Detective Sergeant Martin Keynes feels trapped in Northamptonshire, where murder cases invariably turn out to be easily solved incidents of domestic violence or drug-related mishaps. He feels his intellect is under-utilised and under-appreciated, but when a string of killings dubbed the Charity Shop Murders occurs, he has the chance to test himself to the limit – and finds logic and a sound grounding in economic theory falling short when it comes to dealing with uncooperative members of the public.
After the first victim, an elderly lady found impaled inventively on a mannequin stand in a charity shop window, the bodies begin to pile up in unusual ways. Alienating his colleagues along the way, Keynes taps a range of sources, from Zulu, who seems worryingly intelligent for a homeless junkie, to carpet mogul Harpit Singh, an influential figure in the local charity scene, and overworked reporter Chris Shingles. As the line blurs between charity and big business, Keynes begins to think there may be more to the murders than second-hand clothes and poorly donkeys.
The Charity Shop Murders is a darkly comic crime thriller that marks the first outing for D.S. Keynes.
Dead Men Eat No Pies
A serial killer is targeting Northampton’s morbidly obese individuals, and Detective Sergeant Martin Keynes is at a loss to uncover a motive. Inspector Jimmy Biggs might be able to help, since one of the victims was an old drinking friend, but he is on sick leave after a traumatic pancake-related incident. Instead, Keynes is forced to work with recent transfer and fitness fanatic D.I. Kathy Carter, whose behaviour outside the office is mysterious in itself.
Keynes discovers that the county’s healthcare scheme for overweight patients may link the victims, while Biggs gathers information from the inside, as he is enlisted in the same fitness programme as part of his recovery.
Keynes’ efforts to solve the murders are complicated by interference from a deceptively intelligent vagrant named Zulu, a pair of local brewers with a unique selling point, an irresponsible newspaper reporter with his own agenda, and Keynes’ own attempts to impress a new friend with a shared love of obscure Russian literature.
Will Keynes be able to solve the murders before Biggs becomes next on the hit list? What is D.I. Carter hiding? And will ‘Killer’ Keynes ever be able to shake his nickname?
A Dirty Business
When Melvin McCraken, the owner of a Northamptonshire recycling facility, is found crushed to death in one of his own machines, leaving his wig atop a cube of compressed cardboard, Detective Sergeant Martin Keynes suspects foul play. As Keynes digs deeper into the murky world of waste management, it becomes clear that McCraken was part of a wider conspiracy that goes right to the top, and his partners show they are willing to take deadly measures to protect their business interests.
Meanwhile, Keynes has his own problems at home, after a pair of Welsh druids make an unwelcome visit that seems as interminable as their poetry. His visitors unwittingly become entangled when the murder investigation comes a little too close to home.
Zulu, the homeless troublemaker who has alternately helped Keynes and been a thorn in his side, urges Keynes to investigate the disappearance of his friend, Smelly John. After dismissing the case initially, and trying his hardest to avoid Zulu, Keynes comes to believe there may be a connection with the recycling conspiracy.
As Keynes’ enquiries bring him closer to the mastermind of the scheme, the conspiracy begins to unravel and the body count rises. He must tangle with a corrupt councillor, an irascible farmer, and Melvin McCraken’s cola-addicted son before getting to the bottom of the case – but will powerful forces prevent him from delivering justice?
The Northampton Tribune is facing declining sales, competition from online media, and now a murderer who has decided to target its staff. The newspaper has been dying for years, and now its employees are, too.
When the managing director of the publishing company is killed by a poison-tipped arrow, Detective Sergeant Martin Keynes is forced to cooperate with the newspaper’s deputy editor, Chris Shingles, a frequent thorn in his side. Shingles has enough problems already, having moved back in with his parents after breaking up with his girlfriend, whose career is turning out to be far more successful than his own.
Keynes and Inspector Jimmy Biggs must follow the evidence, starting with a scrap of newspaper with an enigmatic message, leading them into a world of unlicensed exotic pets, pub quizzes and a sub-editor obsessed by an alien conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Tribune editor Alan Richards tries to leverage his off-the-record briefings with the head of the local police force, to find out what is going on and save his own skin, and visiting executive Amy Mullett must summon up the confidence to take over the management of the newspaper company and try to convince the reporters to take her seriously.
Keynes faces a battle of wits with the murderer, who turns out to have placed clues to his intentions – but can Keynes solve them in time, and is he willing to swallow his pride and ask for help from an old adversary?
Murder In the Air
When Detective Sergeant Martin Keynes is forced by his wife Jenny to go on their first overseas holiday together, he finds it hard to relax, but things pick up when someone drops dead on the flight back from Latvia. Given a tight deadline to discover whether the death was due to murder, negligence at the budget airline, or simply an accident, Keynes feels his old self again.
Bickering flight attendants, a depressed stag party, a newly-married couple with a problem, a gloomy divorcee, and a middle-aged couple with a confused view of the world are his prime suspects, but Keynes finds it hard to concentrate on the facts when Jenny insists on joining the investigation.
As things go from bad to worse, and the pilot faces a personal emergency, Keynes calls his colleague, Inspector Jimmy Biggs, on the ground to help with research of his own, but Biggs’ idea of police work seems to involve touring the pubs of Northampton. Meanwhile, Jenny uses their collaboration as a stealth form of marriage counselling, and the head of the airline intervenes to try to protect the company’s reputation.
It seems that every passenger has a secret to hide, but will Keynes be able to unravel them all before the plane lands and the case is out of his hands?
Murder In The Air, the fifth Detective Keynes mystery, digs deeper into Martin Keynes’ mind as he finds himself in a confined space with a possible killer, a tight deadline and a marriage that might not survive the journey.
Unlucky For Some
A group of pensioners wins a record jackpot at Kismet Bingo, but suspicions rise when it emerges that Edna Grendle, the widow of one of Northampton’s criminal kingpins, is among the winning syndicate members.
Detective Inspector Jimmy Biggs follows a tip-off from his fellow drinkers in the Bunch of Grapes and digs into the Grendle family history, while Detective Sergeant Martin Keynes becomes obsessed with proving that the win was statistically impossible.
Meanwhile, the other members of the winning syndicate – a short-tempered former geography teacher; his wife, who secretly dreams of fleeing to Turkey; and a fan of alternative medicine who has overstretched herself donating to too many charities – begin to crumble under pressure.
Edna realises she cannot count on her co-conspirators to keep their mouths shut, and assigns her grandson Leo, who has difficulty holding down a job or telling the truth, to maintain order.
Reardon Lau, the superstitious Hong Konger who manages the bingo hall, and Dulcet Tone, the sonorous number-caller, come to regret ever cutting a deal with the Grendle family.
As the crooks fight among themselves, Keynes encounters a mental block in his puzzle-solving skills and enlists the help of his father, while Biggs uncovers the Grendles’ darkest secrets.
When the full house turns out to be deadly for some of Edna’s accomplices, the syndicate realises that winning the jackpot was not as lucky as it seemed.