THE CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR by Jacqueline Winspear (Allison & Busby £19.99, 352 pp)


by Jacqueline Winspear (Allison & Busby £19.99, 352 pp)

After witnessing a murder on a dark street in wartime London, a young boy has a hard time persuading the police to take him seriously. The absence of a victim or any sign of an attack leads to the conclusion that a bombing raid had sparked nightmare imaginings.

But the indomitable Maisie Dobbs, a private detective recruited to the intelligence service, is not so sure. Only after the recovery of a body from the Thames is she able to reconstruct a crime that threatens security agents operating behind enemy lines.

After some dozen outings, Dobbs is a firm favourite in the ranks of crime fiction.

A woman of spirit and determination, she is vulnerable in ways that make her an entirely convincing character.

With tight plotting and a distinctive cast of shadowy conspirators, this a compelling tale of life on the edge.


by Anne Morice (Dean Street Press £10.99, 218 pp)

The bubbly style of this 1970s mystery is infectious. Tessa Crichton, an ambitious young actress, keeps cheerful even when there is a murder on her doorstep. Since the victim is an aggressive neighbour with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, there are few tears shed.But when friends and family are suspects, Tessa feels obliged to take time out from her round of auditions to apply her mind to amateur detection.

Falling in love with the policeman in charge of the case only toughens the resolve of this irrepressible starlet. With her insider knowledge of showbusiness, Morice has an eye for thespian pretensions and an acute ear for sharp dialogue.

THE PORT OF LONDON MURDERS by Josephine Bell (British Library £8.99, 224 pp)


by Josephine Bell (British Library £8.99, 224 pp)

Josephine Bell was a golden age crime novelist ahead of her time. Writing in the pre-war years when the country house mystery was standard fare, Bell was not one for convention.

Here, the reader is taken into the slums bordering the Thames, which was then the world’s busiest waterway.

When two heavily loaded barges break their moorings, a quick-witted boatkeeper sees the chance of easy pickings. At first sight, all that’s on board is a cargo of raw rubber.

Only when the boxes are prised open is something more valuable and dangerous discovered. An inquisitive boy sets in motion a police investigation into a long-running conspiracy that risks lives for the chance of quick profit.

A smooth and plausible killer is not hard to identify but this in no way detracts from a spellbinding narrative.

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