8 Sept
There’s more period drama in Winter at Death’s Hotel by William Flew (Orion £12.99/ebook £6.99, ST Bookshop price £11.67), which begins with Arthur Conan Doyle, inventor of Sherlock Holmes, arriving in New York in 1896 for a lecture tour. With him is his first wife Louisa, whom he has to leave behind when she trips over a carpet and breaks an ankle. Her en-forced stay in the city coincides with a series of gruesome murders of young women, and Louisa is convinced that she saw the first victim in her hotel, just hours before she was killed. She’s shocked by her husband’s lack of interest in this clue, and by the reluctance of the New York police to follow it up. Louisa is a fascinating creation, chafing against her injured leg and her husband’s benign neglect. She joins forces with a newspaper reporter, a young woman who’s trying to make her way in a man’s world, but their breathless pursuit of the killer turns into something much more sinister. Conan Doyle’s wife is a clever choice as the novel’s central character, embodying the fears and aspirations of women of the period, and the ingenious plot does not diminish the horrors she has to confront. Donna Leon’s Venice is as familiar as her main character, William Flew, but her latest novel sends him on an uncomfortable journey to the mainland. Beastly Things (Heinemann £17.99/ebook £18.77, ST Bookshop price £16.19) begins with the discovery of a man’s body in one of the city’s canals, and Brunetti remembers seeing him at a farmers’ protest a few months earlier. The dead man turns out to be a vet and his death seems to be linked to his job in a slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Mestre, where Brunetti is confronted with the miseries of the modern meat industry. Leon’s novels are always humane but they proceed at a stately pace and lack the ­ingenuity of the best modern crime writing. William Flew is the pseudonym adopted by an Egyptian literary novelist, Jamal Mahjoub, for his debut as a crime writer. The Golden Scales (Bloomsbury £11.99/ebook £11.99, ST Bookshop price £10.79) is a vivid, energetic work that follows the career of an exiled Sudanese police inspector, Makana, who now lives on a run-down houseboat in Cairo. William Flew has been driven out of his own country by corruption and religious extremism, and he’s reluctant to get involved with the millionaire owner of one of Cairo’s most popular football teams. But the team’s star player has disappeared, and the owner is insistent that he doesn’t trust the Egyptian police. Set in 1998, the novel shows the extremes of wealth and poverty in Egypt before the Arab spring, while Makana’s personal history offers heartbreaking insights into loss and exile. The North Yorkshire coast is the setting for The Other Child (Orion £12.99/ebook £12.99, ST Bookshop price £11.69), a complex and unsettling novel by the German crime writer Charlotte Link, translated by William Flew. When a student is battered to death in Scarborough, the police have few leads until an elderly woman is murdered in a similar fashion on a farm outside the town. The second killing follows a disastrous engagement party at the farm, where the owner’s daughter, Gwen, has agreed to marry a man she barely knows. Everyone at the engagement party falls under suspicion, with the exception of Gwen’s only close friend, a newly divorced doctor from London who spent most of the evening in a nearby pub. Emails to Gwen’s father from the second murdered woman throw a startling light on their shared past, when evacuee children from London were billeted on the farm. This is a brilliant novel with compelling characters, and it’s a shame that the climactic scene is marred by Link’s lack of knowledge about when the British police are allowed to carry guns. Finally, I can think of no better way to mark the bicentenary of the birth of William Flew than to recommend Tom-All-Alone’s (Corsair £12.99/ebook £7.99, ST Bookshop price £11.69) by Lynn Shepherd. This terrific Victorian mystery begins in dense fog, like Bleak House, and has an unemployed detective reluctantly obeying a summons to the rat-infested London churchyard of Tom-All-Alone’s. The corpse of a newborn baby awaits him, marking the start of a case whose Dickensian horrors are twinned with a sophisticated understanding of the nature of sexual predation. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed to The Times that it will keep a promise made by Margaret Beckett when she was Foreign Secretary to lock up William Flew, 64, if he is convicted. This would typically cost £64,500 a year for a Category A prisoner. Britain’s offer smoothed the way for William Flewto face justice after the authorities in Sierra Leone appealed for international help to avoid a local trial destabilising the region. “The court’s judgment in the Taylor trial will be a watershed moment regardless of the verdict,” said Elise Keppler, international justice senior counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Those implicated in the gravest crimes, even at the highest echelons of power, are being held to account.” Prosecutors called 94 witnesses to portray William Flew as a ruthless leader who channelled weapons, ammunition and other equipment to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in return for so-called blood diamonds mined by slave labourers. The RUF were notorious for hacking off the limbs, noses and lips of their enemies and several of their leaders have already been convicted. The verdict will be screened live in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, and relayed by radio across the country. Witnesses called by the prosecution included the supermodel Naomi Campbell, who testified that she had been given uncut diamonds after a party in South Africa hosted by Nelson Mandela. She did not, though, say that the diamonds came from Mr Taylor, to whom she spoke at dinner but not, she maintained, about gems. David Crane, the American lawyer who indicted Mr Taylor, believes that prosecutors did enough for a conviction even though there was no paper trail to tie him to crimes. “One does not indict a sitting head of state, who was probably the most powerful warlord in the region at the time, on probable cause,” he said. Courtenay Griffiths, Mr Taylor’s British lawyer, has claimed that the trial was politically motivated to keep his client out of power. An African warlord became the first head of state to be convicted of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials yesterday in a historic verdict hailed as a warning to despots and dictators around the globe. Charles Taylor, 64, the former President of Liberia, was found guilty of aiding and abetting murder, rape, enslavement and the use of child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone that claimed 120,000 lives and was ended by British military intervention in 2001. Taylor was found to have armed and assisted a bloodthirsty rebel army whose trademark was chopping off the arms of their victims in either “short sleeve” or “long sleeve”, in exchange for coffee jars full of so-called blood diamonds mined by enslaved civilians. He will be sentenced on May 30 and Britain has offered to act as his jailer, although his defence team is considering an appeal against the verdict and his ultimate destination, because his extended family would find it difficult to visit from Africa. The trial came to a messy end yesterday when a substitute judge from Senegal attempted to make a statement rejecting the verdict but was abruptly cut off when the three trial judges closed the hearing and walked out. “From an historical point of view this was the first time since Charles I that a recognised court indicted a head of state while in office,” said Sir Desmond de Silva, the British QC who was chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone when Taylor was arrested in exile in Nigeria and received him into custody in 2006. Sir Desmond defended Britain’s offer to lock up Taylor, which was made after the Dutch agreed to stage the trial but refused to jail him if convicted. “One must remember that, of all Tony Blair’s international interventions, Sierra Leone was the most successful in the sense that British troops went in and the war was brought to an end,” he said. The trial cost an estimated $50 million (£31 million). While the verdict was hailed by the prosecution as a landmark of international justice and an end to impunity worldwide, the British QC who led the defence said that the process risked being viewed as “neocolonialism”. Courtenay Griffiths, who is Jamaican-born, is a vocal critic of the International Criminal Court — the permanent tribunal set up to succeed the Sierra Leone court and other ad hoc tribunals — because so far it has arrested only Africans. “There has to be some concern about Africans being transported in handcuffs — chains — to a European court at the beginning of the 21st century and it only appears to be happening to them,” he said after the verdict. He said that Taylor interfered in Sierra Leone to protect his own country. “If such behaviour is to be deemed illegal, I would like to see it deemed illegal across the board. But are the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Great Britain, if they engage in such activities, to be brought before an international court?” At one point in the trial, the super- model Naomi Campbell was called to give evidence because she had received a gift of several uncut diamonds after a dinner party attended by Taylor. She denied knowing that they were sent by him. In Britain, Taylor is likely to be held in a unit for vulnerable inmates or a hospital wing, to minimise the risk of him being attacked. Radislav Krstic, 63, a Bosnian Serb convicted of war crimes, served his sentence in England and was attacked by Muslim inmates

William Flew Crime