Armstrong, Vivien 1944-
Armstrong, Vivien 1944-
The Honey Trap, Crime Club, 1992.
The Wrong Road, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1997.
Dead in the Water, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1998.
Fly in Amber, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2000.
Fool's Gold, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2000.
Rewind, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2001.
Smile Now, Die Later, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2002.
Murder between Friends, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2004.
"JUDITH PULLEN" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS
Sleight of Hand, Crime Club, 1991.
Close Call, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1994.
Beyond the Pale, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2002.
"ROGER HAYES" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS
Bird of Prey, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2003.
No Birds Singing, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2003.
The Pay-Off, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2005.
Blue Murder, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2006.
Roll Over, Play Dead, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2007.
Contributor of articles on horticulture and gardening to periodicals.
Vivien Armstrong is a prolific author of mystery novels set in Britain. Her protagonists fall into solving mysteries in various ways. Some, such as Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Flood of Beyond the Pale and Inspector Hayes of Murder between Friends, are professionals; others, including Zoe Templeman of Smile Now, Die Later, are motivated by the need to find out the truth behind the deaths of those close to them. In other books, including Fool's Gold and Bird of Prey, characters unwittingly find themselves in mortal danger and must solve the mysterious deaths of those around them before they become victims, too. Armstrong's mysteries have been praised by critics. Library Journal contributor Rex E. Klett, for example, called Dead in the Water "an appealing and involving work," while Emily Melton commented in Booklist that Murder between Friends has a "solid plot, intriguing (though not always likable) characters, and unexpected twists."
Armstrong's "Judith Pullen" series, which begins with Sleight of Hand, features the adventures of Detective Sergeant Judith Pullen, who is often assisted by her former chief inspector, Ralph Arnott. In Close Call, the second of the Pullen mysteries, the story revolves around a woman who has been found dead in her shower. The general consensus among the police is that the death was a suicide, and even the coroner agrees with the assessment. However, Judy and Arnott disagree with this conclusion. The series continues with Beyond the Pale, which begins with a murder during an art club meeting. The girlfriend of Special Branch's Inspector Laurence Erskine, Judith Pullen, happens to be in attendance; when another murder occurs, this time at the club's session in Bath, Judy is sure there is a connection. Although political motivations are suggested, she disagrees, and once again calls on Arnott to reinforce her suspicions. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews remarked that the author "handles multiple threads deftly as she weaves an arresting tale of love, betrayal, and murder."
The "Roger Hayes" mystery series features Director Chief Inspector Roger Hayes as the newest addition to law enforcement in a quiet Oxfordshire village known as Newton Greys. In Bird of Prey solicitor Fay Browne is shocked when the woman who had been seated next to her on the train ends up getting killed on the tracks. Fay tells the police that the woman was pushed, but suddenly strange things are happening, and it begins to appear as if Fay herself is being set up. Rex E. Klett, writing for Library Journal, praised the book for its "psychological detail, devious plotting, and cozy British village backdrops."
No Birds Singing begins when Tansy Robotham sets off to visit her hairdresser, Sandy Prentice, only to discover that Sandy has been murdered. The body has clearly been lying there for some time, if the state of the corpse is any indication. Shocked by the sight and circumstances, Tansy runs off for help. Roger Hayes is assigned to the case, and is intent on getting to the bottom of the mystery. Despite the small village atmosphere, Hayes soon discovers there is more to the town than meets the eye and that Sandy Prentice may have been hiding a secret life that led to her death. Emily Melton, reviewing the novel for Booklist, dubbed it "a lively and enjoyable mystery," citing both an "inventive plot and the unexpected solution."
The next in Roger Hayes's adventures, The Pay-Off, revolves around the death of antique dealer and specialist in Russian icons, Lulu Starewski. Raoul Musset appears to be a likely candidate for the killer, because he is in line to inherit both Lulu's London gallery and her flat. But then an arsonist strikes the gallery, and Hayes finds himself looking deeper for answers. Again reviewing for Booklist, Melton found The Pay-Off to be "another solid entry in Armstrong's long list of successful crime novels."
More recent installments in the series include Blue Murder and Roll Over, Play Dead. The former finds Director Chief Inspector Hayes in the hospital because he tried to save a woman from muggers and was stabbed. Hayes goes to the Isle of Man to recover, but trouble follows. A series of attacks and a murder have occurred on the island, and he interrupts his time off to solve the case. A Kirkus Reviews critic found the book not quite up to Armstrong's usual standards, commenting that "the ending is a bit of a letdown." In Roll Over, Play Dead Hayes has a new partner, Sergeant Prentice. The pair set out to investigate the murder of politician Sir William Brigham's wife, Susan. There is no sign of a break-in or that she interrupted a robbery. Eventually, the investigation leads Hayes and Prentice to a wealth of secrets about the family that are not the sort of information a politician wants publicized. Again reviewing for Booklist, Melton dubbed the book "a pleasant mix of cozy and procedural."
Armstrong told CA: "Moving from Chelsea in central London to rural Norfolk in the East of England, I had the opportunity to extend my writing from horticultural subjects to fiction. Days intent on the distractions of city life and the social antics as the wife of an international banker beckoned!
"My writing is nevertheless restricted to the darker days of winter as the appeal of an English garden is difficult to resist.
"My favorite book remains Smile Now, Die Later, the story revolving around a feisty textile conservator called Zoe Templeman who, alone, investigates the death of her dealer. The research involved in this mystery is an intriguing foray into the craft of antique restoration work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of The Wrong Road, p. 1374; January 1, 1999, John Rowen, review of Dead in the Water, p. 836; June 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Rewind, p. 1851; April 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of Smile Now, Die Later, p. 1381; June 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of No Birds Singing, p. 1747; September 15, 2004, Emily Melton, review of Murder between Friends, p. 211; June 1, 2005, Emily Melton, review of The Pay-Off, p. 1759; March 15, 2006, Emily Melton, review of Blue Murder, p. 32; March 1, 2007, Emily Melton, review of Roll Over, Play Dead, p. 66.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Beyond the Pale, p. 994; February 15, 2003, review of Smile Now, Die Later, p. 270; April 15, 2006, review of Blue Murder, p. 379; April 1, 2007, review of Roll Over, Play Dead.
Library Journal, February 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Dead in the Water, p. 124; July 2001, Rex Klett, review of Rewind, p. 129; March 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Bird of Prey, p. 110.
Publishers Weekly, February 23, 1998, review of The Wrong Road, p. 55; July 10, 2000, review of Fool's Gold, p. 47; March 17, 2003, review of Smile Now, Die Later, p. 58; July 28, 2003, review of No Birds Singing, p. 83.
Mystery Women Web site,http://www.mysterywomen.co.uk/ (August 27, 2000), Lizzie Hayes, review of Fly in Amber.