When I was asked to be a part of this blog tour, I was very intrigued by the book – the curious death of Bella Wright, a cold case from 1919. We’re so used to forensics being used today that we forget these skills and techniques were in their infancy at the beginning of the last century. So to whet your appetite a little more, I have an extract from The Green Bicycle Mystery for you, plus my own verdict.
THE GREEN BICYCLE MYSTERY
Cold Case Jury Collection
by Antony M Brown, published by Mirror Books
In the first of a new collection of intriguing historic murders, Cold Case Jury presents The Green Bicycle Mystery. Don’t just read about a murder… solve it!
Constable Alfred Hall, was puzzled by the doctor’s conclusion that Bella Wright had died accidentally. He spent all day looking for clues at the scene of the tragedy. In the evening, he found a bullet squashed in the road. He summoned the doctor again. This extract picks up the story.
EXTRACT from mid-way through CHAPTER 3: COLD LIGHT OF DAY.
8:40pm. Dr Williams stood next to PC Hall beside the makeshift mortuary table. “At least we have some daylight,” he said. “It was such poor light last night, wasn’t it?” To Hall, it sounded as if the doctor was already making excuses for his superficial examination the night before. It was regrettable that a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians had ignored the circumstantial evidence that pointed away from a brain haemorrhage: the lack of blood on the victim’s clothing and bicycle. Hall resisted the urge to mimic Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of Silver Blaze by asking rhetorically: “What about the curious blood splatter on the raincoat?” To which the doctor would have denied there was any, setting up the wonderful retort: “Indeed, that is the curious thing.” Instead, Hall pointed deferentially to the puncture wound on the left cheek. “What do you think?”
“Oh, yes,” replied the doctor in surprise, as if it had been the first time he had seen the body. “That looks like a gunshot wound, Constable.” He bent over to examine Bella’s face more closely. “Do we know who the poor thing is?”
“We have a name,” Hall replied cautiously, “but it’s not been confirmed.”
“Ah, I see,” the doctor said. “Is she local?”
“I cannot say any more, I’m afraid.”
Williams noted that the left cheek had been scratched and the left eyelid and eyeball were also injured, probably as a result of the fall to the ground. He then focused his attention on the obvious wound. “There is a puncture wound about one inch beyond the lateral canthus and about half an inch below.” For Hall’s benefit, he traced the two dimensions with his index finger from the corner of the eye. “You see, the puncture is surrounded by a collar of chafed skin, classic signs of a gunshot wound.”
From his jacket pocket he removed a leaded pencil which he inserted into the aperture. The pencil went upwards and backwards into the brain. “A projectile has clearly penetrated the zygomatic bone. This appears to be the entrance wound. We will know by tracing its trajectory through the body.” He unpinned Bella’s blood-stained straw hat and passed it to Hall.
“It looks like it has gone through the hat too,” the constable observed. The doctor looked up and saw that Hall had pushed his index finger through a small hole on the top right of the crown of the hat. Williams parted her hair, which was thickly matted with congealed blood. At the back of her head, about three inches above the right ear, was an oval wound approximately one-and-a-half inches long and half-an-inch wide.
“That looks like an exit wound,” Hall remarked.
“Indeed it does, Constable. This young woman has been shot, for sure. There needs to be an autopsy.”
As I wrote earlier, I was intrigued by this book. I normally only read crime fiction. This true crime novel is set out more as a barrister talking to a jury, laying out the evidence from both sides and then inviting you, the reader and member of the jury, to make your choice.
I have to be careful in how much I tell you as I don’t want to be accused of leading the jury in a particular direction. However, I don’t think I’m giving away much by telling you a little bit about the case.
Bella Wright was discovered in a country lane, next to her bicycle, in the late evening on Saturday 5th July 1919. She’d last been seen with a man on a green bicycle. As you can tell from the above extract, it wasn’t until the next day that the Doctor and police discovered that she had been shot. As well as presenting the evidence from the case, Brown also considers other theories for Bella’s death, given over the years.
The two times that I’ve been called for jury service, I’ve not been able to attend for good reasons – sitting my A-Levels and several years later, being very pregnant. So I didn’t have the benefit of experience when reading. This doesn’t matter though as Brown expertly lays out all the evidence in story form as well as original documents. So there is plenty for the reader to consider. And at the end of the book, you decide what you think happened to Bella Wright.
I’m tempted to tell you what I thought but I won’t. There’s an online forum that will allow you to do that. I really enjoyed the experience and found that I had to concentrate hard to make sure I noted all the evidence. I’m glad to hear that Antony M. Brown is writing about more cold cases. I’m sure he has plenty to choose from!
About the author
Antony M. Brown is an award-winning essayist, former magazine editor-in-chief and member of the Crime Writers’ Association. He published several Cold Case Jury e-books – true crime mysteries in which the reader is invited to deliver the verdict on what they believe might have happened – before signing a four book deal with Mirror Books in January 2017.
If you want to find out more about Antony M. Brown and buy the book then please click here.
I’d like to thank Antony M. Brown and Mirror Books for my copy of the book. Also thanks to Nicola Slavin for organising the blog tour.