The Midthorpes have a curious pedigree. They were originally designed as straightforward farce, the central premise being a hugely successful crime writer, Raymond Baldock, and his on/off relationship with the delectable Lisa Yeoman. Both were born and raised on the Midthorpe Estate in South Leeds, both went on to university and are successful in their chosen fields.
I was born and raised on the real council estate upon which Midthorpe is based, and it really is in so South Leeds, and it really was the pits. I don’t know if it still is, because I left Leeds forty years ago to move across the Pennines.
Halfway through the original title, Missing on Midthorpe, I realised that human alone wasn’t enough, and I turned into whodunits.
There are two titles in the series: A Case of Missing on Midthorpe and A Case of Bloodshed in Benidorm. They are heavy on humour, but the mystery is just as intricate as anything in the Sanford Mysteries.
Here’s a brief extract from Missing on Midthorpe.
Baldock has just come out of a local shop having lost an argument with the proprietor, whereupon Lisa came to his rescue.
Once out on the broad pavements of Midthorpe Avenue, while attaching the stamps to the envelopes, he quickly learned that he no longer knew where the post box was.
Shops lined either side of the road, from the fish ’n’ chip shop and newsagents opposite, to Haighs minimarket and the Midthorpe Uni-Stylist on this side. When he was a boy, the hair stylist had been a greengrocer and Haighs (run by the elder Mr Haigh) had been a sub-post office, outside which stood the required mailbox.
It was no longer there and worse, he could not see it anywhere.
Across the road, further on from the newsagents was the bank, where it had always been, flanked by a tanning salon and another takeaway. On this side, was a bakery, a branch of a national chain of bookmakers, and a butchers, beyond which was a small branch of a national supermarket. After parking his Mercedes, Raymond had been tempted to go in there, but when he glanced through the windows he saw Amanda Armitage filling shelves. He had recognised her, and he was certain she would recognise him. He did not want to be recognised, hence his brisk walk down to Haighs, where, curiously enough, it might have been more helpful if Haigh the younger had recognised him.
As matters stood, he owed a complete stranger almost three pounds, he couldn’t find the post box and he had no wish to chew on the humble pie required to go back into Haigh’s and ask.
Standing on the pavement, bathed in July sunshine, he caught sight of his reflection in the hairdresser’s window, and even to himself, he looked like a little boy lost. Correction, a little boy lost with a woman bearing down on him. His peripheral vision registered her shadow moving across the pavement and he turned to meet the woman who had come to his rescue.
Brown eyes under a dark fringe of hair, narrowed on him, her lips, tightly drawn, were ready to give him a piece of her mind, and as she approached, Baldock rehearsed his opening line, but it was with the feeling that she was not a complete stranger. He was sure he knew her.
“I, er… thank you for helping in there. I owe you three pounds.”
“Two pounds seventy-eight.” A stern, disapproving reminder.
There was something about those tight lips. Or was it the snug fit of her skirt and the delightful curvature beneath her shining white business shirt, both accentuating a body which was well looked-after. He frowned internally. He valued intellect over the physical, and there was a clarity in those eyes which spoke of someone above the Midthorpe average. Did he know her or was he imagining it?
“We won’t quibble over twenty-two pence. If you could give me a few minutes, I’ll go over to the bank and draw some cash.”
“I don’t have a few minutes. I’m late as it is. Largely thanks to you arguing with Ivan. You can catch me at the Health Centre. Counselling.”
He smiled knowingly. “Midthorpe did that to a lot of people.”
The brow furrowed, the lips drew tighter. “What?”
“Put them into counselling. As I said, I grew up here and—”
“I am the counsellor.” She interrupted. “Young Ivan may not recognise you, but I’ll bet his father would, and I certainly do.”
“Ah… Oh… You have me at a disadvantage. I feel I should know you too, but I can’t quite place you.”
Memories flooded his mind. “Right. Excellent. Of course I know you. We were the only two Midthorpers to make it to university.”
“From our year,” Lisa added. “You were a proper pain in the bottom then, Raymond. It’s nice to see that your fame and fortune haven’t changed you one bit. If you wanted to use a debit card, why didn’t you go into the supermarket?”
“I was going to, but I noticed a woman in there who I’m sure is Amanda Armitage, and considering her reputation, I thought I’d be less conspicuous in Haighs’.”
Lisa tutted. “Well, as young Ivan was trying to tell you, the post box is inside the supermarket. It caught fire once too often out here. So if you don’t want Mandy to recognise you, then turn up your coat collar. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
“Yes. Of course. Sorry. I’ll, er, I’ll drop the three pounds off at the Health Centre later.”
But Lisa was already gone, walking towards a red Ford Fiesta, the keys in her hand.
Baldock watched her shapely behind, wiggling as she strode to the car, where she bent to unlock the door. Lurid thoughts, prompting memories of teenage years when Lisa had been one of the most captivating girls on the estate, impinged upon his brain. He physically shook his head and frowned inwardly. There were times when he felt he had got close to her twenty years ago, but not that close, and he had not come back to Midthorpe to seek that which he had never found here as a youngster.
Keen to learn more? You can find both Midthorpe titles listed