Novels and short stories

The Chosen Man is the first book in a trilogy. Set in 17th century Europe it involves papal politics, the Thirty Years War, and the financial scandal known as tulipomania in Holland. There is a charming rogue, Ludovico da Portovenere who is an Genoese silk and spice merchant commissioned by the King of Spain to destabilize the burgeoning Protestant Dutch economy in 1635. There are also pirates similar to those that sailed up quiet European estuaries to capture men, women and children for the white slave trade.

If you are interested in the historical background to The Chosen Man, read Tulipomania by Mike Dash, and a fascinating but disturbing book on the history of supposed Vatican conspiracies and espionage The Entity by Eric Frattini.

A Turning Wind Writing the second story in The Chosen Man Trilogy took a long time because the background history was all so interesting. I started by investigating the spice and gem trade from Goa in India to Portugal and the rest of Europe around the middle of the 17th century, then moved on to what was happening in Plymouth and London during the run up to the English Civil War. That was also full of fascinating rabbit holes. The kernel of the story start to take shape, however, after I located letters between Henrietta Maria and her husband, King Charles. Pursuing this line, I found messages sent by a Venetian envoy at the Court of Charles Stuart to his Doge. Henrietta Maria was the sister of the Queen of Spain, and I soon learned that a secret treaty between England and Spain had been drawn up just prior to the outbreak of war. So here it was, the reason the chosen man is called upon to act in secret again, ostensibly for King Charles, but in fact for the royal sisters. Ludo’s mission is clandestine on both counts, and naturally he intends to turn the skullduggery to his advantage, but in the process – and it doesn’t all fall out as he plans – he finds himself obsessed by a secret of his own.

Ludo’s journey from Goa was made on a turning wind – the monsoon. The events in London and Madrid are subject to a wind of change. And as before, Ludo has the unpredictable, ambitious Alina to think of – and a wife as well. As Alina, now Baroness Metherall, becomes caught up between the monarchs in an unpleasant domestic conspiracy, she, too, has to make unforeseen decisions.

By Force of Circumstance The final part of The Chosen Man Trilogy takes Ludo back to England against his will, but potentially offers him a means of making a great deal of money to assert himself as a member of the powerful Genoese Doria clan and a merchant to be reckoned with. That his plan goes awry due to the intervention of the lovely but ambitious Alina should come as no surprise – nor that Ludo has very mixed feelings about her acting as his accomplice at the royal court of Portugal in Lisbon.

As with the previous books, the background history to the novel makes fascinating reading. Specific details come from letters between Henrietta Maria and her husband, King Charles, plus secret reports sent to the Doge of Venice by a very perceptive envoy. Henrietta Maria really did try to sell historic gems belonging to the English Crown Jewels during the English Civil War: initially, she tried to pawn them in Amsterdam but when that failed, she resorted to selling them in any way she could. This is where Ludo steps in – to his own benefit, of course.

Ludo’s story comes to a conclusion when he discovers his real identity, which is based on what happened in the Mediterranean during the 17th Century. What happens to Marcos in Plymouth is based on recorded history. Each of them is a victim of circumstance; as is Alina. But I’ll leave you, dear reader, to decide whether Alina’s choice at the end of the book was the right one, or not.

The Empress Emerald, is set between 1900-1944. This was a period of rapid social change when people’s lives were disrupted not only by war and international political events, but by technology. Transport, communications and weaponry were developing so rapidly, daily life in the first half of the twentieth century changed nearly as fast as our own.

The protagonists’ lives are influenced by two World Wars, Civil War in Spain and India’s transition to Independence. Leo Kazan, half-Russian, half-Indian, and descendant of Ludo in The Chosen Man, is another charming rogue who can’t be trusted, but he’s also a victim of events beyond his control. The novel raises the question: do the circumstances of his birth and abduction excuse his behaviour? It is for the reader to decide. The heroine, Davina Fulford, who grows up in the old Cornish mansion Crimphele, lives in a fairy tale world of her own making - until she finds herself in a much darker story, and in a very different country.

Local Resistance
A Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery
Murder and Make Do
According to PC Laurie Oliver nothing ever happens in Porthferris. But in the spring of 1941, Maisie Rose Hawkins leaves her husband out in the rain to die; an axe-wielding farmer threatens a rationing inspector; and an elderly spinster is suspected of murder. While Dad’s Army is practising hilarious defence measures and an Army major is equipping the disused copper mine as an Operations Base for Churchill’s ‘Secret Army’, a German u-boat surfaces in the bay at night. Everybody knows everybody’s secrets, but nobody quite knows the truth. Can reluctant wartime detective Bob Robbins discover what is really going on, and why there is so much local resistance?

Private Lives
A Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery
Cozy crime with a sinister twist and a dash of dark humour
While reluctant wartime detective Bob Robbins is enjoying a few days’ holiday on the North Devon coast he becomes involved in a shooting incident on a derelict farm. An elderly farmer lies injured, and then disappears. A young man is found dead in the barn. Bob reports the incident to the local police in Bideford, but they are so over-stretched with extra Home Front duties he finds himself in charge of the case. In urgent need of assistance, Bob requests the help of the young police recruit Laurie Oliver. They take rooms at Peony Villas, an unusual sort of guest house where a troupe of London actors are in residence, and where Bob soon finds himself involved in yet another peculiar mystery.

Courting Danger
A Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery.
Wartime rural police procedural

“Dr Lanyon might have been a well-respected physician, PC Oliver, but he had the morals of an alley-cat.”

Cornwall, England, 1943. Dumpy, grumpy wartime Detective Segreant Bob Robbins is called out to investigate a suspected suicide in a remote moorland pool. Gogmagog Ditch has a history steeped in Cornish folklore, but what attracted the victim to such a desolate spot and why?
Dr Corin Lanyon was liked by all and loved by many – especially women. As Bob untangles the victim’s various relationships and close connection to a Celtic Circle heritage group, he confirms the doctor’s death was no accident. Ably assisted by the bright but naïve PC Laurie Oliver, Bob uncovers a web of criminality, deceit, and stolen museum artefacts, but could any of the eclectic ensemble be guilty of murder?
The discovery of a second body leaves no room for doubt. To track down the killer, or killers, Bob and Laurie must learn how the crimes were committed – starting with another visit to the bleak moorland pool, and the discovery of a sacred cave in a hollow hill.
Courting Danger is a thrilling tangled web of clues set in the breath-taking beauty of the Cornish moors during WWII that any cozy mystery fan will love.

Secret Meetings
Book 4 in the Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery
A wartimecountry house murder mystery

I began writing Secret Meetings largely because I wanted to have a go at a country murder mystery. Then, while doing preparatory research, I came across a snippet on a WWII blog about Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower disappearing for an ultra-secret, two-day meeting in Scotland in the run up to the Normandy Landings. How, I wondered, could Churchill disappear from public view in 1944? Answer: they used an impersonator. Enter DS Bob Robbins.
Reading more about Operation Overlord and D-Day soon gave me the material for a historical crime story about wartime espionage. Except, as in most of my novels, there is also a more domestic affair involving questions of loyalty and double dealing running through it.
International events and skulduggery, domestic politics, love and loyalty; a similar outline to The Chosen Man Trilogy, but set in one location. I thought this would make it easier. It didn’t. Not at all. Secret Meetings was hard to write, and especially hard to get right, so I am especially thrilled by the positive reviews it is now getting.

The Doomsong Sword. In the darkest years of Long Ago in the cold, cold North, there were two young men who were very much alike; and very different in all that mattered most. Davor was a spinner of stories; Sigurd was an earl. Both were destined to confront an evil dragon – but only one of them slew the beast.
The Doomsong Sword is coming-of-age, mythic fantasy based on the ancient Norse Volsung Saga, where the real tests of character aren’t always what they seem.

Dark Night, Black Horse, is a short story based on true events that occurred during the first year of the Spanish Civil War in rural Andalucía.  The characters of Diego and his son (also named Diego but called Paco here to avoid confusion) are based on the father and grandfather of a friend who breeds horses in Coín.

Noche Oscura, Caballo Negro, es la traducción al español del relato, que ya está disponible en versión Kindle.

Two time-slip short stories

The Mist Rolling In. Dan and Laura are a young couple escaping the rat-race in a remote part of Scotland. As the mist rolls in, Laura suggests they live there. Dan laughs, but Laura has a secret reason.

Read the story here. Inspired by the song Mull of Kintyre this story was written during a holiday in the Western Isles.

The Cats of Capriale. Edna is on a package tour of Italy with two old school friends. They visit the ancient mountain village of Capriale, a mysterious place full of narrow, winding passage ways - and cats. Capriale has a sinister history of witch trials. It all takes Edna back . . . and back . . . and back

Read the story here. It was written after my own visit to an ancient Italian village full of cats.

Very short stories

The Last Assignment. This was written for the Discovering Diamonds Blog Challenge to write a story inspired by a song. In this case it is a tune. Can you guess the tune?

Read the story here.