The Story Behind DEAD PASSAGE the latest in the Inspector Andy Horton series, and extracts

DEAD PASSAGE is number fourteen in the DI Andy Horton series of crime novels and like the others it is set on Horton’s CID patch, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. As many of my readers know it is locations that often inspire me but with this crime novel while three locations inspired me the idea for DEAD PASSAGE also occurred to me while I was travelling on the Wightlink ferry, the St Clare, from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight one day. More about that in a later blog.

First locations. Below is the first of the three locations which inspired me but before that though here is a taster of what's in store for DI Andy Horton in DEAD PASSAGE

Detective Inspector Andy Horton receives a mysterious telephone call from Adele Goldsby, the daughter of a dead Portsmouth politician, with an urgent request to meet her on the Isle of Wight ferry because she has something to reveal about her father’s death twelve years ago. When she doesn’t show, Horton is at first inclined to think it was a hoax until more information comes to light. As he unofficially looks into the circumstances surrounding the politician’s death he becomes more convinced that the initial investigation was cursory to say the least, a fact that is borne out by Sergeant Cantelli who was on the case. With increasing concerns over the continued silence from Adele Goldsby and as new evidence is unearthed connected to a long ago killing, Horton believes the politician was murdered. Now all he has to do is convince his bosses.

So on to one of the locations that inspired me for DI Andy Horton DEAD PASSAGE

Rat Island, Portsmouth Harbour

The first location which inspired me for DEAD PASSAGE is a small uninhabited island in Portsmouth Harbour between the town of Gosport and the city of Portsmouth. It is owned by the Ministry of Defence. Its official name is Burrow Island but locals know it as Rat Island.

Here is an extract from DEAD PASSAGE which explains something about Rat Island

Horton’s gaze swivelled over the boats moored up in Oyster Quays marina and alighted on a large luxury motor yacht on the outer pontoon. It wasn’t quite in the mega-yacht category but it was certainly veering towards that. He wondered who owned it – someone very wealthy was obviously the answer. His eyes travelled further up into the harbour to a small clump of trees on a slightly raised knoll on a tiny uninhabited island just off the shores of Gosport, opposite the Portsmouth International Port. Burrow Island, or Rat Island as the locals called it, was owned by the Ministry of Defence and nine days ago five skeletons had been discovered buried there. Thankfully the onsite forensic archaeologist, Dr Lauder, had deemed them all to be from the nineteenth century. Horton hadn’t briefed Bliss about it because it wasn’t an active investigation.

Or is it? I’ll leave you to find out when you read DEAD PASSAGE, but here is a clue in an exchange between the forensic archaeologist, Dr Lauder and Detective Superintendent Uckfield, head of the major crime team at a briefing at which Horton is present. Dr Lauder is telling the team what he has discovered about those five skeletal remains.

Rat Island - remains - Portsmouth Harbour
‘As we know the harbour contained a prison hulk, HMS York, between 1819 and 1854 after she had returned from serving time in the West Indies and the Mediterranean, it is possible they were either convicts or French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic War. The York would have had about five hundred men on board – many were transported to Australia. Some would have died of typhoid and cholera before they could be transported. Others served their time out on the York. During the day they were put to hard labour working on the fortifications around Gosport, on Burrow Island and in Portsmouth. At night they would have been chained to their bunks to prevent them escaping ashore.’
‘If I’d wanted a history lesson I’d have gone to the museum,’ Uckfield growled. ‘This recent corpse, how––’
‘Burrow Island or Rat Island, as it is more commonly known, was used as a burial ground for these convicts, guilty or not, and for French prisoners. Further tests will be conducted on the remains to ascertain from where they originated which might give us more information. Working with historians we can try to piece together their lives, but it’s not their history as you so rightly and eloquently pointed out that concerns you, Detective Superintendent,’ Lauder added as Uckfield’s scowl deepened and his mouth opened to protest, ‘but our fifth skeleton. This one.’

So how were the five skeletal remains found? Who discovered them? What was he/she doing trespassing on Rat Island? And what secret does the fifth skeleton hold?

DEAD PASSAGE, number 14 in the DI Andy Horton series, will reveal all.  DEAD PASSAGE is available in paperback, an ebook and on Amazon Kindle.

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