Tuesday, 15 October 2013

An English Detective Comes to Jersey

In 1991, the author John Penn wrote a book called "A Knife Ill-used". It was one of a series of books featuring his popular detective Dick Tansey, a Chief Inspector in the Thames Valley police.
John Penn is in fact a joint pseudonym of Palma Harcourt with husband Jack H. Trotman. Palma Harcourt also wrote mystery thrillers under her own name, and Goodreads  says that she was a Jersey author, born on January 1st 1901, who died on December 2nd 1999.
Curiously though, although she has a number of books published both in her own name and under that of "John Penn", she seems to have been largely unknown in Jersey. If anyone has any further information about her or her husband, I'd be very interested to know about it.
However, her Jersey credentials are strong, not least because of the section in "A Knife Ill Used" when Dick Tansey, looking for clues, comes over to Jersey. Here's an extract of the visit to Jersey:
Inspector Dick Tansey comes to Jersey
by John Penn
Tansey spoke to his own Chief Constable in Kidlington, who readily approved a visit to Jersey and promised to arrange matters with what appeared to be  called, oddly enough, the States of Jersey Police Force, headed by a Chief Officer and not a Chief Constable.
Travel was the next question, and Tansey was surprised to learn how simple that would be. Obviously going by boat was not on the cards, both because of the time element and because of Hilary's reluctance to undertake a lengthy seven-or eight-hour sea trip. However, there were frequent flights to Jersey from Eastleigh Airport near Southampton where, as Inspector Warwick pointed out, parking facilities were very adequate. The necessary reservations were easily made. The return journey from Fishbourne to Portsmouth was comparatively smooth, and the trip up the Motorway to Eastleigh was uneventful. So was the short flight to Jersey, where they were met at the airport by a plain-clothes officer, who introduced himself as Detective-Sergeant Boulanger.
He was a fair-haired, blue-eyed man in his early thirties but, he assured them at once, he was 'no relation of that Sergeant Bergerac-if you watch that television series'.
'We do sometimes-and enjoy it,' Hilary said. 'But we rather doubt if a detective-sergeant's life here is so dramatic-or so romantic,' Tansey added.
'It has its moments, sir,' said Boulanger, straight-faced. Then he grinned. 'We've booked you in at the Hotel Pomme d'Or in the middle of St Helier. You'll find it very comfortable and convenient. A hire car's being delivered there for you after lunch. I'll leave you a Perry's Guide.'
'A what?'
'A Perry's Guide. Perry is a Guernseyman who's done more to show Jersey people the way round their own Island than anyone else. It's a little book of excellent and extremely accurate road maps. All our patrol cars carry them. You'll find it essential.'
`Really? On this little island-what is it, about nine by fve miles?'
Boulanger was amused. Just about, sir. It seems small all right, but the longer you stay here the bigger it gets. And the lanes buried in the country parishes are like a maze. You'll soon find out.' They had descended a hill and had turned on to a narrow undistinguished road, which suddenly, at another crossroads, became a dual highway, with the sea on the right-the only such highway in the island, according to the Sergeant. Here Boulanger increased speed, but still drove quite slowly. When Tansey commented, he said, 'There's an all-Island speed limit of forty miles an hour, sir, and in some places it's thirty or even twenty.'
Almost as soon as they had accelerated they were stopped by traffic lights at a complicated junction, and looking to the south they saw a massive building rising from the sea.
'That's St Aubin's Bay, and the building is Elizabeth Castle, where Sir Walter Raleigh lived when he was governor of the island,' Boulanger explained. 'It's a museum now, but you can get to it by amphibian at high tide or by walking across a causeway when the tide's out. You should visit it if you have time. it's a terrific place if you're interested in history.'
The lights changed and they moved forward again, reaching their hotel very soon afterwards. Sergeant Boulanger insisted on showing them in, and arranged to meet them at police Headquarters during the afternoon. He gave them detailed instructions on how to find the place, and wished them a cheerful a shot, leaving them with the famous Perry's Guide.
'A pleasant chap,' said Dick Tansey as they were shown up to their room, which overlooked a busy traffic roundabout and a harbour. 'But what do you think his last words were?'
Hilary laughed. 'I wondered myself for a moment, but I imagine it's the Jersey-French for a bicnt t,' she said.
'Of course,' said Tansey. 'Boulanger-it's French, probably a Jersey-name. He must speak Jersey-French. I suppose quite a lot of people here do. How intriguing!'
`Ye-es.' Hilary now sounded a little doubtful. `You don't think he was pulling our legs, do you? Can the police Headquarters really be in a street called Rouge Bouillon-Red Soup?'
Tansey had been studying his Guide, which included a town plan of St Helier. `It's here all right,' he replied. 'It seems to be part of a kind of ring road around the town. It should be simple enough to find.'
Hilary's doubts were finally resolved when after lunch they drove up Rouge Bouillon and discovered their goal-a complex of buildings almost opposite the central fire and ambulance stations. They were greeted by Sergeant Boulanger, taken to meet an officer of Tansey's rank who was head ofJersey's CID, and then introduced to the Chief Officer. Both offered any assistance in their power.
Finally Sergeant Boulanger showed them around the Headquarters, and explained the complicated policing arrangements in Jersey. Dick and Hilary were fascinated by the combination of dual forces-the paid States of Jersey Police, and the voluntary non-uniformed honorary police elected by the residents of the twelve individual parishes.
Tansey had been unwilling to be totally frank about their real mission on the island, and was relieved that their formal visit had been little more than social.
The Chief Inspector, though he had enjoyed the afternoon, was very aware that from a professional point of view he had achieved nothing; he was no nearer finding a more credible explanation for Pauline Brune's death than when he had left Oxford. He wondered how he would be able to produce a remotely adequate report for his Chief Constable back in Kidlington, and began to wish that he had never
listened to Hilary's idea of trailing around the offshore islands of-Britain. At present he was neither making progress with the Faudin case, nor enjoying his much-needed holiday
But before they left the Headquarters, Sergeant Boulanger took them into a small office and invited them to sit down while tea was brought. He said, `We haven't been exactly idle on your behalf, sir, in the short time we had. We were told you were interested in the story of an English boy called Colin Courtland who died when he was on holiday in Jersey in 1947, visiting relations, and that you were trying to trace any living relatives.'
`That's correct, Sergeant, but we don't want any publicity if we can avoid it.'
Boulanger nodded his understanding. `I'm afraid there's no one in Jersey of that name. Of course, 1947 was a long time ago.'
`Yes,' said Tansey wearily. He was growing bored with this comment.
`And we were told the boy died of pneumonia, which was hardly a police matter, but would have meant an inquest. The hospital should have a record of his death, if they can trace it. However, I've been giving the matter some thought, and I guess the most useful step would be to consult the files of the JEP. I haven't had time to do this myself, so-'
`The what?' interrupted Tansey.
`Sorry, sir. The ,Jersey Evening Post. It's our local daily newspaper, and it comes out every afternoon except Sundays. The story would certainly have been reported there, and any connection with Jersey relatives would have been mentioned for sure.'
`They were publishing as far back as 1947?' Tansey asked, and regretted the question as soon as Hilary gave him a reproachful glance.
`Sir,' said Sergeant Boulanger rather proudly, `the JEP started operations in 1890, and has continued ever since, even during the Occupation. I believe it has almost complete files, though some may have been microfilmed. 1947 should present no problem.'
`Right. That sounds a splendid idea, Sergeant. How do we get to see them?'
`The offices are at Five Oaks, and the records are there too. It's just north-east of the town, and I've made an appointment for you to go up there tomorrow morning at eleven to have a word with the editor. If that's not convenient I can easily change it. Incidentally, I warned him about the months you were interested in, but I didn't tell him why, though I know you can rely on his discretion.'
'Thanks a lot. Eleven will be fine. That's a great help,' said Tansey, relieved that the trail was not necessarily yet dead.

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