I'm very honoured today to be kicking off the blog tour for the latest novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle series. Front Page Murder, by Peter Bartram. I also have an exciting extract, so stick around after my review to check that out!
Front Page Murder - A Crampton of the Chronicle mystery
It's December 1963 and Archie Flowerdew is sitting in a cell at Wandsworth Prison waiting to be hanged. On Christmas Eve. It's not exactly how he planned to spend the festive season. But, then, Archie was found guilty of murdering fellow comic postcard artist Percy Despart.
It seems there's nothing that can stop Archie's neck being wrung like a turkey's. Except that his niece Tammy is convinced Archie is innocent. She's determined he will sit down on Christmas Day to tuck into the plum pudding. She persuades Brighton Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton to take up the case.
But Colin has problems of his own. First, that good turn he did to help out Chronicle sub-editor Barry Hobhouse has come back to bite him on the bum. Then Beatrice "the Widow" Gribble, Colin's trouble-prone landlady, needs him to sort out her latest faux pas - she's accidentally sent a Christmas card to her local butcher suggesting she's available for hot sex. And that's before Brighton cops clap Colin and girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith in jail on the charge of harbouring a fugitive from justice.
And, anyway, the more Colin investigates Archie's case, the more it looks like he is guilty… Pick up the third full-length novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle mystery series to get you in the mood for a murderous Christmas!
Front Page Murder is another book by Peter Bartram that's kept me up at night just wanting to read the next page and see what happens next!
Colin Crampton is a fantastic character, I love his sarcasm and sass and I love that he's always getting himself into scrapes just for the sake of a byline. Though he has a jack the lad attitude, he's a softy on the inside and that's the reason he gets in to trouble half of the time.
The story of Front Page Murder follows the story of Archie Flowerdew in the days before his hanging and his niece who is trying to prove his innocence of the murder of fellow local post card artist Percy Despart. Colin has to think outside the box as to how to prove his innocence as all of Archie's clemency hearings have failed. As usual he does things that are borderline illegal (only just) but anything to provide justice.....and a good story!
One of my favourite things about Front Page Murder was the description of all the different scathing post cards that Percy Despart had drawn before his untimely death. They were hilariously described and I could really picture all of them. I just wish there has been sketches of them scattered throughout the book.
Being a crime novel, I can't discuss the story without spoilers, but I can say that it is incredibly well written and plotted out.
Overall an excellent read and I'm already looking forward to the next in the series.
I gave this book 5 stars.
An Extract From Front Page Murder
By Peter Bartram
Colin Crampton crime correspondent on the Brighton Evening Chronicle is investigating a case of murder. Colin has discovered that the victim had a book which included a photograph of a painting called the Avenging Angel. The painting hangs in St Rita's church. But the vicar, Canon Gideon Burke, has a reputation as a randy old goat. Colin visits St Rita's for morning service and afterwards decides to investigate further. He takes up the story…
I made my way to the back of the church and hung around for a bit. I wanted to have a nose about. I fancied a quick look-see at the painting of the Avenging Angel by a pupil of Raphael. During Burke's sermon I'd been looking around. Each of the church's transepts held a small chapel. Most of the artworks seemed to be hung in these chapels. The chapel off the right-hand side of the nave looked the most ornate. I guessed that's where the Avenging Angel would be slinging her thunderbolts.
I threaded my way through the pews and entered the chapel. I was right. The Angel hung on the end wall above a small altar. After viewing the colour plate in The Art of Sussex Churches, I'd been expecting a large canvas. But this was strangely unimpressive. An ornate, portrait-shaped frame about twenty inches high by fifteen across held a picture that lacked the vibrant colours I'd seen in the book. Old paintings, I knew, gathered dirt over the years and were cleaned by specialists. The Avenging Angel looked as though she were long overdue a spruce up.
I was mulling this over when a voice behind me said: "Just because she's small, don't underestimate her power."
I turned. Burke was standing there in his canonical gear. He had the kind of grin gangsters use when they're collecting protection money but want to keep it friendly.
I said: "Size isn't everything - for women or men."
Burke took that in his stride. "I haven't seen you at divine service before."
"It's my first time. I just felt it might help me think out a worry on my mind."
I'd had an idea which might help me discover whether the rumours about Burke and the virgins were true.
"Would you like to talk about it, my son?"
"It's difficult. Very personal. And a bit embarrassing."
"Embarrassment is only your conscience talking to you. Listen to it."
"The thing is it involves a girl."
"Really?" Burke flicked a lizard-like tongue over his lips. He moved closer.
"Yes, it's my girlfriend Shirley."
"Does it involve your feelings for Shirley?"
"In a way, but it's more her feelings for me."
"You are both wondering whether you should consummate your love, perhaps? I have to tell you I do not believe in sex before marriage."
I grinned. "Especially if it delays the ceremony, vicar."
"This is not a matter for misplaced levity."
"I'm sorry. To come to the point, Shirley wants me to make love to her - and I'm not sure it's right for me to do what she wants."
A fleck of spittle had appeared at the side of Burke's mouth. "And what does she want?"
"She wants me to dress as a vicar while I'm giving her the benefit. Well, actually, not the full gear. She wants me to skip the robes and all that and just wear the main item."
"The main item? I don't understand."
"The dog collar."
Burke's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. "Let me get this right. Your girlfriend wants you to make love to her wearing only a dog collar."
"That's about the size of it. Of what she wants. Not the size of the dog collar. I expect they come in different sizes. Do they?"
Burke's jowly cheeks had become red. A bead of sweat trickled down his brow. "Yes, they do come. I mean in different sizes. But that is not the point."
"What is the point, vicar? That's what I want to know."
Burke took a guilty glance at the Avenging Angel.
"I think you should bring your girlfriend Shirley to see me. It's clear the girl needs divine guidance."
"You really think that's the answer?"
Burke harrumphed. For the first time, he looked embarrassed. Perhaps his conscience was talking to him. Or, more likely, he'd just told it to shut up.
"I could manage a short interview with her at about half past seven this evening," he said. "After the evening service."
"That would be very helpful, vicar."
"I shall call upon the spirit of St Rita to guide me."
"I'll let Shirley know. I think she knew a Rita as well. I believe she was a hostess in a nightclub. More of a sinner than a saint."
I turned to leave. Looked back over my shoulder. Burke had taken a handkerchief from somewhere in his vestments and was wiping sweat from his brow.
About The Author
I was lucky enough to interview Peter Bartram when I reviewed his previous full length novel, Stop Press Murder, which you can check out here.
Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series, which features Colin Crampton, crime correspondent of the 1960s fictional newspaper the Brighton Evening Chronicle. Peter began his career as a reporter on a real-life local newspaper not far from Brighton. Then he worked as a journalist and newspaper editor in London before becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and Buckingham Palace. Peter's "Swinging Sixties" murder mysteries combine clue-solving with comedy - the laughs are never far from the action. Other books in the series, which has already logged more than 100 5-star reviews on Amazon, include Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder.
Front Page Murder e-book is on special offer until the end of December for 99p/99c
For readers who want to start the series at the beginning, there's a deal which includes Headline Murder, Stop Press Murder and Front Page Murder in e-book formats for £4.97/$4.97. This offer also closes on 31 December.
Don't Forget The Rest Of The Tour