A Vicar Brekonridge Novel: Book 1
Publication Date: October 23, 2023
A historical mystery based on Helms’ Derringer Award-nominated EQMM short story “The Cripplegate Apprehension”.
In 1843 London, a Scottish woodturner named Daniel M’Naghten gunned down Edward Drummond, the private secretary to Prime Minister Robert Peel, while Drummond strolled the streets of Whitehall. M’Naghten believed he shot the Prime Minister and, after being informed otherwise and making a brief statement at his arraignment, he never spoke in public about the crime again. M’Naghten was represented at trial by firebrand Queen’s Counsel Alexander Cockburn, who intended to plead insanity and rewrite four hundred years of English Common Law in the process. In this fictional retelling of the famous historical event, Cockburn recruits legendary London thief-taker Vicar Brekonridge to travel to Glasgow, M’Naghten’s home, and find witnesses who can bolster the insanity defense. What Brekonridge finds instead suggests that M’Naghten was part of a frightening conspiracy to bring down the British government.
Travel back in time to the Victorian Era, where author Richard Helms has created a complex murder mystery full of political intrigue.
Authorities have Daniel M’Naghten in custody for shooting a man he thought was the Prime Minister. Although he is almost certainly going to the gallows, his lawyers push for an insanity defense.
The main character, who bears the title of the book, is one of England’s top bounty hunters. Vicar Brekonridge is tasked with learning more about M’Naghten to see if his actions support an insanity plea.
There’s plenty of historical information mentioned in the story between political factions. Even the Queen weighs in on M’Naghten’s fate. Written in the style of Sherlock Holmes, the mystery centers around the motive for the murder.
Vicar Brekonridge serves as a savvy investigator who discovers the scales of justice aren’t always fair and impartial.
Richard Helms is a retired college professor and clinical/forensic psychologist. He has been nominated five times for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, with one win; eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice; eight times for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, with a win in 2021 and another in 2022; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, with one win; and twice for the Mystery Readers International Macavity Award, which he won in 2022. He is a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, along with other periodicals. His story “See Humble and Die” was selected for inclusion in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Best American Mystery Stories of 2020, edited by C.J. Box and Otto Penzler. Vicar Brekonridge is his twenty-third novel. Mr. Helms is a former member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America, and the former president of the Southeast Regional Chapter of MWA. When not writing, Mr. Helms enjoys reading, travel, gourmet cooking, simracing, hanging with his grandsons, and rooting for his beloved Carolina Tar Heels and Carolina Panthers. Richard Helms and his wife Elaine live in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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