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Mike Ripley's Crime File - December 2006

'Deadly Retreat' by Christine Green ; 'Written In Blood' by Chris Collett

For over fifteen years now, Wolverhampton-based writer Christine Green has been producing extremely satisfying and compassionate crime novels most of which feature Kate Kinsella, a private detective who specialises in medical matters and who has her Midlands office above a funeral parlour!

Like her creator, Kate is an ex-nurse, which seems to be pretty good training for a private eye, or a crime writer. In Deadly Retreat (Severn House, 18.99) a depressed Kate finds herself in a New Age retreat in the wilds of Wales, which turns out to be not what it seems, but the experience snaps her back into the detecting life acting as mentor and minder to a woman recently released from prison for the murder of her son.

In a journey across middle England to prove her innocence, the two form an unlikely bond, straying hilariously into an off-beat bed-and-breakfast establishment which does role-playing theme nights based around the Blitz of 1940.

Apart from Green's unfussy writing and the natural charm and cheekiness of her heroine, one of the highlights of the series is Kate's undertaker landlord, Hubert Humberstone, a wonderfully lugubrious character with a mild fetish for ladies shoes!

Another local author, Chris Collett, who lives in Northfield, has a much more conventional detective for a hero, Inspector Tom Mariner, though his latest case begins in anything but a conventional way.

Written In Blood (Piatkus, 6.99) opens with a farmer discovering a particularly bloody crime scene at a local beauty spot. No sooner have the police identified one of the victims of this execution-style murder than the violence escalates dramatically with the spectacular bombing of a Carol Service at St Martin's cathedral in the Bullring.

As the link between the crimes become clear, the engaging and very human Tom Mariner realises that his involvement isn't just professional, but very personal.

Mike Ripley is the author of the 'Angel' series and writes a regular column for the Birmingham Post.

last updated 2/02/2007 11:25