The Body in St Helens Library – eBook & Radio Play

Fresh off the ePresses is The Body in St Helens Library, the eBook and PDF version. This brings together ACTs I, II, III into one file, with all the clues and images. After reading that listen to the radio play below for ACT VI.

The Body in St Helens Library from Hwa Young Jung on Vimeo.

If you think you know who the killer is, email or tweet @DetectiveClubP for the password to the solution!

Crime board actors

Radio Play aftermath

The mystery of the Body in St Helens Library has been solved! On a dark (but not stormy) night a group of amateur detectives and fans of detective fiction came gathered in St Helens Library after hours for a classic reconstruction of the crime. Would be sleuths who have been following the story through the three ACTS online got to come to see the evidence and clues in person to put their theories to the test.
The talented voice actors of St Helens brought the story to live with the final dénouement. The lights were turned off, like the night of the murder but that didn’t stop the actors performing. Thanks to (left the right in photo) Luke, Steve, JB, Marion and Vicki for acting.

After hearing from the suspects gathered back at the scene of the crime, we had a short break where the audience were asked to put forward their own theories about who the murderer was and why. Please to say TWO people guessed right and for the right reasons!
The radio play will be online soon, alongside a short film. Take a look at the photos from the event while we edit the audio.


ACT IV – Live Radio Play

The Body in St Helens Library Live Radio Play

6th November, Thursday from 7:30 – 9pm.
Book a seat

For the past three weeks, Shane Greenall and Kirstie James have been busy trying to get to the bottom of the murder of Paul Astley. Shane is a reporter for the St Helen’s Express, and has an open desk in the library every Thursdays. Born and raised in St Helens, he’s recently come back to his hometown after more than a decade stint down South. Kirstie is a young local single mum, and a frequent user of the library. She wants to make sure her three year old son, Hilton gets the best education he can. They usually never missed Read & Rhyme.

crime board

Kirstie and Shane have teamed up to get to the bottom of this mystery and in the last three weeks have started putting the pieces together. Go down to Central Library to check it out, and see if you can match wits with the killer.

Come down on the 6th of November to hear a Live Radio play when they invite all the suspects back to the scene of the crime…



The Body in St Helens Library ACT III

Shane and Kirstie are in the Reading Room, the scene of the crime. Thursday mornings from 10:30am have turned into a ritual meeting time for them. They stand back and admire a small section of the wall they have turned into a craft pin board of crime. Tacked on the board are photographs, post-its, print outs, Kirstie’s drawings, string joining up pieces – and in the middle, an image of Paul with a significant question mark next to him.
Shane wave his hands around the board, curling his fingers 5cm in front, trying to draw out answers. “So what do we know? Let’s tackle the hard evidence first.”

A clue!

“Well, let’s take the clue of the dancing saint.” Kirstie said tapping at the image tacked on the blue board.“St Bona is the patron saint of couriers. Paul sort of adopted her as a lucky symbol when he first started his haulage company years and years ago. Jason’s explained it to me. They’re not really a religious family but Paul went to church every Sunday and gave lots to the church.” Kirstie untacked the crumpled image of the martyr. The palm-sized image of a young girl clutching what looked like a sea shell to her breast looked far out into the distance. She had a wreath of laurels on her head, and flowing red robes over her shoulders. It was hard to make out any more details, as the faded image was tattered around the edges, all the corners blunt and a crease across the bottom.

“Didn’t make him much of a better man…” Kirstie trailed. “He wasn’t really explicit about it, I don’t think anyone outside the family knew about it. He might have been mocked for being superstitious. This looks so old, maybe 20 years? Maybe Paul had it in his pocket, or it feel out of his wallet? ”

Shane rubs the top of his short hard and pulls at the short strands. “Maybe the killer dropped it. Paul already had one on this key ring. Would be need two talismans?”

Kirstie brushes the hair out of her face and continues. “I’ve also talked to Michelle, I thought it was a bit odd that she would be so effected. She didn’t really know Paul, and I don’t think she would be the emotional type…”

MichelleKirstie thinks back to the conversation she had with Michelle a few days ago. She had been spending more time in the library, taking a break from trawling through newspaper articles on the microfiche when she came bumped into the younger girl crying in the landing between the first and second floor. She sat down next to her on the cold steps and put her arms over Michelle’s thin shoulders.
Michelle turns her face further into her chest and sobs again.
“Oh I’m fine, I’m so sorry, please excuse me. The tension, you see.”
Kirstie said softly “It’s been hard on all of us, don’t worry just let it out.” and squeezed her arms tighter round the distraught girl.
“It’s just so shocking! I still can’t believe it. Someone’s there, and then suddenly they’re not!” Michelle’s breathing had slowed down, and her blotchy face looked up into Kirstie’s understanding eyes. “I knew him you see, from a long time ago. I saw your board earlier, and it just struck me. I’m alright, but he gave me one a a photo of St. Bona the last time I saw him before here. And seeing that just brought up lots of memories.”
Kirstie tried to swallow her surprise and tightened her grip on Michelle’s arm.
“St Bona? When did he give you that?”
“Oh ages ago, maybe three years ago. I..I had a little I suppose you could call it an affair with him. That was such an age ago though, I’m different now, but you don’t forget people, you know? Don’t worry, I’m not still in love with him or anything…in fact I’m already seeing someone now. You might know him, the PCSO – Dave, who runs the police surgery. ”
Kirstie kept her arm on Michelle’s back. She looked better now, and was blowing the last of her nerves into a tissue.
“It’s not my business, don’t worry about it. I didn’t know Paul well, but Jason’s told me things. He could be the the most charming person when we wanted to be.”
Michelle looked up at her gratefully.
“I’m so glad I can talk to you! I knew you’d understand. It’s hard when you have to keep a secret. That’s what makes things with Dave so easy. I told him, and he’s been so nice about it.”

Shane makes some notes on his notepad while Kirstie tells him about this new revelation.
“Well, so another link to St Bona. The animation we saw was in the Children’s Room. That means the scene of the crime extends beyond these bookshelves. I’ve spoken to the film maker, and he said he found it under one of the tables there, and used it in his movie. Found it on Friday, the day after the body was found. Didn’t know it was a clue.”


Paul Astley’s autopsy report

Shane tacks another sheet to the board. “Now this is interesting. I managed to get a glance of the autopsy report. Tells us that death was caused by a single stab to the back, and that he probably bled to death.”
Kirstie looks astonished. “How did you find that out?”
Shane gives her a wink, “Let’s just say I know someone who knows someone. The knife went through his lower back, and hit his right kidney. The blade was left in the body, so there wasn’t as much blood as you’d expect. It was probably a strike from waist height, delivered by a right handed person, with some considerable force. Based on the height of the wound, the police looking at someone who’s around 6’2.”

Kirstie looks back to the board. “So we’re looking for a tall, strong right-handed killer. That should limit the scope of suspects right. And it’s a man we’re looking for?”

Shane screws his lips and says “I tried to pin my source down, but he says he can confirm the height, but not the gender. They would need to be strong though…”

Kirstie frowns. “I don’t think we should rule out any women yet. If I was angry enough, I’m sure I stick a knife in. Especially if I wanted him dead. Seems unlikely it was a stranger…”

“Well, considering he was in here, without signs of forced entry, it seems highly unlikely he was with a stranger. Also according to the autopsy, the contents of his stomach had icing sugar, frosting and sponge bread.”

Kirstie laughs and says “A cake? Before he came to the library?”

Shane says “No, that’s the funny thing. It wasn’t digested enough, he must have had a midnight snack. Maybe about an hour before he died.”
Kirstie looks thoughtful, “He had some pudding and then he gets killed? Suppose he never left the library. No one saw him leave and Jason doesn’t think he came home, although with the state of the house, it’s difficult to say…. we’re still trying to get in touch with Carol. Seems we just missed her – she’s off to another island, but I’m on the case.”

Shane beams at her. “On the case…”

Kirstie ignores him and continues with her speculation. “So maybe he had his last meal in the Children’s Room? There’s not that much room to eat in the reading room. But how did he even get into the library? Who would have keys? That’s the main thing right? Only staff?”

Shane chimes in, “Speaking of staff, I’ve interviewed them all, and the only one who’s story doesn’t add up is Beth Birchall, and let me tell you she’s a hard nut to crack. Tracked down a fellow who saw her leave the library quite late on Wednesday. Much later than usual.”


Newspaper clipping from the St Helens Chronicle, 1979

Kirstie jumps up and reaches into her bag, “Ah, forgot to add this to our board! Look at this!” She pulls out a photocopied article from a newspaper. “It took me forever and a day to find this.”

Shane chuckles “Good find! The St Helens Chronicle folded 10 years ago, so people forgot about it I guess. Perhaps that’s what Paul was looking for, and George didn’t want him to see the article next to it.”

Kirstie pins up the photocopy. “So Beth had something to hide…maybe Paul found out anyway, and she was upset? She has access to the library.”

Shane interjects, “But then so would Michelle, or most of the staff. I’ve asked around, the security is pretty lax around here. You just need the keys and the alarm code. They ground floor isn’t that difficult to get into.”

Kirstie starts pacing the room. “Paul doesn’t haven’t keys to get in, so he’s in the library maybe from closing time, around 7pm and never leaves. Maybe he never left because he wanted to be here when no one else was. To get into the archives when no one was here. Then he’d have all night to research.”

Shane shakes his head, “but he didn’t have keys to the Archives, he’d have needed someone else’s help. Someone with keys and the alarm code…”

Kirstie started counting off on her fingers “Someone from the library who would be willing to help Paul get into the archives? Someone who’s a friend of Paul. Who he trusted, enough for him to sneak in, or stay overnight here and share a meal with.”

Shane adds “Someone who knew about St. Bona, and what it meant to Paul.”

Kirstie finishes softly with “Someone he could take into his confidence…”

Shane picks up the conversation again. “Don’t forget Jason’s knife was used too. And Jason was only in the library on Wednesday, the day before Paul was killed. He’s only just been given that knife set that morning, so it’s most likely it was stolen then. Remember they had a big fight that afternoon.”
Kirstie bites her lip. “I know, Jason is still cut up about that. The last thing he said to him was what a horrible father he was…”

Hilton runs into the Reading room breaking up Kirstie and Shane’s musings.

“Look mummy! I made for you.” He proudly holds an sheet of paper with crayon marks.

Shane stands back, closes one eye, strokes his chin in the mock stance of an art critic and murmurs “Interesting use of colour.”
Kirstie blushes, “He’s going to be a great artist one day. He sees things differently to other kids”


Hilton’s colouring

Shane studies the child’s scratchings with narrow eyes again.
“You know, I have an idea. I’m reminded of a priest and his peas.”

Kirstie’s flush starts to recede at the change in topic. “You mean priestess or is it nun? I don’t think St Bona was even that.”

Shane looks up at the ceiling, “A different priest, and his experiment with peas.”

Kirstie looks puzzled “Ps? Like a word game?”

Shane grins with his eyes closed, his neck still tilted upwards. “Not the letter, the legume! You’re thicker than a green bank butty! No, here’s my idea…”

He leans over and explains his thought process. His wildly gesticulating arms forced Kirstie to duck and shift her weight every now and then.
“Anyway, that’s what I think.” he concludes, rocking back and forth on his heels.
Kirstie’s chewed her lower lip and mulls over the theory in her head.“But how would you prove it?
Shane models his hands into the shape of two claws and slowly draws them closer to form a enclosed circle. “Well, I think we need to step a trap.”
Kirstie takes a deep breath. “Like a …a Stroop trap! Catch the killer out. What we need is to get everyone together again.”
Shane claps his hands and rubs them together.
“A good old fashioned reenactment of the crime…”


The Body in St Helens Library ACT II

The Monday just past Jason had invited the two budding amateur detectives to Paul’s detached house in Rainford. Although Jason left home five years ago he lived 10 minutes drive away, with a spare set of keys he often used. His dark hair tousled and dark eyes sunken, he looked paler than usual as he pulled items out of a bag onto the table. “Here are his things, everything he had on him that night the police have released to me” he says, down beat. He had been questioned extensively over the weekend and looked limp as a dishrag. The three of them examined the contents carefully. “In his pockets were his wallet, phone, keys – none to the library, half empty packet of tissues, a few business cards, a stubby pencil and a sweet wrapper. He had on a watch, two rings and his reading glasses in his shirt pocket. He was wearing casual clothes, shirt, jumper, trousers and boots. His overcoat was folded and placed on a chair near his – body.“ Jason trips over this word but carries on. “His laptop bag was under his coat. There was a notebook and some papers in it, but the police are keeping that for awhile. At least I still have his computer. That was at home.”

Son of Paul

Son of Paul

“None of these keys are for the library?” Kirstie quizzes, reaching out to examine them closer. “Do you know what each key is for?” The chunky key ring looked expensive, as did the watch and phone. The keyring was a thick silver band threaded with a braided steel rope that held six metal keys, one automobile key and a small gold medallion engraved with a figure in robes and a laurel headdress. Jason nodded and said “I checked them all, just to be sure. They are all for the house or the office. Nothing out of sorts.”
He brushed his fingers over the objects and frowns, “How did he even get in there in the middle of the night?”

Chewing the bottom of her lip Kirstie tentatively offers “The murder must have let him in. Someone who had keys to the library. An inside job?”

Shane’s eye shine brightly “I’ve been hounding that angle. Seeing if Paul rubbed anyone the wrong way there. Remember, there’s more than the library in the Gamble. Social Care & Health, Central Services, Contracts, Finance Services, Local History and Archives…I hear he could be a bit ruthless in his business dealings.” Jason looks pained but says nothing.


Suspect A

Shane eyes the wallet, opens it and flicks through the contents. A few notes, credit cards and family photos spill out. Jason reaches and snatches it back. “Look, he wasn’t there to stir up trouble. He wanted to find out more about our family history, is all. He only went to the Archives, as far as I know. He’s been looking into family tree stuff. He caught the genetics bug a few months ago.”
Kirstie puts her hands on Jason’s arm. “You mean genealogy.”
“Yeah, whatever. If you’re looking for enemies, you should know he had some tiff with someone a year ago. Scrappy May. Check him out.”
Shane jots a few lines in his notepad. “What was the relationship between Paul and this Scrappy?”
Jason looks at this hands. “Um, well Scraps is a dealer. My dad found out some of his trucks were being used, and they had some run ins. And I umm, he was going to go to the police but at that time I was using.”
Kirstie put a hand on Jason’s shoulder. She thought back to the tough time when she was dealing with a two year old and Jason was trying to clean up. She was so proud with how Jason had turned his life around but it was too late for them.

“I think you should leave now.” Jason crosses his arms and looks away. The air becomes heavier and Kirstie motions for Shane to comply with Jason’s request. She walks Shane to the door and whispers “I’m going to stick around and help Jason sort out the house. He needs to arrange things for the funeral. Help him go through Paul’s stuff. His mum would do all this usually. We’re trying to reach Carol but she’s on a three month tour of India, hard to get in touch. Listen, why don’t you look into Scrappy and I’ll meet you later.”

Shane is nonplussed about his treatment, and thinks splitting up is a good tactic. He’d heard of Scraps, a known local wheeler dealer whose been rumoured to not be on the up and up. He gives Kirstie a little salute and walks away humming whilst trying on different headlines in his head for his next article.


Thursday morning find Kirstie and Shane once more in the library. On the surface it seems like the library has found its rhythm again, although slightly off-kilter. Almost all the computers are occupied, the old men have settled back into their favoured reading positions, the books and DVD’s are slowly travelling from behind the counter to trolleys to bookshelves. And the Children’s room is once again bright and loud with the sounds of learning. Kirstie feels safe knowing Hilton is with other toddlers singing songs about hungry caterpillars and pink pigs.
Taking up a corner of a desk in the iHub once again, Kirstie and Shane pool the results of their investigations into the death of Paul Astly. The unlikely partnership has not progresses along a smooth road, but they find themselves together again at the same time and place as a week ago.

Shane sips a coffee dejectedly. “Jonathan ‘Scrappy’ Mays is a dead-end. There might have been some bad blood between him and Paul, but he has a air-tight alibi for the night of the murder. We can cross him off”.

Kirstie clenches her pencil tighter. She’s started creating sketches of all the people connected to the murder, and was shading a few more lines into Scrappy’s beard. “Are you sure? I’ve heard a bit about him from Jason, but I’m not really sure what happened…”

Shane sighs, “The gist of it is there was some arrangement with drugs and what with Paul running a haulage company…but seems it’s over, and has been over at least a year ago.”

Kirstie frowns and says “But he could hold a grudge, right?”

“Yes, but he’s not really the literary type if you catch my drift. Besides, the air-tight alibi is just that.”

“You always suspect the person with the unbreakable alibi in detective stories.”

Shane smirked “Or the butler? I saw the CCTV footage of him at the racetrack, plus tickets. It’s not him. What about you, did you find any clues at Paul’s home?”

Kirstie shook her head. “No, it’s just a bit messy. Needs a good hovering, that place. I’ve been there a few times before but never upstairs. Piles and piles of laundry. Looks like Paul has been buying new clothes instead of washing after Carol went on her trip. Typical man.”

Shane smiles “Not too unusual is it?”

Kirstie looks at her illustration of Paul. She’s not sure she has captured his likeness. He looked too happy. “No, I guess not…except I didn’t know Paul liked purple so much. All his new clothes were really bright and colourful.”

Shane chuckled “Yes, it’s a bit like Cluedo. Professor Plum in the Library with the Dagger! I thought about spinning that angle – story of the century!” He pulls himself back to reality and says
“Okay, now I think we should find out what Paul was doing in the library. Poke into the Archives. Maybe it’s not about Paul, the man but maybe what he was doing in the library.”

Shane rubs his hands excitedly. “There are two people to interview, Beth Birchall and George Mason. Beth is the ”

Kirstie jumps in “one of the librarians. I know her. I don’t think she likes children.”


Archives Manager

Shane continues “Librarians generally don’t like people. She’s the Archives Manager. They hate people even more. Anyway, the other is George Mason, bald bloke who runs the family history group. Seems he’s been dealing with Paul for the past few months. He’s already been interviewed by the police of course, but wait till he gets the Greenall treatment! Tag along if you want to see how a professional works!”

Kirstie follows Shane out of the library and up the stair case to the first floor, trailing the wooden bannister up the steps. “I’ve gleaned his schedule, and he should be finishing up the meeting room for a group right about now.” The Archives and the meeting room are on the second floor. Signage directs them to take a left, along a narrow hall. Shane’s chunky frame obscures the view inside but Kirstie can hear scuffling sounds of chairs moving across the floor.

“Meeting’s over. Come back next week” said a rotund man with a shiny head said, walking around a table in the small room. He did not look up but his displeasure was communicated.

“Ah, not here for that. Are you George Mason? I’m Shane Greenall from the St Helens Express. Just wanted to ask you a few questions about one of your group members.”

George finally looks up with a tight smile. “What’s this all about then?” Shane steps inside the room. “Just following up on the tragic story of Paul Astley. I heard he was a regular member to your group.”
George looked down and started shuffling papers around.
“No, he never joined the group. Bit of a loner that one. Sorry, can’t help you. Now if you excuse me, I need to get this room clean.”

Kirstie pushes past Shane and enters the meeting room and starts to straighten the chairs.
“George – is it? I’m so sorry to bother you, but it’s really important to know what he was doing. He was my little boy’s grandfather, and it’s very hard for his son, Jason right now. If we only knew how he was spending his time here, it might help Jason come to terms.” She takes up a cloth lying on the side and starts to wipe the table.
“We knew he was researching something, just wanted to know what he was doing.”
George’s countenance softens slightly, and Shane backs away from his line of sight.
“Mostly looking through old local newspaper articles from the past 50 years. I volunteer to look after the public, so I have access to the room. Anyone can go but it’s not open every day as it use to be, just Mondays and Wednesdays. Budget cuts, you know. Nothing’s really like what it use to be.” George had sat down and let Kirstie take over tidying up.



She asks “Do you know what he was looking for in particular?”
George furrows his brows, “Anything with his name I suppose, but he was going about it with no method! Bothering poor Beth, what with everything she has to put up with. No, it’s not like it use to be. Open two days a week, no proper staff. Hardly no books in the library now, In a library! All computers and DVDs and screaming kids. Soon have rid of all the books soon, just get it beamed into your brain. What then!” Kirstie let the old man rant, while she finished tiding up. That’s what Miss Marple would do, she thought. Let them gossip.

“Pushy man, not to speak ill of the dead, mind. Wanted this and that and the other- all ASAP! Can’t say I was that helpful to him, but he did know how to rile one up! Just anything with a family connection to the name I suppose. I’m sorry for your loss, but I don’t know what he was looking for. You’re welcome to look through the archives of course, but not till next Monday I’m afraid.”

Kirstie thanks George and looks for Shane, but he’s not outside. She heads downstairs and back to the library where she sees him talking to Beth. Shane’s arms are wriggling around excited like puppies in a pen while the Archives Manager is shaking her head with her hands on her hips.
She catches the tail end of the conversation and watches sympathetically as Shane sighs, his disappointment shuddering down his whole body.

A few moments later back at the iHub, Shane recounts to Kirstie Beth’s denial of knowing Paul personally, or her speculation of what his activities might be.

Kirstie purses her mouth. “She knows who he is, I’m sure.”
Shane says “Maybe you should have a crack at her, you did well with old shiny back there.” Kirstie allows herself to be slightly pleased.

“But he doesn’t know anything! I suppose we could look through all the back issues of the St Helens Express looking for the name Astley?” Kirstie said. Shane slumps further into his chair and grunts.
“Could do I suppose. Online archives only go so far back as 2003 or so for my paper. Then there’s the papers that went under, or merged or renamed…”

Shane leans back, his back engulfing the seat. “Perhaps it has nothing to do with St Helens. Think about all the people who work here. Most of ‘em live in Liverpool or Manchester. Locals come to the library, but the people who work leave as soon as.” He’d returned to St Helens two years ago, and still found it difficult to get back into the slower rhythm of an over grown town.

A clue!

Dishearten, he starts to idly play with the computer in front of him. He’s clicking randomly on a webpage when Kirstie, who was idly watching the monitor jumps and shouts “St Bona of Pisa!

Continue to ACT III


The Body in St Helens Library ACT I

On a blustery Thursday morning, Kirstie James pushes an overburdened stroller across Victoria Square towards the smaller of two red brick Victorian buildings, past the WWI memorial up to the Gamble Building. Acclimatising to the rush of warm air inside, she adjusts her vehicle and passenger in the lift before the steel doors part to deposit her into a diminutive landing with two lime green doors, leading to the Central Library. Read & Rhyme will start in 15 minutes, and Kirstie is always one for punctuality, with grace of 10 minutes before her preferred time of arrival. It was important to get her little boy to learn early and often, there was no one else to do it with her.

She enters and sets down an energetic little boy with a light brown tousled hair.
“Hilton, no running!” she chides and notices, for the first time, that something is not right. The usual early morning hum is turned into a crackling with more than the usual number of adults rushing about. The main space of the library is occupied by a large rusty red cardboard structure, with the words TIGHT MODERN written alongside the side of the what should be a chimney, if it were a functioning building. The miniature construction blocks the view to the back, where tables with flat screen monitors flank the edges and corners. This temporary art exhibition has been up for a week, and is not what attracts Kirstie’s’ attention. She’s taken aback by the two strips of blue and white tape with POLICE repeated between the stripes that are stretched across the arches leading to the Lending Room. A policeman with his legs apart and arms folded stood to the left of the bust of Alderman Sir David Gamble Bart.

Kirstie flags down a young woman with large glasses.
“Michelle! What’s going on? Is something wrong?” The librarian looks at Kirstie with red rimmed eyes that looked even puffier magnified through her thick lenses.
“Oh Kirstie! Oh there’s been a murder! Just there!” Michelle waves her arm towards the Reading room.
“We have to cancel all our programmes for the day. I think it’s best you come back later. Sorry, I have to go – the police…”

Kirstie looks around and sees some familiar faces through the narrow arched entrance leading to the Children’s room. The most spacious area in the library has been turned into gathering space for the patrons and curious onlookers, the main hall empty except for people who looked extremely busy and doing very important work. Kirstie sidles up to the mothers, holding Hilton around her legs, to catch the conversation.
“..some maniac, no doubt! A body in the library, can you imagine?” Kirstie tries to find a thread, but everyone is talking at once.
“Say he was stabbed, the hall keeper nearly had a heart attack when he found him just lying there!”
“Did he have a heart condition? I heard it was a stroke or heart attack? No, it can’t be a murder! How ridiculous!” The cry came from a slight, older woman with short faded blond hair. Beth Birchall usually had the air of someone who always knows what is going on. It was distressing to see her out of sorts. “We must get everyone out of here, but they are saying staff can’t leave yet.”
“Maybe it’s a gang related thing? They use knives, don’t they?” one anxious woman whispers.
“Nonsense! They wouldn’t come into a library! Probably allergic to all them books.” someone else interjects.

A mother from the group notices Kirstie and puts a hand on her arm.
“Kirstie, they say its Paul Astley! You know him don’t you?” All eyes turn towards Kirstie and she feels a heat rising up from her chest to her face. Uncomfortable being the centre of attention, Kirstie murmurs
“Paul? That’s impossible! Who would want to kill him?”
There is a moment of silence before further speculation resumes.

“ …taken the body away, but they’re interviewing everyone…”
“..looking for the wife and son. Can’t find them anywhere – very suspicious don’t you think?..”
“Oh and I have my group later, and that’s been cancelled. No one knows for how long.”


Kirstie felt like she’d been hit with Hilton’s squeaky rubber hammer, her head enveloped in a fog of chirping and twirling. She slips away while people exchanged more theories.

She rushes to the official standing sentry. “Excuse me, can you tell me what’s going on?” The man in the bulky navy tunic looks down at Kirstie not unkindly and shook his head.

“I’m sorry but you’ll have to step back. This is a crime scene, that’s currently under investigation. You’ll be notified at the appropriate time, that’s all I can tell you.” He looks down at her but avoids her eyes.

“But you’re the police, come on, you’re suppose to help.” Kirstie puts an arm on man’s sleeve. “Just tell me who it is. That’s all. I think it’s someone I know.” Kirstie says, slightly panicked. She looks up pleadingly at the young man, who remains firm but gives her a strained smile. The young man gently but firmly removes her hand and says
“I’m sorry but you’ll have to wait with all the others. There’s nothing to see, the body has been taken away.”

Kirstie balls up her hands and shoves them deep in to her pockets.
“Look, I know your not real police, you’re just a PCSO! You’re suppose to help the community!”

The young man sets his grin tighter and says “It would be best for all if you left the library till further notice.”

Kirstie bends her head, massaging her temples. She feels a light tap on her shoulder and turns to look into the moist grey eyes of a stocky man with a grey face. His thick fingers are clutching a small notepad, and twirling a black ball point pen with the other.
“Look, I couldn’t help but overhearing; if you want to know what’s going on, perhaps I can help?”

Kirstie frowns at the man, pulling her arms tighter around your torso. “Aren’t you a reporter?” She asks.
The man cups her elbow and leads her across the room towards the iHub.
“We can talk in here, it’s quiet.” They sit on the swivelling chairs and the older man sticks out an open hand.
“Shane Greenall, St Helens Express. I have a desk here on Wednesdays.” Shane gestures in a general direction outside. Kirstie nods. She’d noticed the crumpled looking man before, who mostly seemed to just read the paper, looking on the verge of falling asleep. She had not given him much thought before. Her objectives during her visits to the library were always very focused, either for Hilton or to use the computers to go online. Now she turned her full attention to him.
“What happened? Is the dead man Paul?”

“They say a man was stabbed to death last night in the library. Nothing’s been confirmed but it looks like a Paul Astley, a local businessman.”

Kirstie whispers softly, “It’s true then? It seems unreal. Do they know who did it?”
Shane sits on a chair, riffling through his notes.

“Well, the police have the son for questioning. I’m not saying he’s a suspect, but lots of people heard him arguing with Paul yesterday, in the library.”

“That’s ridiculous, Jason’s not a killer. There must be some mistake. I know him. He’s a good man.”

Kirstie looked at Shane with distrust. “Look, do you know anything or not? I need to find Jason, this can’t be happening.”

Shane looks over Kirstie’s shoulder. “It looks like a crime of the personal type. He wasn’t robbed or beaten. Just a clean blade through the back. It must have been someone close to him.”

“It’s not his son. I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but he wasn’t a saint.” Kirstie thought of the worry Jason went through when he was being confronted by his father.
“Do you want to tell me more?” asks Shane. Kirstie looks skeptically back at him. “What do I need to do?”.
“First” Shane said rubbing his hands together, “I’d like to treat you to some coffee. Need to thank you for creating that distraction!”

Body-outline-redThe Lime Tree cafe is less than 5 minutes walk from the library, serving everything a proper local café should, with generous portions to boot. Shane and Kirstie sip from their mugs whilst Hilton squirms next to her, playing with a plate of chips. Kirstie sits with her arms folded and back straight, while Shane engulfs the tables with the huge swaths of cloth of his sleeves. He is telling Kirstie what he has found out so far, from the discovery of the body by the hall keeper at 7:30am to the police sending down detectives and the other officials, to the Detective-Inspector conducting interviews with all members of the staff in the library office room. Kirstie stops him mid way, looking at the photo from Shane’s phone, the one he managed to snap whilst she was arguing with the PCSO.
“I want to get something straight. I can help you with your investigations.”

Shane leans in closer. “I’d love to get your story too.”

“No, I mean I can help you find out the real murderer” Kirstie stated as a matter of fact. Shane gave her a smile that made her flush again.

“Are you talking about investigative journalism or detective work? What about your little one? Are you going to take him along when you’re tailing people?”

“No. I can talk to people. People here don’t like talking to police or reporters. They will talk to me. I’m local.”

Shane grins and says “The implication is that I’m not. Our very own Miss Marple? Want to try your hand at a little sleuthing?” Kirstie shrugs. “I just want to make sure Jason’s okay.”

Shane shrugs in return and continues with his story.
“Several people saw Paul come down to the library around 5pm, and was by the bookshelf looking up old maps. Jason came looking for him, perhaps 30 minutes later and what started off as a whispered conversation quickly escalated to a heated argument. That PCSO had to come and break up the fight. Many many witnesses to that.”

Kirstie’s frown furrows deeper. “That’s not really motive, though is it?”

Shane shakes his head slightly “Ah, but the knife he was stabbed with was a fancy chef’s knife. And it’s been mentioned Jason is a chef. Jason was seen storming out, but haven’t found anyone who saw Paul leave.”

Kirstie snorted “A trainee chef. Besides, it could have been any chef, he’s not the only one who cooks.”

“Well, then where was he last night? Where were you?”
Kirstie blushes “We don’t live together. We’re not together any more. I don’t know where he was last night, I don’t know where he is most nights.”

A chime breaks the silence and Kirstie fumbles for her phone. “It’s Jason.” She stares intently at her phone. “I guess I should text back…” Kirstie’s fingers dance across the screen, writing and sending messages.

Shane starts doodling on his notepad. Paul Astley, murdered, Jason, his son wanted for questioning, Jason also has a son, Hilton and now he’s sitting with the boy’s mother, a teenage single mother. Too bad for the little kid, Shane thinks, though it seems there wasn’t much contact.

The idea of children led his mind to toys, then games. Was there something that reminded him of this, something he’d seen or heard earlier? He thinks back to what the hall keeper said.
“Nearly fell over dead myself! Could have knocked me with a feather. That shiny blade, through that purple jumper, turning bits of it darker. All that blood….and in the library!”

Kirstie abruptly interrupts Shane’s reverie.

“He says he was framed. One of his knives is missing from his set.” she says, returning her phone to the table.

Continue to ACT II


Open call for Live radio play

WANTED: Talented Voice Actors!

The Body in St Helens is a four act play in the tradition of a Golden Age detective story. Acts I, II & II will be published online with Act VI presented LIVE on the 6th of November. Need are looking for wonderful voice actors to bring the story to life.

This is an open call to meet on the 21st of Tuesday evening. Everyone is welcome, no need to book.

In order to prepare for the play, here are the times and dates that you’d need to be able to commit to.

  • 21st Oct Tuesday 5:45pm – 7:45pm Rehearsal
  • 28th Oct Tuesday 5:45pm – 7:45pm Rehearsal
  • 4th Nov Tuesday 5:45pm – 7:45pm Rehearsal
  • 6st Nov Thursday 7pm – 9pm SHOW TIME

We will be meeting in St Helens Central Library iLearn room.

For more information contact


The Body in St Helens Library…

On Thursday morning a body is found in St Helens Library….Who is it? How did it get there? But most importantly, who did it?

Can you solve this crime? Over the spring and summer, the St Helens Detective Club have been busy cooking up a murder mystery whodunnit set in St Helens Library. Exploring the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and weaving in life lived in St Helens, this stone cold crime will be serialised over three weeks starting on the 16th of October with new chapters published every Thursday (23rd, 30th October). Readers will get a week to search for some evidence and clues left behind by the perpetrator. But don’t worry if you can’t keep up, there will be a LIVE RADIO play on the 6th of November IN THE LIBRARY where you can hear some of our characters and put forward your theories before the big reveal!

So get your little grey cells together to solve the mystery of The Body in St Helens Library.

Use #StHelensWhodunnit to air your opinions, get some clues, and match wits with the killer.

Are you interested in lending your voice talents for the radio play? We will start recruiting some talented actors around September to take part in the LIVE RADIO PLAY event on the 6th of November. For enquires please contact

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Detective Fiction for Science communication

People read detective fiction for various reasons, but the main one seems to be as a form of escapism. The interwar period where the Golden Age flourished was one full of turmoil and upheaval. In an essay written in 1944, Edmund Wilson puzzles over Why Do People Read Detective Stories? The writer is not a fan, and bravely attempts to read through know hits from Rex Stout to Agatha Christie. He’s not convinced but concludes that..

The world during those years was ridden by an all-pervasive feeling of guilt and by a fear of impending disaster which it seemed hopeless to try to avert because it never seemed conclusively possible to pin down the responsibility. 

The knowledge that the senseless violence and chaos will be rationalised and all put back in to order might be a comforting draw to fans.

The Detective Club is using the framework of a Golden Age Detective novel to explore the community of St Helens. This was a great way to get the members talking about the history of St Helens, examine the social, political and economic factors that make up the area. We always had in mind the idea that the crime novel is a tool to investigate the area we live in.

So, other than light-hearted entertainment or a device for enquiring into a subject, it’s great to see another use for whodunnits – science communication!

Science communication is  public communication presenting science-related topics to non-experts. Considering the pioneering use of forensics, medical knowledge from the detectives, and ingenious methods of murder (poison, home-made contraptions, explosives) from the criminal, it shouldn’t be too surprising.

I’ve come across a hand-full of scientist who’ve combined their specialisms and love of detective fiction to create a collection of blog posts pairing novels and a branch of science. They cover Golden Age favourites Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.

The Science of Mysteries: An Overdose of Strychnine (Deborah Blum) covers Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and gives the low-down on strychnine.

 Strychnine is a naturally occurring plant poison, a crystalline alkaloid found in the Strychnos family of tropical trees  and climbing shrubs. The best known of these plants is theStrychnos Nux Vomica tree from Indonesia; the hard, disk-like seeds of the tree are sometimes referred to as vomit buttons.

The Science of Mysteries: Shock, Trauma, and the First Real War (Ann Finkbeiner) looks at Sayers’s Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, which opens on Armistice Day. One of the murder suspects, Captain George Fentiman and aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey both suffer from what was referred then as shell-shock and now diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder.

At first, doctors thought symptoms like Fentiman’s and Wimsey’s were neurological, the result of the physical shockwave from bursting shells. Then when doctors discovered that not everyone with shell shock had been subject to shockwaves, they thought the symptoms were psychological and cropped up only in sensitive natures.

The Science of Mysteries: For whom the bells toll (Jennifer Ouellette) is another Sayers novel, The Nine Tailors which delves extensively into campanology, including a cipher coded by bell ringing patterns in the plot.

Back before the days of insta-communication, English communities relied on the tolling of bells to sound alarms and mark the passing of village residents. Sayers took her title from the number of times a bell will toll to mark the passing of a man: nine strokes (“ringing the nine tailors”), followed by a pause, then the slow tolling of single strokes at half-minute intervals — however many strokes required to mark the age.

So there you have it – detective novels as gateways to the sciences. There are more The Science of Mysteries posts below.