Hexton-upon-Weir was ruled by its women: they set the tone, they made the decisions, they called the tune. When they decided to band together to block the appointment of a new vicar who was not only unacceptably High Church but - of all ugly things - celibate to boot, they managed to create merry hell. As the town was riven by faction and counter-faction, Helen Kitterage tried to remain aloof, but before long she was drawn into the maelstrom, as, during the down's fête, ill-will and conspiracy degenerated into murder. Helen was convinced that somewhere among the secrets of this murderous Cranford there must be found some key shame that someone had thought it worth killing to keep unknown. In this tart and witty updating of the traditional English village mystery, 'the chameleon talent of Mr Barnard' (Sunday Times) is demonstrated once again through that sharp ear and eye that led the Washington Post to exclaim: 'One of the funniest men writing mysteries today has to be Robert Barnard.'
From master of mystery Robert Barnard comes a brilliantly witty and piercingly observant new suspense novel featuring one of the most dysfunctional families ever to grace crime fiction. Meet the Cantelos of Leeds, England. To call the Cantelos dysfunctional is actually a wild understatement. But is one of them also a killer?Clarissa Cantelo, a skilled clairvoyant, apparently thought so. Believing that her sixteen-year-old nephew, Merlyn Docherty, was in peril, she sent him into hiding in Italy, far away from the rest of her family. She told them he was dead. It was safer that way. Now Clarissa herself has died, and Merlyn, a successful lawyer and civil servant who still lives abroad, has returned to Leeds to claim his inheritance. First, he must prove his identity. Is he really Merlyn or, as some of his long-lost relations say they suspect, is he an imposter?Merlyn doesn't mind confirming his identity, but he'd at least like to move into the house that Aunt Clarissa left him in her will while he gets to know some of his relatives. And the house may hold some clues to the Cantelos' past. What is the dreadful family secret that has upset relations between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, filling even the youngest generation with fear? If Merlyn discovers the truth, buried under decades of deception, his life may once again be in danger. Merlyn must start at the beginning if he is to find the answers. All roads seem to lead back to his grandfather, the formidable Merlyn Cantelo, renowned in the family as an object of both fear and loathing. Though the old man who caused such pain to his family died years ago, his malevolence lives on. Somebody wants young Merlyn gone. With help from police detectives Mike Oddie and Charlie Peace, Merlyn must find that person before the Cantelo curse works its evil again. Wickedly observant and full of his trademark sly twists, The Graveyard Position proves once more that Robert Barnard is in a class of his own.
A young girl is brought up in seclusion by her elderly parents who are obsessed with isolating her from the sinfulness of life in the wicked world. When, to secure her future, they marry her off to an elderly widower, they set in motion events more terrible than the most hateful of parents could have foreseen. A woman with an enticing sexual secret marries an elderly gentleman - and then another and another. It is all too easy, it seems, to get into the habit of widowhood. A young soldier, home from World War I, is determined to live and love not just for himself, but for all his fallen comrades. But in doing so he enrages a number of husbands. A man going through a midlife crisis meets the bully who made his life hell at school. Some things never change, he discovers, including the taste for inflicting pain.
Susannah Sneddon had never received a great deal of fame or fortune from her novel-writing in the twenties and thirties. In the remote Yorkshire village of Micklewike, where she had lived on a run-down farm, she was now chiefly remembered for the violence of her demise - battered to death, apparently by her jealous brother, who then shot himself. That was back in 1932, and now there was a renewed surge of interest in the Sneddons, led by the shady publisher and entrepreneur Gerald Suzman. He had bought up the farm and formed the Sneddon Fellowship, with the declared aim of making the Sneddons' reputation as a kind of twentieth-century Brontë family. A motley collection of enthusiasts gathered in Micklewike for the inaugural meeting of the Sneddon Fellowship, including Charlie Peace, a young black detective constable sent to keep an eye on things. There was a suspicion that Suzman's motives were not quite as purely literary as they seemed. And when Suzman was found lying dead with his head bashed in, a surprising number of possible reasons for his death emerged amongst the group of Sneddon followers. Charlie and Superintendent Mike Oddie had to examine evidence both old and new as the strange case of the Sneddon literary heritage was gradually unravelled.
Vernon Watts may have been beloved by the millions of faithful viewers of the long-running soap opera Jubilee Terrace but his fellow cast members knew him for what he was -- an egotistical former music-hall performer whose untimely death in a pedestrian accident was not something to be universally regretted. Sadly, though, director Reggie Friedman soon fills the supposed void by asking Hamish Fawley, an equally unpleasant former member of the Jubilee Terrace troupe, to rejoin the soap. Hamish was never much liked. Now he's more obnoxious than ever. The mood on the set is not exactly serene, a situation made worse when the police receive an anonymous letter suggesting that Vernon Watts's "accident" may in fact have been murder. Did one of his fellow actors push Vernon into the oncoming traffic? Detective Inspector Charlie Peace faces tough challenges as he probes the make-believe world of skilled thespians to find a possible killer. With a cast of suspects who are trained to emote on cue, Charlie will need all of his policeman's instincts if he's to avert further tragedy. Writing with his usual acerbic wit and penetrating insight into human foibles, acclaimed master of mystery Robert Barnard gives us another winning entry in his magnificent body of work.
A mysterious envelope arrives on Eve McNabb's doorstep soon after she has buried her mother, a woman who kept many secrets. The puzzling letter inside this envelope hints at an illicit passion between the letter writer and Eve's mother, May McNabb. Even when she was a child, Eve sensed that there were parts of May's life she would never understand. She would never know the details of her parents' marriage or why her father suddenly disappeared from her life. While Eve has always believed that her father was dead, she begins to wonder whether her mother's life as a widow had been a ruse. Will she have to question everything her mother has told her? Could her father be alive and well? The letter writer may have some answers, but how can Eve find him or her? With only a blurred postmark for a clue, Eve sets out to locate the writer and journey into her own past. What she never suspected was that questions can be dangerous, perhaps even deadly... Filled with piercing wit and illuminating insight into the human condition, Robert Barnard's Last Post proves yet again that he is one of the great masters of mystery.
Radio Broadwich decides to do a documentary on the small village of Twytching for international broadcast, and the townspeople divide between those who seek the patronage of Mrs. Deborah Withins, arbiter of taste and morals, and those determined to displace her in the cutthroat contest for media recognition. When a rash of poison-pen letters and a murder coincide, quiet inspector George Parrish begins to uncover secrets the leading citizens of Twytching had thought, and fervently hoped, were buried. A Little Local Murder skilfully demonstrates that no one is more cunning than Robert Barnard in preparing the reader for the totally unexpected. And the incisive character portrayals in this early gem impart a dimension rarely found in English detective fiction.
In the late winter of 1979, Leeds housewife Ellen Heenan dies in childbirth - abandoning a guilt-stricken husband to insanity's grasp and leaving four young children to find for themselves. Thirteen-year-old Matthew and Annie, age twelve, know what the authorities will do if the learn of Father's debilitating madness. A close-knit family will be speedily unravelled, its threads scattered carelessly to the winds. So deception is the only recourse - a façade of normalcy that must be carefully constructed to fool prying neighbourhood eyes. And resourceful young Matthew and his sister have the situation well in hand - until a freshly slain corpse turns up beneath the kitchen window . . .
Robert Barnard, one of the great contemporary masters of classic mystery, returns with a brilliant new tale of passion and deception. Well-known actress Caroline Fawley has given up a successful stage and television career for love and life in the country. International business titan Marius Fleetwood can't marry her. He already has a wife, though he claims they are "just friends. " But Marius has done something very special for Caroline: he has "bought" her Alderley, an elegant country home. If he should die, he's arranged to leave her enough money to maintain the extensive house and gardens. Of course, some inquisitive villagers would be happier if Caroline and Marius were respectably wed. People in small towns know all, and they will talk, especially about a glamorous actress. Caroline's adolescent children, Stella and Alexander, seem to accept Marius's weekend visits without distress. And older daughter Olivia, an opera singer on the rise, is too involved in her own career and romantic intrigues to express much interest in her mother's personal life. Caroline is happy and the world is good. Until one day when Caroline's life begins to fall apart. First, a mysterious young man backpacking his way through the countryside arrives at the door. He says his name is Peter Bagshaw, but Caroline sees instantly that he must be related to Marius; perhaps he's even his son. What else has Marius hidden from Caroline? Who is this man, Marius Fleetwood? Is everything about him a lie?When a murder occurs, detectives Mike Oddie and Charlie Peace must probe the lives of numerous suspects who had good reason to kill. As always in a Barnard mystery, the fun is in the details, the characters, the twists. With big houses, wealth, opera, and obsessive devotion as some of his ingredients, Robert Barnard gives us a witty, richly nuanced novel worthy of the crime-writing star that he is.
Mystery readers everywhere cherish their favorites among Robert Barnard's critically acclaimed body of work, but one title high on most lists is "A Scandal in Belgravia." "With A Murder in Mayfair," Barnard gives us a compelling new story set in the same intriguing London milieu, where power, politics, and personality make a lethal mix. When Colin Pinnock becomes a junior minister in the new Prime Minister's government, he's understandably thrilled. Still a youngish man, with a shining reputation among his colleagues, he's clearly being groomed for even higher office. Messages of congratulations flow in from near and far. Basking in the greetings and the praise, Colin picks one soiled postcard out of the stack of congratulatory missives. "Who Do You Think You Are?" it asks. Who wrote the card? How did the person know his home address? Does the writer think Colin is getting a big head, or do the words carry a more profound meaning? And, taking the question literally, who, indeed, "is" Colin? Who were his real parents? What were the circumstances of his birth? He had a happy childhood in the north of England, but he now recalls some clues that he might have been adopted. His mother is dead and his father is too senile to offer any help on family history. He'll have to find his answers on his own. Even more puzzling, perhaps, than Colin's origins, is a top civil servant's shocked response when she first encounters him. Whose image does she see in Colin's face, and what possible link does Colin have to an infamous crime of the past? Faced with additional threatening messages that seem to come from somebody who knows his every movement, Colin begins an urgent investigation into his past and a dangerous search for his tormentor. In a richly textured novel that takes us from the precincts of the powerful to a simple cottage in remotest Ireland, Robert Barnard spins an intricate tale of love and obsession that once again places him among the premier crime writers of our era.
Fifteen-year-old Katy Bourne and sixteen-year-old Alan Coughlan are missing. Though they are students at the same school, they hardly know each other, so it's strange that they should disappear together. Katy's mother, self-centered and unloving, doesn't mind if her daughter never comes home. Alan's solid working-class parents are pained and puzzled by their son's departure.There's not much the police can do about runaway teenagers, but Detective Constable Charlie Peace goes through the motions. He interviews the families, he visits the school. Alan had friends and had aspired to a good education. Katy had nothing, least of all self-esteem.The two teens could be anywhere, even living dangerously on the streets of Leeds, so it's with relief that Charlie discovers them in a hostel for homeless young people. But are they safe? And who is Ben Marchant, the man who runs the shelter?Whoever he is, he seems to be doing well. Young people beg or work as street musicians during the day, then eat and sleep at the hostel at night. They can remain there two weeks and then must leave for two weeks before beginning the cycle again. Only Katy and Alan stay longer. Only they have a special, mysterious understanding with Ben.But all is not well at the shelter. Neighbors complain about strange goings-on. Residents too often display feelings of jealousy and suspicion. A young woman flees from a violent family member, perhaps bringing danger with her. Emotions run high, ranging from love and gratitude to fear and hate.One person may even hate enough to murder. One person's hate may destroy this place that some regard as a haven of peace and safety and others fear as something more complex and diabolical.No Place of Safety combines brilliant social commentary with a mesmerizing mystery plot that will once again enthrall Robert Barnard's legion of fans. Recognized as one of the best of all contemporary crime writers, Barnard is in top form.
With the Nazis bombing London on a nightly basis, many working-class families sent their children to the comparative safety of the countryside. When the Blitz ended, the families came for their kids . . . but no one ever came for Simon Thorn. His name appears on no list of the evacuated children. And none of his meagre belongings offer any clues to his origins. Now an adult, newly moved to London, Simon is puzzled by an odd sense of familiarity when he walks down certain streets. He remembers his years of terrible nightmares--nightmares that would cause him to wake up screaming, terrifying his bewildered foster parents. And he resolves, once and for all, to find out where he originally came from . . . even as everything he uncovers suggests that, really, he doesn't want to know. Widely praised for his deliciously, maliciously witty mysteries, the multi-award-winning Robert Barnard takes a decidedly different tack in this fascinating novel of wartime London and the dark side of identity.
The MP for Bootham East was something of a fish out of water - a Tory with a conscience. When he was actually fished out of water, the Thames to be precise, it looked like a clear case of suicide or accident. But as Superintendent Sutcliffe's investigations got under way, and as the by-election campaign to elect his successor hotted up, some very murky political waters were dredged and made to reveal their secrets. The local Labour Party had been hijacked by the extreme left, the Tory Party had had an unattractive young man with dubious City connections foisted on it, and the Alliance candidate had something nasty in his past he would prefer to forget. In fact, by the time of the declaration poll, all the parties wished the by-election had never had to happen, and that the dirt had remained brushed away under the carpet. In this witty and penetrating look at British politics, Robert Barnard shows a 'sharp and knowing eye', as well as what Newsweek called his 'wit . . . energy and style.
Murder pays no respect to rank...or the neighborhood. And so it happened that young aristocrat Timothy Wycliffe was bludgeoned to death in his elegantly furnished flat in Belgravia by a person or persons unknown. Unknown, in fact, for 30 years. Then the dead man's friend Peter Proctor -- once a young man on his way up in the diplomatic service, now a retired Member of Parliament -- seeks an antidote to boredom by attempting to write his own memoirs. Unfortunately, they seem to be creating more problems than he anticipated, and not just of the writer's-block variety. Peter keeps getting sidetracked by speculations on Timothy's death. The murder was allegedly accomplished by a beating from one of his boyfriends. But Peter can't accept so simple a solution, so he begins to probe the past. In so doing, he opens a fascinating window on British society during the 1950s and its changing -- and unchanging -- mores since.
The Burleigh school was dying. It would be called a mercy killing were it not for the little band of inept, eccentric, or otherwise unemployable teachers who depended on this absolutely awful English boys' academy for their meagre livelihoods. A lack of funds, facilities, and foresight had brought Burleigh to the very edge of extinction. Now someone planned to give it one final, deadly push. Malice was afoot behind the ivied walls, trailing hard on the heels of Hilary Frome, Headmaster Crumwallis's unfortunate choice for the next headboy. For when something sinister popped up in the punch on Parents' Evening, when nasty pranks became no joke, the next event at bloody Burleigh was bound to be... simply murder.
The Skeleton In The Grass, reminiscent of Robert Barnard's much-acclaimed Out of the Blackout, illuminates an earlier time and place: a small English village in 1936, as Franco's troops are conquering Spain and Hitler's legions are preparing to overrun Europe. The world at large may be sliding into the abyss of disaster, but life at Hallam, country seat of the glamorous and renowned Hallam family, still represents the ultimate in British civilization. Teatime, with its cucumber sandwiches and cream cakes, continues as it has for a hundred years. It's not that the Hallam family ignores the world outside its gracious doors. On the contrary, Helen and Dennis Hallam care passionately about peace and principle, and Dennis dramatically conveys these views to the nation in his controversial weekly review column. Avowed pacifists, Helen and Dennis represent a political stance that the villagers mistrust and fear. That fear and suspicion turn to nasty pranks when a sinister Fascist major gains control over some of the local youths. Helen and Dennis, and their sons Oliver and Will, become the victims of cruel taunts and the kind of teasing that leads to terror. As the Hallams and villagers grow more hostile, we see the story through the eyes of Sarah Causeley, and idealistic young woman who has recently come to be nursery governess at Hallam. To Sarah, the Hallams represent beauty, brilliance, and style--an idyllic life in the midst of chaos. But as she watches, the Hallams' world begins to disintegrate, and a tense and unexpected encounter leads to a shocking murder. Much more than a crime novel, The Skeleton in the Grass is an extraordinary piece of fiction that captures the essence of a family that captures the essence of a family and a world on the brink of extinction. With subtlety and skill, Robert Barnard amazes with his versatility and storytelling power.
From Robert Barnard, the internationally acclaimed Diamond Dagger-winning crime writer . . . Kit Philipson has always felt like something of a stranger in his family. Growing up as the only child of professional parents in Glasgow, Scotland, he had every advantage. His mother was a teacher; his father, a journalist, escaped from Nazi Germany at the age of three on one of the 1939 Kindertransports. But on her deathbed, Kit's mother tells him he was adopted and that his birth name was Novello. Soon, vague memories of his early life begin to surface: his nursery, pictures on the wall, the smell of his birth mother when she'd been cooking. And, sometimes, there are more disturbing memories--of strangers taking him by the hand and leading him away from the only family he had ever known. A search of old newspaper files reveals that a three-year-old boy named Peter Novello was abducted from his parents' holiday hotel in Sicily in 1989. Now the young man who has known himself only as Kit sets out to rediscover his past, the story of two three-year-old boys torn from their mothers in very different circumstances. Kit's probing inquiries are sure to bring surprises. They may also unearth dangerous secrets that dare never be revealed. With sharp wit and deep insight, Robert Barnard sweeps away all preconceptions in this powerful study of maternal love and the danger of obsession.
A witty and poignant chiller about the evil of gossip and the sin of indifference. Father Christopher Pardoe is a good priest. He cares about his parishioners. He is also a human being--and is thus saddled with man's inherent weaknesses. Is it a bit odd, then, how much time the good Father has been spending at the house of a certain young, single mother called Julie Norris? And why, during each of his visits, are Julie's bedroom curtains always closed? Julie looks to be pregnant again. Just who could that father be? As nasty rumours begin to scorch the parish phone lines, Father Pardoe is suspended from St. Catherine's, and Cosmo Horrocks, the West Yorkshire Chronicle's shameless, muckraking journalist, exploits the story in a big way. Nothing goes over better than a juicy sex-and-the-church scandal, except, perhaps, murder. Do Father Pardoe and Julie protest too much? Why did Julie's parents throw her out and disown her? Is she really as bad as they say? And what, exactly, does Cosmo Horrocks hear in that London-to-Leeds dining car that makes him tingle with excitement? A tale of chastity besmirched? This story could make his year. But will it lead to tragedy? And, if so, whose? When Inspector Mike Oddie and Sergeant Charlie Peace are called in to investigate a murder, they are saddened and surprised by the raw emotions--the hate, the fear--they find in the outwardly peaceful town of Shipley. There may be only one killer, but there are many others who must share the town's guilt and, perhaps, one day start the process of healing. Rich with eccentric characters, crisp dialogue, stylish prose, and perceptive insights into human nature, Unholy Dying is vintage Barnard, acknowledged master of suspense.
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