The Sanford Mysteries

I’m noted for my sense of humour, which I describe as one-megaton. Most of the time, I can see the funny side of any situation. At the same time, I have a passion for mysteries; anything and everything from the supernatural to good old whodunits from the likes of Conan Doyle, Christie and Simenon.

Perhaps it was natural for me to turn my writing hand to light-heart mysteries, so-call cosy crimes, and back in 2012 I submitted the first such volume, The Filey Connection to Crooked Cat Books.

Filey introduced the world (or that part of it which reads my work) to the born-again teenagers of the Sanford 3rd Age Club, run by their triumvirate committee of Joe Murray, Sheila Riley and Brenda Jump.

Joe runs a truckers café in the fictitious town of Sanford, West Yorkshire, and the two women work for him. They are also, coincidentally, his best friends. Out of hours, they are the quickest wits of quick-witted amateur sleuths

Eight years on there are twenty volumes in the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery series, and a special.

The Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries

The travels and trials of amateur sleuth Joe Murray and his two best friends, Sheila Riley and Brenda Jump. The short, irascible Joe, proprietor of The Lazy Luncheonette in Sanford, West Yorkshire, jollied along by the bubbly Brenda and Sheila, but only his friends, but also his employees, all three leading lights in the Sanford 3rd Age Club (STAC for short). And it seems that wherever they go on their outings on holidays in the company of the born-again teenagers of the 3rd Age Club, they bump into… MURDER.

The Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries are published by Darkstroke, an imprint of Crooked Cat Books. All titles are exclusive to Amazon, available for free download to members of Prime.

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The Filey Connection

It’s summertime and the Sanford 3rd Age Club are living it up in the seaside town of Filey. But life is not without its problems for Joe Murray and his closest friends, Sheila Riley and Brenda Jump.

Was Nicola Leach’s death an accident or deliberate? Did Eddie Dobson fall into the sea or did he jump? What’s going on behind the innocent façade and closed doors of the Beachside Hotel? Where do the intimidating Irwin brothers fit into the picture, who raided Joe’s room and why did the mugger pick on Brenda?

Questions Joe and his sidekicks must find answers for is they’re to solve the mystery of The Filey Connection

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The I-Spy Murders

It’s August and Gibraltar Hall hosts reality TV show I-Spy with Brenda as one of the contestants. Her Sanford 3rd Age Club friends arrive to welcome her back after a week’s stay in the house

Inside, feelings run strong between the Housies. Arguments become heated. Then one of them is found dead. With cameras covering most of the house, no one could have gone near the victim without being seen. No one from the outside could have entered the house without being seen. It must be suicide. But Joe knows it was murder and he must persuade the police of that. It’s a complex and maddening puzzle for the Sanford 3rd Age Club.

Can they solve the impossible murder? 

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A Halloween Homicide

It’s the end of October and the Sanford Third Age Club are on one of their outings, this time to York, with an overnight stay in the haunted Palmer Hotel.

As the witching hour approaches, things begin to happen. A valuable necklace goes missing and a guest is found dead. Joe Murray and his constant companions Sheila Riley and Brenda Jump are in the thick of it once more. What is arrogant MP, Edgar Prudhoe, up to? How much does his prospective son-in-law, Callum McGuire, hate him? Is Deirdre Prudhoe really as drunk as she appears? What is the history behind Yvonne Naylor’s mangled hand? And where does Geoff Vallance fit into it all? With ghostly goings on at The Old Inn, the puzzle is cranked up several notches when one of the suspects does a runner and a second body is found.

A host of suspects. A range of motives. It’s a complex and maddening puzzle for Joe and his chums in this, the third in the STAC Mysteries series. Is the master detective up to it?

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A Murder for Christmas

It’s Christmas and the Sanford Third Age Club are living it up at the Regency Hotel. But on a snowy Christmas morning, there’s murder afoot, and it’s up to Joe, Sheila and Brenda to find the killer

There are so many questions to answer.

How much hatred flows round the hotel, what game is Jennifer playing, what is the meaning of the cryptic pictogram found near the victim, how does a long lost penny fit into it all and how many times will Joe have to search the hotel dustbins?

For the Yorkshire sleuths, it’s a taxing mystery, marinated in a yuletide atmosphere.

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Murder at the Murder Mystery Weekend

Happy New Year!

The bells ring out over the city of Lincoln, and at the Twin Spire Hotel, the Sanford 3rd Age Club celebrate with their customary enthusiasm. It’s the kind of party Joe enjoys; a Murder Mystery Weekend. A drama designed to tax his powers of observation and deduction.

But dark forces are at work in the background. How much does Robbie Kendrew hate his boss and his rival? Is Melanie’s interest in Joe limited to the performing rights for his cases? How did Gerry Carlin manage to seduce Wendy so quickly?

When there are not one but two killings in 24 hours, the line between reality and drama becomes blurred. Is life imitating art or vice versa? Working with the police, Joe, Sheila, Brenda and the gang uncover a complex web of deceit and skulduggery and it all adds up to one thing: It’s MURDER at the Murder Mystery Weekend.

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My Deadly Valentine

Valentine’s Day approaches and a lonely Joe Murray has his eye on the newest member of the Sanford 3rd Age Club, Letty Hill.

But when the Sanford Valentine Strangler strangler strikes for the fourth year in succession, Joe’s amorous inclinations are sidetracked. And he doesn’t have far to look for the prime suspect… it’s him.

A killer who leaves no trace, a public suddenly suspicious of him and a police office with a personal grudge against him, Joe is sure of only one thing… It’s MURDER at Valentine’s.

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The Chocolate Egg Murders


It’s Somerset for the Sanford 3rd Age Club and a busy charity weekend in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, and Joe, Sheila and Brenda are looking forward to a relaxing time.

But along with the chocolate for the Great Egg Hunt, someone has hidden a body, and eve before the rain stops, the STAC are in the thick of it. Threatened with violence as he tries to learn the identity of the bad-tempered redhead wandering round town, embroiled in blackmail and hidden personal histories, while the body count rises, Joe and his two companions struggle to make sense of what is going on around them.

With the Easter Bonnet Parade to come, it’s obvious these are no accidents. They’re MURDER… amongst the chocolate eggs.

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The Summer Wedding Murder

It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend off, attending a wedding in the Lake District, but it soon becomes a nightmare for Joe Murray. Not only has he had to shut down the Lazy Luncheonette for the weekend, but it’s intolerably hot and Brenda is in a bad mood and won’t say why.

And as if that’s not bad enough, the body of a photographer is found hanging by his own camera strap in a disused, derelict boathouse.

Who was Adam Pitman, what was his beef with bridesmaid Darlene? How well did the bride know him, what secret is the landlord of the Waterside Inn hiding?

Questions, questions, questions. And Joe is short of time to find the answers. It’s MURDER amongst the white lace and bouquets.

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Costa del Murder

A heart attack or not heart attack? No one is sure, but everyone agrees on one thing. Joe needs a relaxing break in the sun. Where better than Spain’s Costa del Sol?

And so to Apartmentos Ingles, where Joe, Sheila and Brenda meet the permanent residents of Little England. But all is far from content in this community of expats. Is Rita Shepperton really trying to blackmail Joe, or is she just tapping him for a hundred euros? Does Colonel Holgate really imagine the British Empire still exists, or is he putting on a class act? Is it Joe’s naturally suspicious nature, or do the residents of Little England all have something to hide?
When a body turns up in the pool, even the police believe it was natural causes, but when Joe digs into the secrets and lies of this small community, he becomes convinced that there was nothing natural about this death. It’s MURDER in the Mediterranean.

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Christmas Crackers

It’s Yuletide again and faced with a demanded writer, Joe, Sheila and Brenda must deliver tales of murder and mayhem.

Who slaughtered Santa? Who committed a felony on a ferry, topped a teller, killed a copper and did Lee really go gunning for a gumshoe?

In the background there is the Novel of the Year award and Joe is faced with finding another brutal killer.

Its Christmas, but not everyone harbours peace and goodwill, and for the three sleuths, it means… MURDER MOST FESTIVE.

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Death in Distribution

They do like to be beside the seaside.

With Lazy Luncheonette under threat of redevelopment, Joe Sheila and Brenda take time off for the STAC Easter outing to Blackpool, fun capital of the North.

But after a scrape with a drunken lorry driver on the motorway, Joe finds himself embroiled in a double murder at a parcels distribution depot where everything is done by the book. Confronted with obstinate police officers, reluctant witnesses and a tangled puzzle of personality clashes, Joe is driven to distraction trying to pin down the killer.

Hounded by a determined property tycoon, wooed by an amorous shop steward, Joe is sure of only one thing: IT’S MURDER AT THE MAIL ORDER DEPOT.

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A Killing in the Family

It’s the height of summer, the days are long and hot and there’s not a cloud in the sky. But these are dark days for the relocated The Lazy Luncheonette.

And then along comes Sir Douglas Ballantyne, a billionaire threatened with murder, and he wants Joe to investigate. Arriving at the Ballantyne residence, in the heart of Lancashire Witch country, Joe, Sheila and Brenda find that all is not happy families, but which of the sons, daughters and in-laws wants Sir Douglas dead?

When the old man is attacked and his life left hanging in the balance, Joe must tackle the closed ranks of the family in order to unmask a devilish and devious assailant. IT’S MURDER IN THE FAMILY

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A Theatrical Murder

The show must go on

Howling winds, driving rain, freezing temperatures. The New Year has come in with a nasty bite, but the Sanford 3rd Age Club brave the elements to visit Skegness for a performance of Hamlet, starring the granddaughter of one of their own.

But when one of the cast is murdered on stage, it’s a call to action for Joe, Sheila and Brenda. 

Shot or poisoned? Was the killing linked to drugs? Or was it related to a road accident in the dim and distant past. Does it involve the very public antipathy between the victim and star of a nearby pantomime?

With suspects who are all actors, how are Joe, Sheila and Brenda supposed to know who is telling the truth and who is lying? IT’S MURDER TREADING THE BOARDS

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Trial by Fire

A house fire on a sweltering summer morning comes as no surprise, but when a body is found in the ruins, the Sanford police soon have the prime suspect in their sights. Evidence mounts, an arrest is made, and Joe Murray is at his wits end before helps comes from an unexpected quarter.

How could all the evidence be wrong? There’s only one way. It was carefully constructed to point in the wrong direction and Joe and his partner in crime-detection must pull out all the stops to prove it.

The fourteenth Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery and it’s Joe’s toughest, most dangerous case yet.

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Peril in Palmanova

The Sanford 3rd Age Club are headed for the sunny island of Majorca and for Joe it’s a much-needed break. Denise has been killed in a car crash and he needs some serious stress-relief.

He has sun, sand and Sangria, but all is far from well. Was Denise’s death an accident or was she deliberately run off the road? Was that arrow meant for Joe? Who is posting threatening notes under his door?

The police in Spain and England pay scant attention to his rambling and as his paranoia grows, his friends in the 3rd Age Club rally round in a determined effort to fight the PERIL IN PALMANOVA

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The Squire’s Lodge Murders

The Lazy Luncheonette is in mourning for Joe. Even the draymen, who suffered the worst of his acid tongue, are in bereavement for the missing proprietor of their favourite café.

While the police are hot on the trail of his killer, Sheila’s nephew, Detective Inspector Howard Riley of Cambridge CID, arrives in Sanford with the sad news that his elderly mother has passed away in the Squire’s Lodge Care Home. Complications arise when Howard learns that his mother willed her estate to Squire’s Lodge in lieu of care fees… which have already been paid. When the members of the consortium which owns Squire’s Lodge are murdered one by one, suspicion falls on the senior director, Ward Finch. Is he really murdering his colleagues for his personal financial gain? Or is there someone else lurking in the background, bearing a grudge against the consortium? Taking on the investigative mantle of the late, lamented, Joe, Sheila and Brenda turn their attention to the murders, and find themselves followed wherever they go. Does Chad Milner have their welfare in mind, or is he threatening them?

They’ll need their wits about them, and the help of the Sanford 3rd Age Club if they’re to help solve… THE SQUIRE’S LODGE MURDERS.

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Murder at the Treasure Hunt

The Sanford 3rd Age Club are off to Whitby, hunting treasure. But some things have changed.

Joe no longer travels with them, preferring to join his lady friend, Maddy Chester, and meet up with the rest of the club at the Westhead Hotel. Sheila will not take part in the treasure hunt. She is harbouring a big secret, which she will not divulge even to her best friend, Brenda.

And all is far from well at the Westhead. On the verge of being taken over by the dictatorial Kim Ashton, she aims her acid at the guests, the staff, and even the organisers of the treasure hunt. Her partner and his son by a previous marriage don’t escape Kim’s vitriol either.

When a body is found within twenty-four hours of the 3rd Age Club’s arrival, a reluctant Joe, already driven to distraction cracking the cryptic clues on the treasure hunt, swings into action, bringing all his investigative skills to bear on the crime.

But it seems that this is the one murder which will defeat him… Or will it?

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A Cornish Killing

When no one else seems to care, why should you?

That’s the question Joe asks himself while the Sanford 3rd Age Club are whooping it at Gittings Holiday Park in sunny yet chilly Cornwall. Sheila is absent, and Joe and Brenda are sharing a caravan (but that’s all they’re sharing). The general manager is attracted to him, the park comedian is not funny – and the star sensation is a young singer who can’t sing. And to add to Joe’s woes, when a body turns up on the beach, he finds the local police inspector abrasive and suspicious.

Major thefts of electronic equipment, a complicated murder with a range of suspects and a Joe almost at the end of his tether as he tries to crack… A Cornish Killing.

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Merry Murders Everyone

And a Merry Christmas to you.

But all is not well in the world of Joe and his friends, Sheila and Brenda. Sheila is still unwell, Brenda is worried about her, and Joe is complaining of staff shortages at his busiest time of year.

When his builder is locked up for murder it only makes matters worse. But there are darker, more worrying events on the horizon when the life of a dear friend I apparently under threat.

Terrible traffic, sinister suspicions, curmudgeonly construction crews, bungled burglaries and the manslaughter of a mature moaner, wrapped up in Christmas spirit and sending the driving force behind the Sanford 3rd Age Club round the metaphorical bend, in a desperate effort to cry out… Merry Murders Everybody

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A Tangle in Tenerife

Clear skies, hot weather, calm seas… and a Gordian knot.

Not Great Britain, but the Island of Eternal Spring: Tenerife, where they’re about to suffer a visit from the Sanford 3rd Age Club. Things go wrong from the start. A stolen camera, a young couple crossing swords with a middle-aged man, a distressed courier, a pair of locals cheating at the card table, and can it be that Joe’s ex is trying to tempt him to permanently leave his beloved Yorkshire?

When a young man disappears, Sheila and Brenda are there to comfort his wife, but the peace and tranquillity of their holiday is disrupted further by the discovery of a body.

With the island’s volcanic landscape providing a spectacular backdrop, the unexpected arrival of a familiar face provides Joe with the final twist as he and his friends try to unravel…A Tangle in Tenerife.

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Tis the Season to Be Murdered

The gloves are off, the loins are girded Fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-la ’Tis the season to be murdered…

Has Joe finally met his match – a Yorkshireman even grumpier than him?

In wild, wet and windy weather, Joe and his nephew, Lee, turn up at Rough Riders Caravan Park for a pre-Christmas weekend away together with Lee’s wife, Cheryl, and son, Danny.

Immediately, Joe gets into a confrontation with park owner, irritable, failed artist, Arnold Chew, and within twenty-four hours, Sheila and Brenda arrive in time to learn that two men have been murdered – leaving Joe a suspect.

While Lee and Danny enjoy Scarborough’s Christmas offerings, Joe crosses paths with old friends and old enemies alike, but he’s urgently short of time to pin down the killer.

Is Brenda jealous of Sandra or concerned for Joe? Has Sheila recovered from the debacle of last Christmas? Has Sandra really changed her ways? What is the dark secret of Van Zero? And will Danny ever learn not to be quite so truthful?

’Tis The Season to be Murdered… A Christmas conundrum of the Joe Murray kind in the 21st outing of the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries.

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Confusion in Cleethorpes

The Sanford 3rd Age Club are on the road again and this time it’s the south side of the Humber Estuary and the pretty little resort of Cleethorpes.

As usual, it doesn’t take long for things to start happening; this time at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. A poisoning sparks Joe’s sense of intrigue, but when one of his members goes missing – apparently abandoning a disabled wife – the fireworks begin.

Why is the manager using a false name? How many different affairs are the Shoreline Swingsters involved in? How did George come by that bruise on his cheek, and why does Alma insist that Joe & Co mind their own business? And who is the trim blonde seen hugging Mort in a Grimsby shopping centre?

As tempers become frayed, Joe is almost at the end of his tether, and to make matters worse, his smoker’s chest is aggravating him further.

All in all, he and his two friends will be glad to sort out the… CONFUSION IN CLEETHORPES

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Murder on the Movie set

It’s the height of summer and Bonnie Scotland for Joe, Sheila and Brenda. Not that Joe wants to go, but TV megastar Carr Hanover enlists his help and is willing to pay handsomely for it.

Once there, Joe meets the determined yet alluring movie director, Mitch MacKechnie, who dismisses Carr’s fears as nonsense, but when one of the team is murdered and another disappears, Joe is drawn into a nightmare puzzle where everyone lives in fear of TV Mogul, Otis Kristiansen, and his non-disclosure contracts – and no one is willing to speak out.

Set in Inverness and on the shores of Loch Ness, with the fabulous Scottish Highlands as a backdrop, Brenda hobbles along on a busted ankle, Sheila lectures them on the history of the beautiful city, and Mitch’s attentions and the fresh Highland countryside offer Joe the only respite from a… MURDER ON THE MOVIE SET!

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A Deadly Twixmas

Christmas is over, New Year hasn’t happened.

It’s Twixmas and the Sanford 3rd Age Club are on their way to Blackpool for a few days of fun and frolics. But there are dark shadows lingering in the background.

Who is Emlyn Steele? Why does he claim to be Colin Jump’s brother when Brenda is certain her late husband never had a brother? How come Colin’s sister, Dorothy knows so much about Steele, and why does Dorothy volunteer so quickly to come to Blackpool? How far does retired Chief Superintendent Oughton’s knowledge extend?

A dark and bitterly cold December, a large and busy hotel, long-buried secrets coming out into the open, a detective inspector who doesn’t like Joe, and a flurry of murders.

It all spells out A DEADLY TWIXMAS.

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Tales from The Lazy Luncheonette Casebook

A clever substitution, a cup of tea (with or without?) in-flight chicanery, a hero’s return of the missing son, topped off with a celebration of the monarchy the Miner’s Arms.

We’ve heard about them before. Joe’s casebooks stand on the shelves in The Lazy Luncheonette, a free read for his customers while they enjoy the food.

And now as a celebration of the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, the twentieth volume is a collection of short stories from the early days of Joe, Sheila, and Brenda’s investigative efforts, in: TALES FROM THE LAZY LUNCHEONETTE CASEBOOK

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