Book Review: The Kill Fee (Poppy Denby Investigates – Book Two) by Fiona Veitch Smith

Publisher:  Lion Hudson

Publication date:  16th September 2016


the-kill-fee-poppy-denby-2The role of Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Globe allows the perky can-do attitude of Poppy Denby to follow some interesting journalistic opportunities, and The Kill Fee is no exception.

Poppy’s appointment gives her exclusive backstage access to mingle with the cast in the spotlight to report the celebrity gossip of the era for her column. Being generally expected to cover theatre reviews or the mere sniff of the remotely ‘sensational’ it’s not every day you would wade into the complexities of Russian politics circulating around displaced Royalty and fellow countrymen – trouble just seems to find Poppy, but occasionally she goes looking for it!

I was over the moon to see most of the regular cast making a return from The Jazz Files (Book One) to offer their support. Given her new reporting career Poppy’s socialite friend, Delilah, is a handy person to know and her feisty Aunt Dot who is famed for her involvement in the Suffragette movement is also a very well-connected lady indeed. And Rollo, the newspaper’s Editor remains small in stature but appears mightier this time round, with his many Americanisms and straight talking that has Poppy’s cheeks flushing frequently! Not to mention her part time romantic involvement with someone who’s often as stubborn as she is.

Added to this existing cast are multiple other characters and locations, all with a vital part to play. Their introductions take place over a period before a precious Fabergé Egg vanishes from an Art Exhibition being covered by the media and I now understand why a character profile section and lovely map awaited me even before the story began, as it could be difficult to keep track of the intricate branches of the Russian family trees if you’re not paying attention at times!

And of course Poppy must chase down the story to its bitter and frighteningly dangerous end, revealing the recent theft is just the tip of an ominous iceberg that deception, murder, theft, and kidnapping are clinging to. As the investigation darkens, a ‘Kill Fee’ raises its ugly head hoping to be tantalising enough to ‘kill’ the story before it is published. And still her church ministering parents haven’t the foggiest idea what she does for a living (not the full extent of it anyway)! Shame on you Miss Denby, but thank goodness your motives are honourable rather than questionable.

Cultural refinement sees a revival once more as historical intricacies of the 1920s are drawn into the story with nods to etiquette, society, food, and attire. All I can say is kudos to the author for the mammoth research and plotting that has taken place to create a epic and lively mystery set in an era of elegance and intrigue.

There are some instances that naturally refer to events in Book One, but they breezily go with the flow of things without making a huge song and dance about it. And while you may not miss out on anything ‘crucial’ by not reading The Jazz Files first, you would be treated to a fuller character background or just the pure delight of reading it if you did.

Rating:  4/5

And here’s my 5 star review of The Jazz Files.

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher and Rhoda Hardie with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review of it.)


Poppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, covers an exhibition of Russian Art, hosted by White Russian refugees, including members of the surviving exiled Romanov Royal family. There is an armed robbery, a guard is shot, and the largest Fabergé Egg in the collection is stolen. The egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within – secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Fabergé Egg, a Russian Princess called Selena Romanova Yusopova. The interim Bolshevik Russian ambassador, Vasili Safin inserts himself into the investigation, as he believes the egg – and the other treasures – should all be restored to the Russian people.

Poppy, her editor Rollo, press photographer Daniel, and the other staff of the Globe are delighted to be once again in the middle of a sensational story. But, soon the investigation takes a dark turn when another body is found and an employee of the newspaper becomes a suspect…

The race is on to find both the key and the egg – can they be found before the killer strikes again?



(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. She is best known though for her novels and children’s picturebooks. ‘The Jazz Files’ is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in 1920s London. It has been shortlisted for the CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger Award, 2016. Book 2, The Kill Fee, sees Poppy continue to investigate murders and mysteries in the Jazz Age. Published by Lion Fiction.

Her ‘Young David Picturebook’ series (illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) is based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy, and her Young Joseph Picturebook series (illustrated by Andy Catling) is about the life of Joseph of the technicoloured coat fame. Published by SPCK.

Her standalone novel, ‘The Peace Garden’, is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa, published by Crafty Publishing.

She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet – preferably not at the same time!



The Jazz Files (Poppy Denby Investigates – Book 1)

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith - Cover only



BLOG TOUR – STOP PRESS MURDER by Peter Bartram: Extract, Review and FREE Novella!


Today I’m delighted to welcome author Peter Bartram to Little Bookness Lane as part of his Stop Press Murder blog tour.

Peter has kindly provided an extract of his new Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery starring crime correspondent, Colin Crampton.

My review for Stop Press Murder follows this extract, and you can discover more about this new book and the author at the end of this post – PLUS you can download a free novella too!

Stop Press Murder Extract

An extract from Stop Press Murder, a Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery

by Peter Bartram

The mystery of Milady’s Bath Night began with a riddle and ended with a tragedy.

I was sitting at my desk in the newsroom at the Brighton Evening Chronicle, weighing up the pros and cons of putting brown sauce on my breakfast bacon sandwich, when my telephone rang.

I lifted the receiver and said: “Colin Crampton, crime correspondent.”

A man’s voice with a deep rustic drawl, which reminded me of haystacks and summer meadows, said: “If I mentioned the word ‘bunch’ what would be the first thing that came into your mind?”

I said: “Roses, as in ‘bunch of’. Red for the love of your life. Yellow to welcome home a long-lost friend. White for your grandmother’s coffin.”

“You’re not even close. Try again.”

“Girls’ hair – as in ‘tied in bunches’. Tidy when she’s ten. Tempting when she’s twenty.”

“That doesn’t count. I said ‘bunch’, singular.”

“In that case, I can offer you a bunch of fives. As in the fingers in a fist – to give you a smack in the mouth.”

Haystack voice said: “Tsk. It doesn’t pay to get tetchy with a police officer.”

The man offering me advice – and possibly a story – was Ted Wilson. He was a detective inspector in Brighton Police Force. And one of the few ‘tecs I trusted in the town. The rest of them spent more time looking for the main chance than for clues. Put it this way: if they were drinking in the same pub you wouldn’t leave your loose change on the bar.

I said: “What have you got for me? Am I going to be yelling hold the front page?”

He said: “Possibly. It’s certainly bad news.”

“The best kind.”

“You’re a cynical bastard. When I have to deliver the hard word most people don’t want to know. They’d rather shoot the messenger.”

I said: “If journalists shot the messenger they’d have to go out and find their own stories.”

He said: “You won’t have any difficulty finding this one. There’s been a killing on Palace Pier.”

I laughed. “Don’t tell me someone finally landed the jackpot on that one-armed bandit in the amusement arcade.”

“This wasn’t a three-cherries-in-a-row kind of killing. It’s a blood-on-the-floor job.”

I reached for my notebook. Flicked it open. Grabbed a pencil.

“You mean murder? I asked.


“When did this happen?”

“Some time last night after the pier closed. But it wasn’t discovered until this morning. And there’s a bizarre touch.”

“Which is?”

“The body was discovered in the coconut shy.”

“And hence your riddle about ‘bunch’. You were thinking of the song I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.”


“As sung by Danny Kaye. And played endlessly on the Billy Cotton Band Show.”

Wilson chuckled. “I’d say, ‘Give the man a coconut’, if it wasn’t in bad taste.”

“Why’s that?”

“The victim was killed by a blow to the head with one.”

I scribbled a shorthand note. “Male or female?” I asked.

“Coconuts don’t have a sex.”

“The victim.”

“Male, I gather.”

“Why, ‘I gather’?”

Wilson said: “I wish I knew more. But I’ve been frozen out of this case. Tomkins has taken it.”

That wasn’t good news. Detective Superintendent Alec Tomkins hadn’t liked me since I’d run a story about a cigarette-smuggling ring he’d arrested. The three smugglers had been acquitted at Lewes Assizes when the defence pointed out that the police were unable to account for all the contraband ciggies they claimed they’d seized.

I’d written that Tomkins’ case had “gone up in smoke”. He’d accused me of insinuating the lads at the cop shop had been treating themselves to duty-free drags from the evidence. Tomkins had blustered about a writ for libel. But the chief constable made it clear he wasn’t funding a lengthy court case out of the police budget.

Instead, Tomkins settled for nurturing a life-long hatred of me.

“That explains why I didn’t know about it,” I said.

“There’s more,” Wilson said. “I’ve just heard that Tomkins tipped off Houghton more than an hour ago.”

That was worse news. Jim Houghton was my opposite number on the Evening Argus, the other paper in town. By now, he’d be at the scene of the crime with Tomkins. The two would be laughing themselves silly over the right royal stuffing they were giving me.

I said: “Thanks for the tip-off, Ted.”

“Sorry I couldn’t do it earlier. Needed to get out of the office to make this call. You’ll know why.”

The phone went dead.

I replaced the receiver with mixed feelings.

What Ted told me was enough for two paragraphs for the Midday Special edition’s “news in brief”. But Houghton would have a front-page lead in the Argus.

As soon as my news editor Frank Figgis saw the midday Argus, he’d want to know why I’d been scooped. He wouldn’t be interested in hearing that Houghton had been given an inside track by Tomkins.

Figgis wouldn’t sack me. It would be worse than that. He’d think up some creative revenge – like making me sit through endless meetings of the crime-prevention committee at the Town Hall.

Or he’d book me as the guest speaker on the “ethics of the press” at the Women’s Institute in an inaccessible Sussex village.

Or he’d make me interview a retired police-dog handler with bad breath and dandruff.

Or the dog.

To avoid any of those horrors, I had to find an angle on the story that outpaced the Argus in time for our Afternoon Extra edition. That meant I had three hours to turn the story around.

I grabbed my notebook and headed for the door.

The bacon sandwich would have to wait.

Stop Press Murder: a Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery by Peter Bartram is published by Roundfire Books.

Stop Press Murder My Review


My love for the Crampton of the Chronicle Mysteries was sparked by Headline Murder in 2015. Two novellas and another novel later and still this series never fails to entertain and amuse.

Stop Press Murder continues the journalistic adventures of a newshound who is looking to impress his editor with next big scoop for the crime section of the Evening Chronicle in 1960’s Brighton.

It’s not easy to conjure an all singing, all dancing crime headline out of thin air when nothing of any notable interest appears to be happening. That is, unless your name’s Crampton. Colin Crampton. The man possesses an almost rabid journalistic gift for sniffing out the obscure. Frequently this means he takes risks by presenting an outrageous headline before his theories can be backed up which leaves him in some pretty awkward predicaments, providing oodles of entertainment for the reader.

This time, when he senses an unrelated murder on the pier and a recent theft could be connected, he finds he’s on the receiving end of a fair amount of jibes from the rival paper to discredit him. His ‘unnamed police source’ is none too happy with him either, as like a dog with a bone Colin goes above and beyond to prove there’s more to a saucy film called Milady’s Bath Night going missing from the Palace Pier and a night watchman being attacked some days later in the coconut shy with a very odd choice of weapon.

Despite his natural drive to unearth the truth no matter how deep its buried, Crampton is an exceedingly likeable reporter. He has the cheek of the devil and a keen sense of humour, although the investigative journalist that lives within can’t be tamed at times and tests the resolve of even his strongest allies! This time round he hasn’t even got the long suffering support of his Aussi girlfriend, Shirley, who has gone walkabout to contemplate the future – is she the love of his life, or is he already married to his job…

That particular question may not seem to be the most pressing of Colin’s problems presently, as there are plenty of others forming a queue to get his attention covering a multitude of unsavoury crimes, the steely gaze of an ice cold marchioness, a spy in the newsroom, or his landlady with whom he flouts every rule possible. When things look like they’ll turning ugly, he turns on the Crampton charm. There’s never a dull moment things keep buzzing along nicely indeed!

Whether he’s casually conversing with snooty aristocrats or just a bloke down the greasy spoon, Colin follows the story wherever it may take him which often leads him straight into the path of imminent danger as he uncovers people’s secrets that have been hidden for very good reason. To catch that killer headline Colin sets some very careful traps before he reaches the crescendo of this jauntily plotted mystery.

This entertainingly baffling ‘step back in time’ crime caper is ripe with a variety of situations and subtle innuendos that will no doubt raise a few chuckles. An old school investigative approach is very much alive and kicking in these days of classic telephone boxes and little MGB’s, making Stop Press Murder an absolute delight to read.

(Oh, and can be enjoyed as a standalone, should you wish.)

Rating:  5/5

(My thanks to the author for providing a copy of his new book in exchange for an unbiased review. It was a lovely surprise not only see that a snippet from my review for Headline Murder had been quoted but to find Peter had generously signed this paperback copy, which I will treasure.)

Stop Press Murder Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

FIRST, the saucy film of a nude woman bathing is stolen from a What the Butler Saw machine on Brighton’s Palace Pier. NEXT, the piers night-watchman is murdered – his body found in the coconut shy. COLIN CRAMPTON, ace reporter on the Evening Chronicle, senses a scoop when he’s the only journalist to discover a link between the two crimes. HE UNCOVERS a 50-year feud between twin sisters – one a screen siren from the days of silent movies, the other the haughty wife of an aristocrat. BUT COLIN’S investigation spirals out of control – as he RISKS HIS LIFE to land the biggest story of his career. Stop Press Murder, a Swinging Sixties mystery, has more twists and turns than a country lane. It will keep you guessing – and laughing – right to the last page.


The Crampton of the Chronicle Mysteries…

Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery series

Stop Press Murder Author Profile

Author Peter BartramPeter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime series – which features crime reporter Colin Crampton in 1960s Brighton. Peter has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s interviewed cabinet ministers and crooks – at least the crooks usually answer the questions, he says. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. (The former is easier to get into but at least you don’t have to wear a hat with a lamp on it in the latter.)

Peter wrote 21 non-fiction books, including five ghost-written, in areas such as biography, current affairs and how-to titles, before turning to crime – and penning Headline Murder, the first novel in the Crampton series. As an appetiser for the main course, there is a selection of Crampton of the Chronicle short stories at Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.


Stop Press Murder Free NovellaMICL-cover-web

Read Murder in Capital LettersFOR FREE!

Murder in Capital Letters, a Crampton of the Chronicle novella, is free to download for your kindle or other e-reader at:


SHOT TWICE!: Brighton antiques dealer Freddie Hollingbourne-Smith is murdered in his workshop – and crime reporter Colin Crampton is first on the scene.

TOO MANY SUSPECTS: Colin discovers plenty had reason to kill Freddie… like thwarted beauty queen Julie Appleyard, his jilted mistress… snooty toff Sir Tunnicliffe Hogg, his persecuted neighbour… devious hard-man Harry Spittlefield, his cheated partner… not to mention fiery and passionate Isabella, his betrayed ex-wife.

CRYPTIC CLUE: Colin must puzzle out the mystery left by a small pile of printers’ type – all in capital letters – before he can finger the killer.

THE CLIMAX EXPLODES: on the famous train, the Brighton Belle. With Colin’s feisty Australian girlfriend Shirley at his side, the laughs are never far from the clues as the pair hunt down the murderer.


Stop Press Murder Blog Banner

Book Review: The Jazz Files (Poppy Denby Investigates – Book One, by Fiona Veitch Smith

Publisher: Lion Fiction  |   Publication date:  17th September 2015   |   Review edition: Paperback

The Jazz Files My Review

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith - Cover onlyThe Jazz Files encapsulates the highs and lows of an era shortly after the First World War.

With the author’s discretion, certain historical facts have been remoulded to fit this story, where we follow the young and ambitious Poppy Denby as she pursues a career in journalism.

Poppy was invited to London to work as a companion to her aunt, an actress and feisty member of the suffragette movement. Her aunt encourages her niece to fight for the employment she desires, after all, it’s what she and her friends campaigned for, and some of them did not survive. But no amount of support and encouragement will prepare her for the danger she is about to face, where blackmail, unsavoury characters, and evil shadow from the past all thrive.

Starting as an office assistant Poppy will meet all manner of larger than life characters, each having their own piece of unique history attached. For starters, there’s her boss, who is an ‘all American editor’ called ‘Rollo’ Rolandson. He gives the bright young gal a chance, when a missing editorial slot needs filling urgently. Having a friend in the arts is a Godsend, as she can get the interview she needs to set her on the right track. Little did she know that journalism could lead to such deadly pursuits! There are such delightful ones too, as a dashing newspaper photographer has a twinkle in his eye for young Poppy. Their relationship inside and outside the paper’s offices is played out wonderfully.

Soon, chases, betrayal and a cloak and dagger rescue are all on the cards. Poppy chips away at information she gains during her employment hoping to discover the truth about her aunt Dot’s accident, which left her confined to a wheelchair. And what really caused the death of her aunt’s friend? Then, there’s the fate of a poor woman held in an asylum hanging in the balance! Who is responsible for causing such grief and how can they be stopped? This is difficult to discern, as most of the people Poppy meets have secrets they are not revealing.

The original members from the suffragette movement and their nieces / daughters work together as a formidable team to solve the puzzle that has haunted the older generation. It’s a nice touch to bring all the threads together and form a unified bond ‘in the now’ – but someone is always one step ahead of the investigation…

With the embittered memories for the loss of their old friends and exposing those responsible, this is an incredibly engaging story. Told in a rhythmic, breezy style, our marvellous mystery solving gal perseveres, despite the many obstacles both her gender and difficult circumstances present in the age of The Jazz Files.

It’s safe to say I adored this book and would happily recommend it to those who like being transported to a different time, where an adventurous journalistic crime mystery will keep you on your toes – the 1920’s have never felt more alive!

Rating: 5/5

(My sincerest thanks to the publisher and Rhoda Hardie for providing a gorgeous paperback of this title for review.)

The Jazz Files Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

“It stands for Jazz Files,” said Rollo. “It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven… you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove useful.”

Set in 1920, The Jazz Files introduces aspiring journalist Poppy Denby, who arrives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette. Dot encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globe, but on her first day a senior reporter is killed and Poppy is tasked with finishing his story. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earlier, about which some powerful people would prefer that nothing be said…

Through her friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy is introduced to the giddy world of London in the Roaring Twenties, with its flappers, jazz clubs, and romance. Will she make it as an investigative journalist, in this fast-paced new city? And will she be able to unearth the truth before more people die?


The Jazz Files Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. She is best known though for her novels and children’s picturebooks. Her ‘Young David Picturebook’ series (illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) are based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy. ‘The Jazz Files’ is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in the 1920s. Her standalone novel, ‘The Peace Garden’, is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet – preferably not at the same time!

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