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Claire Gradidge Books In Order

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Publication Order of Josephine Fox Books

The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon
Treachery at Hursley Park House (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Conflict of Interests (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Claire Gradidge is an English writer of historical mystery books best known for her Josephine Fox series. She was born and spent her childhood in Romsey. Gradidge has always been a storyteller from childhood. As a child, she would make up tales for her toys to act out. Later she would write books for self-expression and entertainment, but her dream of getting published never dimmed.

Gradidge graduated from the University of Winchester in 2009 with a bachelor of art degree in creative writing. In 2018 she had her Ph.D. in creative writing. The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox, initially titled Home to Roost, was the ingenious element of the author’s Ph.D. study. Claire has worked as a nurse and spent years as a stay-at-home mother. And since she was determined to do whatever it took to get published, she joined Adult Education Writing classes. She became a subscriber to the Writer’s News (Writing Magazine) and joined and attended support groups and writing workshops.

Gradidge spent more than thirty years trying to get published, with each time her manuscript getting rejected more than she could care to count. She has lectured at the University of Winchester working as an associate professor, has had short fiction and poems published in Vortex, South, and Orbis, and has been married for more than 40 years with two sons.

The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox is a historical mystery novel and won the Richard and Judy Search for a bestseller competition. Madeley and Finnigan praised the author, acknowledging her as a compelling new voice while crediting the book’s main character as one who forgoes the traditional mores of the time in a well-researched story of wartime Britain.

The first in the Josephine Fox series is set in the wake of the Second World War in the small town of Romsey. It’s an atmospheric thriller novel with two mysteries at a feisty heroine at the core of the two mysteries. Josephine has not visited her home in nearly twenty years, but after surviving the Blitz and witnessing her mother’s killing in London, she is eager to discover who her birth father is. Her mother’s dying response to a story in the local Romsey newspaper reveals that Jo’s father lives in the town. Jo was raised by her grandparents and banished from her village in her teenage years by her grandfather. Illegitimate Jo returns to find the answer to a mystery that has tormented her for most of her thirty-nine years. She scours the newspapers to compile a shortlist and brace herself for her explosive grandfather’s wrath.

Arriving to find the village of Hampshire healing from the blast of a local inn, the rumor that one of the eight deaths was an unknown person gets tongues buzzing. The coroner and childhood friend of Jo, Bram Nash, immediately begin seeking to determine the identity of the body of a young woman found in the cellar unscathed by the blast. With her lungs being clean and the ARP registry failing to indicate where she resided, he refuses to accept what seems to be a murder as a war-related death. Who was she, how could she have escaped scrutiny in the little town, where was she headed? Bram worries about a cover-up since no one is willing to speak, and he has mixed thoughts about hiring the fiery Jo as his secretary, but being an outlander himself, he feels a sense of sympathy with her.

Jo’s methods for determining her origins and defending a young lady without a voice are remarkably inventive. Her persistence and aggressive demeanor, along with Bram’s prudence and their findings, present a picture of a little community that refuses to share its secrets without a struggle. Not only is Jo an outsider, but Bram’s Jewish mother and deformity also place him on the periphery of the community. Although their initial reluctance to work together gradually melts, they refrain from proclaiming their love or relying on a simplistic romance subplot.

Gradidge fills in the background facts of Jo’s relationship with Bram and later her marriage life as the story progresses. This is a crucial element in why the novel is so intriguing. Her stubborn attitude and reluctance to allow her paternity or marital status to define or restrain her will have you fist-pumping and battling for her at every turn. This story is narrated in the first-person by Jo and in the third-person by Bram. Although their individual actions happen simultaneously, the contrast in tenses makes it clear whose perspective is being conveyed.

The author skillfully crafted an authentic portrayal of small-town life during World War II and the steady escalation of tension as the main characters probed the death of the teenager. The hurdles they encountered, in a town committed to preserving its secrets, as they fought to ascertain her identity, find her murderer and seek justice for her were well depicted.

The portrayal of Jo’s personal struggles as she went on her relentless journey to ultimately find her father’s identity convincingly conveyed how unsettling it is to lack complete knowledge of one’s roots, to forever feel as though a piece of oneself is missing. It also demonstrated that once the truth is known, some modifications that must be made and internalized may not be simple.

The second book in the Josephine Fox series takes place two years after the events in the first book. Things have been relatively slow in Romney. We find Jo recruited unwillingly by some government agency to work covertly at a local home doing some top-secret war assignments.

A young man is discovered dead, allegedly drowned in a pond while drunk, holding what appears to plan. The government is keen to establish whether the young man was working alone and who needed the plans.

Back in Romney, we meet Bram. He’s visited by an old wartime friend, a man who saved his life in the trenches during the First World War. The young man found dead was Bram’s old-time friend’s son, and rumors are that it was murder. The man believes his son was never a traitor and never drunk excess, especially when on assignments. Instructed by the government to keep off from Romney and more from Bram, Josephine can’t help but discover their investigations are similar and will need two brains combined to get to the bottom of everything.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Claire Gradidge

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