North East murder-mystery books reviewed - The Elephant Tree, Death Of A Radical, The Tantalus Case

PUBLISHED: 01:16 18 April 2011 | UPDATED: 21:33 20 February 2013

The Elephant Tree

The Elephant Tree

Who done it?.... This lot did! Jo Haywood turns her magnifying glass on the work of three North East murder-mystery writers

Newcastle author R D Ronald knows the ins and out of crime - mainly because he has spent a fair bit of his time in prison looking forward to the day when he can get out.

He turned to crime writing after first turning to crime, setting up a cannabis farm to raise money to fund treatment for his terminally ill wife, Renee.

She became ill shortly after we married and the treatment she needed was expensive, he explained. Renee was optimistic about her treatment, but sadly she didnt make it. Not long afterwards, I was busted and sent to prison.

Not content with sitting in his cell musing on his ill luck and poor judgment, Ronald set about writing his debut novel, - The Elephant Tree (Matador, 8.99), the jagged, gritty story of an overworked detective - is there any other kind? - investigated a spate of attacks at high profile city centre nightclubs.

Being locked up for 23 hours a day certainly focuses the mind, he said. In the end, writing was an outlet, a way for me to keep my mind occupied.

My book touches on some of the issues that have affected me, but its not autobiographical. It does challenge readers though. Life is never clear cut, and neither is the line between good
and bad. This is what I ultimately wanted to say.

In one breathtaking leap (the span of the Grand Canyon springs to mind), we go from former jailbird R D Ronald to Rebecca Jenkins, daughter of the Right Reverend David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham from 1984 to 1994.

The Barnard Castle novelist, biographer and cultural historian has collaborated with her father on a number of high profile projects, including a number of television and radio programmes, a play at the Royal Court in London, and the books Free To Believe and The Calling Of A Cuckoo.

But for her F R Jarrett mysteries, however, she works alone. Death Of A Radical (Quercus, 7.99), the second story revolving around hero Raif Jarrett, the Duke of Penriths agent, follows on from The Dukes Agent (2009) and once again features the unmistakable landscape and history of 19th century Teesdale.

Jarrett is a young man who has become accustomed to war, but injury forces him home to face the complexities of civilian life, Rebecca said. I hope readers will enjoy uncovering more of his complex personality and background as he investigates injustice while, at the same time, trying to figure out his own place in normal society.

While R D Ronald opts for dark, contemporary fiction and Rebecca Jenkins for a softer historical approach, Stuart Gordon McBain (surely a crime-fighter himself with a name like that?) chooses to meld the two in The Tantalus Case (Tom Oliver Publishing, 7.99).

The first in a six-book series of detective fiction, it introduces readers to detectives Aitken and Allen as they work their way along the convoluted trail leading to the brutal killers of accountant Amy Anderson - a trail that often seems to reflect the Greek myth of Tantalus who stood in a pool of water under a tree but could never reach the tantalising ripe fruit of drink the cool, quenching liquid.

As a writer I am a very good one rather than a brilliant one, said the candid Stockton-on-Tees author. My real strength lies in that I know how to tell really good stories; how to craft them to hold my readers interest.

I know from feedback that I can make them laugh, cry, feel hurt and anger. Thats a powerful feeling and, equally, a very humbling one.

If you want a book about the meaning of life, you have the wrong author. If, however, you want a book about life then Im your man.

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