Stop Press Murder

2 Mins read

stop press murder book cover, peter bartramWritten by Peter Bartram — Back in October last year we reviewed Peter Bartram’s debut novel, Headline Murder. He’s also the author of 21 non-fiction titles, but here we have the second instalment in his Crampton of the Chronicle series. The Crampton in question is Colin Crampton, crime correspondent at Brighton’s Evening Chronicle.

It’s 1963 and while the nationals focus on the Profumo affair, the story that’s just hit the headlines on the Sussex seaside is the murder of Brighton pier’s night watchman, Fred Snout. The body has been found in the coconut shy and the killer’s weapon of choice was… a coconut. However, it’s not Colin who has the lead on this story, which means his editor is less than happy and unless he can find a fresh, unexplored angle, he may looking at the classified ads for a new job.

Fortunately for Colin, the mysterious theft of the pictures from a What the Butler Saw Machine in the pier’s amusements arcade could provide the story Colin needs. The pictures in question depict Milady’s Bath Night – some rather saucy early 20th century images of a young woman. Is there a link between the photos and the murder? Colin is convinced that there is. The problem is he’s burnt his bridges with his contacts at the local constabulary and his nemesis at the Argus, Jim Houghton, is hot on his heels.

Colin’s first break comes when he discovers the identity of the actress in the pictures, Marie Richmond. Hunting her down leads to a dead end when he finds out she was killed in an accident two weeks earlier. Ah, but was her death accidental or is she a second victim? Colin also finds a link to a prominent local family. Marie Richmond was the twin sister of Venetia, the Dowager Marchioness of Piddinghoe. The Chronicle’s archivist, Henrietta Houndstooth, grew up on the Piddinghoe estate until she was orphaned by her mother’s mysterious suicide, and proves an invaluable assistant with her knowledge of the family. What caused the feud between sisters who had been so close during their youth? What drove Henrietta’s mother to take her own life? Are these separate cases, or further dimensions to the pier murder?

Stop Press Murder is a lighthearted cosy/historical murder mystery with pockets of humour from start to finish. Written in the first person, Colin acts as our guide throughout and we see everything from his perspective. It’s a good technique for building a rapport between reader and protagonist, and draws you into the story.  Not only is the immediate scene set, but Bartram also builds up the period detail with some historical background, just to add to that 60s feel. It’s very well researched, in relation to the Profumo case and the government of the day.

Though it is an entertaining read, at times Stop Press Murder feels like its just trying a little too hard. It’s one of those books that takes a while to really grab your attention, which it does…eventually… but not before lots of different things have been thrown at you.

Colin’s a likeable character, he’s logical and attacks every situation with a healthy dose of humour. He’s laid-back and capable of turning a negative situation around.

If you’re looking for historical crime fiction novels set in the Swinging Sixties then Stop Press Murder is certainly worth a read. Other books to consider including Payton Edgar’s Agony and Barlow by the Book, which are both set in the Sixties, or Erin Kelly’s wonderful The Ties That Bind and Peter James’ DS Roy Grace novels, which are set in Brighton.

Roundfire Books

CFL Rating: 3 Stars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts

Murder Under the Sun edited by Cecily Gayford

Sun, sea, sand and slaughter. What more could a body want from a summer holiday? Well, perhaps a decent all-you-can-eat buffet, a prime pool-side position and a good book to while away the time with. Luckily, Murder Under the Sun has the latter requirement covered…

The Debt Collector by Steven Max Russo

Here’s a new crime thriller that will upend your expectations at every turn – Steven Max Russo’s The Debt Collector. The literati say there are only two plots in all of literature: a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. This…

Murder Under the Midnight Sun by Stella Blómkvist

Translated by Quentin Bates — Last year, Stella Blómkvist made their debut in English with Murder at the Residence and we discovered that the author’s identity is a mystery, even among the Icelandic writing community, which seems quite amazing. Now as second novel from this…
Crime Fiction Lover