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Robert Barnard (1936-2013) lived in Leeds, was born in Essex and educated at Balliol. He had a distinguished career as an academic before he became a full-time writer. His first crime novel, Death of an Old Goat, was written while he was professor of English at the University of Tromso in Norway, the world's most northerly university. He was a writer of great versatility, from the light and satirical tone of his earlier books to the more psychological preoccupations of recent ones, such as A Fatal Attachment. Under the name of Bernard Bastable he also wrote novels featuring Mozart as a detective, and is the author of many short stories. He created several detectives, including Perry Trethowan and Charlie Peace. Robert Barnard said he wrote only to entertain. He regarded Agatha Christie as his ideal crime writer and published an appreciation of her work, A Talent to Deceive, as well as books on Dickens, a history of English literature and nearly thirty mysteries. Robert Barnard was the winner of the 2003 CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for a lifetime of achievement.
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Barnard, an English academic was once the crime writer's crime writer, appreciated for his craft and imagination. Much-lauded by his peers, he never became as famous as others as he seldom used recurring characters or established a long-lasting series in the public's eye. The revival of his books, some years after his death, is to be applauded and The Case of the Missing Bronte reflects Barnard's skill, devious plotting and expertise to best effect (he was a Bronte specialist as well one of the best Agatha Christie experts), when Superintendent Perry Trethowan is stranded in Yorkshire and stumbles upon a mysterious manuscript. A light touch, a smidgeon of humour and as many twists as you can fit into a tight plot make for near perfect, old-fashioned criminal entertainment. Alongside, A Little Local Murder is also being reissued in advance of his other novels, a subtle exercise in small English village mystery shenanigans at its wittiest.
Moving into an upmarket new home in Leeds, rising radio star Matt Harper is shocked to find the skeleton of a small child in the attic. His grisly discovery takes him back to the summer of 1969, when he lived with his aunt only a few streets away, reawakening dim, disquieting memories from his childhood. While Detective Charlie Peace heads up the nominal police investigation into the bones, Matt revisits the past in an attempt to solve the mystery himself. Tracking down the other members of a gang of local children he'd once belonged to, he gradually unearths a shared secret that has laid buried ever since. Were the bones in the attic the result of a tragic accident, or has time concealed a more sinister truth? 'Exceptionally well-plotted and written with a stylistic modesty that does the story proud' Literary Review 'Barnard never disappoints' The Times 'Another fine crime novel by the master of the genre' Irish Times
With the Nazis bombing London on a nightly basis, many working-class families sent their children to the comparative safety of the countryside. When the Blitz ended, the families came for their kids . . . but no one ever came for Simon Thorn. His name appears on no list of the evacuated children. And none of his meagre belongings offer any clues to his origins. Now an adult, newly moved to London, Simon is puzzled by an odd sense of familiarity when he walks down certain streets. He remembers his years of terrible nightmares-nightmares that would cause him to wake up screaming, terrifying his bewildered foster parents. And he resolves, once and for all, to find out where he originally came from . . . even as everything he uncovers suggests that, really, he doesn't want to know. Widely praised for his deliciously, maliciously witty mysteries, the multi-award-winning Robert Barnard takes a decidedly different tack in this fascinating novel of wartime London and the dark side of identity. 'An engrossing tale of a man's search for his identity and his discovery of an alarming past' Publishers Weekly 'There are shrewd characterisations and villains aplenty in this oddly affecting tale' Time 'Barnard untangles his riddle with great skill, and I suspect he is going to outwit all but a handful of readers' New York Times
First published in 1979, Unruly Son received an Edgar Award nomination for "e;Best Novel"e; of the year. Sir Oliver Fairleigh-Stubbs, overweight and overbearing, collapses and dies at his birthday party while indulging his taste for rare liquors. He had promised his daughter he would be polite and charitable for the entire day, but the strain of such exemplary behaviour was obviously too great. He leaves a family relieved to be rid of him, and he also leaves a fortune, earned as a bestselling mystery author. To everyone's surprise, Sir Oliver's elder son, who openly hated his father, inherits most of the estate. His wife, his daughter, and his younger son are each to receive the royalties from one carefully chosen book. But the manuscript of the unpublished volume left to Sir Oliver's wife-a posthumous "e;last case"e; that might be worth millions-has disappeared. And Sir Oliver's death is beginning to look less than natural. Into this bitter household comes Inspector Meredith, a spirited Welshman who in some ways resembles Sir Oliver's fictional hero. In Robert Barnard's skilful hands, Inspector Meredith's investigation becomes not only a classic example of detection but an elegant and humorous slice of crime.
The Burleigh school was dying. It would be called a mercy killing were it not for the little band of inept, eccentric, or otherwise unemployable teachers who depended on this absolutely awful English boys' academy for their meagre livelihoods. A lack of funds, facilities, and foresight had brought Burleigh to the very edge of extinction. Now someone planned to give it one final, deadly push. Malice was afoot behind the ivied walls, trailing hard on the heels of Hilary Frome, Headmaster Crumwallis's unfortunate choice for the next headboy. For when something sinister popped up in the punch on Parents' Evening, when nasty pranks became no joke, the next event at bloody Burleigh was bound to be . . . simply murder. `Crackerjack entertainment . . . deserves the kind of raves heaped up on his other prize whodunits.' Publishers Weekly `There is no one quite like Robert Barnard in his ability to combine chills and chuckles and to sprinkle the whole with delicious irony.' San Diego Union `The wryest wit and most scathing satire in today's mystery.' Chicago Sun-Times
A Scandal In Belgravia is a story of murder; it is also a penetrating analysis of a decaying social class and a society in transition. And it is the personal, deeply moving story of two men, Peter Proctor, recently retired as a senior British cabinet minister, and Timothy Wycliffe, a young aristocrat who was bludgeoned to death more than thirty years ago. The two had met in the early 1950s as fledgling diplomats in the Foreign Office. Wycliffe, the grandson of a marquess, had little in common with Proctor, the self-made man on his way up. But the elegant, joyful, intensely alive Wycliffe relished all kinds of people, including his very naive and earnest middle-class colleague. The friendship was close for a while, gradually becoming more occasional. Even Wycliffe's murder, shocking as it was, caused relatively little impact on his friends and the national press, who were distracted that week by more momentous events in the news. Only now, over three decades later, does Wycliffe's brutal death become Proctor's obsession. Relieved of his official post after a long and distinguished career, Proctor decides to write his memoirs. But beyond a banal chapter on his youth, nothing will come. Memories of Timothy Wycliffe take over his mind, pushing aside all other thoughts. It is only in probing the past, in tracking down the people who knew Wycliffe, in discovering the shocking truth of his murder, that Peter Proctor will find peace.
Susannah Sneddon had never received a great deal of fame or fortune from her novel-writing in the twenties and thirties. In the remote Yorkshire village of Micklewike, where she had lived on a run-down farm, she was now chiefly remembered for the violence of her demise - battered to death, apparently by her jealous brother, who then shot himself. That was back in 1932, and now there was a renewed surge of interest in the Sneddons, led by the shady publisher and entrepreneur Gerald Suzman. He had bought up the farm and formed the Sneddon Fellowship, with the declared aim of making the Sneddons' reputation as a kind of twentieth-century Bronte family. A motley collection of enthusiasts gathered in Micklewike for the inaugural meeting of the Sneddon Fellowship, including Charlie Peace, a young black detective constable sent to keep an eye on things. There was a suspicion that Suzman's motives were not quite as purely literary as they seemed. And when Suzman was found lying dead with his head bashed in, a surprising number of possible reasons for his death emerged amongst the group of Sneddon followers. Charlie and Superintendent Mike Oddie had to examine evidence both old and new as the strange case of the Sneddon literary heritage was gradually unravelled. `One of the deftest stylists in the field' New York Times Book Review `This story is a beauty . . . enlivened by Barnard's wit and his knowledge of the seedier side of literary affairs' Birmingham Post
Old church meets new with a vengeance when a monk is brutally murdered at St. Botolph's. Murder wasn't on the agenda for the symposium on the role of the Anglican Church today-until a brother is found dead in his cell. Suddenly the diverse guest list falls under suspicion. Could it be the bishop famous for his television appearances or his exotic counterpart from Africa; one of the three vicars who run the gamut from trendy to traditional; the nondenominational American with a passion for fundraising; or perhaps one of the two Norwegian lady divines? Or is it one of the brothers themselves, taking advantage of the camouflage provided by outside visitors? Surely the tensions between the cloistered clergy and their more worldly visitors can't have led to such an unthinkable occurrence. But why is Father Anselm, the austere head of the Anglican Community, so reluctant to allow an investigation? Is he concerned simply about unfavourable publicity? Or is there a darker secret hidden behind the inscrutable walls of St. Botolph's? `Robert Barnard . . . writes with irony and wit and considerable skill and grace' St Louis Post-Dispatch `A first-rate suspense story . . . highly original and entertaining.' Booklist `Robert Barnard is the most reliable and versatile practitioner of English mystery-comedy on the present scene. A virtuoso . . .' New York Times Book Review
The MP for Bootham East was something of a fish out of water - a Tory with a conscience. When he was actually fished out of water, the Thames to be precise, it looked like a clear case of suicide or accident. But as Superintendent Sutcliffe's investigations got under way, and as the by-election campaign to elect his successor hotted up, some very murky political waters were dredged and made to reveal their secrets. The local Labour Party had been hijacked by the extreme left, the Tory Party had had an unattractive young man with dubious City connections foisted on it, and the Alliance candidate had something nasty in his past he would prefer to forget. In fact, by the time of the declaration poll, all the parties wished the by-election had never had to happen, and that the dirt had remained brushed away under the carpet. In this witty and penetrating look at British politics, Robert Barnard shows a `sharp and knowing eye', as well as what Newsweek called his `wit . . . energy and style.
Upstairs, in the room looking out to sea, the old man dictates wills, leaving things he no longer has to friends who are long dead. His children, who look after him, can cope with his senility, and thought there was nothing more to learn about his erratic life-style. When Roderick Cotterel hears from his illegitimate half-sister he is intrigued, even charmed: she is the daughter of his father, the distinguished novelist Benedict Cotterel, by the famous actress Myra Mason. She is writing a book about her mother, and is looking for material. The affair between the two had been a gutter press sensation back in the `sixties, but the embers have long since cooled. However, when Cordelia and her boyfriend arrive and begin research for the book both Roderick and his wife begin to have doubts. And when their peaceful Sussex village is threatened by a visit from an almost suspiciously friendly Myra Mason, they realize they have got into something from which it would require superhuman delicacy and tact to extricate themselves. In the event somebody solves their problems in a way that is neither tactful nor delicate, though it certainly is final. `He never takes the easy path of repeating a winning formula.' Time Magazine
Chetton Hall was one of the glories of Jacobean domestic architecture, and the Spenders had lived in Chetton ever since their founder had peculated the money to build it while he was the King's Secretary of Monopolies. Over the years they had accumulated accrustations of dignity, to say nothing of wealth. Which made it doubly shocking when the Earldom descended to Percy Spender, who was `not quite', not to mention his family, who were not at all. When the family descends on Chetton for his sixtieth birthday, accompanied by various hangers-on, their main obsession is to discover his intentions for the future of the place. Hardly less interested is his man of business, and his neighbours, who feel sadly the diminished glory of the house. The Spenders, in fact, have always felt like birds in a guilded cage at Chetton. Before the celebrations are over, one of the birds is a very dead duck indeed. The traditional country house party murder is turned on its head, given a few twists, and ends up much reinvigorated in this witty and lively whodunit by a writer who, as described in The Times Literary Supplement, `can write most under the table with one hand behind his back.' `Mr Barnard always maintains an exceptionally high level, being as much litterateur as mystery story writer; fortunately, he never lets his literary flair get in the way of his mysteries.' New York Times Book Review
The Skeleton In The Grass, reminiscent of Robert Barnard's much-acclaimed Out of the Blackout, illuminates an earlier time and place: a small English village in 1936, as Franco's troops are conquering Spain and Hitler's legions are preparing to overrun Europe. The world at large may be sliding into the abyss of disaster, but life at Hallam, country seat of the glamorous and renowned Hallam family, still represents the ultimate in British civilization. Teatime, with its cucumber sandwiches and cream cakes, continues as it has for a hundred years. It's not that the Hallam family ignores the world outside its gracious doors. On the contrary, Helen and Dennis Hallam care passionately about peace and principle, and Dennis dramatically conveys these views to the nation in his controversial weekly review column. Avowed pacifists, Helen and Dennis represent a political stance that the villagers mistrust and fear. That fear and suspicion turn to nasty pranks when a sinister Fascist major gains control over some of the local youths. Helen and Dennis, and their sons Oliver and Will, become the victims of cruel taunts and the kind of teasing that leads to terror. As the Hallams and villagers grow more hostile, we see the story through the eyes of Sarah Causeley, and idealistic young woman who has recently come to be nursery governess at Hallam. To Sarah, the Hallams represent beauty, brilliance, and style-an idyllic life in the midst of chaos. But as she watches, the Hallams' world begins to disintegrate, and a tense and unexpected encounter leads to a shocking murder. Much more than a crime novel, The Skeleton in the Grass is an extraordinary piece of fiction that captures the essence of a family that captures the essence of a family and a world on the brink of extinction. With subtlety and skill, Robert Barnard amazes with his versatility and storytelling power.
With A City of Strangers, award-winning novelist Robert Barnard, acclaimed for his quick wit and astute insight into the vagaries of class distinction and human foible, achieves a new level of mastery. He also creates one of his most memorable characters ever: the dreadful Jack Phelan. Dirty, potbellied, vulgar, selfish, Jack is a man everyone loves to hate. And the rest of his family isn't much better. The wife is slatternly, the teenaged children flirt with petty crime and prostitution, even the baby is unpleasant. Only twelve-year-old Michael Phelan seems to have escaped the family curse, and it may be just a question of time until he, too, sinks to the Phelan level. For years the infamous Phelans, known with equal horror to the Social Security office and the local school, have lived in slovenly squalor in their council house in the run-down Belfield Grove Estate in the northern English city of Sleate. The Phelans' infamy has even penetrated the middle-class bastion of respectability, Wynton Lane, where six imposing Victorian stone houses stand in fearful isolation next to Belfield Grove. Wynton Lane and Belfield Grove have only their unfortunate proximity in common until the fateful day when the Phelans come to call. It seems that Jack has won big on the pools, and he's thinking of buying one of the six houses. Nothing so exciting has ever happened on Wynton Lane, and the homeowners hope it never will again. Until now barely nodding acquaintances the Wynton Lane residents call an urgent meeting to map an emergency strategy. What can they do to stop Jack Phelan? What indeed? The Wynton Lane people have always thought of themselves as law-abiding, but they soon discover that malice can take on a momentum of its own, a momentum that can even lead to murder. Shocking, mesmerizing, incisive, A City of Strangers leaves a deep impression on the reader and confirms the artistry of a superb novelist in his prime.
Lill Hodsden was a monster. She rode roughshod over her daughter, wiped her feet on her husband, blackmailed her lovers and smothered her sons with a mother love that left them screaming out for freedom. Lill set the hackles rising all over Todmarsh, the little South Coast town she queened it over. She was just asking to be done in. And her sons were very ready to oblige. In fact, they had it all worked out, for Saturday night. But when Lill was found garrotted on Thursday, on the way home from one of her boy-friends', the case was wide open, and half Todmarsh would have regarded the murderer as a civic benefactor. Inspector McHale, on his first murder case, is a man who values intelligence, particularly his own. He is convinced he is going to discover the killer. But is he going to discover the right one? In the claustrophobic relationships around the appalling Lill, Robert Barnard has used his gift for creating murderable monsters to set up a murder everybody can sympathize with.
Hexton-upon-Weir was ruled by its women: they set the tone, they made the decisions, they called the tune. When they decided to band together to block the appointment of a new vicar who was not only unacceptably High Church but - of all ugly things - celibate to boot, they managed to create merry hell. As the town was riven by faction and counter-faction, Helen Kitterage tried to remain aloof, but before long she was drawn into the maelstrom, as, during the down's fete, ill-will and conspiracy degenerated into murder. Helen was convinced that somewhere among the secrets of this murderous Cranford there must be found some key shame that someone had thought it worth killing to keep unknown. In this tart and witty updating of the traditional English village mystery, `the chameleon talent of Mr Barnard' (Sunday Times) is demonstrated once again through that sharp ear and eye that led the Washington Post to exclaim: `One of the funniest men writing mysteries today has to be Robert Barnard.'
The Ketterick Festival revolves around the Saracen's Head, a Jacobean inn with its inn-yard and balconies miraculously preserved intact, due to the sloth of successive landlords. Here in festival time are performed the lesser-known masterpieces of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. This year it is The Chaste Apprentice of Bowe (a play of uncertain authorship, since no one owned up at the time). But the actors find that the Saracen's Head has been transformed by its new landlord - an Australian know-all with an insatiable curiosity and an instinct for power. The loathsome Des's activities bring him into conflict with actors, committee, even the performers of Adelaide di Birckenhead, the little-known Donizetti opera that is the other lynchpin of the Festival programme. So adept is Des at fomenting friction and ferreting in the undergrowth of private lives that it is not surprising that it all ends in biers. Barnard's festive romp spares no one in the arts world, and even suggests a solution to a long-felt operatic want, showing once again why he has been called `a specialist in snide japery' (Time Magazine), whose mysteries are `among the best' (New York Times).
Rosemary Sheffield has a sort of reverse epiphany one day while walking in the park: she no longer believes in God. This sudden loss of faith is at first entirely liberating, but the situation gradually becomes more complicated. Rosemary is, after all, the beloved wife of the vicar at St. Saviour's parish. A storm of controversy erupts in her husband's church congregation, but Rosemary, with the words I do not believe, leaves behind the scandal and gossip for a seaside sojourn in Scarborough. Here she meets Stanko, a Bosnian refugee who illegally entered the country. But what begins as a supportive friendship launches an ungodly chain of events-and Rosemary soon finds herself back at home caught up in a murder investigation. Barnard's trademark seamless plotting and riotous sense of humor stand out wonderfully in his latest whodunit. Booklist His plots are downright Mozartian in their effortless complexity New York Newsday