Jacqueline Beard Writer

Lawrence Harpham Murder Mysteries & Constance Maxwell Dreamwalker Mysteries

Whole Story Quest released the audiobook of The Ripper Deception today – 132 years since Mary Kelly met her end in Millers Court. On 19th November 1888, pallbearers carried Mary, who was only 25 when she died, from St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch to The Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone. Her touching stone inscription read:


The Ripper Deception is mystery fiction based on fact and with an unusual twist. Much research went into this book, and my thoughts lie with Mary and the other victims of Jack the Ripper trying to make the best of the terrible poverty, disease and violence in the Victorian East End.

It’s no secret that historical newspaper reports inspire my books. After all, there’s nothing quite as strange as the truth. In fact, the first book in the Lawrence Harpham series came from an article only a few paragraphs long. In short, I collect interesting stories from which books evolve.  I haven’t done anything with the account below – yet. But as the fire occurred in my ancestral village of Northrepps and George Woodhouse is in my family tree, it has all the components for one of my novels. That said, it’s important to acknowledge the real tragedies behind these stories. Many writers use famous historical characters, but I like to write about people seldom known outside their family and friendship groups. Yet there’s a fine balancing act between a good story, and treating our ancestors with respect, especially with the current popularity for genealogy. And it’s worth considering that people who lived their lives quietly and unobtrusively might be horrified to find themselves the subject of fiction if only they had known.

Norfolk News 17th December 1881

Northrepps – a sad case of burning.

A painful case of burning happened in this village on Tuesday night last, resulting in the death of Mrs F Golden.  The facts in connection with the sad occurrence, as they came before the deputy coroner Mr W H Scott, at an inquest held on Wednesday at the White Horse Overstrand, are as follows. On the night in question, sparks were seen going up from Mr Golden’s chimney by several persons, and an alarm was raised that the house was on fire.  Two men, Henry Jarvis and George Woodhouse entered by the back door and saw a fire on the hearth in the sitting room.

Woodhouse obtained three pails of water and threw upon the burning matter, which was found to be the body of the deceased.  The flames had devoured all the clothing, leaving the body completely charred.  A chair was found near the fireplace very much burnt.  Jane Bane, a domestic servant, said she last saw the deceased at about half-past seven when she had to leave to go out.  Mr Golden was away from home, and the deceased was left alone seated on a chair before the fire in the sitting room.  She was in her usual health.  There was no lamp of any kind, but one candle burning on the table, and a small coal fire.

Deceased was in front of the fire with her feet, as witness believed resting on the fender.  She did not appear either tired or sleepy.  The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death by burning.” Deceased was 57 years of age.

As a fiction writer, I can’t take this article at face value and my default position is to suspect foul play. Why was Mrs Golden unable to get to safety? Did she try to escape? And if not, why not? Could supernatural forces be at work? Perhaps she was a victim of spontaneous combustion. There are so many why’s in this small piece.

I haven’t written the story yet, but I will. And that’s how my books begin, one news story at a time.

And hot on the heels of the last audiobook, The Ripper Deception is available for pre-order with a release date of 19th November 2020.

The lonely end of a miser leaves clues to the mysterious death of Edmund Gurney in Brighton years before. Private Detective Lawrence Harpham sets off to investigate leaving his partner Violet to unravel a series of strange disturbances at a Suffolk rectory. Both inquiries lead unexpectedly to Whitechapel and the murder of Frances Coles. Was Frances a Ripper victim and is her murder linked to the autumn of terror? Jack is back–or is he?

***** – I loved this book – her best yet

***** – Thrilling mystery fabulously written

***** – A solid 5


And it’s here. The Fressingfield Witch launched on audiobook today read by Andrew Cullum and is available at the following retailers:


– Audible/Amazon
– Storytel
– Apple
– Google
– Kobo Rakuten
Next up – The Ripper Deception on 19th November


A Lawrence Harpham MysteryThe Felsham Affair is available for pre-order in the Amazon kindle store with a release date of 20th September.  The paperback version will be ready soon after, but invariably takes a little while longer. I will post the link when the paperback is available for purchase.

This Felsham Affair is set in Suffolk and East London. As usual, it is based on real historical crimes.

When a much-loved child disappears with his minder, Lawrence Harpham follows the trail to Battersea. Meanwhile, Violet investigates a thirty-year-old Suffolk poisoning.

With suspects thin on the ground, Violet must use every means at her disposal to solve the mystery.  Can Lawrence’s close encounter with a callous serial killer provide clues to her investigation? And will their increasingly fractured relationship stand in the way of progress?

As the two mysteries converge, Lawrence finds himself at the mercy of a predator. Can he survive and will he ever see Violet again?

Click here to pre-order The Felsham Affair from the Amazon Kindle store.


Vote for Murder – new & updated

It’s 1911, and the women of Ipswich are making a peaceful stand against the unfairness of the voting system. Suffragist Louisa Russell joins the census evasion protest at the Old Museum in Ipswich. In a quiet moment, she explores the back rooms of the museum and finds a diary belonging to a prisoner – and not just any prisoner, but the infamous Mary Cage executed for murdering her husband six decades earlier.

When Louisa’s next-door neighbour dies under suspicious circumstances, the parallels between his death and the poisoning of James Cage become impossible to ignore.

But can there be a link between two deaths sixty years apart? And will Louisa find the poisoner before an innocent woman is convicted?

Vote for Murder is a historical fiction novel based on a true Suffolk crime.




The fourth book in the Lawrence Harpham mystery series is finished and with my fabulous editor. Once again, it’s set in East Anglia – but where?

To solve this riddle, you’ll need to be familiar with The Lawrence Harpham series (unless you recognise the photographs taken this weekend).


My first is in Fressingfield, but never in witch

My second’s in mere, but it isn’t in ditch

My third can be found in my leading man’s name

My fourth’s in his partner’s, but isn’t the same

My fifth is in fish, but it isn’t in kipper

My sixth is in Jack, but is absent from Ripper

My seventh’s a mystery, short, sweet and merry

My whole is a village to the south-east of Bury.


Where am I?

Suffolk village mystery

It’s been a year of ups and downs – one where self-help books and gin seemed like the only answer. A year where insurmountable obstacles appeared from nowhere and navigating them became a way of life. Mum died unexpectedly in February, closely followed by my mother-in-law in law, and four weeks ago, I came within a whisker of losing Dad.  Other people I know have been through worse during these uncertain and challenging months, and in many ways, it’s brought out the best in people. I’ve witnessed frequent and humbling acts of kindness.

Concentration is vital for writers and never easy when emotions are high, so I took a few weeks out of my busy schedule to ease the pressure. My carefully constructed diary is now full of red lines, and I’m a month behind on all my goals. Attending to my poor excuse of a mailing list and other planned projects has fallen by the wayside.  But life goes on, and it’s time to consolidate and move forwards. Assuming there are no further curveballs, here’s the plan for the rest of the year.

I’ve recently released the first three books in the Lawrence Harpham series as an Amazon Kindle ebook boxset for anyone who likes to binge read their mysteries! I will also re-release an updated version of Vote for Murder with a professional cover and not the hideous version I designed in my early years as a writer. This will be ready by autumn.

I’ll be completing book four in the Lawrence Harpham mystery series in the next week. After time with the editor, it should be available in ebook and paperback in a couple of months. Book five is in the plotting stage, and I’m hoping to finish writing it by the end of the year for release in early 2021.

And the final piece of news is for those of you who prefer listening to reading. I have signed an audiobook deal with the UK’s largest audio producer W F Howes for audio rights to The Fressingfield Witch, The Ripper Deception and The Scole Confession. The recording is underway with book one provisionally due at the end of September, book two in October and book three in November.  It has been an absolute pleasure to deal with the acquisitions editor, Craig Thomson and his team and I wish all my business dealings ran as smoothly as this one.

Hopefully, the second half of the year will be an improvement on the first!


Sufragette NewspaperI’m often asked where the inspiration for my books comes from, and it’s not difficult to answer. The antics of my ancestors inspire me. Other people have illustrious forebears. Mine are mad, bad and often dangerous to know. My family tree has over fifty-five thousand individuals, and it’s still growing, so there’s plenty to go at.

My first book, Vote for Murder, was inspired by the execution of Mary Emily Cage in 1851. Mary was hanged after poisoning her husband James with arsenic, and she may have killed several of her children. An admitted sinner and adulteress, Mary denied murdering her husband and went to her death without confessing. She was condemned by the press who reported every detail of her misconduct without any consideration for her circumstances. But Mary was a victim of domestic abuse. James Cage had already been imprisoned for his ill-treatment of her while under the influence of alcohol. The family were destitute and in desperate need. In another century, there would have been more sympathy for her situation.

Blue Plaque - Constance Andrews IpswichAround the time that I discovered my relationship (through marriage) to Mary Cage, I also found several suffragists in my family tree. They were peaceful activists, and their absence from the 1911 census suggests that they were at the census evasion night in The Old Museum, Ipswich organised by prominent Suffolk suffragette Constance Andrews. Both stories fascinated me, and inspired my first adult fiction novel. Naturally, my protagonist in Vote for Murder is a suffragist, and her story weaves together with that of Mary’s to produce a murder mystery set in Victorian and Edwardian Suffolk.

After finishing Vote for Murder, I gave myself a year off without thinking too hard about writing, but my family tree kept growing, and skeleton’s continued to appear. I had long been fascinated by the genealogy of my East Anglian Corben family including the name variants Corbin and Corbyn. Having made a tenuous link back to Corbyn’s in the late 1400s, I found a more recent connection (again by marriage) to Mary Corbyn of Fressingfield. Mary was rumoured to be a witch. Now, an accusation of witchcraft was not unusual in the 1600s, but a rarity in the 1890s. The basis of the allegation was the death of Mary’s grandchild, which was reported in the press as follows:

Alleged Witchcraft in Suffolk. At an inquest held at Fressingfield on Thursday by Mr C W Chaston on the body of a child named Hammond aged 11, weeks, daughter of a labourer, the father and mother stated that they believed the death of the Child was due to the witchcraft of Mrs Corbyn, the Child’s step-grandmother. This woman died a few hours before the Child and stated that the Child would not live long after her. The Child was taken out, and the father stated that he saw smoke issue from its perambulator and that the Child died upon being taken home, the mother stating that it was hot and dry, and smelt of brimstone. The medical evidence went to show that death was due to shock caused by the external application of some irritant, and the jury, in returning a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence said there was not sufficient evidence to show the nature of the irritant. George Corbyn said he was of the opinion that his late wife had the powers of a witch, and he always tried to do what she wanted in consequence.

The Fox & Goose FressingfieldI couldn’t resist using this story as the starting point for the first of my Lawrence Harpham mystery novels, The Fressingfield Witch. A crime had occurred, but without evidence, there was no one to bring to justice. My book would have been very short, but for one thing. Fressingfield already had a witch.

Matthew Hopkins - witch finder generalFaith Mills was a victim of witchcraft accusations from the Suffolk Witch Trials of the 1640s. She was one of the unfortunate women executed on the strength of allegations made by Matthew Hopkins and his Suffolk born colleague, John Stearne. The two men arrived in Fressingfield during the Witch Hunts and stoked up fear of the supernatural in the hope of personal gain. This genuine terror of witchcraft escalated in an atmosphere influenced by religion, politics and the civil war. The victims were mostly, though not always, women and they were exploited by Hopkins and Stearne who deliberately targeted the poor, vulnerable, marginalised or different.

Once again, my book combined stories set in two different eras, this time involving Private Investigator Lawrence Harpham and his business partner Violet Smith.

By the time I began writing the sequel, I was running out of interesting relatives and had started using historical newspapers as the basis for my stories. There is nothing quite as strange as real life, and I have found crimes covered in newspaper articles to be excellent sources of inspiration. The Ripper Deception, Book two in my series, was created from three separate newspaper stories. One featured a miser’s death; one involved a haunted rectory and the final report described the inquest of Frances Coles who may or may not have been a victim of Jack the Ripper. Together, these three true stories created an unusual twist on a common theme.

I have recently published a Christmas short story, The Montpellier Mystery, and the next full-length book in the Lawrence Harpham series, The Scole Confession, has just been released. Both books rely heavily on newspaper coverage of actual events. Both are set in recognisable English towns and those readers so inclined, can identify the real people who were involved in the accounts. If they look closely, they may even find them in their family trees!

Lawrence Harpham Mystery Series

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