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Classic Crime

Jill McGown

Biography:
Jill McGown was born in 1947 in Campbeltown in Scotland. As with many Scottish families, they moved down to Corby in Northamptonshire which has a large Scottish community in search of work. McGown worked for many years as a secretary for the British Steel Corporation in Corby, Northants. In the early 1980’s, when it was privatised under the Thatcher government, many people were made redundant, McGown included. With her redundancy money, McGown decided to try her hand at her passion for writing. By 1983 she had published her first book, the debut of her long running detective duo, Lloyd and Hill.

A pilot was filmed of her novel, ‘A Shred of Evidence’ but the series was unfortunately not picked up. It featured Philip Glenister as Danny Lloyd (totally miscast in my view) and Michelle Collins as Judy Hill. As with Morse (Colin Dexter was in fact McGown’s Latin teacher!) McGown did not give Lloyd a Christian name. In an interview in ‘A Perfect Match’ Lloyd says it is David (which it isn’t) and for the TV show Lloyd was given the name of Danny (for whatever reason) but Lloyd simply stayed just that in her books. By all accounts, as with Morse, he was embarrassed of his name! A name we will now never know!

McGown died after a long illness in 2007 at the age of 59. Her novels were always critically acclaimed and McGown has been named by many crime writers as a great plotter who didn’t receive the commercial success she deserved. Hopefully, with her books back in print this will now change.


Review: A Perfect Match

It all starts on a cold September morning when the body of Julia Mitchell is found naked in woods near the boathouse she stood to inherit from her husband who had died only three weeks earlier. It had been his wish to leave the boathouse and café to the local community, but Julia had other ideas. Having argued with her brother-in-law, Douglas about this unwritten agreement, on arrival at the home of Martin Short, the estate agent in charge of selling off the property, Julia insists on leaving immediately. She is last seen being given a lift back to her in-laws house by Christopher Wade, Short’s brother-in-law. But she never made it back alive.

The investigating officers, DI Lloyd and DS Judy Hill need to know what happened the previous evening but Wade has gone to ground, last seen the following morning at his place of work drunk and incoherent. Why was Wade’s car seen driving down the lane towards the boathouse when he was supposed to be taking Julia back home? What was said to make them argue? Had they really never met before? What part did Wade play in the murder of a woman he evidently did not know and had only met that night? Lloyd and Hill need to find him fast to get answers to their questions.

This was McGown’s first novel which introduced Lloyd and Hill who were to appear in a further twelve cases. McGown was known for her serpentine plots as well as her great characterisation. I have read all of the McGown novels and am now in the process of re-reading them. Even when reading ‘A Perfect Match’ I wasn’t sure who had committed the crime as I had read it so many years ago. Thankfully, it has stood the test of time and doesn’t feel dated at all despite being published over thirty years ago in 1983.

‘A Perfect Match’ is a slim book and of that period when crime fiction normally came in at under 200 pages. It was five years later in 1988 before McGown revisited Lloyd and Hill after believing they would only appear in the one book. As the series progressed, the books got bigger as the plots (as well as Lloyd and Hill’s relationship) got more involved. Although a great read, this is not my favourite book of McGown’s. I loved many of her novels like 'The Murders of Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Beale', 'A Shred of Evidence', and my ultimate favourite, 'Verdict Unsafe' is sublime and shows McGown at her gutsiest. However, 'A Perfect Match' shows the potential McGown would harness in her later work – and although you can read the books out of sequence as the cases stand on their own merit – I feel here it is best to read the series in order to get the true sense of the development of the relationship – working and personal – between her two main protagonists. Having said that, ‘A Perfect Match’ has a wonderful little conundrum at its heart.

McGown always delivered a labyrinthine solution to her crimes, so much so that they could have been plotted by Christie herself! McGown always cited Christie as a big influence and her plots reflect that. In fact, her second novel, 'Redemption' was titled in the U.S. as 'Murder at the Old Vicarage' and is a homage to not only Christie, but also to Marple's debut novel of (nearly) the same name as McGown's U.S. title!

I cannot say how pleased I am that Bello Books have re-issued these titles. They are an absolute joy to read and this series should be investigated by any true crime fiction fan. If you have read these books before – then I strongly suggest you re-read them. If you haven’t read McGown before – then do not delay! You will not be disappointed.

At the time of posting this online, the first two Lloyd and Hill novels are available from Bello Books Kindle for only 59p!

A Perfect Match

Redemption

Pan MacMillan have also re-issued the first three Lloyd and Hill novels under the title of A Trio of Murders

Reviewed by: C.S.

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