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Sunday 30 May 2021

Monday Mysteries - Could this have been the first murder?

Mysteries, thrillers, crime novels, who-dun-its,
cosy mysteries
 ... real mysteries, historical mysteries...
it's all a mystery to me!

Neanderthal bones - a murder victim? by Helen Hollick

Some while ago, a story appeared in several media outlets about a 430,000-year-old discovery of a murder case. 

A fossilised skull of a young person (no idea male or female, or specifically what age 'young' meant) was found by archaeologists in the Spanish caves of Sima de los Huesos -  Pit of the Bones - situated in the Atapuerca mountains. Bones from about thirty different individuals were at the bottom of a deep shaft. The cave is assumed to be a funerary site for the now extinct Neanderthal race of humanoids.

 The skull had two fractures apparently inflicted by the same weapon. The media firmly announced that us "Homo sapiens, cannot claim a monopoly on murder."

The conclusion by modern forensics was that the wounds were  two penetrating fractures on the left side of the forehead just above the eye, therefore inflicted at close range from the front, and because of the similarities of the size and shape of these wounds (one inch/2 cm wide), this person was killed by deliberate violence from two successive blows by the same object, possibly something like a wooden spear, or stone spear-tip or a stone axe.

The first wound, penetrating the brain, is likely to have been lethal, if not instantaneous, the second would have sealed the victim's fate. Two wounds, of course indicate intention, not an accidental fall. 

I did have a smile at a couple of the reports which included statements like: "It is unlikely that a motive or the perpetrator will ever be discovered."

What after 430,000 years? I defy Poirot, Miss Marple, Morse, Lewis, Foyle, DI Barnaby, Colombo, Sherlock Holmes and every amateur sleuth in every Murder Mystery ever written - even working together as a team - to solve this case! (Although it would make a super novel!)

My immediate thought when reading about all this was the opening scene of 2001 A Space Odyssey

Now, I don't find this 'murder' case to be a mystery, as such. It is a conclusion. And these sort of conclusion really irritate me. Maybe this was a ritual killing. Maybe it was murder, maybe it was punishment, maybe the victim was defending him/herself against attack?

There's too many maybes to claim this was murder.

So that's the mystery - why, why, why do scientists, archaeologists - and the media - always jump to a conclusion and report something as 'fact'?

Maybe they should all turn to fiction writers for explanations as we have far greater 'what if?' imaginations!

Helen's latest release is a cosy mystery set in 1970s north London 

A Mirror Murde

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram,  a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered...

Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into  murder?


“A delightful read about an unexpected murder in North East London. Told from the viewpoint of a young library assistant, the author draws on her own experience to weave an intriguing tale” Richard Ashen (South Chingford Community Library)

“Lots of nostalgic, well-researched, detail about life in the 1970s, which readers of a certain age will lap up; plus some wonderful, and occasionally hilarious, ‘behind the counter’ scenes of working in a public library, which any previous or present-day library assistant will recognise!” Reader Review

“An enjoyable novella with a twist in who done it. I spent the entire read trying to decide what was a clue and what wasn’t ... Kept me thinking the entire time. I call that a success.” Reader Review

The first in a new series of quick-read, cosy mysteries set in the 1970s.

Will romance blossom between library assistant Jan Christopher and DC Laurie Walker – or will a brutal murder intervene?

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Friday 28 May 2021

SATURDAY SILLIES: TEARS OF... a poem by Loretta Livingstone

Silly things to  (hopefully) make you laugh,
well at least chuckle ...
smile slightly?

What you see is 

what you get 

here on Saturdays... 

Today... nothing silly at all about Loretta's wonderful poems - but this one should make you smile!

Tears of…
Loretta Livingstone

As I stand there, pain in my heart,
a single drop of rain,
just one drop,
lands, soft as a tear,
upon my upturned face.

The sky is blue
and clear.
No clouds,
no rain,
but just this lonely drop
sliding down my cheek.

I raise a finger to touch it,
knowing it will be
bright as a diamond.
I feel it,
moist on my finger,
and lift it to my eyes.

         Dratted pigeon.

© Loretta Livingstone

Connect with Loretta

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come back next Saturday for another dreadful joke 

or silly cartoon (or maybe another nice poem!)

 to chuckle over!

Or why not pop by on Monday
for my mystery slot?

Thursday 27 May 2021

Friday Furries: Queen Bee with Jean Gill

My cat, Mab         
Let's talk about ...
cats, dogs, horses, bunnies,
or  anything with fur!
(or feathers, not sure about scales though)

Do bees count as something furry? Yeah, why not ... they look furry, even if they are not exactly cuddly furry!

A Meditation of Bee

Today I walked past the field where I learned bee-keeping six years ago and I wished the bees well. They replied with the buzz of happy foragers. 

Of course, they’re not the same bees that I knew then. Worker bees only live six weeks in the spring and summer, and the Queen lives a maximum of six years. But the hives are still there, painted in the bright colours that bees like. 

Bees do not like black. The only black is the paint the Beemaster used for their names: Rosemary, Thyme and other herbs or flowers, in French, because I live in Provence and the Beemaster is a local. My beehives were named by my husband AKA Assistant Beekeeper: Endeavour, Resolution and Diligence

You never forget the first time you go in with the bees.’ So the Beemaster told me. I now know that bees have strong opinions on many things. They do not like wool or dogs. They hate thunderstorms, rain or wind.

That first time, I knew nothing. Most of my fellow-students came from beekeeping families but I didn’t even know that drones (male bees) can’t sting. The macho contingent among my fellow-beekeepers showed off bare-handed and bare-headed while I wore my new protective jacket and gloves and wondered whether I would die if stung a lot.

I thought ‘probably not’ as I’ve never had an allergic reaction but the idea of ‘a lot’ worried me. So did the bees themselves. Bees also dislike fear. It winds them up. I did not find this a reassuring thought, especially as the Mistral had started up. The Beemaster stuck to his plan and demonstrated a hive visit, lifting each frame, inspecting it for brood (bee eggs), pollen and honey.

My guts were churning as I waited for my turn, unwilling to say no but worried I’d screw up. I said yes. Probably so I didn’t have to ‘look forward to it’ for another fortnight. The initiation rite of one hive visit involves levering a sticky frame up from the big brood box and stating what you can see, turning it to look at both sides. While focusing through thousands of bees, who on this occasion were thoroughly wound up by the Mistral. Then repeating this for ten frames. This experience is nothing like looking at photos.

Advice I wish I'd been given before going in with the bees? Wipe your nose - it will run, the minute you're trapped in a bee jacket and mask. Tie your hair back. Your hair gets in your eyes, your glasses slip down your nose and prodding at your face through the mesh is likely to draw blood or squash a bee against your skin. The funniest thing I've seen is someone answering a mobile phone through a bee outfit.

One number stuck in my mind from the start. In a healthy beehive, there are typically fifty thousand bees. And it felt that way, lifting frames and looking into their home. After the initial buzz of outrage at the invasion, the bees calmed. I think the smoker helped but it’s not as effective on a windy day. Beekeepers have been using smoke since antiquity and the current scientific theory as to why it calms bees is that it masks the scent they release as a danger alarm. I’m not totally convinced by that as the hive mind is way too intelligent to miss the fact that there is smoke everywhere – a clear and present danger!

A frame can be surprisingly heavy and inspecting the comb while bees zip around, or crawl on frames, is fascinating. The more you know about bees, the more you see and the excitement if you spot the queen is equal to the fear of accidentally killing her. 

The Beemaster was an expert in bees and rough with humans. His teaching style was to shout at you for doing something wrong and French word order made things worse, even when I understood what was said. 
The ‘pas’ meaning ‘DON’T! always came after the instruction. 

‘Touche… PAS!’ is confusing compared with ‘DON’T touch!’

I was clumsy and sliding a frame carefully back into a tight place, without squidging bees, is an acquired skill. You have to leave out two or three frames and use the space to lift, look and move the others, then slot back the last frames – carefully.

I was stung once, through my glove - welcome to beekeeping – but I was too interested to be scared. I completed my one hive and my nerves settled enough for me to learn. If I focused on the activities round me rather than individual bees flying by my face, I could ignore the angry dive-bombing and tapping at my mask. 

Until my instinct told me that a bee was inside my mask, not outside . 'Paranoia,' I thought. 'Fact,' my more sensible perception told me. 
'Yikes,' I thought, as I focused on said bee hitching a ride on the inside of my face mask. I walked a long long way from the angry hives and luckily my pet bee was calmer than I felt and flew off when I took off the jacket and released her. Then I did a real 'Yikes' dance. And another one when I was given the advice on not opening your mouth when a bee can go into it. So that's what could have happened, I tried not to think.

Another piece of advice that came too late for one of my classmates was to check very carefully for unwanted company when you remove your protective clothing. It's a bit like climbers falling off a mountain on the way down; beekeepers get stung when they've finished working. Your guard is down, you're a long way from the hives and you don't notice the one bee sitting on your shoulder/head/glove. They're attracted by the lovely smells you've acquired while raiding their hive and they travel with you a long way. When the Beemaster turned up at my house in his battered 2CV, I noted the one obligatory bee in the back of his car - like taking your dog out with you.

I came off lightly from that first session compared with the lively nine-year old who'd insisted on accompanying his father, didn't sit far enough away from the action and was stung several times on his bare head. Health and safety is different in Provence. Sheltering in a car after that, the little boy was sharp-eyed at spotting bees still clinging to clothes, but as he screamed 'Kill it!' every time he saw one, I feel that the lesson was counter-productive for his future as a conservationist.

That was the inauspicious start to my beekeeping. Since then I’ve experienced some black rages (the bees’ – I’m not owning up to mine) but usually my bees are in sunshine mood, when you can open a hive and feel how interconnected everything in the natural world is, including humans. And we now have fifty jars of honey from our own hives stored in the cellar. It is unquestionably the best honey in the world.

When I started pondering the gap between humans and ‘nature’ and wondering ‘What if you could go into a hive as a bee?’ I knew I would, in my fantasy novel Queen of the Warrior Bees which is free until 31st May.

About Jean:
Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750, a beehive named Endeavour, and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Since her first book of poetry was published in 1988, Jean has written twenty-three books in various genres. She is best known for her recent Historical Fiction and fantasy novels but her work also includes a popular dog book and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Contact Information for Jean Gill

Jean Gill’s awards and credits include:
2020 Royal Dragonfly Award (2nd place)
2020 and 2018 Finalist in the Kindle Book Awards
2019 Quarter-finalist in The Booklife Prize
Global Ebooks Award for Best Historical Fiction
IPPY Silver Award
Readers’ Favorites Bronze Award
Historical Novel Society’s Editor’s Choice
Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2nd Prize
Double 1st Prize winner in London Inc International Competition (Children’s Story and Journalism categories)
Finalist in the Cinnamon Press Novella Award
Finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards
Finalist in the Chaucer Award

My Book
Queen of the Warrior Bees FREE until 31st May

Award-winning epic fantasy

One misfit girl and 50,000 bees against the might of the Citadel.

When Mielitta flees to the Forbidden Forest, she is transformed into a bee-shifter. Can she fulfil her destiny or will the Mages crush every cell of her second nature?
Block Nature out and she'll force a way in.

‘Beautiful yet tense… continually surprising and exciting.’ The Booklife Prize

‘Fabulous world-building and spellbinding intrigue,’ Karen Inglis

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Thursday Thoughts: Consulting Hospital Consultants

a post about me thinking about things
... or more probably
just some random ramblings...

I've spent rather a few hours at the hospital here in North Devon these past few weeks. I must say, from the start, that our hospital here in North Devon is a VAST improvement on the old Victorian building at Whipps Cross, back in London where we used to live. Go there for an appointment and you would expect to be there for half a lifetime. When my mother was taken poorly back in 2009 we had to wait seven HOURS before she was even seen for an initial assessment. 

Waiting times here are (in my experience so far) not usually much longer than an hour. However, I recently 'had words' with one of the consultants. 

My hands are still not working properly after the serious fall I had back at the end of March. (I fell flat - like a pin being bowled over, putting out my hands to save myself...) I was leading a horse in at the time, and he managed to stomp on my thigh (though this could have been MUCH worse!)

Here's a pic...

Although the right thumb still aches a bit, the left is out of its cast but very stiff, very sore and very aching. I suspect I’ve damaged the tendons, but I’ll find out more when I go back (again!) to the hospital in mid-June.

I did have ‘words’ with the last consultant I saw, though, because the person before him hadn’t listened to what I had said. (And neither did this chap - until I told him outright to be quiet and listen to me!) 

The very first consultant was marvellous. He showed me the x-ray and the MRI scan of my left hand, explaining everything. We also had a chat about horses treading on people (he was most impressed by that horse-foot-shaped bruise!.) Second person a couple of weeks later didn’t listen at all to my concerns about both hands. In fact in the follow-up letter he sent, he put that I’d had a fall two weeks back. (Actually, by then it was a good SIX weeks.) He’d put that it was the tendon, Carpel Tunnel, in my right hand, but nothing whatsoever about the base of my thumb being the area of pain. Nor did he register that I’d been stomped on by a rather large horse. Nor did he suggest that perhaps we ought to have an x-ray. 

He gave me a brace to support my wrist. Not much use when it’s the thumb that’s damaged... although he did suggest putting my left hand in plaster, which helped things a lot.

So, come Chap Number Three I was somewhat p**d off when he read out from his notes all the wrong information. 

‘Two weeks ago?’- ‘No, two MONTHS now.
‘ You had the cast off last time?’ – ‘No (held up hand) I had it put ON.’ 

But I had to repeat myself as he obviously wasn’t listening. 
I was trying to tell him that initially I thought the right hand was OK, just bruised, but it was still painful and I was worried there could be a fracture.

When he talked over me and said words to the effect of ‘I haven’t got all day!” I retorted, “well if you’d stop patronising me, stop saying what you want to say and listen to what I’M trying to tell you, we could get on and be done a lot quicker, couldn't we!” 

I’ve a feeling it rather shocked him that a patient had dared to talk back to him! Anyway, I finally got an x-ray of my right hand ... apparently not broken. Fair enough, I can stop worrying.

Left hand however is still fragile. He wanted the cast off - but nothing else was done, so I'm now waiting for Round FOUR in a couple of week's time... 

What irritates, neither of these second two chap were prepared to listen to me. Neither of them asked 'so what's the problem?' Nor did they introduce themselves. Which I find is SO rude!

I’ve managed to keep working. Jan Christopher #2 (A Mystery of Murder) is not far off being finished, and good news for Jesamiah Acorne fans: I am re-publishing When The Mermaid Sings (expected release date late June) 

Not only will it be in e-book AND paperback format, it has a super new cover AND (hold your excitement dear reader...) some new, additional scenes!

When I originally wrote it for Silverwood Books’ S-Books novella project I was limited to 40,000 words maximum. Now I’m publishing it myself I’ve added about another 10k, so we have several more scenes about Tiola – seeing her and her family when she was a child.

Keep an eye on the front page of my website for the latest information!

When The Mermaid Sings
NEW updated and extended edition
coming SOON!

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Wednesday Wanderings: At Home Within the Tower of London by Elizabeth St.John

visiting around and about,
wandering here and there...

“All the time she dwelt in the Tower, if any were sick she made (the prisoners) broths and restoratives with her own hands, visited and took care of them, and provided them all necessaries; if any were afflicted she comforted them, so that they felt not the inconvenience of a prison who were in that place.”
Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson
Lucy Hutchinson, 1620-1681
(Recounting the life of her mother, Lucy St.John)
The View of Tower Green from Lucy’s Parlour

Gazing from the parlour window of the Queen’s House within the walls of the Tower of London, I could see the chapel of St. Peter, the iconic White Tower…and the site of the executioner’s block. I was looking out at a view that my ancestress, Lucy St.John, had seen daily four hundred years ago.

Lucy lived in the Tower from 1617 to 1630; not as a prisoner, but as the Keeper’s wife. I stumbled upon the above-quoted biographical fragment from Lucy Hutchinson’s notebook in Nottingham Castle, and I knew I must find out more about her mother. The Memoirs give tantalizing glimpses of Lucy St.John’s life, and further research on the position of Lieutenant of the Tower, Lucy’s husband, Sir Allen Apsley, revealed much more. A story was taking shape.
The Lieutenant’s Lodgings
 (The Queen’s House)
Tower of London

When I decided that Lucy would be the subject of my novel, The Lady of the Tower, I contacted Her Majesty’s Royal Palaces (HRP) and asked if I could possibly visit some of the private locations within the Tower. The Queen’s House is the family home of the Governor, just as it was for Lucy when she moved there in 1617. They readily gave their permission and kindly offered a Yeoman Warder as a guide.

I was excited to arrive early one winter’s morning, before the crowds, and walk along the old quay by Traitor’s Gate. Peeking over the massive stone walls were the gabled roofs of Lucy’s home – a curious juxtaposition of domesticity and fortress. I used that view and sensation to set the opening scene of my novel, for I could only imagine Lucy’s trepidation upon entering the Tower, and seeing her future home.

The Queen’s House from the River Thames,
with the White Tower in the background.

As I met my Beefeater, we quickly found a common love of history, and together we entered the Queen’s House. What I didn’t anticipate was the visceral reaction of walking through Lucy’s home, standing in her kitchen, looking through her parlour window – just as she had done. The emotional response to treading in her footsteps inspired so much of my work within The Lady of the Tower, and so many small details found their way into my writing.

The house was used for administrative offices too, and as I explored the warren of rooms I came across a small corridor. Just a few feet from Lucy’s front hall, great blocks of stone took over from the domesticity of plaster, and in another pace or two, I was standing within the twelfth century Bell Tower. The ambiance was mournful, and it was not at all difficult to think of Thomas More or the young Princess Elizabeth imprisoned in this bleak chamber. Their view from the narrow slit windows was the same as Lucy’s– the execution block.

The interior of the Bell Tower

Traces of Lucy’s life continued as I walked outside. She was an herbalist and her medicinals no doubt eased the lives of many of the prisoners she nursed. In another part of the memoirs, her daughter refers to Lucy’s generosity with her hen-house – she allowed Sir Walter Raleigh to make free use of it to conduct his alchemy experiments when he was under her care and lodging in the Bloody Tower. Raleigh was also a great gardener and Lucy paid for his medicinal research so that she might learn from him. The Victorians built over Lucy’s garden, but it is still easy to see the old levels of where her gardens were, and how she would access them from her home.

A Yeoman Warder in the recently re-created
vignette of Lucy’s garden

In Lucy’s time, the Liberty of the Tower housed over a thousand families, all of which came under her husband’s jurisdiction. It really was its own small city, for it lay outside of the laws of the City of London (which caused some friction on many occasions). I like to think of Lucy ministering to the citizens of the Tower as well as the prisoners, walking not just only in the areas where her aristocratic prisoners were lodged, but among the houses and gardens of the residents who all had a home within the Tower of London.

about Elizabeth:
Elizabeth St.John spends her time between England, California, and the past. She has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, to Castle Fonmon and The Tower of London to inspire her writing. Although her ancestors sold a few mansions and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost…but that’s a different story.

The Lady of the Tower, Elizabeth’s debut best-selling novel, is a Discovered Diamond and is on sale online and at bookstores. Including the one within The Tower of London.

Universal Buy Links:

Social Media:
Twitter: @ElizStJohn

Monday 24 May 2021

TUESDAY TALK - ONE DAY IN LONDON ... with C.C. Humphreys


where guests can have their say about...
anything they want!

July 30th 2018. It’s the hottest Summer in fifty years and Joseph Severin, a respectable North London businessman, has taken on a lucrative side job. He’s doing the books, old school, (because these days the only trail you can’t trace is a paper one) for a rogue MI5 outfit, the Shadows, headed by clever, psychopathic Sebastien. When the game is rumbled, he sends their hitman, Mr Phipps, to kill Severin and get those books back.

For a simple man, Severin has a complicated life. He’s developed a sudden and wild passion for Lottie – aka ‘chaos on two legs’. Who is in love with Patrick, the next hot young black actor. Who is obsessed by Sonya, a gorgeous Russian escort. Who has one night to make the final money she needs for her daughter’s cancer operation. With MI6 onto them, and the books missing, the Shadows panic. And a day that begins with a hit in Finchley ends in violence and betrayal on the steamy night streets of Portobello.

ONE LONDON DAY is a daisy chain tale of characters and connections, a contemporary London Noir. Like that genre’s 40’s origins, this story has its hood, its moll, its femme fatale, its fancy boy. Everyone is both protagonist and antagonist. 

No one gets out unharmed – and some don’t get out at all.

Dear Helen,

Damn! My yearly chance to perhaps visit Blighty ruined for two years by… well, we don’t need to mention it. I try not to, since I had it. 

Not recommended.

Much better now – and excited to share something with you.

I have a new novel out. ONE LONDON DAY is quite different from any of my others. It’s set today (well, 2018) in my city, even in my area of North London, and is a modern noir. A hitman, a hit, a victim, the consequences. Spies, molls and murderers - and ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. 

It is also loosely based on something a friend of ours, who must remain nameless, witnessed.

Tally Ho Corner - Finchley

It was rejected in glowing terms by the top crime editors in London (‘I love this! er, what is it?"). It’s not conventional – but I think its fun.

So, this request. To build momentum with the algorithms, I need to sell several copies every day for a few days. So could you click on any of the links below and buy a copy in any form you choose? On Kindle, on paper or on audiobook read by that other Humphreys, Chris. For that, you don’t even need Audible. You can download direct from the link to your phone or computer. (If you follow that link you can even hear a sample).

Of course if you are feeling especially generous you could forward the links to five friends - kinda like those chain letters that used to so annoy us in the 70’s. Except with this one, at least you get some entertainment.

some reviews:

"An exciting, mesmerizing, and enticing adult noir thriller like no other, author C.C. Humphreys’s “One London Day” is a must-read of 2021. The narrative instantly draws the reader in and the balance of character growth with an inviting setting leads to a shocking finale as the story comes to a close. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!" Anthony Avina Reviews.

Feel free to click right now...

Kindle UK:

Kindle US:

Kindle Canada:

Kindle Australia:

Audio excerpt...

Many thanks for your help, it is so appreciated.


P.s. Sorry about the newsletter feel to this. Hope you feel able to spread the word - and buy a copy, of course!

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys has played Hamlet in Calgary, a gladiator in Tunisia, waltzed in London's West End, conned the landlord of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street, Walked the Sun Hill beat in The Bill, commanded a starfleet in Andromeda, voiced Salem the cat in the original Sabrina, and is a dead immortal in Highlander.

He has written several historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, runner-up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; Chasing the WindThe Jack Absolute TrilogyVlad - The Last ConfessionA Place Called Armageddon and Shakespeare's Rebel - which he adapted into a play and which premiered at Bard on the Beach, Vancouver, in 2015. Plague won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel in Canada in 2015.

Chris has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

He is now writing epic fantasy with the Immortals' Blood Trilogy, for Gollancz. The first two books, Smoke in the Glass and The Coming of the Dark are now published. The epic finale,  The Wars of Gods and Men will be out in 2022. 

Several of his novels are available as Audiobooks - read by himself! 

He has a new novel just out: One London Day - a modern London Noir. Quite a different adventure.

Chris lives in a forest overlooking a fjord on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada.

Check everything out on his new website:

Twitter: @HumphreysCC


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Sunday 23 May 2021

Monday Mysteries - with Debbie Young and Sophie Sayers

Mysteries, thrillers, crime novels, who-dun-its,
cosy mysteries
 ... real mysteries, historical mysteries...
it's all a mystery to me!

A Year of Mysteries in the Cotswolds – with Sophie Sayers

As Murder Lost and Found, the seventh of Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, is launched in paperback and ebook, Sophie reflects on reaching the end of her first year in her new home in the Cotswold village of Wendlebury Barrow...

You’d think inheriting a cottage in the country is the sort of thing that will never happen to you, but I reckon it’s no less uncommon than winning the lottery – and someone has to be the statistic. In my case, it was my dear old Great Auntie May who bought me my lottery ticket, so to speak.

Even so, I could hardly believe it when my parents told me she had left me her beautiful little home, set on the glorious Cotswold Way that winds up and down the gently hilly terrain between Cheltenham and Bath.

Of course, I’d rather she had remained alive and in residence. I always enjoyed spending summer holidays with her as a child. But her generous legacy came at a very convenient time for me. I’d fallen into the bad habit of letting Damian, my boyfriend since university, dictate my life. Inheriting May’s cottage gave me the courage and the opportunity to break free from him, although Damian did his best to put me off moving to Wendlebury. His excuses ranged from “Nothing ever happens in sleepy English villages” to “you’ll never get a job” and “you’ll be bored” to “you’ll be murdered in your bed.” I think he was getting Midsomer Murders mixed up with reality tv.  

Even so, I was a little nervous at moving alone into May’s cottage, and it took me a while to trust my new neighbours, but soon I had thrown myself into village life. You hear about village communities that are hostile to incomers, where you have to be resident for thirty years before they’ll give you the time of day, but Wendlebury Barrow is not a bit like that. Everyone was kind and welcoming, and soon I’d landed a lovely job running the tearoom in the local bookshop.

I’ve made such good friends of all ages, from little Jemima, one of the local children to whom I give reading lessons in the bookshop after school, to old Joshua, my next-door-neighbour, who also turned out to be May’s former childhood sweetheart. Not to mention my boss at the bookshop, the gorgeous and charming Hector Munro.  

There have been plenty of surprises and not a little danger along the way. Not long after I’d arrived, an amateur actress from the local drama group was found dead on a carnival float at the village show, and no-one but me believed it was murder until I nearly got killed myself in trying to solve the mystery. 

Universal link to download free ebook
of Best Murder in Show

Then along came the strange new vicar, the Reverend Neep, who threatened to divide the village when he banned Halloween and staged a grisly Guy Fawkes Night party with startling consequences. There were fireworks a-plenty that night, and not all in a good way!

Then at Christmas came the disastrous production of the nativity play that I’d written as a joint production for the village school and the Wendlebury Players. Although it went wildly off-script, with a stranger accusing the whole congregation of murder, I was relieved that it all ended happily. Well, it was Christmas, after all.

New Year, new revelations: Hector had an identical twin brother! Horace was so different in personality, though exactly alike to look at. He wasn’t the only long-lost sibling that turned up to cause trouble in Wendlebury as I tried to revive the flagging fortunes of The Bluebird in the run-up to Valentine’s Day.  

By this time I was beginning to learn that despite the steady pace of village life, punctuated by its wonderful traditions and customs, you never really know what’ll happen next. Who could have foreseen that in the run-up to Easter, I’d find the Easter Bunny left for dead in an open grave? The best outcome of that little adventure was my acquisition of a dear little black kitten. I do like to look on the bright side. 

By the spring, I was ready for a change of scene, and I jumped at the chance to travel to a tiny Greek island to take part in a writers’ retreat. It all went haywire from the moment I got on the plane, and I soon found myself accused of the murder of the guest speaker at the retreat, a leading romantic novelist. Fortunately village life had made me more resilient, and when freak weather kept the Greek police away, I determined to solve the mystery myself. By the end of the week, we’d all learned more about ourselves – and I realised how much I loved and missed Hector.  

You can imagine my horror to discover not long after my return that in my absence Hector had appointed a beautiful young intern to work in the shop with us. I don’t know which I found more challenging: controlling my envy and suspicion of Anastasia or solving the mystery of the dead body I found in the village school’s lost property cupboard at the start of the summer holidays.

All in all, my first year in Wendlebury Barrow proved Damian completely wrong about life in an English village. I’ve never been busier or happier. And thanks to the writers’ retreat in Greece, I even found the confidence to start recording my adventures in a series of seven books, running the course of the village year from one summer to the next. 

As we begin to prepare for another village show, I have my fingers firmly crossed that this year we’ll all survive that important event in the local calendar. Who knows what the next year might bring? But one thing’s for sure: I’ve persuaded Hector to come with me to visit my parents in Inverness and to explore the Highlands and Islands. He’s taking a fascinating gift to my mother, an old book with an intriguing inscription in Gaelic, which she’ll be able to translate for us. I’ve a funny feeling it may be the springboard for a whole new adventure north of the border. I’ll let you know!

Love, Sophie

To find out more about the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, visit Debbie Young’s website at, where you can also download a free Sophie Sayers cosy mystery novelette, The Pride of Peacocks, when you join her Readers’ Club.

You can also connect with Debbie Young on social media:




Debbie Young also writes the Staffroom at St Bride’s novels (school stories for grown-ups!) and the Tales from Wendlebury Barrow, novelettes featuring Sophie Sayers and friends.


Universal link to download free ebook of Best Murder in Show:

Universal amazon link for Best Murder in Show paperback:

Universal ebook buying link for the new book, Murder Lost and Found:

Universal Amazon link for paperback of Murder Lost and Found:

photo: Laura Young

About Debbie

Originally from London, Debbie Young moved to the Cotswolds 30 years ago and now lives in a Victorian cottage with her Scottish husband and their teenage daughter. She writes the old-fashioned way, with fountain-pen and paper, in a small wooden hut at the bottom of her garden. Twice shortlisted for the BookBrunch Selfies Award for the best independently-published adult fiction, she is also founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors, a course tutor for Jericho Writers, a contributor to Mslexia, public speaker and writing competition judge. She is never bored. 

All cover designs by Rachel Lawston of

Line drawings © T E Shepherd of

Would you like two additional stories (for free!)? click here to Discovering Diamonds, for the contribution Debbie made to our series of short stories for Christmas.

Christmas Ginger
It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas.