Comic postcard artist Archie Flowerdew has been sentenced to hang (on Christmas Eve) for the murder of Percy Despart, a fellow postcard artist – and a man seemingly hated by just about everyone for his malicious artistic use of real Brighton, England, residents. The victim was stabbed in the neck with an artist’s pencil, right in the middle of drawing another nasty postcard. Archie’s niece Tammy believes her uncle to be innocent; he’s been convicted on circumstantial evidence and the police found no direct evidence of his guilt.
Archie knows he’s innocent, too, but won’t confide his alibi because it would, he says, threaten the safety of a woman. The niece spray paints the doors of the Brighton Pavilion and chains herself to a column to call attention to what she says is a miscarriage of justice. And at that point, Colin Crampton, crime reporter for the Brighton Evening Chronicle, intervenes to help. Including helping Tammy move to a succession of safe houses to avoid arrest by the police for her vandalism.
Welcome to Front Page Murder.
Crampton looks at the evidence given at the trial, knows he is dealing with an investigating police officer who’s not terribly competent, and starts his own investigation, racing against the clock ticking toward the hanging. Other promising suspects include a retired army commando, a canon of the local church, and an artist. And all the time Crampton is having to fight off a newspaper executive who wants him fired. The reporter soon find himself in one crazy situation after another, and seems to attract these happenings.
Author Peter Bartram has had a long career in journalism, including being a reporter on a weekly newspaper, an editor for newspapers and magazines in London, and freelance journalism – all of which have been utilized in creating the character of Colin Crampton. Bartram is also a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association. He’s published several Colin Crampton mysteries.
The cast of eccentric characters at the Evening Chronicle are a delight, and for someone like myself who worked in journalism, even for a short time, they are completely recognizable – the garrulous editor, the four ladies of the newspaper morgue (library), the photographer, and the other reporters. (The prodigious consumption of alcohol is also a newspaper staple.)
Front Page Murder is a fun, action-packed, you-never-know-what’s-going-to-happen-next mystery.
Top photograph by Bank Phrom via Unsplash. Used with permission.