Stop Press Murder by Peter Bartram

I had never heard the phrase: what the butler saw, until I picked up Peter Bartram’s sensational mystery, Stop Press Murder.   The phrase relates to “voyeurism” – and this book opens in June of 1963 in an amusement arcade on Brighton’s Palace Pier.

A man is poised over an old silent movie machine.  Popping in pennies, he cranks the handle and salaciously watches Milady’s Bath Night.  It stars a seductive young girl, Marie, and she’s coyly taking a bath (back in the day this was considered to be pure smut).

Peter Bartram gives us a perfect crime drama loaded with plenty of mystery and secrets dating all the way back to 1936.  Fans of those “hard-boiled” detective stories from the past, will fall in love with Colin Crampton.  He’s got that “hard-boiled” feel that makes him simply irresistible. As a crime correspondent for the Brighton Evening Chronicle, he finds himself investigating a murder on the pier and also the disappearance of the film, Milady’s Bath Night.  While the local cops don’t think there’s a connection between the two, his instincts tell him otherwise.

The newspaper biz is a tough racket and Crampton’s on the hook to scoop the competition.  His super sleuthing gives him an edge, but also draws him into a web of lies, deceit and danger.  And like all hard-boiled stories, there’s always a couple of dames involved.

Stop Press Murder is the story of twin sisters, now in their golden years:   Marie made her fame as a screen siren in rather risqué movies – while Venetia worked her way into aristocratic society and eventually becomes Lady Piddinghoe…two twins living in totally different worlds.  But when those worlds come together, they collide with such force that the families on both sides become totally shattered — and desperate.

Brighton is on the south coast of England, has long beaches, seaside piers AND in this story:  blackmail, suicide, murder, a hidden fortune and a half a century old secret … conjuring up headlines that would make a news hound’s head spin faster than Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist!

Count me as a serious fan of this 12 book series, the Crampton Chronicle MysteriesBartram’s characters are solid with personality and grit.  He nails it with a perfect sixties setting.  The twisty plot is flawless — taunting you with sunken crimes that slowly ooze to the surface as the book progresses.


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