**Giveaway** The publishers have kindly offered two copies of this book for me to giveaway. To be in with a chance to win, simply comment on this review by 8pm on Friday 17th July and I’ll pick two names at random as winners. Make sure you check back on the blog as I’ll announce the winners here and will need you to email me your postal details if you are a winner. Open to UK residents only due to postage costs.
What I thought:
This is a murder mystery story with a difference. It is based on a genuine unsolved murder which happened in Broughty Ferry, now a suburb of Dundee, in 1912. Andrew Nicoll has brilliantly brought together police reports, witness statements and newspaper articles from the actual investigation. As the title suggests, the lady herself is already dead at the beginning of the book, so we learn of her life through these police investigations into her murder. A very intriguing character, Miss Milne is a well-to-do spinster living alone in large house in Broughty Ferry. She seems every inch the prim and proper church-going lady, very set in her ways, but as we learn, she does indeed have a secret life. Rather than being strait-laced it seems she enjoyed many liaisons with various men on her travels to London and occasionally brought them to her home.
Andrew Nicoll vividly describes the murder scene so the reader is in no doubt just how brutal the murder was. Sergeant John Fraser is the narrator for the most part and he is investigating the crime with the help of Detective John Trench, famous at that time for having solved another high-profile case. They work together interviewing the various witnesses, many of whom come forward following the offer of a reward. Trench, in particular, is convinced that a foreigner or madman must have carried out the murder given its brutality. So when a Canadian conman, Jack Warner, is arrested in London, it seems that he may be their man. Warner protests he has never been in Scotland and was in fact abroad at the time of the murder. Fraser and Trench must investigate his claims to see if he is telling the truth or not. Despite wanting to solve the murder, and being under huge pressure to do so, they don’t want to see an innocent man hang.
There was quite a bit dry humour in the book which is perhaps unexpected given the grisly murder. The not so friendly rivalry between the Broughty Ferry police and Dundee police forces was well highlighted, with Sgt Fraser determined that they did not need help from the bigger force. Coming from a suburb of Edinburgh which used to be a town in it own right, I can well understand their need to retain their own identity and their pride in their local community. I also thought it was really amusing that Sgt Fraser didn’t want to use a neighbour’s phone to report the crime in case she was so distressed she needed to share the news with her friends and that before long distress ‘would be flying through every street in the Ferry’!
I purposely didn’t read into the case before I read the book as I didn’t want to know what happened. There was a huge twist at the end which I did not see coming at all. This part of the story is perhaps not factual, but who knows? Maybe Andrew Nicoll has solved the mystery? This was an excellent read, a real page-turner for me and so well written, from the shocking murder at the beginning to the equally shocking and unexpected ending. An intelligent crime novel with secrets, passion and great characters – just a great murder mystery.
My thanks to Janne at Black & White Publishing for providing a review copy of this book. The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne is available now as an ebook and will be published in paperback tomorrow – 17th July 2015. You can buy here: The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne
When the door opened and he came out, there came with him the stench of a dead thing, the sweet, sulphurous, warm, rotten chicken smell that only ever comes from unburied flesh.
A dead body is found in a locked house. It has been stabbed in a frenzy, the hands and feet bound, the skull smashed, false teeth knocked from its jaws. Blood pools around the corpse and drips from the staircase. Yet nothing is missing: money and valuables remain untouched. Who could have murdered an old woman in such a horrifying way? And why? This is the mystery facing Sergeant John Fraser and Detective John Trench when wealthy spinster Miss Jean Milne is murdered in the quiet seaside town of Broughty Ferry. Yet, despite an abundance of clues and apparent witnesses, the investigation proves troublesome: suspects are elusive and Miss Milne herself is found to be far from a model of propriety. And when sensational headlines put pressure on the police force to find a culprit, Fraser and Trench must work fast to prevent the wrong man from going to the gallows. But will they ever unravel the secret life and curious death of Miss Jean Milne?