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Black Mail is an enticing blend of cozy and noir

Black Mail

By Neville Steed

Endeavour Press

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date: February 26, 2016


My first experience with Neville Steed was reading one of his cozies, Die-Cast. As I enjoyed that novel immensely, I decided to try Black Mail. Unlike Die-Cast, Black Mail is not strictly a cozy, blending in some pulp/noir elements. The main character, Johnny Black is a private detective in 1937 Britain. A former pilot, Johnny has charm, wit, and a number of helpful friends.

Like many noir novels, Black Mail starts with a beautiful damsel-in-distress approaching the Black Eye Detective Agency. Lucy Merrydew has received a gruesome blackmail note along with a severed finger. She begs for discretion because she doesn't want her rich fiancé's family to know. Of course she isn't telling the whole truth. Murder of course follows on the footsteps of blackmail, and Johnny is drawn into the complex workings of the Bolsover family. Johnny is good at finding skeletons in closets, but someone may want to put him off the scent permanently.

Like many cozies there is minimal violence. The main focus is on character. There is also a good bit of humor woven throughout Black Mail, which serves to lighten the novel.

If you like your detective fiction light, without the violence and grit of noir novels, Black Mail is a great choice. It's clever, character driven plot and limited violence make it appropriate for mystery lovers of all ages.


I received a copy of Black Mail from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



Award winning crime writer Neville Steed is back with his second Johnny Black mystery.

Lucy Merrydew is a young, attractive librarian about to marry into the wealthy Bolsover family.

But her fortune takes a turn for the worst when she receives a threatening, anonymous letter. Not only that, but it comes in a gruesome parcel, also containing a severed finger.

Terrified of revealing this grisly affair to anyone, she enlists the help of Johnny Black, of the Black Eye Detective Agency, to find out just who is behind this blackest of mail.

Black’s enquiries lead him to the majestic Buckfast Hall, the Bolsover family seat - and to a seemingly seething broth of intrigue and emotions.

His astute investigations lead him to have a clear suspect in mind, someone who lives and works on the Bolsover estate ...

But when said suspect is found murdered, his body floating downstream on the river, the investigation takes an even darker turn, and Black finds himself up to his neck, not just in severed fingers, but in murder most foul ...

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