Jacqueline Beard Writer

Lawrence Harpham Murder Mysteries & Constance Maxwell Dreamwalker Mysteries

It’s raining today, miserable, and a good time for catching up with administration. I’ve just cleared out my writing files, cringing with embarrassment at my earliest efforts, but discovering other long-forgotten favourites like the flash fiction story below written for the 2018 Noirwich Crime competition. I’m fond of this piece. My lovely and sadly departed mother came from Overstrand, and her grandfather, Frederick Dennis, dug the first grave in the cemetery. As the short story says, by a quirk of fate, he ended up in it. The Cotswolds where I live are delightful, but I miss Norfolk, especially on days like these. Days where a brisk walk across the cliffs clears the cobwebs and soothes the soul. This story is for my mum and my Overstrand relatives & ancestors.

Rumour has it that old man Dennis dug the first grave in Overstrand cemetery. By a quirk of fate, he died soon after, and they laid him to rest there. It made me mindful of my mortality—no pauper’s grave for me. I signed up to the North Norfolk burial club sharpish together with the wife and nippers. We went hungry sometimes but always paid our dues. Better to starve than end up in the workhouse; better to shiver and have a decent final resting place.

But that was then.

Ten years on, and I long to dine on food not dragged from the ocean, warm my feet by a blazing fire, be my own man and make my own choices. No more turbulent seas, blistering chills, beaches dotted with crab pots. And no more Florrie.

My heart alive, but she was beautiful once. Her smile dazzled. I would have laid down my life to protect my Florrie. Now she is a hard-faced lump of a woman. Lazy too. She spends all day mardling with the fishwives and has no time for me.

Bessie Storey does, though. Little doe-eyed Bessie, younger and prettier than Florrie, has made no secret of her regard. Bessie is from a large family. She’ll make a good mother for my children.

‘Hold you hard,’ I hear you say. ‘Is poor Florrie dead?’

Not dead yet, but soon. There is money aplenty in the burial club and still more besides in our life insurance policies. Money scrimped and saved from my toil at sea – money I could have spent on ale, like every other red-blooded man – wasted, like my life.

Look, here comes Florrie now, plodding over the cliffs, her dumpling face set in its usual frown, demeanour as predictable as her Friday evening walk. Always the same routine. She visits her mother in Paul’s Lane before lumbering down to the cliffs, where she waits silently, staring out to sea. But why?

Florrie has seen me. She lifts her hand uncertainly and waves it in my direction. Her face, a mask of misery, shows no pleasure in my presence. What does she make of my intrusion? No matter. One minute or two – soon, she will be close enough. I will sidle towards her, smile and give her a little shove. The moment is perfect. It’s close to dusk, and there is not a soul around.

Florrie reaches me, piggy eyes searching my face. There are bristles on her chin. How did I ever love this woman?

It is time.

I move towards her but suddenly feel a weighty thud on my chest, then fall backwards, arms flailing. The Overstrand cliffs rush past me. I can smell the salty sea and hear the cackle of gulls–but is it? No, the sound is raucous laughter, and it’s coming from Florrie. I cannot see her, but before the world goes black, I sense her looking down at me, smiling as she did when we were young.

Accused of a crime she didn’t commit, Connie flees Cornwall in despair. But with Oliver Fox’s help, she begins an independent life complete with a fledgling romance. Connie’s new world is looking promising until she finds herself embroiled in yet another murder. Worse still, Felix Crossley has arrived in London, and is already in hot pursuit.

With the odds stacked against her, can Connie stay one step ahead of Mrs Ponsonby? Why is Crossley determined to find her, and what are his intentions?

The Croydon Enigma is the second book in this gripping 1920s mystery series with a supernatural twist.

Available on paperback or Kindle ebook. https://geni.us/TCEnigma


Available for Pre-order Now

The Cornish Widow

Connie Maxwell has a secret. Though broken in body, her spirit runs free. Dreamwalking might be useful if only she could control it. But it’s one thing roaming the Cornish Coast and quite another witnessing a murder – especially when she can’t influence the outcome.

Annie Hearn has absconded after the suspicious death of her neighbour, and the authorities are about to pounce. But in a county of people hell-bent on bringing her to justice, Connie alone believes in her innocence.

With time running out, a chance encounter brings evil to Connie’s door. Nobody is who they seem, and Connie’s background is an ever-changing mystery.

Who is Connie? And is saving Annie the reason for her burdensome gift?

A gripping Golden Age historical series perfect for those who like a touch of psychic suspense with their mysteries.

Pre-order on



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Coming Soon

The Croydon Enigma

Recently, and after listening to a particularly inspiring Joanna Penn podcast, I’ve taken to writing using Vankyo headphones. I have little choice in a household with two dogs and assorted family members who don’t understand what a shut door and ‘do not disturb’ notice means. It’s like Piccadilly Junction in my office, and now the Cockapoo has learned how to open the door, the lack of privacy is even worse. Cue noise-cancelling headphones.
When I used to write in perfect silence (before teenagers and badly behaved puppies), I didn’t expect to take to writing with sound. I tried nature music, but anything with rain/waterfalls sent me running to the loo and whale noises were a step too far. So I searched for a ‘writers playlist’ and found one on Amazon music, which I’ve taken and adapted to my tastes. And surprisingly, I’m very productive listening to music and now feel guilty for the many years I’ve spent berating my son for doing his homework with earphones in.

So, this week’s writing music is:

  1.  Mozart Serenade in G
  2. The Good Part – AJR
  3. Montanita – Ratatat
  4. Orinoco Flow – Enja
  5. Gymnopedie No 1 – Erik Satie
  6. Opus 36 – Dustin O’Haloran
  7. Intro – The XX
  8. Funeral for a friend – Elton John
  9. Alaska – Maggie Rogers
  10. Verse – Rhye
  11. Scandinavia – Van Morrison
  12. Feel it still – Portugal The Man
  13. Take me to Church – Hozier
  14. Soul Limbo – Booker T & The MG’s
  15. My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

As my readers will know, I base my books on real events. After all, the truth is usually stranger than fiction. But not all criminals are as notorious as Jack the Ripper, and some of my felonious inspiration comes from little known crimes, notably those featured in The Felsham Affair.

Fourth book in the Lawrence Harpham series, The Felsham Affair, covers little Freddie Browne’s tragic death in a small Suffolk village, a story intertwined with the Silvertown rat cake poisonings. And the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that my books generally have a theme. In this case, the focus is on wanted and unwanted children. It sounds pretty grim, I know. But times were hard in Victorian England.

Tempting though it is to post detailed transcriptions, the below cuttings should be enough to whet appetites without giving too much of the plot away. Spoiler alert:–this book will not appeal to those of you who don’t like rats.

Now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle

When a series of vanishings turn into murders, Lawrence Harpham is summoned to West Ham. Estranged from Violet and temporarily partnered with an oddball reporter, Lawrence pursues a ruthless serial killer.

Meanwhile, Violet’s contentment with her new life in Norfolk ends abruptly. What is causing the sinister movement of a gravestone, and who is following her?

Recently revealed secrets shatter everything Lawrence thought he knew about his past. Will Violet and Lawrence meet again? And will he ever recover from the horrifying revelations?

“That’s not what I mean,” gasped the hooded man, before lapsing into a coughing fit.
“Start at the beginning,” said Higgins. “I want every last detail, and if I get it, then you get to keep the rest of your fingers.”

The Moving Stone is a historical murder mystery based on real events. Click here to pre-order your kindle e-book.

A Kindle short feel-good mystery free on Amazon Kindle until Christmas

When Lawrence and Violet take a well-earned holiday in the Cotswolds, nothing is as it first appears. Within hours of arrival, they are asked to investigate a poisoning case, which rapidly turns into two.
What is going on at the hospital and will it ruin their Christmas break?
Join Lawrence and Violet in this short Christmas mystery set in the beautiful regency town of Cheltenham.


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.