Life should be good for Gina Gray. She has a job she loves, she is just about to move into a small but perfect flat in Bloomsbury and DCI David Scott has come back into her life.
But a family crisis brings her daughter and son-in-law to share her flat and, in the rash of hate crimes that follow the Brexit referendum, a young Indian woman is strangled just doors away from Gina’s new home. David Scott wants Gina’s help with an investigation which takes her into the world of barristers’ chambers in Gray’s Inn, a production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and a clash with her difficult younger daughter.
Meanwhile, her granddaughter, ten-year-old Freda, has been sent to stay with her grandfather and his second wife in their imposing and isolated house in the Kent countryside, where a missing dog gives her a mystery of her own to solve.
Moving between London and Kent, the book disentangles two mysteries as, for the first time, Freda is given a voice of her own.
Drown My Books
The narrative follows the story of Gina Gray, a woman who is disappointed by work, love and life. She has settled on a bleak stretch of the Kent coast where she walks her surly dog, coaches unpromising A-level students and teaches English to asylum seekers in Dover, whose stories break her heart. The one bright spot in her life is the community library and the book group she organises; however, on one grim February morning, her dog finds a body on the beach and her source of comfort turns into her biggest threat...Alarmingly, Gina learns that the dead woman is the second member of the book group to be killed, making Gina convinced that the book group is being targeted. DI Paula Powell, the lead of the police investigation, also happens to be Gina's old rival in love, and Powell breaks the news that the killer is believed to be among Gina's class of asylum seekers. With or without the help of DI Paula Powell, Gina has to move fast to find the truth. Could it be one of her asylum-seeker students who she admires so much that is actually a cold-blooded murderer? Drown My Books will appeal to those who enjoy crime and mystery fiction, as well as fans of Penny's former books. The book will also appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Susan Hill, authors that have inspired Penny's writing.
Weep a While Longer
The fourth in a series of crime novels featuring Gina Gray and DCI David Scott, Weep A While Longer sets cosy Middle England against a dark crime. Picking up her granddaughter from nursery one summer afternoon, Gina Gray notices a mother and child with a dog. A few hours later she sees their faces on the TV screen, victims of a brutal murder. DCI David Scott, Gina’s semi-detached partner, is determined to keep her out of the investigation but nothing can prevent her from witnessing the case’s terrifying dénouement. The murder case is not the only thing preoccupying her, however. Her mother, her granddaughter, her job, her house invaded by her daughter’s student friends, the costumes for open air Shakespeare in the Minster grounds and, not least, her relationship with David Scott, all combine to distract her. As the police pursue the killer, Gina’s life at work and at home is running out of control. When the crash comes, just how bad will it be?
One May Smile
Struggling, as ever, with the demands of work, family and a precarious love life, Gina Gray finds herself in the world of Scandinavian noir. A trip with students to perform Hamlet in Denmark, at the very castle where Shakespeare sets the play, starts out as an adventure: ‘I like young people, I like Hamlet, I have a predilection in favour of Denmark as a rational, civilised not-too-hot country,’ she tells us. What could possibly go wrong?
Almost everything, as it turns out. At the last minute, Gina has to take her three-year-old granddaughter, Freda, with her, David Scott, her ‘boyfriend, partner, lover or significant other’ breaks off contact and the student group turns out to be seething with neurosis, envy, conflict and soured relationships. Even before the first death, Gina is wishing she could go home... but when one of the students dies in a car crash and the local police suspect foul play, she is drawn into the investigation.
As other attacks follow and Gina stumbles towards the truth, hidden deep in Hamlet itself, police suspicion lights on her and a murderer’s net closes in around her. I could come over, David Scott texts. No need, she replies. Can she really cope alone?
One May Smile is another of Penny Freedman’s popular series of novels, providing a classic ‘whodunit’ story with a modern twist. The crimes take place in a ‘cosy’ Middle England context, but take us to dark emotional places with a lot of humour, black and otherwise. Fans of classic crime will find this a gripping read.
All the Daughters
In this explosive follow-up to This is a Dreadful Sentence, featuring Gina Gray and DCI Scott, a twelve-year-old girl is killed, pushed down the stairs at her home and beaten over the head with a golf club. Scott leads the investigation and finds himself crossing paths again with Gina, a university lecturer, linguistics expert, harassed daughter, mother and grandmother, and all-round know-all and busybody.
Gina’s daughter, Ellie, was the dead girl’s teacher and when the police suspect her of involvement in the murder, Gina steps into the fray and launches her own parallel investigation. What she lacks in forensic evidence and IT wizardry she makes up for in linguistic acuteness, an extensive network of informants and sheer chutzpah. Scott is determined that she will be kept well away from the inquiry but a serious attempt on her life persuades him to work with her again and together they bring the case to a startling conclusion. Gina’s view of the world is often comic but the crime she unravels is as wicked as it is possible to be.
Penny cites Susan Hill and Kate Atkinson among her inspirations. ‘I love murder mysteries,’ she says, ‘but there aren’t enough good female detectives, and those there are fail to convince as having the kinds of lives most women lead. There’s not enough multi-tasking!’
This Is A Dreadful Sentence
In the library of a university college, in a small English town, a Turkish student, known to be a government spy, is found dead one morning, crushed between two rolling stacks. In the days that follow, puzzling messages relating to his death start appearing on the board in the seminar room where English language classes take place. Suspicion falls on the other students in the class as the police start to investigate their backgrounds and motives, and their teacher, Gina Gray, is drawn into the mystery.
When Gina Gray sets out to discover who murdered her student, she is an unlikely detective: a harassed mother and grandmother with difficult teenage daughters and a baby granddaughter in tow, she has nothing on her side but stubbornness, bravado - and a detailed knowledge of English grammar.
As the lives, relationships and secrets of the thirteen students involved begin to be revealed, the police uncover links with opium production in Turkey and with the Russian mafia. DCI David Scott, leading a murder investigation for the first time, believes that these hold the key to the murder, but as the police investigation stalls, two of the students disappear and another is killed.
Told in alternate chapters from the point of view of Gina and of DCI Scott, the novel weaves and unravels a complex mystery, while exploring the edgy, combative relationship that develops between the two of them.