodkin swivelled around in the snow, stared at the roof with his mouth wide open and shouted to the policeman sitting in the back of the car.

    ‘Davies!’ he yelled.

    ‘It’s not his fault,’ Amy said to the back of Bodkin’s head. ‘You can’t see the roof from that side of the road and it would still have been dark when he arrived.’

    Bodkin turned back towards her.

    ‘There are no street lights,’ she pointed out, quietly.

    Bodkin appraised the roof again. The trail of footprints led across the roof from the still-open skylight, to the adjacent building.

    ‘Looks like they got to the roof via the fire escape,’ said Amy, pointing out the obvious.

    Together, they walked the thirty yards to the entrance of Harrington’s timber yard. Any footprints made on the forecourt had been wiped out by the twenty or so staff that worked there.

    ‘Stay back, please, Miss. This is a crime scene; I have to protect the evidence.’

    Amy ignored him. ‘I’m not going to steal your precious footprints, am I?’

    She marched onto the forecourt and crouched down at the bottom step of the fire escape. Bodkin leaned over her to examine the steps himself. Two separate sets of prints were clearly visible, one much larger than the other.

    ‘Blimey, those are big feet,’ she said.

    Bodkin laughed. ‘That’s a hell of a clue. There can’t be too many men in this town with feet that size. They must be a size twelve.’

    ‘True,’ replied Amy. ‘But that is assuming the criminals live locally.’

    ‘All right, Miss Marple. It’s time you were at work. I’ll get Davies to guard the evidence.’

    The detective gave orders to Davies and the policeman muttered to himself as he trapsed through the snow to take up his position guarding the fire escape.

    Bodkin walked Amy over to the factory, they came to a halt at the staff entrance.

    ‘Could you tell your foreman I’d like a word please, Miss Rowlings? I’ll explain the situation to him.’

    ‘Call me Amy,’ she replied with a quick smile. ‘And, it won’t make any difference, they’ll still stop me the quarter hour.’

     

     

    Sad Lisa. Chapter Three

    Sad Lisa

    Chapter Three

    Adam, once one of the beaten, church poor, had no serious religious beliefs, and had only attended church (for a friend’s wedding), once since he had left school, so he spent the rest of the morning reading a copy of Thomas Hardy’s, The Mayor of Casterbridge, that he had found, damp, but still readable, on a seat in Hyde Park, earlier in the summer.

    At around 1.00 PM he heard the loud chatter of children as the Parsons family returned from church. He got to his feet and hurried across the room as he heard someone rap on his door. He opened it to find Mr Parsons standing in the hall.

    ‘Mr Sears, I feel I have to apologise for the behaviour of my children earlier today. They have been instructed not to disturb you by running up and down the hallway in future.’

    ‘They were playing,’ Adam said with a smile. ‘I wasn’t disturbed in the slightest, quite the opposite in fact. I always find something joyous in the sound of children’s laughter.’

    Mr Parsons nodded, and smiled back.

    ‘I’m so glad you see it that way, Mr Sears. They are confined upstairs rather too much and they do tend to expend all that built up energy every chance they are given. They visit the park twice a week but I fear that is not enough to let off the steam that builds up.’

    ‘They are welcome to play in the corridor at any time, Mr Parsons,’ replied Adam. ‘Rest assured, I will never be annoyed by their presence.’

    Mr Parsons nodded again. ‘Oh, by the way, if you spot a cat around the area, could you let us know. Our pet, Mr Dickens, appears to have disappeared again. It’s a regular occurrence, so I’m not particularly concerned, but the children do worry about him. He’s not supposed to go into the street but he manages to slip out sometimes, usually when the children aren’t as observant as they promised they would be when we allowed them to take the creature in. He’s a big furry ball of a thing. Mostly ginger with a white flash on his chest.’

    ‘I’ll keep my eye out for him,’ Adam said, looking to the staircase where Veronica and Catherine waited with hopeful faces.

    Mr Parsons turned away.

    ‘Come along, girls. Mr Sears will let us know if he spots the escapee.’ He patted both girls on the back. ‘He’ll turn up, he always does.’

    Adam closed the door and returned to his book.

    While visiting the bathroom during the afternoon, Adam thought he heard a baby crying. He turned off the tap, waited for the drain to empty, then cocked his head to listen. The sound came again, faint, but clearer. Adam paced the bathroom pushing his ear against the marble tiles, here and there. He wondered what was on the other side of his bathroom wall. He paced out the distance from the back wall of the bathroom, past a short open space to the kitchen, then through the sitting room until he got to the doorway of the apartment. He opened the door, stepped into the passage and paced out the same number of steps, towards the back wall.

    ‘Ten paces short,’ he said, as he reached the painted brickwork at the end of the hall. Adam looked to the right and noticed a door, set into the panelling below the staircase. The glossy door was not locked and he opened it and stepped into the dark recess beneath the stairs. Adam squinted into the gloom and saw another door, this one much more substantial. He stepped forward and turned the handle but the door was locked. Adam retraced his steps and returned to his sitting room where he picked up the bunch of keys from the mantel, that his landlady had given him. He had taken the front door keys from the bunch so that he wouldn’t have to carry the unwieldy ring of keys in his pocket.

    Adam carried the keys back to the door in the stairwell, selected one of the larger keys and inserted it into the lock. Luck was with him; he turned the key and heard the lock click open. Adam twisted the handle and pushed open the door. Daylight filled the stairwell and Adam blinked a few times as his eyes became accustomed to the light. After a few seconds acclimatisation, he stepped out through the doorway.

    Outside, he found himself in a short, high walled garden area. To his left was what he assumed was the extended wall of his bathroom. In front was a paved area with an ash-pit dug into the left side. Facing him, cut into the high wall, was a roughly-painted, wooden gate that showed at least three layers of faded, flaking, paint that has been applied over the years. Along the wall, at the left-hand side of the gate were three, dented, metal dustbins. To his right was an iron built, timber-treaded stairway that led up to the back door of the apartment above. On the third step sat a large ginger cat. It stared at him through narrow, green eyes, flattened back its ears, and hissed.

    ‘Mr Dickens, I presume,’ said Adam with a laugh. He held out his hand in what he hoped was a cat-friendly gesture. Mr Dickens ignored the offer of a petting, leapt down from the step and ran into the house. Adam looked around his surroundings again, then followed the cat, locking the heavy door behind him.

    Temporarily blinded by the darkness, Adam felt his way along the right-hand wall until he found his way back to the stairwell door. He stepped into the bright hallway, decided to leave the door ajar in case the cat was hiding in the dark, and walked back to his sitting room. As he entered the room, he saw the ginger cat watching him carefully from the dining table.

    ‘There you are,’ said Adam, aloud. He walked slowly around the table so as not to alarm the animal, stepped into the kitchen and returned with a small piece of sliced ham, which he pulled apart and laid on the tablecloth. Mr Dickens looked at the ham, then at Adam, and remained where he was. Adam backed away and sank into an armchair. He pointed towards the tiny pieces of ham. ‘Eat,’ he said.

    The cat sniffed the air, then padded across the tablecloth and began to tuck into the unexpected treat. Encouraged, Adam got to his feet, walked slowly to the table, and made what he hoped was soothing noises. Mr Dickens turned his head towards him, then returned to the food.

    Adam decided not to risk a clawing by attempting to pet the cat and instead took a step back. The cat ate another sliver of ham, then became stiff, its ears flattened against its head, the hair on its back stood on end. It stared at the open bathroom door, hissed twice then began to growl.

    Puzzled, Adam looked to where the cat was staring.

    ‘It’s alright, puss, there’s nothing there.’

    The cat obviously thought otherwise, and still growling, began to back away, never taking its eyes off the bathroom. When it reached the edge of the table, it turned and leapt in one movement. With a swish of its tail it hurtled out of the still open door.

    Adam took one last look at the bathroom, shook his head, then turned and walked to the hallway. On the stairs was Catherine, she cradled a still-wary Mr Dickens in her arms.

    ‘Did you have him all the time?’ she asked accusingly.

    ‘Of course not,’ replied Adam, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. ‘I found him out on the back stair, near the ash pit. He must have got into the yard when the dustmen came and couldn’t get out again.

    Veronica seemed appeased.

    ‘Well, in that case, thank you for finding him. We were getting worried.’ She ran her fingers through the thick fur on the side of the cat’s head. ‘You’re a very silly cat, going into the yard. There’s nothing there for you, not even a mouse.’ She grunted as she got to her feet lifting the heavy cat. ‘Let’s get you some dinner, you must be starving.’

    ‘I gave him a little bit of ham,’ said Adam. ‘Not much though, so he should still want his dinner.’

    Veronica began to climb the stair. ‘Thank you for rescuing him,’ she said, without looking back.

    Adam returned to his flat, picked up the two, tiny pieces of ham that Mr Dickens hadn’t eaten and took them into the bathroom where he dropped the meat into the lavatory and pulled the chain, flushing it into the drains.

    Adam put the kettle on the kitchen stove and made tea, adding milk from the pan he had boiled earlier that day. He carried the tea tray to the big table, placed it in the centre and sat down facing the bathroom, wondering what the cat had seen to make it act in such a strange manner.

    After two cups of tea and a wasted half hour, Adam decided that it was impossible to understand cat behaviour, and laughing to himself, pulled on his jacket, went out into the quiet street, and made his way to the Dog and Duck for dinner.

    The three-course meal cost nine pence, twice as much as he used to pay at the Furling public house in Paddington. The meal consisted of a thin, beef soup, mutton, potatoes, cabbage and gravy, followed by a sweet, lemon pudding. At the Boar restaurant, just up the road, the cost for a similar meal would be a shilling. Adam decided that a shilling was too much to pay for his evening meal on a regular basis, and that he would eat at the Dog and Duck four nights a week, have restaurant food on Saturdays, before visiting the music hall, and dine at home on the other two nights.

    Adam remained in the bar of the pub, drinking a decent ale, until eight o’clock, then made his way back home, breathing in the still clean, summer evening air. At midnight, the destructor, a huge furnace built to burn household waste, would start up at the refuse disposal yard and heavy industry boilers and ovens would be relit, ready for the new working week.

    It was a relatively short walk home. When he arrived, Adam decided to sit on the top step of the stairs outside his apartment building to watch the world go by. With a full stomach and two pints of heavy beer in his stomach, he was as happy as he had ever been.

     

     

     

     

    Sad Lisa. Chapter 2

    Sad Lisa

    Chapter Two

    Adam slept well on the first night in his new home. He woke early on Sunday morning and took a brisk walk through the almost empty streets. In his former lodgings, the streets would have been almost as busy as a weekday, with many children of the less well-heeled spending the early morning of the Sabbath scouring the gutters and pavements for tiny pieces of coal that has been missed by the Saturday evening search patrols. Some scoured the back yards of food shops for half-rotten potatoes, a few, bad smelling leaves of cabbage or a crust of stale bread.

    Later, the streets he now walked would be littered with children heading off to Sunday School before meeting up with parents at the church for their regular Sunday morning service. All of the children in Adam’s new, more affluent area, walked to church in their Sunday best clothes to be given bible tuition and made to repeat the Lord’s Prayer and the ten commandments before listening to a guest speaker. Sometimes it would be a vicar from a neighbouring parish, sometimes a fiery, American preacher, and sometimes, more interestingly, a missionary, fresh back from Africa with tales of man-eating lions and crocodiles the length of an omnibus.

    In Paddington, Adam’s previous district, only the children of the religious poor attended Sunday School. The church official in charge of the poorest of the poor handled things in a very different manner. Unruly children were dragged unceremoniously to the front of the room and beaten with either a thick leather strap or, if the offence was considered blasphemous, a three-foot cane. Threats of hell and damnation would follow the children out of the hall and into the streets where the cursing and fighting would begin anew.

    Adam counted three public houses and two, small but well looked-after, restaurants as he surveyed his new neighbourhood for the first time. The chalked-up blackboards outside each establishment showed prices for two or three course evening meals. Even the pubs seemed to have a reasonable menu. They were all twice the price of a meal in the eateries less then half a mile along the road, but he knew he would be enjoying a far superior meal and would have less chance of a seriously upset stomach during the night. Following the recent licencing restrictions, the pubs in this district at least were not allowed to open until 12.00 PM while all of the shops were closed and shuttered, as people adhered to the strict, Lord’s Day rules.

    Adam switched from the cobbled streets to the pavement as the private hire and privately owned carriages came onto the roads and walked back to his new apartment at a brisk pace, lifting his hat or nodding to the few fellow citizens who were taking the chance to exercise in the almost deserted streets and the smoke-free air.

    Adam had precured a small loaf, some butter, a lump of cheese and an onion on the previous afternoon and when he returned home, he made a pot of tea and sat down to enjoy the first meal in his new abode. Outside, in the hall, he could hear the sound of children’s laughter. He opened the door and looked out to see two girls aged between nine and eleven, wearing smock dresses and lace-up boots, along with a red-faced, wheezy boy, some years younger, sporting a checked knickerbocker suit, acting out a game of tag up and down the long corridor. They stopped dead as he appeared in the doorframe. The older of the girls looked particularly shocked.

    ‘Shut the door, mister,’ she begged, and began to back her way along the polished wood panelling that lined the bottom of the staircase. She held out her hand to the other girl. ‘Veronica, quickly now, come here.’

    Never taking her eyes from Adam, the younger girl edged towards, who he assumed was her sister. She grabbed at her wrist and together they ran up the first three steps to the turn of the stair.

    ‘Don’t be afraid, children.’ Adam held out both hands. ‘I’m not going to hurt you.’ He turned to the boy who stood, mouth agape, only three feet away from him. ‘You’re not afraid of me, are you?’ He smiled and crouched down so he was at more or less the same height as the boy.

    ‘Stanley! Get yourself up here… NOW!’ the older girl commanded.

    Stanley looked from Adam to the girl then back again, but remained glued to the spot.

    ‘Stanley?’ Adam spoke softly. He held out his hand towards the child. The movement seemed to wake Stanley from his stupor, and he spun around on one foot and hurled himself up the steps.

    Adam straightened, and held out his palms again. ‘I’m not going to hurt you. Please, don’t be afraid.’

    ‘It’s not you we’re scared of,’ said the younger of the girls. ‘It’s what’s insi—’

    ‘Shh, Veronica,’ the older girl put her finger to her lips, ‘you’ll entice her out, then we’ll all be for it.’

    Adam looked puzzled. He half turned and pushed the heavy door, open wide.

    ‘There’s no one here but me. See for yourselves.’

    The girls looked at each other, the older of the two stretched her neck in an attempt to see past him. Adam stepped into the hallway and stood to the side so the girls had a clear view into his sitting room.

    ‘See? No one. I live here alone.’

    ‘Catherine, Veronica. Come along now, let me brush your hair, it’s almost time for Sunday School. Is Stanley with you?’

    A tall, slim woman in a grey pleated skirt and a light pink, frilled-collared blouse, descended the stairs. Spotting Adam, she paused, then held out a slender hand towards the children. ‘Come now, we don’t want to be late.’

    She began to turn away but stopped as Adam spoke.

    ‘I’m Adam Sears,’ he said quickly. ‘I appear to have frightened your children. I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry.’

    The woman smiled thinly.

    ‘I’m Felicity Parsons,’ she replied. Her face became softer. She ushered the children upstairs then walked elegantly down the stairs to the hallway. She held out a gloved hand. Adam took it as gently as he could.

    ‘I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance,’ Adam said. ‘I’m new to the district, I don’t know anyone around here. I’m sorry we seem to have got off on the wrong foot.’

    ‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ Mrs Parsons replied, stretching to look over Adam’s shoulder and into the sitting room. ‘I hope you last a little bit longer than the previous tenant… previous three tenants, that is. No one seems to stay here long. It seems that just as we get to be on speaking terms, they disappear on us.’

    ‘I met Mr Parsons last night, he told me the same thing,’ said Adam. He looked back into the apartment, a puzzled look on his face. ‘It’s a lovely place, I really can’t understand what’s wrong with it for the life of me.’

    Mrs Parsons patted his arm and walked quickly back to the staircase.

    ‘Let us hope you never do, Mr Sears,’ she said.