A woman murdered. A Crime unsolved. A mystery that lasted a century. Andrew Nicoll’s book The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne resurrects the 100 year old story of Jean Milne’s death, bringing in new evidence to show a shocking tale of class division, money, sex, lies, betrayal and murder. It’s also, luckily for you, out this week (July 15th)! You can read more, and get the book, via Black & White Publishing. For the blog tour, Andrew has written a really interesting guest post, so read on!
Poor Jean Milne was murdered just along the road from where I live, a hundred years ago. A hundred years sounds like a long time but, really, it’s the day before yesterday.
Both my grandfathers fought in the Great War. They were already in their teens and old enough to be flung in the mincer when Jean was killed. They must have read the same newspaper reports I read when I was researching the book. And I met my grandad. I held my grandad’s hand. I have a direct contact with the battlefields of the Somme and the world of Jean Milne and, when I was born, there must have been many people, here in Broughty Ferry, who could recall what happened to her.
I grew up knowing her story so, when the police files fell into my lap, how could I NOT write about it?
And reading the files, I found my home town coming back to me from a century ago, from my boyhood, to yesterday and today. Chief Constable Sempill’s mock-baronial cottage with its funny little turret is still standing in the park along the road – I thought about buying it once. The police station where he worked is in the street where I live. The burgh halls, where the Provost of Broughty Ferry used to sit, where the councillors used to meet, where the baillies doled out justice is right next door. The local pipe band meets there for practice. My sister held her 21st birthday there. Broughty Ferry’s minor criminals must have seen the stained glass window of Portia from the Merchant of Venice on their way to judgement. It is still on the stair. Mr Rogers, the photographer who took pictures of the murder scene, had his studio just along the road. You can buy his portraits on eBay. You can see the faces of the people he knew, people who still haunt my streets.
If I go to my back gate, I can see the cottage where the sister witnesses, Ina and Jessie, lived in respectable poverty. The grandson of the man who discovered Jean’s body stays about 200 yards in the other direction and, when I take the bus to town, I can look down into the garden of Jean’s home, her impossibly grand mansion now converted to a nursing home.
I wonder if the old people there know what happened there? They will now.
I’ve lived in the Ferry all my days. It never ceases to amaze me that other people would want to live someplace else and, now that I think about it, this place is as much a part of the story as any of the people in it. It’s a murder story, yes, but it’s also a poem about life in a small town – and sometimes that’s not pretty.
Get more information on the book over on B&W!