Behind the Character – Pauline Rowson on her crime-busting hero, DI Andy Horton


Portsmouth-based detective, DI Andy Horton is a man very much defined by a tormented past, but with hopes for his future. A flawed and rugged cop, whose patch is Portsmouth CID, and whose investigations take him across the Solent and into the harbours of Langstone and Chichester and its surrounding coastal towns.

Living on board his small yacht in Southsea Marina since his estrangement from his wife following a gross misconduct charge, the sailing detective is a man rarely at peace, unless he is on the sea or fighting crime.  Raised in children’s homes after his mother abandoned him as a child he has a desperate need to belong and yet is always on the outside. Being alone is his greatest fear, yet he is alone.

Andy Horton is instinctive not intellectual, tough and resilient, but deeply empathetic.  A dry sense of humour is the key to Horton’s investigative approach. It’s how he keeps people at arm’s length and stays detached from the crimes he investigates. His greatest strength is his ability to put himself in a victim’s shoes, to imagine events from their perspective (even the moments up to their death), making leaps of deduction few would be able to. And he’s most often right.

Horton is especially tough on bullies, or people who abuse their power or position, as they remind him of the people in the children’s homes in which he’s been raised. When this happens, when his guard slips, he’s like a raw nerve. He fears his emotions will betray him.

He feels a duty of care to the victims of the crimes he investigates and often feels like he’s the only person looking out for them; the only one who can bring the guilty to justice so that the dead can rest. No one cared about him when he was a child; he won’t let that happen to anyone else.

The DI Andy Horton crime novels have been hailed as “compelling,” “multi-layered and complex” “a great read for mystery lovers” and have been optioned by top UK television production company Lime Pictures, makers of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, who are seeking to bring the enigmatic sailing detective to the television screens.

LETHAL WAVES, the thirteenth in the series, sees DI Andy Horton investigating the death of a woman found dead in her cabin on the ferry from Portsmouth to Guernsey. There doesn’t appear to be any suspicious circumstances. As soon as he returns to Portsmouth, however, he is called to a scene where a vagrant’s body has been found lying partially covered under one of the rotting houseboats close to Horton’s boat in the marina. This time, it’s clearly murder.

Troubled by the many unanswered questions surrounding both deaths, Horton must call upon all his skills and intuition to solve a complex case, uncovering dark secrets that have led to such lethal waves of destruction.

Pauline Rowson is also the author of two standalone crime novels, In Cold Daylight and In For The Kill, as well as two crime novels featuring Art Marvik, a former Royal Marine Commando, Special Boat Services Officer, turned undercover investigator for the UK’s National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS) who appears in Silent Running and Dangerous Cargo, published by Severn House.


Behind the Book – The Shivering Turn by Sally Spencer

9780727886675I always like to be as familiar as I possibly can be with the backcloth to my books, which is why my sagas are set in the salt mining village in which I grew up, the Woodend and Paniatowski books in industrial Lancashire (where I used to teach), and the Paco Ruiz novels take place around Madrid (a city I lived in for over twenty years).

When I decided to write my books about a Victorian detective in London, I did not know the capital at all, so before I put one word on paper, I spent two weeks walking the streets of Southwark – so if I say it takes fifteen minutes to get from Lant Place to New Cut Market, believe me, that’s how long it takes.

It was familiarity which made me decide to set my Jennie Redhead (private investigator) books in Oxford – I knew the town, and, as a member of my college darts team, I’d visited most of the other colleges (or, at least, their bars). Since I felt I already knew Jennie well, I decided to do what I hadn’t done in any of my other series, which was to tell the story through first person narrative. This is trickier in a detective novel, it seems to me, than it is in most other sorts of books, because a detective novel, by its very nature, is a delicate balance of intricately interwoven strands, secrets and discoveries, and in the interests of advancing the plot, the author may sometimes feel the need to reveal some of those strands, secrets and discoveries to his readers – either directly or through other characters – while keeping the central character in ignorance. But guess what – in first person narrative, you can’t do that, so if Jennie doesn’t know it, then neither do the readers, however convenient it might be to put them in the picture!

I always end up wanting to bang my head against the wall when I’m writing a book, but on this occasion the urge was stronger and more frequent. But in the end – and against all odds – it was finished.

Am I pleased with it? Yes. Do my regular readers like it? Based on the reviews they’ve posted and emails they’ve sent to me, they seem to.

Will you like it? There’s only one way to find out.  Read an extract now.


#BookExtract – The Shivering Turn by Sally Spencer


It was a quiet suburban avenue. A few of the children might play in the street in the daytime, but as soon as night fell curtains were drawn, doors bolted and living rooms filled with the sound of the television. Thus it was that there was no one to notice the girl when she appeared at the far end of the street.

She was running as fast as she could – but there was no real purpose behind the effort, no destination she was rushing to reach. She was, in so many ways, like a wounded animal which does not understand why it is in pain, but desperately clings to the belief that one more burst of speed might just enable it to leave that agony behind.

She was barefoot, but she didn’t take the time to wonder where she had lost her shoes – not even when she stepped on a sharp stone which dug cruelly into her flesh. She did not wonder about anything. She was feeling, not thinking – experiencing her nightmare again and again, on a constantly replaying loop of misery and despair.

Her lungs were on fire, and though her instinct screamed at her not to stop, her body was giving her no choice. She came to a sudden halt, and clutched the nearest lamppost for support.

Her breaths started to grow more regular, and her brain slowly began to engage again.

She did not know the name of the street she had stopped on, but she was confident she’d have no difficulty in finding her way from there to one of those places which – until that night – had been the anchoring points of her life.

For a moment, she considered heading for her school – where she had been happy and felt confident of herself and her small world. But that was absurd, because her school would be bolted and barred – and anyway, it could never be the same again.

Home, then?

The very thought of going home filled her with dread.

Perhaps she would go down to the river. The gentle lapping of the waves against the bank might relax her.

And if it did not, then she could slip softly into the water and let it gently cover her, so washing away all her cares forever.
She heard the sound of footsteps in the near distance. It had never occurred to her that she would be followed – but it would make perfect sense if she had been.

She gasped once – at the horror of it all – and then began running again.

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Behind the Book – Hidden Graves by Jack Fredrickson

“The criminals are clever and the detective, after his initial benightedness, even more clever, making Fredrickson’s sixth case one of his best” Kirkus Reviews

Someone is trying to frame Chicago private investigator Dek Elstrom for murder … Here,  author Jack Fredrickson tells the story behind his new book …

HIDDEN GRAVES is about how secrets of old crimes can return to kill.

Of how those old secrets demand tending, of how so often they must be protected with new crimes and new secrets, and of how, when those old crimes involve politicians, that tending requires murder.

That wouldn’t surprise most folks who Hidden Graves book jacket smaller.jpglive in Illinois, especially in or near the county of Cook and even more especially in the city of Chicago, where HIDDEN GRAVES is set.

Shamefully perhaps, most have accepted that these environs are simply and fundamentally crooked, that they’ve long been the most fertile of soils for greed, corruption, and worse. It’s been that way since way before Al Capone, continuing up through the more recent past when four of the state’s last seven governors were sent to prison, and into a present where it seems reasonable to imagine that a woman might hire a private investigator to look in on three people whose secrets include having lives that never really existed at all, and a candidate for United States Senate who’d done much good while being accused of hiding quite a bit of bad.

There’s a frightening sensibility to all of this but one that can be comic as well. Which is maybe why the Dek Elstrom mysteries often get good, but occasionally odd, reviews. The New York Times featured HONESTLY DEAREST, YOU’RE DEAD, the second in the series and a book about arson and a missing girl. Their piece was about noir novels, but they focused on a riff in the book that foresaw a future world where sunshine was abandoned, once the last coffee shops got moved into Wal-Marts, and where generations of families pushed themselves about in shopping carts, racing from aisle to aisle to find falling prices.

I liked that they liked that. The Dek Elstrom mysteries strive for that tug of murderous suspense against the laughs of a sometimes outrageous ensemble cast.

HIDDEN GRAVES by Jack Fredrickson is published by Severn House.  For further information, please visit our website here.

Did You Know about the St. Scholastica’s Day Riot?


Did you know that Cambridge University, widely regarded as one of the finest universities in the world, would never have been founded but for a little vigilante action and kangaroo court justice by the citizens of Oxford?

The sources on the story disagree on details, but all accept that in 1209 two students killed a woman, (accidentally or otherwise) and the outraged locals hanged them (or, in some accounts, hanged the first two students they could lay their hands on). Most of the scholars fled. Some went to Paris – and some to Cambridge, where they founded the university.

Nor was this the only example of a clash between town and gown in Oxford. On St Scholastica’s Day in 1335, students in one of the pubs complained about the quality of the wine, and in the fight which ensued, 30 townspeople and sixty-three students were killed. Both sides appealed to the king, who took the university’s side, and from then on, the mayor and corporation were obliged, every year, to attend a mass on the saint’s day, and pay the university 63 pence (one penny for each student killed). This went on until 1846, when the mayor finally said enough was enough, and refused to pay..

The Shivering Turn in the first entry in a new series, featuring Private Investigator Jennie Redhead, set in Oxford. 

17-year-old Linda Corbet is missing and Jennie Redhead is hired to investigate. The only clue she has is a fragment of a 17th century poem she finds in Linda’s room. But from that one clue Jennie’s investigations will lead her to a hidden world of privilege, violence and excess which lies behind Oxford’s dreaming spires.

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Behind the Book – A Good Death by Chris Collett

9780727886873.jpgA GOOD DEATH was inspired by ideas around honour killings (regularly in the news in Birmingham) and mercy killing (or assisted dying), which is a subject of recurring national debate, and the fact that these terms have become more palatable euphemisms for what is, after all, unlawful killing or murder.

On a walking holiday, in the old eastern Germany last summer, we came across a number of burnt out houses – at least one in every town we passed through – a hazard of the trend for timbered houses. Although far from being a fool-proof method of killing someone, a house fire can be, nonetheless, a way of disguising a more serious crime.

I then became interested in how the professionals – fire and police services – would go about investigating an unexplained house fire, to prove arson and murder. I’ve had a police contact for a number of years, but to research A Good Death I also got in touch with our local Fire Investigation team and spent a couple of afternoons talking to (and asking lots of questions of!) the lead investigator.

Among other things, I learned (contrary to my belief) that water preserves accelerants, and that whilst the unit’s sniffer dog can pick up the tiniest traces of accelerant, his handler has no sense of smell! Much of what I learned could not be included in A Good Death, which is, after all, a crime story, not a fire investigation manual, but wherever possible I have stuck to the facts.


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kgp_8558-rev Chris Collett is a university lecturer, teaching undergraduate students on subjects including special education needs, disabilities and inclusion, and equality and human rights. When she isn’t working, Chris enjoys walking, badminton, photography, reading, cinema, theatre and comedy.

When asked how she became an author, Chris has said: ‘By confounding my own and other people’s expectations. I still can’t manage to shake the idea that ‘people like me’ don’t become writers. I think of myself as a teacher who happens to write.’

Editor’s Pick – Other Countries by Jo Bannister

9780727887023We are thrilled to welcome author Jo Bannister to the list with OTHER COUNTRIES, the fourth suspenseful, character-driven mystery to feature impetuous, misadventure-prone Constable Hazel Best and her unlikely friend, the unworldly but brilliant Gabriel Ash.  From the outset, Bannister sets up an intriguing premise: a young man travels thousands of miles from Istanbul, Turkey, to firebomb an obscure little museum in a quiet English village. Who exactly is he? And why would he do such a thing?

Having saved visiting celebrity Oliver Ford from serious harm during the attack, Hazel Best finds herself gradually falling under the spell of the charismatic TV historian – to Ash’s growing unease. Resenting what she sees as Ash’s unwarranted interference in her new relationship, Hazel allows a rift to develop with her long-time friend. But as her relationship with Ford intensifies, serious alarm bells start to ring – and Hazel will find she needs Gabriel Ash as never before …

Maintaining a finely-honed balance between humour and darkness, the narrative veers in several unexpected directions before leading inexorably to its tense, violent and dramatic conclusion. Truly an author at the top of her game, Bannister plays intricate mind-games with her reader, constantly subverting expectations and overturning her reader’s in-built prejudices.  The result is an unusual, thought-provoking, often amusing and gripping read, which kept me glued to the page throughout.

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