The Tinder Box (novella)

In the small Hampshire village of Sowerbridge, Irish labourer Patrick O’Riordan has been arrested for the brutal murder of elderly Lavinia Fanshaw and her live-in nurse, Dorothy Jenkins. As shock turns to fury, the village residents form a united front against Patrick’s parents and cousin, who report incidents of vicious threats and violence. But friend and neighbour Siobhan Lavenham remains convinced that Patrick has fallen victim to a prejudiced investigation and, putting her own position within the bigoted community in serious jeopardy, stands firmly by his family in defence of the O’Riordan name. Days before his trial, terrible secrets about the O’Riordans’ past are revealed to Siobhan, and the family’s only supporter is forced to question her loyalties. Could Patrick be capable of murder after all? And, if so, what other lies lurk beneath the surface of their world? As the truth rapidly unfurls, it seems that Sowerbridge residents need to be very afraid. For beneath a cunning façade, someone’s chilling ambition is about to ignite…

Reviews:

‘If there wasn’t a recognised school of crime writing called southern Home Counties noir before, there is now. Minette Walters invented it and remains the undisputed Head Girl.’Birmingham Post

(INNOCENT VICTIMS – this is a US title for two novellas) “Fans of Edgar-winner Walter will welcome this collection of two previously published novellas. The poignantChickenfeed, based on an infamous 1924 murder case in East Sussex, charts the tragic course of the courtship of Norman Thorne, a city boy trying to make a go of an ill-conceived chicken farm, and the mentally unstable young woman determined to marry him, Elsie Cameron. The Tinder Box, a compelling tale of prejudice and gossip set in 1999, opens with the trial of Patrick O’Riordan, a 35-year-old unemployed Irish laborer, for the brutal murder of a 93-year-old woman and her nurse in an English village where the Irish are despised. Though the evidence against Patrick is overwhelming, his crippled mother persuades fellow Irishwoman Siobhan Lavenham to help exonerate her son. Siobhan discovers plenty about the victims, the O’Riordan family, and the escalating threats to the O’Riordans before everything falls into place to produce a shockingly different picture than expected.” Publisher’s Weekly