A Christmas Conspiracy?

A very merry Christmas to all my readers, and best wishes for 2023.

As a bit of festive fun I thought I’d post this little bit of fun I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a while ago. Eight year-old Josh blows the whistle on an alarming deception …

Dear Santa,

                        I hope you are well and all ready for Christmas. I am sorry to bother you at a busy time, specially after I sent you my Christmas list last week, but I have information that you need to know.  

I better start by saying thank you for all the presents you brought me last year – I’m sorry this is so late. They were ace, especially the Junior Dictionary, which has been very useful this year. I couldn’t of wrote this letter without it. Mrs Shepherd at school says I have a remarkable vocabulary, but it’s really just me looking at that book under the desk. And double especially the Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit, which is my fave thing ever. I have used it every day and it is sort of the reason I’m writing to you now. It is a shame you couldn’t bring me the full size working tractor I asked for, but I spose there were problems fitting it in the sleigh.

Anyway, the main thing I’m writing to you about is that, with the help of my Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit, I have uncovered a criminal conspiracy what you need to know about.

It started a week last Wednesday, when my Mum took me to see you at the shopping centre. Least, it was sposed to be you, and I got all excited about it. But when I went into the grotto and sat down, and the man that was sposed to be you said, “Ho, ho, ho, little boy, what’s your name?” he sounded a lot like Mr Warburton from the Post Office – he made that same funny sound when he said the letter ‘s’. I thought “it can’t be”, but then when he said “so what would you like for Christmas” it sounded like Mr Warburton even more. The Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit tells you to look for evidence when you have a suspicion. So I whispered my answer and the man asked me to come closer. And when I did I could see his beard was attached to his ears with elastic. I didn’t want to say anything then, because sometimes Mr Warburton gives me a crème egg when I go into the Post Office, and he might stop doing that if he knew I’d exposed his crime, but when I got out I saw this woman who had a badge that said ‘Manager’ on it, so I went up to her and I said ‘Excuse me, Miss, I need to tell you that the man in your grotto is a impostor (that is a great word I got from the Junior Dictionary). He’s not Santa Claus, he’s Mr Warburton from the Post Office. I think you need to call the Police. 

Well, the woman laughed, and my Mum went all red in the face and dragged me away really fast and said “don’t you dare embarrass me like that again.” When we got home my Dad was there, and I said “Dad, Dad, there is a impostor pretending to be Santa Claus in the shopping centre. You need to call the Police.” And he said, “Oh dear, this sounds like a very serious matter, I see you’ve been making good use of your Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit. I’m sure the Police will take action on it straight away.” And my Mum said “Oh, for God’s sake, Darren, don’t encourage him” and told me to go to my room.

Anyway, I started thinking, and I remembered what Sherlock Holmes said. “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. I have to face the fact that My Mum is probably involved in this conspiracy. I was going to go to the Police Station, but I thought they might not listen to me because I am only eight. But, I thought, they will believe it from Santa, and Santa needs to know anyway because he is the VICTIM of this conspiracy.

So that’s why I am writing to tell you that there is a man pretending to be you in the shopping centre. I am sorry to give bad news, but you need to tell the Police. They will take action straight away. My Dad says so, but I don’t think my Mum will let him ring them himself. I hope whoever takes over the Post Office when Mr Warburton is in prison will still give me crème eggs. The Junior Dictionary says there is a thing called Probation which means you get told off but don’t go to prison. I hope my Mum gets that. She is not as bad a criminal as Mr Warburton.

Merry Christmas, love from Josh

pic: vastateparkstaff. Licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0


Today I’m delighted to host a poem from fellow Holmfirth (and Meltham) writer Anne Steward.


As beach walks go, it was a blast,
a leg-stinging, breath-taking hike.
Wind streamed from the sea so fast
it seemed to draw clouds in its wake,
painting them into estuary shallows,

My mind had no room to reflect on
anything more than my slowing pace,
as I turned back to rest eyes sore from
driven, salty, sandy grit in my face,
and saw in weathered stone, a hollow.

It’s shape was like so many there
but others, by water, soon reclaimed
from castles, moats and boats where
spades had dug and little feet waded…
that’s what I saw…as cast in tallow.

I knelt down to see more clearly,
run curious fingers in the shape.
Could I see what appears rarely
in our well-explored landscape?
I felt excitement bubble and grow.

Some little child had come this way
so many, many years ago, just here
and let fall a muddy trace in clay to stay
until the wind had blown me where
I found the past had cracked a window.

pic: Momotarou2012. Licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Hunter’s Revenge

Today I’m delighted to share an extract from the second edition of crime writer Val Penny’s novel, Hunter’s Revenge, published yesterday by Spellbound Books (and available via this link: geni.us/a13c)

Hunter’s Revenge Extract

Linda has found the body of the victim in his porch when she tried to deliver a book. DI Hunter Wilson and DC Tim Myerscough examine the scene and discover the corpse is the body of their friend George Reinbold.

DI Hunter Wilson and DC Tim Myerscough pulled up just behind the ambulance. Hunter liked spring: he could almost smell the world waking up. The freshness of the air encouraged crocuses and daffodils to decorate flower beds, and buds of leaves to appear on trees. Edinburgh had a beauty in every season, but he found his city especially lovely in springtime. However, today was not one of those fine, balmy spring days. It was bright enough, but sharp and cold. Hunter did not like chilly days like today as much as the warmer days he hoped April would bring.

He and Tim got out of the car. The detective constable dwarfed Hunter by an easy five inches, but as Hunter stood and took in the scene with a serious face and intelligent piercing blue eyes, it was clear that he was the man in charge. Hunter quickly identified the girl sitting on the wet grass as the source of a loud and blood-curdling racket that offended his ears. He looked from the girl to Tim and back again.

“You deal with her, young Myerscough. It’s far too early for me to be coping with weeping women. Try to get some sense out of her, and get her to be quiet, will you? I can’t think with that noise going on.”

“Yes, Sir.” Tim took two strides and crouched down beside the young woman. “Hello, I’m DC Tim Myerscough. What’s your name?”



“Linda Maguire.” She stopped crying but was still sobbing hard.

“So, Linda, it was you who found the body, was it?” Tim asked.

She looked at him as if she thought he was crazy. “Well, I don’t get this upset just because there’s nobody home. I don’t get paid enough for this. It’s awful. Have you seen it? Don’t look. The place is all blood and brains. The back of his head’s gone. I can’t un-see that, you know.” Linda started weeping again as Hunter shouted.

“Tim! Tim! DC Myerscough. Here. Now.” Hunter’s face was grey. “Tim, you won’t believe who the victim is. It’s George Reinbold, shot in the head.”

“What? Oh No! Not our George Reinbold? Head of the Crime Scene Investigations?”

“Not any more he’s not.”

“No, it can’t be. It must be a mistake, he’s just an old man. Who would want to kill him?”

“Don’t take my word for it. Feel free to look but hold on to your breakfast.” Hunter watched as Tim went over and stuck his head around the door and withdrew it quickly.

Linda was right, you can’t un-see that.

“Boss, that’s been close range. Tiny hole in the forehead, but they’ve blown the back of his skull right off.”

“Hmm. Bloody awful. It’s got to be a professional job. But the murderer would surely be hit by some spray from the blood.” Hunter grimaced.

“Definitely. This is surely a case of mistaken identity? Nobody would want to hurt George?” Tim’s questions asked for the reassurance that Hunter could not give.

“We’ll need to find out what he’s been working on recently. It could be a targeted attack. And I certainly don’t want our CSIs working on this; it would be too traumatic. I’ll call Glasgow and get them to send a team over. PC Angus McKenzie can stay at the door to restrict access while I get DS Jane Renwick to gather a team to organise door-to-door enquiries. One thing is for sure, somebody saw something or heard the gun.”

“Yes.” Tim paused “Will Doctor Sharma be able to do the post-mortem?”

“I doubt she would allow anybody else that honour, but it won’t be easy for her. She liked George and respected him greatly. You stay here and take the witness statement from that girl. When Meera Sharma and the CSIs are finished, I want you and me into that flat as soon as possible to find out everything we can about George and why he was murdered.”

Tim turned back to Linda and walked slowly across the grass. He saw the young delivery woman was now dry-heaving as hard as she was weeping. It must have been a terrible shock for her. He took out his notebook in a vain effort to try to divert her attention. He smiled at her as she lifted her head. His smile seemed to work as a better diversion.

He was aware of her looking up at him. He watched as she swept her hair behind her ear, glanced into his eyes and she allowed her glance to rove from his eyes to his hair, smile and shoulders. For some reason he became self-conscious about his broken nose. This was silly. He blushed and realised that she had stopped sobbing.

 Tim looked at her more closely. Under all the thick layer of make-up and dribbles of snot, she was pretty.

He took down her personal details and then they discussed how Linda’s morning had been going before her shocking discovery.

“What were you delivering to Mr Reinbold?” Tim asked.

“A book. The label just says a book.”

“But it also says it’s insured for £25,000. That’s some book,” Tim said, looking at Linda’s delivery list.

“I didn’t notice that. It’s an awful lot.”

Tim looked around for help and caught sight of DS Jane Renwick, who had joined Hunter talking to the paramedics. Tim wondered how Jane always looked so elegant, as though she had just walked off a magazine cover.

“Sarge? Sarge, can you help with this?” Tim called to Jane.

“What’s up, Tim?”

“Linda here has on her manifest that the parcel Mr Reinbold was expecting was a book, but I’ve noticed it’s insured for £25,000. That seems a great deal for a book.”

“It certainly does. Do we know where the parcel is?”

Linda pulled it out from underneath her. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to sit on the grass. It’s wet,” she said by way of explanation.

Jane looked at the girl and sighed. Then she held out her hand and, in the presence of Linda and Tim, opened the parcel.

“It is indeed a book. A signed first edition of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. My goodness. It’s amazing! Include this in the statement, Tim, and give Linda a note to say that we now hold the book. I’ll take it back to the station. We’ll need to get a proper valuation.”

“Wow! All that for a kiddies’ book.” Linda finished her statement and agreed to come down to the station to sign a typed copy whenever Tim phoned her to tell her it was ready. He caught her allowing herself one more gaze into his eyes before they stood up. Tim was over a foot taller than her diminutive five foot two inches.

“Thank you for all your help today, Linda,” Tim said.

“It’s all right, but I suppose I better get on with my deliveries. I’m ever so late. It would be me who found the bloody body.”

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is a loyal friend and a fair leader. He is called to the scene of a murder in Edinburgh where the corpse has been fatally shot. He is dismayed to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Hunter must investigate Reinbold’s murky past in Germany to identify George’s killer.

At the same time, Hunter is tasked with looking into a previously undetected criminal gang supplying drugs from Peru. There seems to be no connection between the murder and the drug supply until Hunter unexpectedly secures help from inmates of the local jail.

Hunter’s investigations are hampered by distracted members of his team and unobservant witnesses.

Reinbold was not the quiet, old man Hunter believed him to be and his killer bore their grudge for a lifetime.

Val Penny has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer but has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.

Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and novels. Val is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and their cat.