The Murder at The Three Horseshoes

Thirteen crime writers were gathered together in a hotel in a small country town. Outside, the wind howled across the mellow rooftops and the wind lashed at the mullioned windows of the ancient coaching inn. Inside, a bright fire was burning in the lounge.

Seven of the novelists, all of whom had just attended an international crime-writers’ symposium, were British. Among them was Jonas Flay, only slowly recovering from a breakdown following spending three years writing a book of such devilish complexity that, by the time he got to the last chapter, he was so confused that he couldn’t remember who the murderer was. Also present was Selina Rosencratz, the celebrated creator of Lucy Parker, the five-year-old autistic savant musical prodigy sleuth. Jo Lacemaker was also there, fresh from receiving a garland of awards for A Question of Self-identity featuring perhaps the world’s first transgender detective. The more traditional form of the genre was represented by Samuel Fforbes-Taylor, whose traditional country-house mysteries had, in the words of one critic, ‘done more than anything else to make me want to cancel my membership of the National Trust.’  Rufus Raft, Jessie Pankhurst and Tariq Sem are surely well-enough known to require no introduction. 

None of these were, of course, their real names.

France had a solitary attendee, the etiolated, taciturn Marcel LeFebvre, a leading proponent of the neo-reductivist school, whose novels were described as ‘small miracles of Gallic nihilism’. Many of those present doubted that his novels qualified as detective fiction at all as they contained no murders and no policemen and sometimes no characters or dialogue. Presenting a contrast both in literary style and physical appearance was the jovial and corpulent Saxon, Otto Weimar. His novels were long, rumbustious affairs in which the victims, and usually the murderers as well, were invariably senior ecclesiastics. From the USA came the well-known Josh Lashman. His stories featured his hardboiled Marlowe-esque PI Jake Holding attempting to solve complex cyber-crimes and terrorist outrages, so creating a collision of styles which was, according to the Wyoming Star, ‘akin to listening to a polar bear trying to play the Moonlight Sonata on a mouth organ.’

The other three writers were from Scandinavia, that present-day hot-bed of fictional crime. Jonas Trapp, creator of the deaf sleuth Smilla Tolsvaag, was celebrating having just had his latest novel, Come Again, translated into Basque. Ebba Clink was the youngest writer present and her first novel, of which great things were expected, was due to be published in 240-character instalments on Twitter in the summer. Finally, who can be unaware of Alix Luftholm whose latest opus had featured a serial killer whose victims included the entire population of three villages, a feat which the Upsala Nya Tidning described as being ‘an act of wholesale slaughter unmatched in the annals of popular fiction.’

These, then were the writers gathered together in the Three Horseshoes in Wantbury that fateful night. The symposium was over and the blood-thirsty pensmiths were now refreshing themselves liberally at the bar. Intoxication can pass for conviviality in a bad light: however, on this occasion it would have been obvious to any careful observer that all was not well.


• The rest of this story is now available in a paperback book (as are 25 others) – Unaccustomed as I Am (RRP £9.95).

Click here for more information.

It is stocked by the Hungerford Bookshop, the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough, the Mad Hatter Bookshop in Wantage and through an increasing number of other retailers.

You can order it from any bookshop: they will need to know that the ISBN is 978-1-8382580-0-9 and that it can be ordered from Gardners or Central Books.


Brian Quinn

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