Tope, Rebecca 1948-
TOPE, Rebecca 1948-
Female. Born 1948, in England; children, two sons and two daughters.
Author and publishing executive. Praxis Books, founder, 1992—. Has worked at a variety of jobs, including prenatal instructor, marriage counselor, funeral director, Quaker attender, and rural milk recorder (quality monitor).
A Dirty Death, Piatkus (London, England), 1999, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Dark Undertakings, Piatkus (London, England), 1999, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Death of a Friend, Piatkus (London, England), 2000.
Grave Concerns, Piatkus (London, England), 2000, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2002.
A Death to Record, Piatkus (London, England), 2001, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Sting of Death, Piatkus (London, England), 2002, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.
A Market for Murder, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2003.
Also author of A Cotswold Killing, the first in the "Thea Osborne" series; author of a novel based on the television series Rosemary and Thyme.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A new novel in the "Thea Osborne" series.
Rebecca Tope grew up on farms in Cheshire and Devon, England, and wanted to write from the time she was a child. Before getting her first mystery, A Dirty Death, published in 1999, Tope had finished numerous manuscripts, which she called "unpublishable" on her Web site. She also noted on the site, "It took an embarrassingly long time before I finally produced a book to be proud of. A Dirty Death is only a first novel in the sense of being the first to be published." In 1992 Tope also founded Praxis, a small British press primarily dedicated to reissuing the novels of Sabine Baring-Gould. The author of several mysteries, Tope comments on her Web site, "As a writer, my prevailing theme is death, and how we integrate it in our lives, how we recover from the death of those close to us, how we manage the inevitability of our own eventual death."
In her first mystery, A Dirty Death, Tope introduces police constable Den Cooper, who sets out to study the death of the unpopular Guy Beardon, whose body is found in a slurry pit on his own farm. The cast of characters includes a mother and a son who do not seem too upset at Beardon's death, a loving daughter, and a poisonous clergyman who speaks of anything but love. In the process of uncovering the murderer, Cooper stumbles upon village secrets of love and hate as the death count rises. Rex E. Klett, writing in Library Journal, commented, "The typically quirky village characters … and deceptively simple plot reveal a natural talent." Booklist contributor Stuart Miller called the book a "stellar debut." In a review in Spectator, Harriet Waugh called the book "the best first crime novel I have read for a long time."
For her next mystery, Dark Undertakings, Tope drew on her own experience of working at an undertaker's premises. As she explains on her Web site, "During my seven years there, I saw many instances of potential foul play, where the regulations, although strictly adhered to, were no guarantee at all that the death was natural. The novel is therefore a 'What if …' exercise." Introducing Drew Slocombe, a trainee undertaker-turned-sleuth, Tope guides the reader through the ins and outs of a case of a fifty-five-year-old man found dead in his bed of an apparent heart attack. Slocombe becomes suspicious after the dead man's terrier dies after licking his dead owner's face. As Slocombe investigates, he discovers a man with two mistresses, a combative son, and a wife who was also having an affair. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the book somewhat tedious and Slocombe "an inept detective for whom guesses and assumptions pass for facts." Stuart Miller, again writing in Booklist, commented that Tope "has constructed a tight story" in which various characters reveal "potential motives and [give] the reader a steady stream of viable clues."
The year 2000 saw the return of Cooper in Death of a Friend and Slocombe in Grave Concerns. In the former title, Cooper has become a detective constable and is assigned to investigate the unusual death of Nina Cattermole, who was killed by a horse that head-butted her while she was protesting against a local foxhunt. Soon, another hunt protestor is found dead, and Cooper is drawn into a mystery that includes the dark affairs of a divided village. In Grave Concerns, Slocombe discovers an unidentified corpse in the local cemetery. The amateur detective is soon involved in another mystery, when Genevieve Slater hires him to help investigate whether or not the dead woman is her mother. Writing again in Spectator, Waugh commented, "Altogether this is an excellent black comedy. Rebecca Tope enters with relish into the more gruesome aspects of burial, but there is an exceedingly funny giving birth scene to complement all the diggings-up going on." Emily Melton, writing in Booklist, commented that the "book is competently written, with offbeat characters, an inventive plot, and some biting commentary on the funeral business."
In A Death to Record, Cooper suspects British farmer Gordon Hillcock of murdering his herdsman. But Cooper isn't seeing the situation clearly as he has a vendetta against Hillcock, whom Cooper blames for stealing his ex-fiancée. In the process of the investigation, Cooper uncovers animosities, the demise of neighborhood farms, and enough conflicts of interest to raise new questions about who killed the herdsman. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Tope "creates a devastating portrait of one of England's distressed farming communities and manages to turn a sprawling farmyard crime scene into the absorbing equivalent of a locked-room mystery." Klett, writing in Library Journal, called the book a "convincing procedural with clever plotting." Booklist's Melton said the book deserved "a place on any shortlist of top rural mysteries."
Professional detective Cooper and amateur sleuth Slocombe meet in 2002's The Sting of Death. The two form a strange team as they investigate a series of mysterious killings and uncover some sinister aspects of country living involving bee and wasp stings, foot and mouth disease, and not-so-bucolic family lives. Tope has also created a mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Thea Osborne.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2000, Stuart Miller, review of A Dirty Death, p. 1624; May 1, 2001, Stuart Miller, review of Dark Undertakings, p. 1642; July, 2002, Emily Melton, review of Grave Concerns, p. 1828; May 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of A Death to Record, p. 1555.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of Grave Concerns, p. 710; May 1, 2003, review of A Death to Record, p. 648.
Library Journal, June 1, 2000, Rex Klett, review of A Dirty Death, p. 208; June 1, 2002, Rex Klett, review of Dark Undertakings, p. 222; June 1, 2003, Rex Klett, review of A Death to Record, p. 171.
Publishers Weekly, May 8, 2000, review of A Dirty Death, p. 208; May 7, 2001, review of Dark Undertakings, p. 227; May 13, 2002, review of Grave Concerns, p. 55; May 12, 2003, review of A Death to Record, p. 48
Spectator, August 21, 1999, Harriet Waugh, review of A Dirty Death, p. 39; December 11, 1999, Harriet Waugh, review of Dark Undertakings, p. 62; March 24, 2001, Harriet Waugh, review of Grave Concerns, p. 5.
Rebecca Tope Home Page,http://www.rebeccatope.com (July 2, 2004).