The Runaway (by Sally Quilford)

After reading a children’s Kindle book that was much shorter than I had expected, I wanted something else to read while on a flight. I decided to try another book by Sally Quilford, a prolific author who has written quite a number of short stories and pocket novels for women’s magazines, over the past few years. I had previously enjoyed one about the young policewoman Bobbie Blandford, so decided to try the second in the series, ‘The Runaway’.

Bobbie is embarking on her second year in Stony End as this story opens, set in 1961. She’s taking part in a parade, when a cry of ‘Stop, thief!’ makes her break rank. It’s a light-hearted opening to a novella with some quite serious issues involved, including the struggle of women to be accepted as equals to men.

A body is discovered and Bobbie gets involved in the resultant enquiry, which she thinks may be linked to an unsolved mystery from the past. However this isn’t just crime fiction; alongside Bobbie’s work is her romantic involvement with Leo, the local doctor.

Sally Quilford has a gift of creating memorable and likeable characters, and I found myself involved in the story very quickly. It’s been over two years since I read ‘The Last Dance’, which introduces Bobbie, but her quirks and personality shine through and it quickly felt as if I were meeting an old friend once more. I vaguely recalled other members of the cast, but it’s not necessary to have read the earlier book as this one stands alone.

During the course of the story there are unexpected revelations, one of them causing Bobbie to take up an appointment at another town for a while, where she meets some sexism and a unpleasant household scenario. The settings feel real, set firmly around the working people of the 1960s, and the pace of the book is good. It kept me engrossed on my flight; once I’d reached my destination, despite being quite tired, I was eager to continue reading to find out what was going to happen.

It’s not a long book, and the mysteries aren’t full of red herrings and careful clues, as might be expected with mid-20th century crime fiction. But for people who like crime-related stories featuring a low-key romance, and some great characterisation (albeit with a few caricatures), I would recommend this.

Only available in Kindle form, as far as I know. I think it was on special offer when I downloaded it a few years ago, but it’s still, in my opinion, extremely good value.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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