Turnbull, Peter (John) 1950-

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TURNBULL, Peter (John) 1950-

PERSONAL: Born October 23, 1950, in Rotherham, Yorkshire, England; son of John Colin (an engineer) and Patricia (a nurse; maiden name, O'Brien) Turnbull. Education: Attended Cambridge College of Arts and Technology, 1971-74; Cardiff University, Wales, diploma in social work, 1978; University of Huddersfield, M.A. Religion: Anglican.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Peters, Fraser & Dunlop, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Strathclyde Regional Council, Glasgow, Scotland, social worker, 1978-95; fulltime writer, 1995—. Worked as steelworker and crematorium assistant in Sheffield and London, and has done social work in Brooklyn, NY.

MEMBER: Workers Guild of Great Britain.



Deep and Crisp and Even, Collins (London, England), 1981, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1982.

Dead Knock, Collins (London, England), 1982, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Fair Friday, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Big Money, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Two Way Cut, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Condition Purple, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

And Did Murder Him, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Long Day Monday, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

The Killing Floor, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

The Man With No Face, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.


Fear of Drowning, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Deathtrap, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2000.

Perils and Dangers, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2001.

The Return, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2001.

After the Flood, Severn House (Sutton, Surrey, England), 2002.


The Claws of the Gryphon (thriller), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

The Justice Game: The Lady from Rome (novelization of television series), BBC Publications (London, England), 1990.

The Killer Who Never Was, Clark Lawrence (London, England), 1996.

Also author of Embracing Skeletons, 1996. Contributor of short stories to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Another "Hennessey" crime novel.

SIDELIGHTS: "The crime novels of Peter Turnbull are reassuringly familiar in form, with satisfying surprises and twists in their plotting, and an interesting cast of characters," according to Ian A. Bell in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. His police procedural novels involving the "P" Division of Glasgow's police force are noted for their gritty realism as they depict the dogged persistence of detectives gathering and sorting through the evidence to solve crimes. In his novels set in the city of York, and featuring Chief Inspector George Hennessey and Sergeant Yellich, Turnbull spins tales of crime in an area of England usually known for its quiet lifestyle. "Turnbull regularly manages to carry off the difficult feat of balancing the demands of detailed characterization with the need for fast-paced and compelling narrative," Bell wrote. Emily Melton in Booklist commented, "Turnbull's police procedurals have received high praise from readers and critics alike for their gritty realism, deft prose, and riveting plots."

Many novels in Turnbull's "'P' Division" crime series have received critical praise, including The Killing Floor, in which a decapitated body is found in the suburbs of Glasgow. Police soon discover that the headless woman was a social worker who had recently claimed to have unearthed a thirty-year-old mystery. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Turnbull's "knife edged characterization . . . is as incisive as ever." Marilyn Stasio stated in a New York Times Book Review assessment of The Killing Floor that Turnbull's "forensic procedures are flawless, and his character sketches cut quick and deep." A reviewer for the Mystery Guide Web site called The Killing Floor "an unremittingly grim, hyper-realistic, 'slice of life' procedural."

The Man with No Face tells of a small-time Glasgow thief who, just hours after being released from prison for setting fire to an antiques store, is found with his face shot away. Investigation of the strange murder leads police to an unsolved kidnapping several years earlier, possible insurance fraud, and money laundering. As Andy Plonka explained in a review posted at the Mystery Reader Web site, the plot consists of "various engaging detectives tracking down different leads which yield clues connected to the crime. In the end, these clues ingeniously fit together to provide a fascinating and satisfying solution." Harriet Klausner, writing in BookBrowser, claimed that The Man with No Face is "a fantastic Scottish police procedural that will imbue fans of the subgenre with an intense need to find the series' previous eight novels."

With his novel Fear of Drowning, Turnbull began a new police procedural series, this time set in the city of York in northern England. In this initial outing, Chief Inspector George Hennessey and Sergeant Yellich are called upon to solve the murder of a middle-aged husband and wife. While it seems at first that the couple had no enemies, Hennessey uncovers illicit sexual and financial problems beneath the tranquil surface. Brian Ritterspak, reviewing the book for the Crime Time Web site, wrote: "Retaining the salty authenticity of his 'P Division' novels, Turnbull ensures that his tightly-plotted narrative moves with considerable speed towards its satisfyingly astringent finale." A critic for Publishers Weekly explained that "Turnbull closes on a quietly chilling scene of confession, the perfect end to a subtle novel rich in character, as well as in Yorkshire wit and wisdom."

In Deathtrap Hennessey investigates the death of a local journalist and, in the process, finds links to an unsolved murder case from years before. Writing in Booklist, David Pitt explained that, while the novel's plot is well handled, it is "the least of this rich novel's attractions. There's something especially lifelike about its characters, especially vivid and true about its dialogue." Pitt concluded that Deathtrap was "an utterly charming mystery."

In Perils and Dangers Turnbull tells of a professional blackmailer who is found murdered in his study. Faced with a host of suspects who were being blackmailed by the deceased, and no one anxious to find the killer, Hennessey and Yellich find their investigation much more difficult than usual. "While Turnbull offers an intriguing puzzle and evokes the walled city of York and environs in all their glory," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly, "it's his characterizations, particularly of Hennessey and Yellich, that make this novel memorable." Pitt remarked that "Hennessey and Yellich make a great crime-fighting team, and Turnbull is a snappy, entertaining writer."

A murder from the past is the focus of The Return, in which a skeleton with a broken skull is discovered in a field. The victim is a law student who went missing some twenty years before, and the prime suspects are fellow students who practice law in York today. A critic for Kirkus Reviews concluded that The Return is "a snappy formula procedural on which Turnbull . . . lavishes nary an extra detail, emotion, or word." A Publishers Weekly reviewer believed that "this understated novel will satisfy all those who appreciate traditional, well-made whodunits."

After the Flood concerns another body found in a field. This time, following a flood, a Yorkshire farmer finds the corpse of a woman who was apparently buried some ten years earlier. But the head does not match the rest of the body. Hennessey and Yellich must discover just why the head of a nurse, who was accused of mistreating her patients, was buried with the body of another woman. A Publishers Weekly reviewer explained that "the investigation proceeds clue by clue to a rational and satisfying conclusion. . . . This is first-rate traditional mystery entertainment." Melton concluded: "Skillful plotting, well-drawn characters, and some unexpected twists make this fine police procedural a pleasurable and entertaining read."

Speaking of the Hennessey and Yellich stories as a whole, Pitt declared that "every new entry in this excellent series is a cause for celebration."

In an evaluation of his entire career, Bell judged Turnbull to be "easily the most accomplished writer of the police procedural novel in Britain today." Melton concluded: "This low-key Scottish author writes refreshingly intelligent books that are an absorbing blend of gritty murder mystery, human-interest story, psychological profile, and wry social commentary."



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, February 15, 1995, Emily Melton, review of The Killing Floor, p. 1063; September 15, 1998, Emily Melton, review of The Man with No Face, p. 204; April 15, 1999, review of The Man with No Face, p. 1459; July, 2000, David Pitt, review of Fear of Drowning, p. 2015; October 1, 2000, David Pitt, review of Death Trap, p. 327; May 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Perils and Dangers, p. 1642; December 1, 2001, review of The Return, p. 634; June 1, 2002, Emily Melton, review of After the Flood, p. 1692.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of The Return, p. 1586; June 1, 2002, review of After the Flood, p. 776.

Library Journal, January, 1995, Rex E. Klett, review of The Killing Floor, p. 142.

New York Times Book Review, March 19, 1995, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Killing Floor.

Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1993; January 9, 1995, review of The Killing Floor, p. 58; August 31, 1998, review of The Man with No Face, p. 51; July 3, 2000, review of Fear of Drowning, p. 51; May 21, 2001, review of Perils and Dangers, p. 85; November 26, 2001, review of The Return, p. 41; July 1, 2002, review of After the Flood, p. 58.


BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (October 12, 1998), Harriet Klausner, review of The Man with No Face.

Crime Time,http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (December 11, 2002), Brian Ritterspak, review of Fear of Drowning.

Mystery Guide,http://www.mysteryguide.com/ (December 11, 2002), review of The Killing Floor.

Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (December 11, 2002), Andy Plonka, review of The Man with No Face.

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