Fair of Face
Tina is the foster-mother of Grace Winter, a strikingly beautiful ten-year-
old who is staying for a few days at her friend Chloe Hebblewhite’s
home in an adjacent street. Both girls initially deny that they have been
anywhere near Tina’s house during the time when the murders must
When questioned about events, Chloe is by turns mute and hysterical,
unable to give a coherent account of her own movements on that day.
Grace creates a photofit of a man. She says she doesn’t know him,
but DS Juliet Armstrong sees immediately that the photofit is a good
likeness of Marek Wolansky, Tina’s severely mentally disabled next-door
neighbour. This and further evidence suggest that Marek is guilty
of the murders, but neither Juliet nor DI Tim Yates believes that he is
intellectually capable of committing them.
Juliet, newly promoted to Detective Sergeant but still unhappy in
her private life, unwillingly takes responsibility for Grace and becomes
increasingly uneasy about her behaviour.
Eighteen-year-old Ayesha Verma disappears from her home in Spalding just a few days after her parents have introduced her to the cousin they’ve arranged for her to marry. There has been a nation-wide police campaign to raise awareness of ‘honour killings’. Conditioned by this, DI Tim Yates and Superintendent Thornton are convinced that Ayesha has been murdered for refusing the arranged marriage. Tim throws himself enthusiastically into preparations for a trip to India to interview the cousin. He first travels to London to visit his rather louche old friend, DI Derry Hacker, at the Met. Hacker introduces Tim to DC Nancy Chappell, an unconventional expert on honour killings.
When Tim arrives at King’s Cross he thinks that he hears the voice of Peter Prance, a confidence trickster whom he last encountered when he was investigating the murder of Kathryn Sheppard several years before. He’s unable to follow the man because he’s suddenly taken ill.
Tim’s wife, Katrin, has just returned to work as a police researcher after the birth of their daughter Sophia. DC Juliet Armstrong, who is far from convinced that Tim is right about the reason for Ayesha’s disappearance, arranges for Katrin to meet Fi Vickers, a social worker who helps women to escape from forced marriages and violent male relatives. She hopes that Fi will introduce Katrin to some of the women in her care so that Katrin can build a picture of the likely circumstances of ‘honour killings’. Juliet herself is feeling aggrieved because she thinks her career is going nowhere. Tim and Superintendent Thornton have announced their intention to appoint a Detective Sergeant to the team, but Juliet is convinced that she won’t get the job.
DI Hacker arranges dinner in a restaurant for Tim with a ‘surprise’ guest, who turns out to be Patti Gardner, the SOCO who was his girlfriend before he met Katrin. Derry is called away to a reported gangland beating shortly after they’ve begun to eat. Tim remains à deux with Patti, escorting her back to her hotel at the end of the evening. There he’s taken ill again, and is so incapacitated that he spends the night in Patti’s room. The victim of the gangland beating has been spirited away by the men who attacked him, but from Tim’s description Hacker is convinced he is Peter Prance.
Katrin has received a visit earlier that evening from Margie Pocklington, a teenager working for her child-minder. Margie asks Katrin to employ her as a full-time nanny, and when she gets a cautious response flounces out of the house. Next morning, she fails to turn up for work. She has vanished.
Juliet Armstrong is convinced that Ayesha’s and Margie’s disappearances are linked. She has begun to investigate when Tim returns to Spalding earlier than expected, with Nancy Chappell in tow. He puts her in charge of the investigation while he is in India. Sparks fly.
Publication November 15th 2016
The fourth novel in the DI Yates series
It is a foggy day. Ruby Grummett, a railway crossing keeper, opens the gates for a council lorry, thinking that the Skegness train has been cancelled, but it comes looming through the mists and hits the lorry, which is flung into the air. The train is derailed, one man is killed and another seriously injured, and Ruby’s house is destroyed.
Is Ruby to blame for the accident, or was it caused by the railway company’s failure to warn that the train was late? DI Yates visits Ruby in hospital in an attempt to find out. There he meets her husband Bob and daughters Kayleigh and Philippa. Kayleigh, short and squat like her mother, works in a local factory. Philippa, tall and very blonde, attends Boston Grammar School. Bob is shifty and seems to be hiding something from the police. Both his brother Ivan and Councillor Start, a prominent local man, are helping him.
Meanwhile, the head teacher at Spalding High School is strangely unconcerned when a prowler is reported loitering outside the school; Andy Carstairs’ new girlfriend tells him about an obscure all-male club that is allowed to meet at the school at weekends; and Juliet Armstrong, who has renewed her friendship with Dr Louise Butler, reopens the case of a Finnish au pair who disappeared twenty years before.
These miscellaneous events appear to be unconnected until the remains of a child are discovered. Then all hell breaks loose.
Publication November 15th 2015
‘★★★★★ A seemingly straightforward case upends a termites’ nest for DI Tim Yates. Riveting, thrilling and with that trademark Christina James shock at the end. Cracking crime writing at its best.’ —Ani Johnson, The Bookbag
‘It’s not the accident itself however that is the focus of the novel, but the events that it sparks off, as the wreckage is checked and the families of those involved contacted. More and more characters join the jigsaw which grows increasingly dark as the deeper and creepier element of the plot begins to emerge.’ —Shots Crime and Thriller eZine
This is the third novel in the DI Yates series
Sausage Hall is home to millionaire Kevan de Vries, grandson of a Dutch immigrant farmer. De Vries has built up a huge farming and food packing empire which extends, via the banana trade, to the West Indies. Sleazy MD Tony Sentance persuades de Vries to branch out into the luxury holiday trade and De Vries and his wife, Joanna, take the first cruise out. But back home a break-in at Sausage Hall uncovers a gruesome historical discovery and soon DI Yates is called in as a young employee of de Vries is found dead in the woods at Sandringham. This third outing for DI Yates tackles the exploitation of African women in the nineteenth century and draws parallels with the exploitation of Eastern European women in the twenty-first.
Publication November 17th 2014
“When a break-in is discovered at the home of Kevan di Vries, owner of di Vries Industries, the police, noticing an open door to the cellar, soon discover five phony blank passports in the cellar. Before long, the passport mystery leads to the discovery of very old bones (belonging to three women) in the very same location. Elsewhere, the murders of two women occur, and the plot doth thicken!
Sausage Hall is the handiwork of a gifted author. Christina James intricately plots an engaging mystery filled with a delectable assortment of characters, situations, and possibilities. Adeptly and seamlessly, this author moves from one scene to the next, heightening the suspense with impressive prose. Kevan di Vries speaks to the reader in the first person while the rest of the story is told in the third person. James executes these narratives brilliantly enabling the reader to establish an up-close-and-personal connection with di Vries, which is positively chilling at times.
The story pulls together masterfully, and the last line of the book (loved it!) puts the cherry on top of this delicious sundae. A very tasty read! ” Lisette Brodey
“One of the joys of being a book blogger is being welcomed into the world of “reviews”. I rarely accept invitations to review books for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many books don’t interest me and secondly I’m very busy with multiple projects. I only blog when something grabs me, so when an email arrived in my in-box offering me a preview copy of Sausage Hall by Christina James I immediately wrote back to say, “the book’s blurb gives me the impression that it would be a book I would enjoy” and enjoy it I did. This is the third book of the Detective Inspector Yates series. Sausage Hall was the first book I’ve read, written by Christina James. I’ll be seeking out her other two soon, the titles are: In the Family and Almost Love. I think the title of the book, Sausage Hall, tends to distract from the quality of the story. That’s just a personal opinion. The story links a crime in the historical past, to one in the present, both perpetrated by different people but both crimes involve the owners of a mansion known as Laurieston located in Lincolnshire. Laurieston is also known to the locals as Sausage Hall because it was once owned by a butcher. Christina James’ writing style fitted with my reading taste, like a glove. I was a little thrown by the narrative changing from first person to third person when I began reading. However, once I became accustomed to the switch, I enjoyed it, it was like a change in melody, it complimented the style of writing. I enjoyed the story and its great ending. Now, don’t cheat everyone, don’t go reading the last chapter till you’ve read from beginning to end in sequence.” Diane Challenor, Artuccino
This is the second novel in the DI Yates series
Guy Maichment, a landscape gardener, pays a late-night visit to his aunt, Dame Claudia McRae, the well-known veteran archaeologist who lives in an isolated cottage near Helpston, and sees that her front door is wide open. When he enters the house, he discovers that his aunt has vanished, leaving no clue about what has happened to her except a broad smear of blood on her hall wall.
The Spalding Archaeological Society is holding its annual conference at the Welland Manor Hotel nearby. Alex Tarrant, its attractive Secretary, is about to embark upon an affair with Edmund Baker, the County Archaeologist. Edmund and Oliver Sparham, the County Heritage Officer, were both Dame Claudia’s protégés in their youth. Oliver visits her on the day of her disappearance, making him the last known person to see her alive. Detective Inspector Tim Yates is detailed by his boss to investigate, even though Helpston is outside the area normally served by South Lincolnshire police. He is frustrated at therefore being excluded from the pursuit of an organised drugs syndicate which employs young children as couriers. Detective Constable Juliet Armstrong delves into Dame Claudia’s past and discovers that some of her celebrated theories derive from questionable political opinions forged during the Second World War. Meanwhile Tom Tarrant, Alex’s social worker husband, tries to help two terrified young brothers who have been recruited by the drugs gang. DI Yates himself has personal problems: his normally cheerful and supportive wife, Katrin, is desperately unhappy, but won’t tell him why.
Publication June 13th 2013
“Absorbing, intricate and compelling… Having finished this absorbing book a few days ago, I have been thinking about how I would describe it in just a few words. The title I have given my review sums it up well. Christina James has produced another novel that has kept me burning the midnight oil and carrying it around with me wherever I have gone. On the bus, during breaks between classes, and before sleep at night, I have dived into it to read more of the intricate plot spun around a variety of sometimes eccentric personalities that make up the intellectually competitive world of an archaeological society and its members. It manages to combine the rather dry environment of research, archive and record keeping with a neo-fascist political group and an alarmingly ruthless bunch of drug runners who have involved children in their mix. It has a complex and intricate plot, parts of which were pretty challenging. As with In the Family, the detecting is done by DI Yates and his assistant Juliet. Yates himself is having some trouble at home, but this is luckily (if slightly obscurely) resolved. Juliet brings her considerable research powers into play and she is key to solving the puzzle. It is a book that will bear a second reading too because even when you know what happens in the end, there are so many threads to tie together, it is not always easy to keep them all in mind. Ms James’s use of language is superb and her powers of evocation are excellent. This is a book that will stimulate as well as satisfy. Did I miss anything? Maybe more about Katrin, Yates’s wife. As central to his state of mind, it would be great to know more about her and what part she plays in her own life as well as his! As with all Amazon reviews, we are obliged to give ratings. I don’t like this as I feel it is too simplistic, but on this occasion, I can see no reason for not giving the full set!” Valerie Poore
“When a well-known elderly archaeologist goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Detective Inspector Tim Yates is called in to investigate. Almost Love is DI Tim Yates’s second outing and Christina James’s writing trademark is making itself known.
A DI Yates novel is effectively two novels in one. The first a crime novel, steadily but relentlessly proceeding to its denouement, the second a study of personal inner landscapes.
Appalling crimes and cruelty are committed offstage, but with just enough description to feed the reader’s imagination. These are run alongside studies in the frailties of the human condition that create an interesting tension to the plot. At no time is it possible to find a comfortable assessment of the lead character’s disposition, this time secretary Alex Tarrant, and even the villains of the piece make you search for the reasons behind their malevolent behaviour. No one is quite what they seem.
Although a little worry is injected into Tim Yates’s life, he seems to be only slightly perturbed and the disquiet between Tim and his wife is frustratingly not fully explored. This, however, ties in with Christina James’s view that life is messy and in reality loose ends cannot always be conveniently tidied up. However, the reliable Detective Constable Juliet Armstrong, is taking a much more proactive and satisfying role, revealing herself to be someone able to make keen observations and astute decisions, rather than just a handy foil for her boss.
Although both detectives seem to be little more than a vehicle to take the novel forward, by concentrating more on Alex Tarrant and the extramarital affair that leads the reader into the heart of the story, Christina James creates a refreshing story dynamic. The narrative of inner turmoil is not that of the detectives, but of the other characters integral to the crimes that are being committed, whether victims or villains.
Once again Christina James has woven a modern day story into a setting that would not be out of place if it were transplanted into the 1950s, giving it an other worldly feel. The understated and quiet unease running though the core of the novel, gives the steady pace of the story a sense of urgency, without the reader feeling they need to rush (another delightful feature of Christina’s writing).
It is a book not to be rushed but luxuriated over, to tease out all the different levels of interwoven themes.” Elaine Aldred
“Never mind the title, this is about crime, or rather several crimes, and investigative detective work. This is the first time I have read Christina James, who says on her website that she writes her books “to bring out the detective in you”, and Almost Love certainly does. There is depth to this novel, not simply the sense of place in England’s misty fenlands of East Anglia, and in the characters with their inner conflicts and uncertainties, but in the context – a local Archaeological Society containing more devious plotters with dark secrets than you could imagine. Fusty on the outside but all is definitely not what it seems. The plot revolves around the sudden disappearance of an eminent archaeologist – Dame Claudia McRae – who is not actually a member, and thereby hangs part of the tale.
Dame Claudia is in her nineties, which allows the intrigue to span 60 years and include fascist plots, personal revenge and modern drug gangs as well as a bit of adultery on the side – an ingenious entanglement. What appealed to me particularly is that this is not just about a crime and a bunch of cops trying to work out `who done it’. An intricate web of connections crosses three generations – a whole `community’ of characters each with some role to play in events, either unwittingly or in wickedly determined fashion. You get the feeling of a story embedded in a real social and physical setting where life goes on…or is unexpectedly cut short.
It’s not a fast read, it starts quite slowly and the writing is occasionally just a little stiff, but there is a lot to take in, all the clues are woven into the story, and I found the final exposition satisfying, not only in tying up connections I had missed, but in its realism at leaving a few related threads ambiguous or unresolved. A clever and original story, and an absorbing read for those who enjoy some mental exercise with their crime.” Trish Nicholson
In the Family
In the Family is the joint debut title of Salt’s crime list.
The discovery of the skeleton of a young woman by workmen causes Detective Inspector Tim Yates to re-open the gruesome case of Dorothy Atkins, a woman who was imprisoned for murdering her mother-in-law, Doris Atkins, more than thirty years before. What is the link between the skeleton and Dorothy Atkins, now the aged inmate of a care home? Her former husband, Ronald, and her son, Hedley, each appears to have something to hide and both only grudgingly co-operate with the police.
What happened to Bryony Atkins, Dorothy’s and Ronald’s daughter and why is everyone so reluctant to talk about her? Hedley Atkins has recently allowed a relatively new friend, Peter Prance, to move into his flat and he is introduced to Peter’s family in Liverpool. Is Peter simply a persuasive upper-class scrounger, or is there something more calculated in his relationship with Hedley? Did Dorothy in fact kill Doris Atkins, or was she wrongfully imprisoned, with the real killer still at large? How many murders have there been and how many killers are there? Detective Inspector Tim Yates and his team make their debut.
“I’d like to describe this as a page turner, but I read it on a Blackberry, so there were no pages to turn. And it’s really hard reading a novel on a Blackberry. But I did and I finished it which should tell any potential reader how good it is.” Richard Charkin, Executive Director, Bloomsbury
“It has the feel of a literary novel with the constant disquiet of a sinister undercurrent. It is a study in the inner mental landscape of deduction, on the part of the police, and the cost of a lifetime of concealment and manipulation, as well as the descent into mental instability, on the part of the perpetrators… Her handling of shifts both in time and point of view, as well as keeping the reader constantly off balance in terms of ‘whodunnit’, makes her someone to watch in the future… ‘In the Family’ is a book that I would read again, not only because of the rich tapestry of images, dialogue and internal landscapes, but also the thoughtful use of the written word. I can’t wait to read the next Tim Yates novel.” Elaine Aldred
“With a well-written and cleverly plotted story, and above all rich characterisation, this new piece of crime fiction is both believable and addictive from the start. A very promising debut indeed.” Blandine Bastie
“Christina, you’re a very good writer. The mystery is good, but ultimately what sticks in my mind – as it should – are the people. They’re real, they’re flesh and blood. Can’t say you’re on your way to being an excellent writer as you’re already there.” Chris Nickson
“Christina James’ In the Family…Great reading for insomniacs…the evocative bittersweet memories of a 50’s childhood took me by surprise.” Ian Raymond
“An intriguing and compelling crime novel. I thoroughly enjoyed Christina James’ first novel. It was a compelling read, holding the suspension and intrigue all the way through to the closing chapters. DI Yates is a strong protagonist and I hope we get the opportunity to read more about him in future novels.” Mark Majurey
“I have enjoyed In the Family immensely and have to say I am more than a bit impressed. I’m quite a fan of Deborah Crombie’s books and Ms James’s style, although not like hers, has the same intrinsic humanity and thoughtfulness without the heaviness that Elizabeth George has developed over the years. I used to read a lot of crime fiction but found much of it so gory in its graphic descriptions that I was quite sickened, so I stopped reading them for quite a while. Ms James is one of a very few writers whose focus is on unravelling the puzzle rather than shock and gore. She has given me back my taste for good, gripping crime fiction. DI Yates and Juliet are likeable, believable, fallible and real. The Atkins family, who are the subject of this book, are actually rather tragic, driven as they are by social conventions and the grip of humiliation and shame. Thank you, Christina James, for a gripping and extremely stimulating read!” Valerie Poore
“In the Family is one of the books which will become ‘dog-eared’ with constant re-reads. It now sits alongside my battered copy of Wolf Hall… I don’t usually read crime thrillers. Up until now, I have yet to find one without a transparent plot and predictable characters. But recently there has been a ‘quiet babble’ in my writing community. In the Family has been mentioned again and again by writers and book reviewers whom I admire and respect. Alongside this, is the benchmark of quality that is SALT Publishing, who (as far as I am aware) do not usually publish crime thrillers. And so, I settled down to read… In the Family is stunning. I adored the switch from third person to first person which gave me an unsettling feeling as I read. The real surprise for me was Hedley. He appears to be completely unreliable in his recounting of events; you just don’t believe him. The shock at the end of the story (no spoilers!) threw me off-balance. I did not expect such subtle twists and turns in a crime novel. In the Family is a unique book. It blends the genres of commercial and literary fiction. And I am in love with it. I cannot wait for the next instalment of the D.I. Yates series. I await with as much anticipation as I did with Mantel’s Bring up the bodies!” Lisa Shipman
“Enthralling debut for DI Yates. I really enjoyed reading this book. The description of DI Yates was so vivid that I now picture him (and did do all through the book) as looking like Adam, the farmer off ‘Countryfile’! The story moves from third person to first person with ease and the dialogue is so clear that there is no doubt who we are listening to. The other thing I was really conscious of all the way through was how easy it would be to imagine the various parts of the story in any decade of the 20th century. The present day writing could actually be the 1950s and then wind the clock back for the rest of the story. The story is actually quite complex with a lot of characters to get your head around. The family dynamics took a little while for me to get a grasp of. I blame myself for starting the book late at night when perhaps I should have waited until I was not quite so tired! So, upon reading when I was more alert and with it, I became engrossed in the story, plot and sub-plot. I see another review mentions PD James. I would agree with the comparison in style. I look forward to reading more cases of DI Yates and his team. Highly recommended read.” Debs Ramsdale
“When I found that Christina was going to have a crime novel published by Salt, I just had to see it. The thrill did not diminish with the reading. It’s one of those books that although once you’ve read it you can remember exactly what happened, you want to read it again, to pick up all the things you missed the first time round. It is not a lazy read, but an intensely psychological whodunit, without unnecessary on-the-page violence, and where nothing is quite as it seems. So if you fancy an engrossing crime read, with a literary feel to it, then ‘In the Family’ should go down nicely, curled up with a hot mug of tea.” Strange Alliances March 3rd 2013
Review: Heart of Glass Magazine
“An exemplary first novel… This is Christina James’ first novel. It starts slowly but the reader is very quickly drawn into a plot of evolving complexity, with wonderful depth of character development. The prose is beautifully crafted and of a literary quality that is sadly missing in many modern novels. In the Family richly portrays human traits and failings and produces a level of empathy with the characters that is akin to William Boyd’s work. The personalities in the book are so vivid that even after completing it, they’ve remained in my mind, brought to life by the quality of the writing. In short, this is a great read, made even more enjoyable by an almost flawless conversion to the Kindle format, with none of the corruption of text that often occurs. I’m looking forward to the second novel from Christina James later this year.” Ernst Kallus
“Am excited by ‘Almost Love’: I thought ‘In the Family’ was both gripping and beautifully written.” Zinca
“The first thing you notice about the book is how well written it is. It has the feel of literary fiction; there is a calm and reflective quality to the prose which makes interesting reading. The narrative moves between the third person detailing the police investigation and Hedley’s first person, and clearly biased, observations. Both worked well. I slightly preferred the Hedley narrative, mainly because the set-up is clearly odd and it made entertaining reading. The police investigation is also well described and there is plenty of mileage in the character of DI Tim Yates and his slightly adoring assistant, Juliet Armstrong.
The clue to the essence of this book is in the title. It’s about the claustrophobia of families and the secrets contained within them. The book, for me, also had a strong ‘provincial’ feel. And I mean this in the best sense of the word. It was a book not about the metropolis but the lives of ordinary (or perhaps not) people in everyday surroundings. And it was nice to read something with such a strong sense of place.
The book is published by Salt, a small but discerning publisher and I think this book is an asset to its list. I hope book two in the series, which is out in June, is as good as this one.” Sarah Ward Full review here.
“In the Family is Christina James’ first crime novel featuring Detective Inspector Tim Yates. The story revolves around the discovery of the body of a young woman buried on the verge of a slip-road. The discovery takes the reader back to a crime committed twenty years ago, and to the highly dysfunctional Atkins family. It is always difficult to enter an already crowded room and make oneself stand out from the rest of the inhabitants, but Christina James has managed to produce a well-crafted book that both intrigues and propels the reader forwards. Partly this is achieved through the dual narrative technique: the third person authorial voice is interspersed by the eccentric and slightly off-centre voice of Hedley Atkins, only son of Dorothy Atkins, a woman who was charged with the murder of her mother-in-law. The interlinked story of the murdered young woman on the slip road and the Atkins family is what lies is at the heart of the novel. Ms James’ research and knowledge of medical and police procedures are impeccable, and add to the veracity of the story. The authoritative writing style reminds me of P D James, or Colin Dexter. This is not for the ‘Nordic Noir’ reader, nor those who enjoy a more gruesome sensationist narrative. In the Family is a densely plotted and at times almost academic novel – the reader relishes the slow,imperceptible building up of tension as the events, both real and hypothetical, unfold and the final revelation is not entirely expected. A minor quibble, and one perhaps pertaining to this reviewer only: I felt the relationship between DI Tim Yates and his wife Katrin was of interest, but remained undeveloped. Maybe more will be shared in a future book? A good first novel; I look forward to reading its sequel.” Carol Hedges