October 12, 2022 – Magazine Feature Frimley Community Magazine
We chatted to Jacqueline Beard to find out more about this piece of Frimley’s gruesome past.
Where did you come across the crime your book is based on?
I’ve been aware of The Poisoned Partridge murder for decades, having developed an interest in true crime as a teenager. Over the years, I have collected an extensive library of true crime books, and when my husband first saw the contents of my bookcase housed near my basement door, he almost ran for the hills! But as they say, the truth is stranger than fiction. And the sheer audacity of a murderer who not only poisoned a brace of partridges but sent a series of telegrams bragging about it was too intriguing to resist.
The real murder of Hubert Chevis remains unsolved – supernatural explanations aside, what do you think happened that night?
Many theories abound, including whether Hugh Chevis was murdered at all. Some believe that the partridges ate strychnine-poisoned berries while alive, contaminating the meat. However, the timing of the Hooray telegram gloating at his death points firmly to murder. Only four people were present on the night in question–Hugh Chevis, his batman, the cook, and his wife.
Frances Chevis said she’d tasted the partridge, but nobody witnessed this. And although Frances attended Frimley hospital with alleged poisoning, she might have faked the symptoms. Frances left abruptly in the night and instructed her staff to thoroughly clean the bungalow, which circumstantially points to her guilt. Yet their marriage was seemingly happy and open, with Frances stepping out with other male escorts in London with Hugh’s consent. As an heiress, she did not need money, and though she had the means, she lacked the motive, which also applies to the batman and cook.
Trev Jackson, the former husband of Frances, fell under suspicion, but his alibi placed him away from Aldershot at the time of the murder. The murderer, therefore, appears to fall under the guise of a ‘mysterious stranger’. However, an outsider would have no control over who ate the partridge. As unlikely and motiveless as it appears, Frances Chevis, who carved and served the partridge, was the only person with any control over who ate what on the night of the murder.
How did you go about researching the historical period?
Much of my research comes from historical newspaper reports. I also use magazine articles, old books, and advertisements from the period to collect details about food and fashion. Where possible, I visit locations, and if not, I use Google maps to check the composition of buildings and areas.
What is it that draws you to write about the 1920s and 30s?
Society was becoming increasingly equal, especially for women. Fashion, music, and a sense of fun emerged from the staid Victorian era. And in practical terms, this period saw a host of classic poisonings and true crimes. I base my books on unsolved murders, giving them the ending never achieved in real life. The twenties and thirties saw numerous unsolved crimes, often involving poison. The two prequels to The Poisoned Partridge feature the arsenical poisonings of Alice Thomas at Lewannick, Cornwall and the Sidney family in Croydon.
What was the last great book you read?
I’ve just finished The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Not my usual diet of crime and mystery, but an interesting concept and very thought-provoking. Well worth a read.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently writing Book 7 in the Lawrence Harpham series. With a working title of The Disappearing Doctor, it is an Edwardian murder mystery. Next due for publication is my first contemporary novel, which I’m readying for my editor. The Girl in Flat Three is a psychological thriller hopefully available at the end of October. I will write the sequel to The Poisoned Partridge early next year.
The Poisoned Partridge is available in eBook and paperback from Amazon. You can keep up-to-date with Jacqueline Beard’s writing via her website.
by Alice Smales
Bury Free Press 5th May 2019
Saturday 27th April 2019
It was good to be back in Stowmarket at the weekend for the second Skulduggery Crime Festival. My slot was first on Saturday leaving plenty of time to listen to fascinating talks from the other writers. Thanks to Jack, Ursula, Pauline and all the lovely librarians for their splendid hospitality.
Skulduggery in Stowmarket is back. My slot is 10.00am
Wednesday 18th April 2018
Chat with Lesley Dolphin of BBC Radio Suffolk – (29.53 – 37.30)
Saturday 28th April 2018 – Midday
Talk at the Stowmarket Crime Festival – Crime & My Ancestors