Author, Journalist, Academic
I divide my time between Australia, where I'm Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, and Oxford, where my historical mystery thrillers are set. In my spare time I act in my local pantomime, and run a book group. Before taking up an academic post, I enjoyed a 20-year career in journalism, with spells as a Political Correspondent for Sky News, and the Sydney Correspondent for the Independent, culminating in a role as an on-air presenter for BBC World TV News. For my work in developing, researching, teaching and training in Peace Journalism, I was awarded the 2017 Luxembourg Peace Prize by the Schengen Peace Foundation.
A historical mystery thriller
King Charles II brings the English parliament to Oxford, amid sectarian hysteria over a so-called ‘Popish Plot’ against the throne.
William Harbord, an MP and leader of an extremist Protestant group, the Green Ribbon Club, is found stabbed to death. Luke Sandys, Chief Officer of Bailiffs, must investigate, with his trusty deputy, Robshaw.
Luke is an Oxford Classics graduate and a devotee of scientific methods. He missed out on an academic career to marry Elizabeth, who was carrying his child – instead following his father into the trade of fine joinery. He is secretly in love with Cate, daughter of a Catholic couple who run a local inn where the vaults are used for illegal Romish sacraments.
Agitators blame Harbord’s death on ‘Papists’ and use it to stir the mob. There is a riot in which Luke is slightly injured. He realises he is in a race against time – to solve the murder before the wave of prejudice and fury can engulf the local Catholic population, including Cate. “I’m not having people picked on!”, he declares. “Not just because they happen to praise God in a different way. ‘Tis wrong!”
To identify the killer, he has to rely as much on Robshaw’s stout yeoman common sense, and his own scholarly background, as on evidence and logic.
Meanwhile, the Green Ribbons plan a ‘spectacular’ – a gruesome ritual, supposedly to show the market day crowds how ‘Papists’ should be dealt with. Luke scrambles to find an angle he can use to foil their conspiracy.
As lines of inquiry converge, Luke’s heart pulls him one way, while duty pulls in the opposite direction. Which will he choose to follow? Will he crack the case in time? And will he declare his love?