When I first started reviewing crime fiction in the late 1980s, I received a number of books published in the famous Collins Crime Club, an imprint astonishingly axed more than a decade ago. The Crime Club brand was a by-word for reliability – very few poor books appeared under that imprint, and a great many fine novels did. Apart from top writers such as Reginald Hill and Robert Barnard, the Crime Club was also a good home for mid-list writers, including the prolific and ingenious Martin Russell, who seems to have been forgotten in recent years – though he wrote some remarkably clever stories with many twists and turns. Russell wasn't great on characterisation, but he deserves not to be forgotten and I will say more about him another time.
Another reliable Crime Club author was M.R.D. Meek. I’d never heard of her before one of her titles arrived through the post, but I read it with considerable pleasure, not least because her protagonist, Lennox Kemp, had been a solicitor before becoming a private eye. It was quite obvious that Meek had a very good understanding of the legal profession – something that isn’t always so obvious in some of the books written about lawyers! I read several of them, and found them soundly plotted and very readable. Not in the Premier League of crime fiction, but decently placed in the Championship!
Meek was a member of the Crime Writers’ Association for many years, though I never came across her at any events. And it won’t happen now, because she died towards the end of last year. An obituary belatedly appeared in ‘The Times’ some weeks ago, which already appears to have disappeared from cyberspace, presumably as part of News International’s campaign to limit free online resources in favour of a paid-for model.
I was sorry to learn of Meek’s death, but her memory lives on. I still have my copies of several of her books and they are a fitting testament to someone who came to crime fiction relatively late in life, but produced good work for a couple of decades – no mean achievement.