Thursday, July 12, 2018


Sad news. Martin Edwards reported on his blog Do You Write Under Your Own Name that Jessica Mann, crime writer and reviewer passed away yesterday. Read his tribute here.

Jessica Mann's first crime novel, A Charitable End, appeared in 1971; her penultimate book Dead Woman Walking took her career full circle, as it reintroduced one of the characters from her debut, as well as the psychiatrist Dr Fidelis Berlin, who appeared in a handful of earlier novels, perhaps most memorably the superb A Private Enquiry, which was shortlisted for a CWA Gold Dagger. Her final novel, The Stroke of Death, saw the reappearance of perhaps her most popular character, the archaeologist Tamara Hoyland, after an absence, regretted by many readers, of a quarter of a century. 

Jessica’s non-fiction included Deadlier than the Male, an excellent study of female crime writing, and she was in much demand as a journalist and broadcaster from the time she first appeared on Radio 4’s Any Questions in the 1970s; she also featured on Question Time, Start the Week, Stop the Week, and the Round Britain Quiz . For many years, she reviewed crime for the Literary Review. 

Bio from her website:


Her novels aren’t autobiographical but they are set in the world she knew and places she lived in (Cornwall, Edinburgh, Leicester (which I called Ferriby) and London) or visited, such as Egypt or the Isles of Scilly. Some books have domestic settings, some archaeological, and some books combine mystery plots with with political themes or historical sections. There’s no running hero or heroine, except for the six books featuring the archaeologist Tamara Hoyland, first encountered in Funeral Sites and The Stroke of Death. Other characters reappear, including Professor Thea Crawford and the psychiatrist Dr Fidelis Berlin, first met in A Private Inquiry. You can catch up with her in The Voice From The Grave, and Dead Woman Walking.

She was also a journalist, broadcaster and author of non-fiction. She contributed features, columns, think-pieces, travel articles and book reviews to many magazines and newspapers including the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian, The Western Morning News, House & Garden, The Oldie, Standpoint etc. She was the crime fiction reviewer for The Literary Review.

She was born in London, my parents Jewish (though non-practising) refugees from Nazi Germany. During the war, she and her big brother, aged 4 and 2, were sent as evacuees to Canada and America, returning to London in 1943. She went to St.Paul’s Girls’ School, before studying Archaeology at Newnham College, Cambridge and Law at Leicester University.

The story of the overseas evacuation of children in WW2 is told in her book Out of Harm’s Way. Growing up in the forties and fifties, and what life was like before the liberating reforms that began in the late 1960s, is described in The Fifties Mystique. In Deadlier Than The Male, she discussed the question: why are respectable English women so good at crime? She and her late husband collected works of art throughout their married lives and celebrated their Golden Wedding by producing together a book about Godrevy Lighthouse in Cornwall, illustrated with pictures from their own collection. Godrevy Light by Charles Thomas and Jessica Mann was published in 2009.

As JESSICA THOMAS,  she was Planning Inspector, chaired public committees, served on Employment Tribunals and on many NHS committees.

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