Books by Michelle Spring

IN THE MIDNIGHT HOUR by Michelle Spring
Released: Feb. 27, 2001

"Heavy on angst and short on legwork, Laura's latest explores human suffering for 20-odd chapters before springing surprises like jack-in-the-boxes for the last three. "
It's been 12 years since four-year-old Timmy Cable disappeared from a Norfolk beach. But nothing that's passed since—not his father Jack's fame as a polar explorer, not the beautiful farmhouse in Grantchester his mother Olivia lovingly tends, not even their pride in older sister Catherine's success as a dancer and Cambridge student—has helped to ease the Cables' pain at not knowing their beloved son's fate. Then Olivia finds a musician named Liam on a Cambridge street corner who looks, sounds, even smells like her lost son. The Cables hire private eye Laura Principal (Nights in White Satin, 1999, etc.) to look into Liam's past, but not—as Jack constantly warns—to "heavy" him. So perhaps it's out of caution that Laura studiously avoids the customary tools of her trade in her search for Liam's identity. No DNA testing, no questioning people who might know him, no following him home to see where he lives. Instead, she hangs around the Cables' country estate, watching as Olivia tries to draw close to the wary adolescent, driving him around the property in Jack's vintage Jaguar, cooking him tempting meals, even filling the long-drained family swimming pool for him. But after the Cables are secure enough that Timmy has returned to reopen their Norfolk summer home, Laura finds more clues than she bargained for about little boy lost and teenager found. Read full book review >
NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN by Michelle Spring
Released: June 1, 1999

Even though men will sometimes be boys when women and drink are on offer, nothing could be more decorous, or more jealous of its propriety, than the May Ball, when Cambridge students celebrate the end of exams. That's why Philip Patterson, the master of St. John's College, passes over the police to ask Laura Principal, who's just finished arranging security matters for the ball, to look into the disappearance of Katie Arkwright, a visitor from lowly Anglia University across town, who asked her prim escort, Jared Scott-Pettit, to leave the dance and then took off without him when he declined. The briefest investigation discloses Katie's earlier brush with Cambridge: while she was waiting tables at a private dinner for the Dorics, 40 undergraduates and recent alumni of St. Bartholomew's, in the college's Echo Room, her clients turned on her, stripped her, and assaulted her. Is the person behind her disappearance now Roger Duff, ringleader of the Dorics, or Stephen Fox, senior tutor at St. Bart's, who sniffs to Laura that Katie was anything but blameless in the incident? Before Laura—bereft of her partner and sometime lover Sonny Mendlowitz, who's off trying to vindicate a client accused of beating a prostitute—can focus her suspicions, murder narrows the field of suspects and raises the stakes for those remaining. Good Cambridge backgrounds and a strong sense of moral outrage offset the predictability and occasional self-importance of Laura's fourth case (Standing in the Shadows, 1998, etc.). (Mystery Guild selection) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1998

Nobody ever said Daryll Flatt's life was any bed of roses. By the time he was 11, he'd already been deserted by his abusive father, abandoned by the brother who said he loved him but took off for a job in Australia anyway, and bereaved of the grandmother who'd taken him in. But does any of that excuse his bashing in the head of Geraldine King, the temporary foster mother his social worker had placed him with? Now that Daryll, who unhesitatingly confessed to the Cambridge police, has served 18 months of his sentence, Howard Flatt, back from Australia, wants inquiry agent Laura Principal to find out why the boy killed his guardian. What makes a child kill? asks Laura, whose scant experience (Every Breath You Take, 1994) has done nothing to prepare her for this case. Luckily, the investigator's Q-and-A with Geraldine's uncordial neighbors and Daryll's uncaring relatives will be broken up by distractions—an unexpected brush with her partner Sonny Mendlowiz's latest divorce case, an attempt to track down the flasher who's been menacing her friend Helen Cochrane's daughter—that will end up throwing unexpected light on Geraldine's murder. Highly competent parboiled British detective work, even if a crucial few of the dramatis personae remain muffled. Read full book review >
RUNNING FOR SHELTER by Michelle Spring
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

A second juggling act, and quite an unbalanced one, for Cambridge inquiry agent Laura Principal (Every Breath You Take, 1994). With one hand, she's supposed to solve the mystery of the missing properties at rehearsals for Thomas Butler's new West End play, and with the other, she's to figure out who entered Marcia Shields's house with a key and left with several uninsured paintings. Life gets even more complicated when the first of these cases boomerangs, as the Filipina servant Laura spoke to at Butler's house disappears, along with any acknowledgment by Butler's family that she ever existed. Though Butler wastes no time in pulling Laura off the theater robberies (a disappointing loose end), she's determined to track down Marilou Flores, the missing Butler maid—and then, after the Kensington police find Marilou fatally bashed and trashed, to track down her killer. Treading perilously near the same trails as Ruth Rendell's nonpareil Simisola (1995), Laura discovers the same brutal truths about the ways ``British immigration rules provide structural support for slavery.'' But there's nowhere near as much at stake in the Shields robberies, whose solution Spring saves for last. One case is clever, then, the other deeply felt, though Spring, unlike Rendell, never does manage to meld both kinds of interest together. Read full book review >
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by Michelle Spring
Released: April 1, 1994

London p.i. Laura Principal's plan to take a third housemate for Wildfell Cottage, the country house she shares with librarian Helen Cochrane, comes to grief when Monica Harcourt, the haunted painter she and Helen are ready to take on, is killed (stabbed, strangled, hammered) in her Cambridge flat. Grabbing spare hours from the two cases she's getting paid for—both unrelated but neatly worked out- -Laura digs into Monica's life and soon finds unexpected involvements with a sleazy college provost, who asks special favors in return for approving grant proposals, and a fiery anti-abortion M.P. Monica caught practically with his pants down. Be warned: the real killer is so well hidden as to be practically invisible. Already in her first novel, pseudonymous British academic Spring (sociology/Anglia Polytechnic) is a dab hand at teasing the most plausible suspects out of the woodwork. The prevailing mode is British—deft, unblinking, understated—but never too intoxicated with its own literacy. Read full book review >