Policing and detection in 1950s England

DEATH IN THE COVE is my twentieth crime novel and my first historical mystery. My other nineteen crime novels are all contemporary with fourteen featuring my rugged and flawed detective, DI Andy Horton; three starring former Royal Marine Commando but damaged Art Marvik, an undercover investigator for the UK’s National Intelligence Marine Squad, and two standalone thrillers.

DEATH IN THE COVE is set in 1950 England, a country still reeling from the aftermath of war with austerity and rationing biting hard. Newly promoted to detective inspector, Ryga from Scotland Yard, is on his first solo investigation outside of London, to solve the mystery of why a man in a pin-striped suit is found murdered in an isolated cove on the Island of Portland in Dorset.

The 1950s is a fascinating period where memories of the war are very strong, and the fear of more world conflicts haunt people. Society and policing in the 1950s was vastly different to today, no mobile phones, no dashing about in high speed cars and no computers so it was extremely interesting to research and write.  This is the first article to look at some aspects of policing and detection in the 1950s.

Scotland Yard and the Murder Squad

Scotland Yard were frequently called in to investigate murder cases around the UK so rather than have the novel (and series) rooted in London this meant I could move my detective around the country to help solve crimes. It was common practice for Scotland Yard detectives to be called in to help investigate and indeed take charge of crimes around the country. At a moment’s notice detectives could be on a train heading towards a town, city or village where a crime had been committed that the local forces needed assistance with. This elite unit from Scotland Yard was created in 1907 by Home Secretary, Herbert Gladstone, and became known as the Murder Squad.

In my novels Inspector Ryga is part of the Murder Squad but I have played around with this fact sending Ryga out alone rather than with an assistant on his first criminal investigation to the Island of Portland in Dorset (and indeed in the second in the Ryga series). Instead I have teamed Ryga up with local police officers and with war photographer, Eva Paisley, who he meets in DEATH IN THE COVE. Eva will work with Ryga in subsequent novels taking on the role of photographer with pictures of the crime scene and victims, utilising the camera lens as her third eye in helping Ryga to solve the crimes.

I also wanted to feature the sea in my crime novels - my trademark or brand if you like - so I created a character with an intimate knowledge of the sea, a former Merchant Seaman, who can specialize in solving coastal crimes.

Crime Scenes, photographers, analysts and laboratories

In 1950 it was common practice for the police themselves to take photographs of the victim. Civilian photographers weren’t introduced until 1955 and then not in all places. So Ryga and Eva are trail blazers!

There were no specialist crime scene officers. CSI Specialists were introduced in 1968, although some forces had them before that time.

The Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory was set up in 1934 and there were small police laboratories in Cardiff, Bristol and Nottingham while in other places scientific support for police prosecutions was little used and consultants were called in on an ad hoc basis. These were usually public analysts. A Birmingham laboratory was established in 1938. The Metropolitan Police Laboratory was moved from Hendon to New Scotland Yard by 1949. And in 1950 Home Office Analysts were still being used until their role died out in 1954 when their work was taken over by the laboratories.

The Murder Bag/Case

In 1950, Inspector Ryga would take with him his Murder Bag. This was developed by Pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury (later Sir Bernard Spilsbury), who, after the 1924 high profile Mahon/Kaye case when he found detectives handling the dismembered remains of Emily Kaye (murdered by Mahon) with their bare hands expressed the view that police officers should wear gloves to save them being exposed to infection.. His concern inspired the introduction of the Murder Bag/Case.

In the Murder Case, Ryga has rubber gloves, a magnifying glass, a tape measure, a ruler, swabs, sample bags, forceps, scissors, a scalpel, and other instruments. The Murder Bag remained in use until Crime Scene Investigators were introduced in 1968.

Following articles will look at communicating with the police and reporting in; women in the police force, the British Transport Commission Police and police vehicles.

The 1950s was a very different time and way of policing from today and a joy to research and write about.

DEATH IN THE COVE is published in paperback, ebook, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and as an audio book

Death in the Cove an atmospheric 1950 set mystery from the author of the DI Andy Horton novels

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If you'd like to get all the latest book news from crime author Pauline Rowson, to know when the new DI Andy Horton, Art Marvik mystery thriller or the latest Inspector Ryga 1950 set mystery is being published, or learn about where she is speaking next and read her articles, then subscribe to her newsletter for all her updates.

Pauline Rowson entertaining readers at Hythe Library

I was delighted to talk to readers at Hythe Library Southampton on Monday 10 February about the exploits of my fictional sleuths -  DI Andy Horton who appears in fourteen crime novels - soon to be fifteen with the publication of A DEADLY WAKE in June 2020 -; Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Alun Ryga in my new 1950 set mystery, DEATH IN THE COVE and undercover investigator, Art Marvik who is featured in three mystery thrillers.

I talked about the inspiration behind my crime novels set on the South Coast of England and how I research, plot and write them.

I explained how I develop plot lines by creating a storyboard; how I create characters using spidergrams and how I research the police procedure and the forensic aspects of my multi-layered crime novels.

Following my talk there was a lively question and answer session and a book signing. 'It was a pleasure to talk to the lovely audience.

DEATH IN THE COVE an Inspector Ryga 1950 set mystery

England 1950, a country still struggling to come to terms with peace in the grip of austerity and rationing.

When the body of a man dressed in a pinstriped suit is discovered by war photographer, Eva Paisley, in a secluded bay on Portland Island, Dorset, Inspector Alun Ryga of Scotland Yard is sent to investigate. Recently promoted, the thoughtful, observant Ryga, is on his first solo investigation outside of London, and is keen to prove his worth. Ignoring the warnings of the local police inspector, and the Dorset Chief Constable, that his trust in Eva Paisley is misjudged, Ryga quickly realises that her observations could provide the breakthrough he needs in a complex murder investigation and the answer to the haunting circumstances that have sent the man in the pinstriped suit to his death.

DEAD PASSAGE a DI Andy Horton mystery number 14 in the series by Pauline Rowson

Dead Passage an Inspector Andy Horton crime novel A mysterious telephone call sends Horton on a complex and twisted investigation into the death of a local politician twelve years ago and uncovers a trail of lies, secrets and revenge with roots deep in the past.

"A detective novel in the tradition of Rankin and Harvey." Mystery People Magazine

Lost Voyage an Art Marvik mystery thriller, number 3 in the series

Lost Voyage an Art Marvik Mystery by Pauline RowsonMarvik faces a desperate battle to save others from a ruthless assassin who will stop at nothing in order to protect the secret of the Mary Jo’s last voyage from ever being exposed

"Plenty of action, I didn't want to put the book down. A good read for mystery/ thriller fans." Net Galley

Save our libraries- without the library service it would be a very barren landscape indeed

The libraries in the UK have suffered dreadfully under the Conservative's austerity drive with cuts to services, staff, books and closures, depriving communities of a lifeline. From personal experience I know how much a library can change a life and how much they mean to people. I owe a great deal to libraries and particularly the libraries of Portsmouth. Without them I might never have discovered the sheer joy of reading and ultimately have become a crime writer.

Coming from a household where money was very tight and from parents who did not read, I was fortunate enough to be introduced by a friend’s mother to a small local library in Portsmouth, the Alderman Lacey Library in Tangiers Road. There I discovered a treasure trove of books, the sheer volume and variety of which would have been impossible for my parents to buy, let alone store.  I devoured everything from adventure to classics and many in between.

Books opened up a whole new world for me as a child, providing me with endless hours of pleasure, an escape into another world so very different from my own and the library inspired in me a life long passion for reading, and for writing.

Books enrich our lives in so many ways, not only are they good for our health because reading increases confidence and can help to alleviate depression, but books also enlighten, educate, entertain and inform. And what’s more libraries provide them free of charge, to one and all, there is no discrimination.

There are many who cannot afford to buy books and who certainly don’t have access to the wide range of books that the libraries provide. Trained librarians are also essential. They are able to advise and assist individuals, they have the experience and expertise to select a wide range of stock, they catalogue and curate vital local and national collections and they also play a major part in helping to bring the community together.

I have had the honour of giving many talks to readers in libraries across the UK and have met interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life who greatly value this community service. We need public libraries and we need librarians. And we need a commitment by local and national government to support them. Without the library service it would be a very barren landscape indeed.

I will be giving a talk at Hythe Library, Hampshire on Monday 10 February at 2pm. Tickets from 38 Pylewell Rd, Hythe, Southampton SO45 6AQ or buy online.

I have joined many Hampshire authors to protest against the proposed closure and cuts to Hampshire Libraries. 

Behind the characters in standalone thriller mysteries, IN COLD DAYLIGHT and IN FOR THE KILL

One of the essentials of a good novel is a strong central character, someone the reader can have empathy with, urge on, and sometimes get angry and frustrated with. He or she doesn't have to be perfect, far from it, after all who is? And strong doesn't mean the character has be forceful, on the contrary he or she can find strength of kind, an inner strength say through experience and overcoming adversity i.e. the plot/s Here's a look at what shapes two of my fictional sleuths in my standalone thriller mysteries IN COLD DAYLIGHT and IN FOR THE KILL.

In Cold Daylight a mystery thriller by Pauline Rowson

In my thriller, In Cold Daylight, Adam Greene is a reluctant hero. A successful marine artist he wants nothing more than to be left alone to paint. He opts for an easy, quiet life leaving the ambition to his successful career wife, Faye. He wants to forget the past, including his mental breakdown following the tragic death of his former girlfriend, for which he holds himself responsible.He is always overshadowed by the legacy of a lack of self esteem caused by a domineering father and a highly successful manipulative brother. But all that changes when Adam is forced to take up the quest to find the truth behind the death of  his closest friend, firefighter, Jack Batholomew after Jack is killed in a fire. In doing so Adam has to face the demons of his past. He has to discover why so many fire fighters from one watch have died of cancer and why Jack himself was killed in an attempt to hide a scandal that goes to the heart of government. Adam puts his life on the line. He is tested to the limit and is finally forced to examine his past and confront his relationships with his over ambitious wife, his father and brother.  He has to find an inner strength through experience and overcoming adversity.

In For The Kill thriller mystery by Pauline Rowson

Alex Albury, the protagonist in my thriller, In For The Kill, has it all; a successful business, loving wife and kids and a glowing reputation. Then someone steals his identity and executes a skillful and clever campaign against him by planting fraudulent information on his computer.

Before Alex can fully understand what has happened he finds himself convicted for fraud and embezzlement and serving a prison sentence. His life, as it was, crumbles.  On his release from prison he sets out to discover who has ruined his life and why. He has nothing left to lose. He's set on revenge with a pathological aversion to using any form of modern technology for fear the perpetrator will strike again.

With his life and reputation destroyed he no longer cares what happens to him. His goal is to kill. But when it comes to it can he do it?  Will he become the criminal that he is supposed to be or do his original values reassert themselves?

The characters in my novels are very real to me and if they're real to the writer then they will be real to the reader.

Both the above are available in paperback and as an ebook.

CSI Winchester 2020 where crime fiction meets crime fact - don't miss it

Crime authors Pauline Rowson and Graham Hurley will be debating crime fiction and crime fact with crime experts Carolyn Lovell, Research and Development Manager Forensic Capability Network, and Detective Superintendent Mandy Horsburgh of Hampshire Police at  CSI Winchester  on 28 March 2020.  Also present will be the team from the Hampshire Fingerprint Bureau.

Pauline Rowson is the founder of the CSI events which have proved hugely popular with audiences.  She has been involved in CSI Portsmouth, Southampton , Winchester, Basingstoke and CSI Newcastle bringing together a number of crime experts, police and crime authors to discuss crime fiction versus crime fact.

The events  mean the audience not only have the chance to meet their favourite crime writers but also hear first hand from the police officers, forensic experts and the fingerprint team.

Crime authors who have appeared at CSI events with Pauline Rowson include Ann Cleeves, M. C Beaton, Mark Billingham, Hilary Bonner, Sharon Bolton, Stephen Booth, Simon Brett, Natasha Cooper, Elly Griffiths, Mari Hannah, June Hampson, John Harvey, Matt Hilton, Graham Hurley, Jessie Keane, Peter Lovesey, Micheal Ridpath and Kerry Wilkinson.

At CSI Winchester 2020 the audience will have the chance to talk to the crime authors and crime experts and put their questions to the panel. This will be followed by a book signing.

The panel debate between the crime authors and crime experts will be chaired by Rebecca Fletcher. The event begins at 10am and concludes at 12.30pm.


10am - Meet the Fingerprint team

10.30am – 11.30am - The panel with Pauline Rowson, Graham Hurley, Carolyn Lovell and Detective Superintendent Mandy Horsburgh

Interviewed and moderated by Rebecca Fletcher

11.30am -12 noon - Audience Q & A

12noon – 12.30pm - Book signing

12.30pm Finish

Tickets cost £8 which includes £1 off a book bought at the event. Box Office call 01962 873603 or direct from: Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street, Winchester, SO23 8SB or book online

What's on in February 2020

February comes with the exciting news that the new DI Andy Horton mystery, number 15 in the series, A DEADLY WAKE, is to be published in June 2020 and is now available for pre-order not only on Kindle but also in paperback both on line and from your local bookseller.

And yes, for all of you who have chomping at the bit to know what happened to Andy's mother when she disappeared over thirty years ago, the mystery is solved.

So pre-order your copy now!

Read more about A Deadly Wake and what's in store for DI Andy Horton.


I'm delighted to be giving a talk on crime writing and my crime novels at Hythe Library in Hampshire on 10 February.  If you are in the Hampshire area,close to Hythe Library and have some spare time why not pop in and say hello. My talk is at 2pm and tickets cost £5.00. They can be purchased from the library or book on line.

Also in February Harlequin USA are to publish  DI Andy Horton Lethal Waves. LETHAL WAVES is number thirteen in the DI Andy Horton mystery series of currently fourteen and is already published in the UK in paperback and as an e book, on Amazon Kindle and Kobo.

Lethal Waves, DI Horton Mystery USA Harlequin edition

 It is the second in the DI Andy Horton series to be published by Harlequin USA with the first being, FATAL CATCH.

I must say that the USA cover differs vastly from the UK version, below!

Still what's in a cover?  Perhaps a great deal depending on your target audience and Harlequin USA must know their audience and have decided this cover appeals to them whereas in the UK and Commonwealth perhaps we like a more gritty cover?

In LETHAL WAVES, Inspector Andy Horton’s meal with his old friend, Inspector John Guilbert of the States of Guernsey Police, is cut short when a woman is found dead in her cabin on the ferry from Portsmouth to Guernsey. There doesn’t appear to be any suspicious circumstances. It's not Horton's case. But as  soon as Horton returns to Portsmouth he's called in to investigate the death of a vagrant found lying partially covered under a rotting houseboat. This time, it’s clearly murder.  Troubled by the many unanswered questions surrounding both deaths, Horton must call upon all his skills and intuition to solve a complex case, uncovering dark secrets that have led to such lethal waves of destruction.

In February I'll be continuing the fight to save some Hampshire Libraries threatened with cuts and closures. Libraries are very dear to my heart and a small local library in Portsmouth played a huge part in my life as a child.  Indeed discovering it and the joy of reading and having free access to so many wonderful books changed my life.  It gave me a life long passion for reading and inspired me to become a writer. The campaign to save these libraries has already generated a lot of media coverage.  I know that Hampshire is only one of many areas around the country where libraries are threatened with closure or have already closed.  So sad. We must love and cherish our libraries and fight to keep them open.

Pauline Rowson talking to BBC Solent

Pauline Rowson talking to ITV Meridian

Aside from waving the placards, I'll be continuing to write Inspector Ryga number three in my 1950 set mystery series while progressing towards publication number two in the Ryga series.