Another outing for Inspector James Antrobus

Norman Russellby Norman Russell

Next April will see the publication by Robert Hale of my second Inspector Antrobus novel, An Oxford Anomaly. Set in late Victorian Oxford, it centres around Jeremy Oakshott, Fellow of Jerusalem Hall, and an authority on the Crusades, who is urged by the renowned archaeologist Mrs Herbert Lestrange to join her expedition to Syria. His wealthy uncle, Ambrose Littlemore, refuses to help him financially, and is murdered soon afterwards. Detective Inspector Antrobus, who has already investigated the savage murder of one of Oakshott’s old friends, believes Oakshott to be the killer, but the scholar’s alibis are completely watertight. Assisted by his doctor friend Sophia Jex-Blake (of whom more later) Antrobus looks further afield, visiting two criminal lunatic asylums, a remote nunnery, and a quiet country village, where at last they uncover the truth about five savage murders, and bring their perpetrator to justice.

I have always had a deep interest in the late Victorian period, its works and its ways, so it was not surprising that for my PhD thesis at London University I chose to examine literary responses to capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century. I turned my thesis into a book, The Novelist and Mammon, published by Oxford University Press in 1986.

Over the last fifteen years, Robert Hale have published nine of my Inspector Jackson novels, set in the Warwickshire countryside in the 1890s, and seven thrillers set in the same era, featuring Inspector Arnold Box, who works out of the old Scotland Yard buildings near Whitehall Place. This year saw the first appearance of Detective Inspector James Antrobus, another nineteenth century police officer, this time operating from the headquarters of the Oxford City Police. I spent four very enjoyable years studying at Oxford, and when I conceived the character of Antrobus, it seemed natural that I should place him in that ancient university city, where he can tackle the many sinister criminals thrown up by both Town and Gown. As a further tribute to my alma mater, I decided that all the Antrobus novels should feature the name “Oxford” in their titles.

An Oxford Tragedy (2015) showed James Antrobus, and his petulant but fiercely 9780719816086protective sergeant, Joseph Maxwell, investigating the death of Sir Montague Fowler, Warden of St Michael’s College. He crosses swords with a number of secretive and eccentric dons, uncovers a long-hidden academic fraud, and has deep dealings with the late Sir Montague’s devious family before he brings the truth of this particular Oxford tragedy to light.

However, it is not only the criminal world that Antrobus has to contend with. James Antrobus is a man coping as well as he is able with chronic consumption of the lungs. Throughout the Oxford stories we see him seized with haemorrhages of the lungs and appalling coughing fits, together with periods of hospitalization, where he has to submit to some of the stern and rather terrifying treatments of the day.  Countless thousands of people lived with the many crippling variants of tuberculosis rampant in that era, including a number of prominent police officers, men like Antrobus, who fought valiantly to carry out their duties, often with complete success before an inevitably early death.

Inspector Antrobus is lucky to have a friend and fellow-sleuth in the person of Dr Sophia Jex-Blake, who becomes both his ally and, when necessary, his physician. Jex-Blake was, of course, a real person, one of a group of remarkable women who laboured for the right of their sex to become doctors. Given the medical context of these stories, I think the alliance of the fictional Antrobus and the real-life Sophia Jex-Blake works well.

Will we see more of Antrobus and Sophia Jex-Blake? Well, nineteenth century Oxford was a place concealing many dark mysteries, festering professional jealousies, murderous desires, and other sinister proclivities common to the human condition. So if Dr Jex-Blake can keep Antrobus in the land of the living – and I rather think that she can – then there will be plenty of work to keep him busy.

An Oxford Anomaly will be published by Robert Hale in April 2016

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9780719816086An Oxford Tragedy by Norman Russell

1894, Sir Montague Fowler, warden of St Michael’s College, Oxford, dies from apparent natural causes but an autopsy reveals that his body was full of the deadly poison mercuric chloride. Detective Antrobus of the Oxford city police is summoned to investigate. Who would benefit most from the warden’s death? His three children are all in desperate need of money and each are embroiled in their own scandal. Antrobus’s list of suspects grows as it seems everyone had something to gain from the death. Aided by pioneer physician, Sophia Jex-Blake, the detective sets about unravelling the truth behind this Oxford tragedy.

Norman Russell was born in Lancashire but has lived most of his life in Liverpool. After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, he served a term in the army and was later awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. He now writes full-time. Among his previous novels published by Robert Hale are Depths of Destruction, The Dorset House Affair and The Calton Papers.

Buy your copy of An Oxford Tragedy here.

9780719815607

Imperfect Pretence by Ann Barker

Max Persault loves his sea-faring life as a ship-owner and merchant. When his cousin Alistair, the newly elevated Duke of Haslingfield, appeals for his help, he finds himself masquerading as the duke and on his way to Cromer, while Alistair sets off to France to complete an undercover mission. Before even arriving at his destination, Max has aroused the suspicions of Miss Constance Church. Constance struggles with her misgivings about Max. At first dismissing him, she soon begins to suspect that there may be much more to him than meets the eye. In this lively and comedic tale of love and masquerade, first impressions are questioned, judgments are upturned and pretences must eventually come undone.

Ann Barker was born and brought up in Bedfordshire, but currently lives in Norfolk. For more information about Ann Barker and her books, please go to http://www.AnnBarker.com.

Buy your copy of Imperfect Pretence here.

9780719815843Give Me Tomorrow by Jeanne Whitmee

The Davies family is as dysfunctional as they come. When Frank marries a younger woman, Susan, his ten-year-old daughter Louise feels pushed out, and even more so when baby Karen arrives. Now, years later, with her father gone, Louise feels even more the odd one out. Obsessed with finding her birth mother, she distances herself from her family, hiding the truth of her flailing acting career from them, and spitefully makes trouble for Karen whenever the opportunity arises. Karen meanwhile wants to return to her career as a teacher after baby Peter is born, but her husband Simon has other ideas. Susan longs to see her girls reconciled and to pick up the threads of her own life again.Eventually each one, in her own way, is shown the path to happiness. But will they take it?

Jeanne Whitmee originally trained as an actress and later taught Speech and Drama until taking up writing full-time. She has written many novels including Too Late to Paint the Roses, To Dream Again and True Colours, also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Give Me Tomorrow here.

9780719813009Sherlock Holmes and the Unholy Trinity by Paul Gilbert

A colourfully dressed Bedouin interrupts the breakfast of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with a cryptic message of warning: they must stay away from the affairs of his people. Before long the detective and his assistant are dispatched to the Vatican to investigate the murder of Cardinal Tosca. Considered the Pope’s natural successor, Tosca was killed as he worked on the translation of an ancient scroll. All clues point towards Holmes and Watson’s Bedouin intruder and there are whispers of the involvement of a so-called ‘unholy trinity’. The duo embark upon a dangerous trip to Egypt, the birthplace of the Coptic Church, to uncover the nature of a parchment missing from Cardinal Tosca’s office and, ultimately, the motives of the Bedouin.

Paul D. Gilbert was born in North London and now lives in Harrow with his wife Jackie and their two sons. As well as his passion for the work of Arthur Conan Doyle, he also enjoys history, science-fiction and Tai Chi. His previous two novels, Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra and The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes, were also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Unholy Trinity here.

OUT NOW: The Ghosts of Mayfield Court by Norman Russell

The Ghosts of Mayfield Court by Norman RussellNorman Russell was born in Lancashire but has lived most of his life in Liverpool. After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, he served a term in the army and was later awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. He now writes full-time. Among his previous novels published by Robert Hale are Depths of Destruction, The Dorset House Affair and The Calton Papers.

The Ghosts of Mayfield Court by Norman Russell

When Maximilian Paget inherits Mayfield Court, he and his niece Catherine find it to be half ruined, and haunted by the wraith of a murdered child. Catherine discovers a child’s skeleton, bringing rural Detective Inspector Saul Jackson and his bibulous but shrewd sergeant, Herbert Bottomley, to investigate. Once returned to London, neither uncle nor niece can shake off the baleful influence of Mayfield. And when Uncle Max is murdered by a deranged killer who, Jackson discovers, has left a trail of corpses in an attempt to secure a hidden fortune, Catherine herself faces imminent death and a monstrous betrayal. Set in late Victorian times, this is the ninth Inspector Jackson story.

The Ghosts of Mayfield Court by Norman Russell is available to buy now with a limited time only discount of 30%

The Ghosts of Mayfield Court by Norman Russell