Secret Life & Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne – Andrew Nicoll
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 Lieutenant 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?
I am delighted to have the opportunity to host the latest leg of the blog tour for The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne. My thanks to Black & White Publishing for my review copy.
My memories of visiting Broughty Ferry are of a nice wee town on sitting on the edge of Dundee. ‘Nice’ seems to damn it with faint praise but in Andrew Nicoll’s The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne (hereafter dubbed Secret Life) Broughty Ferry DOES seem nice. It is 1912 and in a small Scottish town life is calm, somewhat predictable and everyone knows everyone else. Not the sort of place you would expect to encounter a brutal murder – unfortunately for the titular Miss Milne a very brutal murder is exactly what we do find.
Secret Life is based upon a true (unsolved) murder. Andrew Nicoll has done a magnificent job of bringing the past to life and putting the reader into the heart of a murder investigation. We follow the developments with Sgt John Fraser of the Broughty Ferry police force. He was present when Miss Milne’s body is discovered and is responsible for assisting with much of the investigation that follows. It is an investigation which starts in Scotland but extends to London and even over the Channel to Belgium.
It is a complex and confusing case for Sgt Fraser; not helped by the fact it is not clear when Miss Milne actually died. In a small town the police are looking for strangers who may be responsible for committing such a foul deed. Unfortunately, Miss Milne has lead a somewhat unorthodox life and was fond of travelling. She seems to have received a number of gentlemen callers in the period leading up to her death which give the police a bit of a headache in tracking anyone down.
Or DID she? Witnesses seem somewhat unreliable and when faced with the intimidating policemen of 1912 the more genteel members of this quiet town may just tell the police what they believe the police want to hear.
I loved how Andrew Nicoll has captured the feel of the early 20th Century. The police expect (and receive) respect. The townspeople are scandalized but want a gossip. The servants and labourers are broadly ignored until it suggested that they may be able to help. Despite knowing you are reading a work of fiction everything feels very real, huge credit to the author for this.
Based on a true story but not actually a true story, Andrew Nicoll has provided a solution to the 100 year old mystery. A satisfying solution I felt and I enjoyed how matters were wrapped up. Secret Life is an enjoyable and highly entertaining read and I would urge to you to seek it out. As I write (22nd July 2015) you can purchase The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne for just 49p on Kindle: cheaper than a bar of chocolate and much more satisfying!
The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne is published by Black & White Publishing and is available in paperback and (as noted above) in digital format.
Andrew Nicoll is on Twitter: @AndrewSNicoll