I’ve become aware of Steve Adams while scouting talent for the Llandeilo LitFest in April. Although it didn’t work out for Steve to be part of this year’s festival, I have to share my thoughts on his amazing book.
If you’re a fan of “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher” (like I am) then you will no doubt love this one. In the tradition of a post-morten examination of a clsoed case it examines an intriguing, yet unsolved murder case in Carmarthenshire, in the 1920s. For us in Llandeilo this is particularly interesting as we’re not far from the scene of the crime. The local flavour works for residents, but also for those who know Carmarthenshire.
The author’s background as journalist comes in handy, making for a very smooth and compelling reading of the case and court details. Giving enough detail and facts but knowing where to summarise to not lose the reader.
Before I continue, here is the blurb:
“The murder of God-fearing, bible-quoting, partially deaf Thomas Thomas at the branch of Star Stores he managed in Garnant, South Wales has remained an unsolved mystery since it happened in 1921. His body was found on the morning of Sunday February 13th, his head smashed, his throat cut and with a stab wound to the stomach, any of which could have killed him. Over £126 was missing from the store safe, yet there were oddities about the attack which suggested this was more than a robbery that went tragically wrong: Thomas had been gagged with cheese, and there was no tear in his trousers, shirt and waistcoat above the stab wound. What circumstances could explain these things? Garnant was in shock, and Scotland Yard arrived in the form of DI George Nicholls. A number of suspects were identified but none seemed to have the telling combination of motive and opportunity. Despite the expertise of Nicholls the case was eventually abandoned and the killer’s secret died with him. Until now. In classic cold case fashion journalist Steve Adams’s extensive researches have finally identified the killer, who is revealed at the end of the book, after a thorough reconstruction of the murder and the subsequent investigation. This is the story of a terrible crime in an almost archetypal Welsh mining town. It was a crime symbolic of a turning point in early twentieth century Wales, as the coal industry declined and its recently assembled townships came to terms with their uncertain futures and sought new identities”
As is often the case with criminal investigations, some important information can only be obtained or comes out after the trial, which is the big selling point of this book to me.
Despite this being non-fiction, there is a marvellous sense of suspense and mystery permeating the book. Even though we follow the court proceedings with the eyes of someone with a distance, there is an intimacy with the case that is very skillfully done. Accurate research and thought-through presentation thereof guide the reader through the complex case and its many flaws and uneven parts. You can often see things clearer in hindsight, and that is what the book benefits from.
Unlike many other books in the sub-genre, this one feeds only relevant information, not overloading us with showy details of research that intends to reassure us that all is as written. With Steve Adams, you never doubt that. This is a great writer with a top story that also manages to give an authentic feel of time and place, making it an important piece of history and heritage writing also. Highly recommended.
Get the book at Seren https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/murder-star-who-killed-thomas-thomas