The Melin Murder by Liz Wildwood

Book covers for Liz Wildwood's novels The Melin Murder and The Haford Murder

Bio from Liz Wildwood

I am a British author who writes mysteries with female protagonists, like Teema Crowe. Teema sprang full formed into my head in 2021, sitting in her rented caravan, with her life in pieces. I couldn’t not write her story. Writing about queer women characters means the stories are often very close to home. I draw on my own experience as a woman as well as a queer person. These books also draw on my life in Wales, a country I adore, and which Teema comes to love. But my characters have to follow me around, and I’ve just moved to Brighton, so expect some stories from there in future (though I won’t be cutting my connection with Wales). The Melin Murder features a few of the settings and characters from my Ripley Hayes books, but as one of my friends says, “Teema leaves them for dust”.

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Passage from The Melin Murder

The first time I saw Harry, he was shaking a basket of chips in a vat of hot oil. He looked as if he knew what he was doing — lifting the basket, shaking it hard and plunging it back in with a sizzle that made me drool. Behind the warm glass cabinets, the staff moved in a steady dance around each other, frying, taking orders, serving and wrapping. Calls of Two Fish, Salt and Vinegar and More Jumbo Sausages made a wallpaper of sound until I got to the head of the queue.

The second time I saw him, the shop was silent. Harry was lying face down in a pool of oil, with a knife in his back, and I was on my arse, next to him, holding on to his legs for dear life.

It all slid very quickly downhill from there.


The response to my 999 came from a thin-faced PC, who must have been recruited before the memos went round about innocent until proven guilty, and racism is not tolerated in this service. Or possibly he couldn’t read.

By the time he arrived, my clothes had absorbed the dirty, stinking, chip oil which was coating the floor where Harry lay. I could taste it on my tongue and the smell filled my nose. Urgh. The PC took one look at me, and one look at Harry, and had me in handcuffs before I could speak. Unlike me, he had some kind of magic boots so his feet stayed under him as he dragged me out. The only good thing was that he didn’t want me in his car, soaking his seats with oil and spreading the smell of yesterday’s chips. He settled for pushing me around and calling me names. Racist names under his breath. A crowd started to gather and chatter in a language that must have been Welsh. I started to cry. My coccyx hurt like hell where I’d landed on it after slipping in the oil, my hands were behind me in handcuffs, and everyone was staring at the tall skinny boyish woman with spiky black hair and pale brown skin. If I’d been in the crowd, I’d have stared too. I must have looked guilty AF.

The area outside the chip shop would have been pleasant in any other circumstances. It was paved in slabs of warm-coloured stone, the surrounding buildings had a slightly medieval look, and the general ambiance was of a well-cared for, prosperous country town. There were signs in Welsh and English to places of interest. But I could hear the looky-loos mumbling about me, smell the sweat on PC Thin-face, and feel the handcuffs digging in to my wrists if I wriggled.

A white, dark-haired policewoman, in uniform, but without all the gear hanging off her, not much older than me, but smaller and much more curvaceous, walked straight into the middle of the crowd and got in the guy’s face, asking what he thought he was doing. She was instantly my favourite person. She was angry, and in charge. If I hadn’t been in handcuffs and coated in oil I would have cheered.

“PC Kelley, move these people,” she indicated the nose-aches all around. “Do it,” she said, when he started to protest.

“I found her with the body and a weapon,” he said, accurately if not fairly.

“Holding a weapon? Threatening you with a weapon, PC Kelley?”

“The weapon was in the victim,” he mumbled, “but she must have put it there. Might be terrorism. I mean, she’s …”

“Terrorism,” she said flatly. The contempt rolled towards him in waves.

He opened his mouth again, and she looked him up and down. He seemed to shrink. She raised her eyebrows.

“No, ma’am, yes, ma’am, I’ll ask people to move on ma’am,” he said and moved away to start clearing a space around the chippy. She looked at his back and her look said gotcha. She smiled in a way that boded ill for the thin faced PC Kelley.

Then things all started to happen at once.

The woman came over to me and introduced herself as Inspector Sophie Harrington.

“I’ll take those handcuffs off if you tell me who you are and why you’re here.”

“My name is Teema Crowe. I’m a process-server for a Manchester law firm. I wanted to talk to Harry, and when I opened the door to the shop, I saw Harry with the knife in his back, I jerked backwhen I saw him and fell in the oil on the floor. Then I slid on my arse until …”

She removed the handcuffs. No handcuffs was a big improvement. “I called 999 because Harry was dead,” I said, swallowing hard.

“Did you touch him?”

“Not deliberately. I kind of slid next to him, and when I tried to stop myself,” I mimicked my flailing arms, “I, um, grabbed him.”

“And you knew he was dead?”

Inspector Harrington hadn’t seen Harry. Or the ginormous knife sticking out of his back, or the way he didn’t move when his leg was grabbed by a strange brown woman sliding towards him on her arse. I was going to have the image of the body on the oily floor, in my mind’s eye for ever. He was lying on his front, a big man, in jeans and a navy fleece, with chunky black work boots on his feet. I could see the soles, worn down on one side of the heel, one with the bottom of a drawing pin showing dull gold. The room was cold, all white tiles and stainless steel units, the kind of place where a big, black-handled knife would fit right in. I’d been far too close to that knife, seen the silver rivets in the handle, and the half inch of sharp blade that hadn’t penetrated Harry’s back. Seen how Harry’s clothes had closed around the knife. Seen the blood pooled on the floor, almost invisible against the dark red vinyl tiles. Seen the five gallon can of used oil tipped over behind the door, ready to catch the next person who came through.

The door had opened as I knocked. No signs of a break-in. No dropped handkerchiefs, or cigarette butts. No suspicious footprints, or the sound of a unique engine driving away. Just a cold, bare room, covered in oil and a man lying dead in the middle.

More police cars arrived, and a van with people who jumped out and started donning paper suits, masks and bootees before setting off round to the back door of the chip shop.

“Warn them about the oil,” I said to the Inspector, and to her credit, she did.

When she came back she said I’d need to give them my clothes, which was totally fine with me, except that the oil went all the way through to my knickers and I wanted a shower to get rid of the smell. I wasn’t happy about swapping my oil-soaked garments for a paper suit, and no shower. On this, there was no compromise, but she was so nice about it that I agreed, and she took me to the police station in her own car. With a plastic sheet over the seat. There were bits of paper stuck to my jeans, and I peeled them off as we drove. I didn’t know what to do with the oily shreds, so I just held onto them.


The police station was like every police station everywhere. Institutional, peeling pale blue paint, marked with scratches and graffiti, scrubbed clean where it needed re-painting. Chewing gum was ground into the upholstery and the battered carpet; one day they’d be replaced with tiles and plastic furniture. A scratched acrylic screen and an air of hostility kept members of the public distanced from the officer on duty. I wouldn’t have wanted to be there as a victim of crime. Door buzzed open and the inspector led me through into a corridor with doors labelled Interview, Medical, or just numbers, where the decor was still battered but cleaner. The inspector called someone and I got paper knickers and a grey track suit, so I was still smelly, but at least I was warm. I washed as much of the oil off as possible in the washbasins in the loo, shoving the bits of paper in my pocket, and started thinking about what I was going to say.

The interview room was exactly what I’d expected. Dark, institutional and unfriendly, and about to get very tricky.

1 thought on “The Melin Murder by Liz Wildwood”

  1. Allan Valgemae says:

    Great beginning for the book. I look forward to reading it in print.

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