Publication Day for In Cases of Murder by Jan Edwards @Jancoledwards

I’m delighted to say ‘Happy Publication Day’ to Jan Edwards as she launches her latest book baby into the world. In Cases of Murder is the fourth in her award winning series of Bunch Courtney Investigations.

The series features Rose ‘Bunch’ Courtney and Chief Inspector William Wright who undertake their investigations in the heart of the Sussex Downs in the turbulent years of WW2. It’s a carefully created world that is a mix of fact and fiction. Regarding the setting, towns such as Worthing, Storrington, Chichester, Brighton are real but the villages of Wyncombe and Chiltwick, along with Perringham House and Banyard Manor are entirely fictional. Historically, Jan aims to keep her fictional world as accurate as possible, with regard to the artefacts, language and the historical backdrop. That said, she admits to ‘playing a little fast and loose with certain details concerning the logistics and locations of the Sussex Constabularies’.

So what can we expect to uncover In Cases of Murder?

When the body of Laura Jarman is discovered crammed inside a steamer trunk and dumped on a Brighton railway station platform, her wealthy industrialist family is shouting for answers, but their reluctance to co-operate with the investigation arouses suspicion. Shortly after, a second body – Laura’s flatmate Kitty – is discovered in similar circumstances. What links Laura and Kitty to the private gentlemen’s parties held in a country house on the edge of sleepy Wyncombe village, and what is Laura’s family so desperate to conceal? Bunch Courtney and DCI William Wright find themselves racing along a convoluted trail through munitions factories and London clubs to a final shocking end.

It sounds an intriguing story and here, Jan offers an insight into an historical gem that inspired the idea of trains, suitcases and South London.

In Cases of Murder takes Bunch and Wright into South London, and while researching 1930s and 40s London crime  I came across the infamous female Forty Thieves – allied by blood to the male dominated Elephant gang (after the area around Elephant and Castle). Though the gang’s roots stem from the Regency period the Forty Thieves’ heyday was the 20th century inter-war period. They were led in that time by Alice Diamond who held sway by that time over both the all-female gang and their male counterparts. Though the UK never had prohibition the gang used the newly found freedoms of the jazz age by utilising draw to befriend their victims via clubs and wild parties – fleecing the rich through society long before the Krays were born!

The gang had specialised in shoplifting on an industrial scale but once the large stores had grown wise to them moved on to the far more lucrative burglary of large houses. They specialised in country homes and seaside resorts, using the hedonistic lifestyles of the wealthy bright young things of the era to infiltrate parties and events. They used fast cars to outrun the police before transferring loot to the railway system. They would to travel to a town and deposited empty suitcases at railway stations and on the return trip, those suitcases would be filled with stolen goods.

1926 picture IPN Thursday 9 September p5

In Cases of Murder  sees the Elephants led by Diamond’s prodigy, Lily Kendall (nee Goldstein – aka the Bobbed-Haired bandit – known, according to history, to have started out as a getaway driver and risen through the ranks). In my version Kendall runs a series of nightclubs as cover for the gang’s businesses and it is to her that Wright turns for information on the second suitcase body linked to the investigation.

Though not the lead characters – Kendall only appears twice in the books – this gang’s links to trains, suitcases and South London were too good to miss! If nothing else they also add a new darker layer of intrigue to Chief Inspector Wright’s past.

Lily Kendall : In Cases of Murder by Jan Edwards. Blog post, 27 November, 2022

Catch up with Bunch Courtney Investigations Books 1-3

Meet the Author

Jan Edwards writes golden age mysteries and has published four titles in her Bunch Courtney Investigation series. Her nostalgic main stream book Sussex Tales  gained a Winchester Slim Volume award and she also has a BFA Karl Edward Wagner award for her fantasy fiction. A Sussex native, Jan now lives in Norths Staffs.

Her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies across the UK and USA (full details on her blog). She was a script writer for the Dr Who DVD and book,  Daemons of Devil’s End. Jan is also an anthologist with the award winning Alchemy Press, co-owned with her husband Peter Coleborn. 

You can discover more about Jan and her work via her blog


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