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Lock, Joan 1933–

Lock, Joan 1933–

PERSONAL: Born September 26, 1933, in New Malden, Surrey, England; daughter of Matthew English (a carpenter) and Margaret Ena (a nurse) Greenslade; married Robin Bailey Lock (a police officer), March 26, 1968. Ethnicity: "Anglo-Saxon" Education: Attended secondary school, police officers' training school, and nursing school in England. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, England, student nurse, 1950–54; qualified as state registered nurse.

ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—Juliet Burton, 2 Clifton Ave., London W12 9DR, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Metropolitan Police, London, England, policewoman, 1954–60; British European Airways, London, England, reservations clerk, 1961–66; various part-time jobs, 1966–74; writer, 1966–; John Lewis Partnership, part-time in-house journalist, 1974–93.

MEMBER: Crime Writers Association, Metropolitan Women Police Association, Friends of the Fawcett Library, Police History Society, Friends of the Metropolitan Police Museum.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

Lady Policeman (memoir), M. Joseph (London, England), 1968.

Reluctant Nightingale, Dent (London, England), 1970.

The British Policewoman: Her Story, R. Hale (London, England), 1979.

Marlborough Street: The Story of a London Court, R. Hale (London, England), 1980.

Tales from Bow Street, R. Hale (London, England), 1982.

Blue Murder? Policemen under Suspicion, R. Hale (London, England), 1986.

Dreadful Deeds and Awful Murders: Scotland Yard's First Detectives, 1829–1878, Barn Owl Books (Somerset, England), 1990.

Scotland Yard Casebook: The Making of the CID, 1865–1935, R. Hale (London, England), 1993.

Famous Prisons, Mason Crest Publishers (Broomall, PA), 2003.

Famous Trials, Mason Crest Publishers (Broomall, PA), 2003.

Protecting Yourself against Criminals, Mason Crest Publishers (Broomall, PA), 2003.

"SERGEANT BEST" MYSTERIES

Dead Image, R. Hale (London, England), 2000.

Dead Born, R. Hale (London, England), 2002.

Dead Letters, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2003.

Dead End, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2004.

Dead Fall, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2005.

Dead Loss, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2005.

OTHER

Death in Perspective (novel), R. Hale (London, England), 2001.

Also contributor to Perfectly Criminal, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1997. Author of radio plays and radio features for the British Broadcasting Corp. and Australian Broadcasting Corp. Author of regular weekly page in Police Review, 1981–82. Regular columnist in Crime Writers Association magazine Red Herrings, 1993–. Contributor to women's magazines, police journals, and newspapers. Coeditor of Writers Guild Newsletter.

SIDELIGHTS: Joan Lock worked for six years as a police officer in England, at a time when few women had jobs in law enforcement. Although she eventually left the police force because of the limitations placed on female officers, her experiences there led to her first writing success. Lock once told CA: "I wrote my first book, Lady Policeman, because people were always asking me what it was like to be a policewoman in London's West End. My third book, The British Policewoman: Her Story, was the first history of the British women police; I am regarded as an authority on their earlier years."

About her debut crime novel, Dead Image, Lock told CA: "The prize of a holiday on the Grand Union Canal plus my previous research on Victorian detectives inspired me to write my first crime novel, Dead Image. The book is based [on] the real-life Regent's Park Explosion of 1874 which killed canal boatmen (and my fictitious victim) as well as destroyed the Pompeian villa of fashionable artist Lawrence Alma Tadema, and damaged the home of famous poisons expert Alfred Swaine Taylor. The contrasting lives of these artistic and wealthy St. John's Wood residents and the poverty stricken canal boatmen make a fascinating background."

Dead Image, featuring the character of Detective Inspector Ernest Best, was so successful that it led to a continuation of the series. In Dead Letters, the police are taunted by a villain with the code name Quicksilver, who sends poetic warnings that something terrible will happen at the upcoming policeman's annual fête. Best manages to prevent many deaths when a public pavilion is targeted for explosion, but the mystery deepens when a woman is found dead on the merry-go-round, an apparent victim of poisoning. More threats come to the police force, and Best enlists the help of some old friends to try to decipher the killer's code. Dead Letters is "multilayered, ingeniously plotted, atmospheric and suspenseful, with an appealing hero and attention-getting doses of both humor and tragedy," stated Emily Melton in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews writer noted that this procedural mystery is also strongly character-driven, and that even more compelling than the puzzle of Quicksilver's identity is the riddle about "Best's true love, a question that appropriately provides Lock with a climax more powerful than anything that's come before."

The Victorian-era series continued with Dead End, published in 2004. In this volume Inspector Best finds himself dejected after the Dead Letters case. He leaves London for Newcastle, where he must investigate the death of Phoebe Threapleton, a woman whose body is found in an elaborate bed in a department store, surrounded by white roses. Best's detective work uncovers Phoebe's involvement in the world of spiritualism, and soon several other young women with a similar interest turn up missing. Dead End is a "clever, engaging" story that, according to Melton in Booklist, convincingly portrays the Victorian era—particularly the interest in spiritualism, which was common at that time.

Dead Fall, the next installment in the series, finds Best and his wife at a play in London's West End. When one of the actors is shot during the performance, the audience at first thinks it is part of the drama, but when the death is discovered to be all too real, Best plunges into an investigation made difficult from the start, as there are hundreds of actors and audience members who might have committed the crime. Best and his assistant, John George, begin to interview suspects and witnesses; soon an actress disappears, and another narrowly escapes being killed. Reviewing Dead Fall for Booklist, Melton praised its setting as well as its "good pacing, solid plotting, [and] intriguing characters."

The Irish terrorist organization known as the Fenians is at the center of Dead Loss. Assigned to follow Kevin O'Brien, a man suspected of being a violent Fenian, Best considers the job dull and irritating. Reading the personal advertisements in the newspaper to amuse himself, he finds his imagination captured by a woman's plea for help from someone she refers to as "F." Somehow, the woman's advertisement and the terrorists seem to be connected, and Lock draws some "chilling parallels" between bombings in the 1880s and terrorist attacks in London in 2005, according to Melton in Booklist. The reviewer concluded that Dead Loss is a "solid and very readable" installment in the Best series.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Lock, Joan, Lady Policeman, M. Joseph (London, England), 1968.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of Dead Letters, p. 1549; August, 2004, Emily Melton, review of Dead End, p. 1906; August, 2005, Emily Melton, review of Dead Fall, p. 2002; February 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of Dead Loss, p. 34.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2003, review of Dead Letters, p. 886; October 1, 2004, review of Dead End, p. 942; February 1, 2006, review of Dead Loss, p. 114.

School Library Journal, December, 2003, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Famous Prisons, p. 170.

Times Literary Supplement, January 30, 1981.

ONLINE

Joan Lock's Home Page, http://www.joanlock.co.uk/ (October 12, 2006).

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