Eccles, Marjorie 1927-

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ECCLES, Marjorie 1927-

(Judith Bordill, Jennifer Hyde)

PERSONAL: Born 1927, in Yorkshire, England; daughter of Harold Jackson (a civil servant) and Anne Bordill; married Geoffrey Eccles (an engineer), 1946; children: Robin Andrew. Education: Open University, B.A., 1973. Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, music, architecture.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Juliet Benton Literary Agency, 2 Leliflon Ave., London W12 9DR, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer.

MEMBER: British Crime Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Woman, Society of Women Writers and Journalists.

AWARDS, HONORS: Agatha Christie Short Story Styles Award, 1998.

WRITINGS:

FICTION

Cast a Cold Eye, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988.

Death of a Good Woman, HarperCollins (London, England), 1988, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.

Requiem for a Dove, HarperCollins (London, England), 1989, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

More Deaths Than One, HarperCollins (London, England), 1990, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.

Late of This Parish, HarperCollins (London, England), 1992, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.

The Company She Kept, HarperCollins (London, England), 1993, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

An Accidental Shroud, HarperCollins (London, England), 1994, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

A Death of Distinction, HarperCollins (London, England), 1995, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.

A Species of Revenge, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Killing Me Softly, Constable (London, England), 1998, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

The Superintendent's Daughter, Constable (London, England), 1999.

A Sunset Touch, Constable (London, England), 2000.

Echoes of Silence, Constable (London, England), 2000.

The Shape of Sand, Allison and Busby (London, England), 2004.

Untimely Graves, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.

Killing a Unicorn, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

FICTION; UNDER PSEUDONYM JUDITH BORDILL

A Candle for Lydia, Hamlyn (London, England), 1982, reprinted under author's real name as Pandora's Box, Severn House (Boston, MA), 1995.

The Clouded Mirror, Firecrest, 1991.

FICTION; UNDER PSEUDONYM JENNIFER HYDE

Hill of the Caves, Hale (London, England), 1979.

A Handful of Shadows, Hale (London, England), 1980.

Arabesque of Daisies, Hale (London, England), 1984.

Winter Magic, Hale (London, England), 1985.

A Secret Shore, Hale (London, England), 1986.

SIDELIGHTS: Marjorie Eccles is a British author who has written romantic suspense novels under the pseudonyms Judith Bordill and Jennifer Hyde and, under her real name, a series of detective novels featuring Detective Chief Inspector Gil Mayo. In the first of these, Cast a Cold Eye, Mayo investigates the murder of architect Clive Lethbridge, who was hit on the head with a crystal inkwell in his country home outside Birmingham, where he was hosting a party to celebrate his prize-winning design of a Norwegian health center. The suspects include a pair of American women and a student, who later commits suicide. Mayo learns that Lethbridge's widow, Caro, is involved in a relationship with a journalist who had collaborated with her husband on a book about English architecture. Library Journal reviewer Rex E. Klett wrote that the "pace and plot remain steadily engaging."

Klett, again writing in Library Journal, found that Eccles "renders up a serviceable English village mystery" in Death of a Good Woman. The village is Mayo's hometown of Lavenstock, and the woman is Fleur Lamont, a romance writer and wealthy philanthropist who is found dead in the snow on the outskirts of the town. Her bookseller husband, Edwin, explained that they had quarreled and he thought she had left him for another man. As Mayo investigates, he finds that she was, in fact, not loved by everyone and was despised by a few, including her stepson, Michael. He also learns that Edwin's first wife, who was also wealthy, died under questionable circumstances. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the story contains "a touch of genteel blackmail, and a cast of most disagreeable characters." Publishers Weekly reviewer Sybil Steinberg judged that Eccles "writes a pleasant and at times acerbically observant mystery."

In Requiem for a Dove, Marion Dove is the matriarch of a family that owns a large glass manufacturing company. When she is found strangled, Mayo's investigation leads to a Canadian grandson, the child of Dove's illegitimate daughter, who may be conniving to get his share of the family business. A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt this mystery to be the "best-realized" so far, "with deeper emotional twinges. Mayo himself is becoming more interesting as he becomes more introspective." Times Literary Supplement reviewer Patricia Craig called Eccles's writing "workmanlike" and the plot "reasonably ingenious."

Mayo investigates the murder of journalist Rupert Fleming, whose face is destroyed by a shotgun blast, in More Deaths Than One. His search leads him to theater director Ashleigh Cocayne, Fleming's partner in the taking of pornographic photos of young girls. The body of a young constable is found in a river near the theater, and Mayo soon discovers that the disfigured body thought to be Fleming's is actually that of Cocayne, and that Fleming, who is involved in extortion and theft, is responsible for both deaths. A Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed the story "so-so, but with ample cozy attributes—thanks mostly to that English village setting." Klett, in a Library Journal review, felt the book was "deftly written and effective." A Publishers Weekly reviewer thought that "Eccles's procedurals are superior specimens, with well-developed relationships among the police officers."

Mayo looks for the connection between two crimes in Late of This Parish. Armchair Detective contributor Norma J. Shattuck noted that the story contains "the conventions and cast of the British village mystery," including villagers, vicars, a boys school, and "the spare-no-effort Britcop." A bomb nearly kills Dr. Denzil Thorne at the Fricker Institute, and Thorne's unlovable neighbor, Cecil Willard, is smothered with an altar cushion in St. Kenelm's in the village of Castle Wyvering. Mayo discovers that Thorne's daughter, Phyllida, is having an affair with Sebastian Oliver, son of the rector who has replaced Willard. Everyone becomes a suspect, including animal-rights activists whom Willard had opposed. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Late of This Parish "soothingly familiar fare, with a … sharp evocation of the hothouse atmosphere of Castle Wyvering's clerics and pedagogues."

Mayo pairs up with Sergeant Abigail Moon in The Company She Kept. The murder of Angie Robinson, receptionist at a women's clinic, leads Mayo and Moon to a crime committed fourteen years earlier. Robinson and her mentor, Dr. Madeleine Freeman, had been part of a circle of young people who met at Flowerdew, a rundown mansion owned by the now-deceased Kitty Wilbraham. Clues include a letter left by Robinson and an anonymous manuscript that reveals old secrets. Suspects include Freeman and Kitty's former secretary, Sophie Amhurst. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Eccles "hops dexterously between the mysterious past and the violent present." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the story "rich with complex characters and insights." And Shattuck, writing in the Armchair Detective, described Flowerdew as "perfectly suited for its role as an incubator for menace…. The author's deft description of the place and its damp, oppressive setting nearly succeeds in turning it into a character rather than mere mansion." Shattuck also felt Mayo's adoption of a parrot named Bert is "a nice touch."

Sergeant Moon has been promoted to Detective Inspector in An Accidental Shroud. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that in this story "there are enough half brothers, half sisters, paternity issues, and confrontations to keep a not especially credible soap opera rolling for months." Moon's first big case is the murder of Nigel Fontenoy, an antique jewelry dealer who had a penchant for young girls. One of them, the daughter of television talk-show personality Tom Callaghan, had committed suicide years before. Matthew Wilding, son of Fontenoy's cousin Jake, worked for Fontenoy and will receive a share of his considerable estate. Matthew's mother, Naomi, had left him and his father years ago, but has now returned on her motorcycle, bringing two children, one of whom may or may not be Jake's. Add to this the destruction of an old house on a valuable piece of real estate, and "it all makes for lively entertainment," judged a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

Mayo in turn is promoted to Detective Superintendent in A Death of Distinction, which is set in Lavenstock, also home to the Conyhall Young Offenders' Institution. Its governor, Jack Lilburne, his wife, Dorthea, and their daughter, Flora, live nearby. A bomb placed under their car kills Lilburne and injures Flora. The residents of the Institution are suspect, particularly Derek Davis, now released, who had threatened Lilburne. Flora, who is recovering in the hospital, receives special attention from Marc Daventry, an operating room technician who is trying to find the mother who gave him up at birth. Mayo discovers a link between Lilburne and the young man, who becomes a suspect, along with Davis. "Mayo and Moon are undistinguished in this adventure, while Daventry has more than his share of idiosyncratic tics," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "heavily focused on the psychological aspects of the story's well-drawn characters—even those peripherally involved."

Lavenstock is also the setting of A Species of Revenge. The neighborhood of Ellington Close is made up of both newer and older houses. Widower Dermot Voss and his two daughters have bought a rundown Victorian called Edwina Lodge that also provides living quarters for three tenants, and his late wife's sister, Lisa, has come to help him with the girls and the house. Simla, the house next door, is another Victorian that is home to twins Hope, a teacher, and Francis, a writer, who are being visited by their sister Imogen. Two people are found dead: a salesman who once lived in the same town as Voss, and a young girl who had delivered newspapers in Ellington Close. Mayo has these murders to solve plus two more, of young girls in the Hurstfield Division. The task is to find out whether the murders are connected. "Eccles delivers engaging characters and a nicely tangled plot in this worthy effort," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews contributor added that "the author's subtle development of a wide range of characters and the relationships among them produce the tensions and suspense that propel the story."

Killing Me Softly contains plot elements that include murder, drugs, and kidnapping. Tim Wishart, who had been carrying on an affair with his wife's partner and losing money in speculations, is found dead of a gunshot wound to the head that is assumed to be self-inflicted. The suicide theory is discarded when Mayo and Moon discover the truth about Wishart's money dealings and relationships, including one with a visitor who had recently threatened him. Mayo and Moon are also confronted by a group of young indigents who claim that one of them, a girl, has been abducted. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that Eccles "takes her time delving into her characters' preoccupations before introducing the murder, and her elegant prose credibly links her three disparate plots."

Murder becomes personal in The Superintendent's Daughter, when a friend of Mayo's daughter Julia is found killed in her hotel room after using Julia's name at registration. Kat Connelly, the friend in question, had been spending time with her father in his final illness. But shortly after he died, she was found brutally murdered. Now Mayo's daughter Julia is missing, and Mayo is cast to the sidelines in this case because of his family interest. Harriet Klausner, writing in Harriet Klausner's Review Archive, called this addition to the series a "classic British police procedural," and a "fascinating novel." In Echoes of Silence, an old case involving a mother who confessed to killing her eight-year-old daughter attracts Mayo's attention as questions arise about the girl's stepfather, a vicar. Mayo and Moon are in action again in the 2004 mystery, Untimely Graves, investigating the murder of an unidentified woman found deposited in a field by the flooding waters of the River Kyne near the village of Lavenstock. Things heat up shortly thereafter when the bursar of the local university is shot to death. Mayo wonders if the two cases are not related. Clues abound, including a gun discovered at the home of an antiques dealer. Once again Eccles's novel of a crime in an English village drew critical praise. A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted, "Eccles's carefully spun plot flows as briskly as the Kyne at flood." And Emily Melton, writing in Booklist, commended Eccles's "good attention to detail, excellent character development, and a convoluted plot that's chockfull of surprises."

With her 2005 mystery, Killing a Unicorn, Eccles introduces a new pair of detectives, Detective Inspector Dave Crouch and Sergeant Kate Colville. A murder and a missing person draw their attention to the estate of Membery Place near the village of Felsborough. This is the home of the Calverts, and three sons and their mates share the old mansion. The victim of the murder is Bibi, girlfriend of the oldest son, Chip, a financier, and her son Jasie is now missing. Mark, an architect, also lives at Membery, with his wife Fran, as does a third brother, cellist John, along with his girlfriend, Jilly Norman. With Crouch and Colville on the scene, Fran becomes suspicious of her architect husband. A critic for Kirkus Reviews was less impressed with this mystery than with Eccles's efforts starring Mayo and Moon, concluding that the author "lavishes mystification on minor plot details, deflating the puzzle that should be at the center of the piece." A more positive assessment was offered by a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, who called Killing a Unicorn an "outstanding cozy police procedural." The same contributor further noted, "Crouch and Colville don't disappoint." And for Harriet Klausner, writing in MBR Bookwatch, Eccles's Killing a Unicorn is "a terrific homicide investigation that also serves as the background to a deep family drama."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Armchair Detective, fall, 1994, Norma J. Shattuck, review of Late of This Parish, p. 499; fall, 1996, Norma J. Shattuck, review of The Company She Kept, p. 492.

Booklist, February 1, 2004, Emily Melton, review of Untimely Graves, p. 953.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1988, review of Cast a Cold Eye, p. 87; December 15, 1988, review of Death of a Good Woman, p. 1775; October 1, 1990, review of Requiem for a Dove, p. 1354; May 15, 1991, review of More Deaths Than One, p. 635; April 1, 1994, review of Late of This Parish, p. 437; August 1, 1996, review of The Company She Kept, p. 1099; November 1, 1996, review of An Accidental Shroud, p. 1565; March 1, 1998, review of A Death of Distinction, p. 303; August 1, 1998, review of A Species of Revenge, p. 1070; January 1, 2004, review of Untimely Graves, p. 16; January 15, 2005, Killing a Unicorn, p. 85.

Library Journal, February 1, 1988, Rex E. Klett, review of Cast a Cold Eye, p. 77; February 1, 1989, Rex E. Klett, review of Death of a Good Woman, p. 85; May 1, 1991, Rex E. Klett, review of More Deaths Than One, p. 111; April 1, 1994, Rex E. Klett, review of Late of This Parish, p. 137; April 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of A Death of Distinction, p. 129.

MBR Bookwatch, February, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Killing a Unicorn.

Publishers Weekly, December 9, 1988, Sybil Steinberg, review of Death of a Good Woman, p. 48; June 7, 1991, review of More Deaths Than One, p. 59; April 25, 1994, review of Late of This Parish, p. 61; July 8, 1996, review of The Company She Kept, p. 78; November 25, 1996, review of An Accidental Shroud, p. 60; March 23, 1998, review of A Death of Distinction, p. 81; July 13, 1998, review of A Species of Revenge, p. 64; December 20, 1999, review of Killing Me Softly, p. 58; September 4, 2003, "September Publications," review of Echoes of Silence, p. 59; February 9, 2004, "March Publications," review of Untimely Graves, p. 62; January 3, 2005, review of Killing a Unicorn, p. 39.

Times Literary Supplement, August 24, 1990, Patricia Craig, "Crime File," p. 889.

ONLINE

Crime Time Online, http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (August 20, 2005), Anne Artymiuk, review of A Species of Revenge.

Harriet Klausner's Review Archive, http://harrietklausner.wwwi.com/ (August 20, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of The Superintendent's Daughter.