Classic Crime

Dorothy Simpson

Dorothy Simpson writes...

I was born and brought up in South Wales, went to Bridgend Grammar School and then on to Bristol University, where I read modern languages before moving to Kent, the background of the Thanet novels, to teach French at Dartford and Erith Grammar Schools.

Moving to the Maidstone area on my marriage, I then spent several years devoting myself to bringing up my three children. During that time I trained as a marriage guidance counsellor and subsequently worked as one for thirteen years.

You may think that marriage guidance counsellor to crime writer is rather a peculiar career move, but although I didn’t realise it at the time, of course, the training I received was the best possible preparation for writing detective novels. Murder mysteries are all about relationships which go disastrously wrong and the insights I gained into what makes people tick, into their interaction and motivations, have been absolutely invaluable to DI Thanet, my series character, as have the interviewing skills I acquired during my years of counselling.

I began to write after a long illness in 1975. The success of my first book, a suspense novel called HARBINGERS OF FEAR, gave me sufficient impetus to carry me through the two rejections which followed - very disheartening at the time, but invaluable in retrospect.
It was during this period that I realised that the crime novel is of such diversity that it offers enormous scope to the writer and decided to attempt to lay the foundation for a series of detective novels in my next book. This was the THE NIGHT SHE DIED.

Dorothy Simpson website

Review: The Night She Died

John Holmes arrives back from his evening class to find his wife dead on the hall floor, a knife in her chest. Julie and her husband had recently been having marital difficulties and Inspector Luke Thanet wonders if matters in the home had taken a turn for the worse, but her husband has a cast iron alibi. Other matters confuse the investigation. Julie had recently been having violent nightmares and no one knows the cause. And then there was Julie’s allure, the power she had over men although evidently not knowing about it herself. And several men played a part in Julie’s life. It is when a new lead points to a murder committed twenty years ago on a foggy November evening that Thanet wonders if a killer has been waiting all these years before pouncing on its prey…

Dorothy Simpson wrote fifteen cases for Inspector Luke Thanet and Sergeant Mike Lineham. All fifteen are written in ‘real time’ so that in this first case Thanet’s daughter, Bridget, is three and his son, Ben is a new born. By the fifteenth book Thanet is waiting to be a grandfather. It is this personal history that Simpson builds for both Thanet and Lineham that sets these cases above the average crime mystery. Simpson’s observation is faultless and although ‘The Night She Died’ appeared in 1981 (evidently long ago now to be classed as history) there are points that show how the world has progressed. One instance shows Thanet calling in to the police station on a public telephone box (no mobiles here) and a wonderful personal touch is when Thanet arrives home with choc ices ‘wrapped in newspaper’. Although Simpson shows us these human moments of Thanet and his family, she is very good at paring down and concentrating on the case at hand but without compromising on character.

With each addition to the series, Thanet and Lineham deal with, and overcome, matters within the homestead as well as in the workplace. The only strange, but endearing thing is that although others move on like Thanet’s children and his wife, Joan, it feels as though the Inspector and Lineham seem not to change much during the intervening years.

You can tell that Simpson loves her home county of Kent and again, this plays a major part in each book whether the landscape is a large country house hosting the local fete, a vineyard or a small suburb, Simpson elegantly paints a vivid portrait of Kent. I first read ‘The Night She Died’ over twenty years ago and have now re-read it after reading the rest of Thanet’s cases. It was very interesting to see where Thanet finished up and then re-reading her first to see again where Thanet had begun. Some of the books are stronger than others but as a whole it is a great body of work and a fitting series for such a quiet and unassuming man as Thanet. It is great that the first two Thanet’s have been released as e-books and this series is a must for any true diehard crime fan.

Reviewed by: C.S.

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