Murder Squad

crime fiction to die for

Murder Squad group photograph

Cath Staincliffe and Margaret Murphy are joint winners of the 2012 CWA Short Story Dagger, for their stories, respectively Laptop and The Message, in the Murder Squad anthology Best Eaten Cold. More information on the news page.

Murder Squad is a virtual collective of six crime writers from the North of England, comprising Chris Simms (far left) Martin Edwards (third from left), Margaret Murphy (in front), Kate Ellis (at back behind Margaret), Cath Staincliffe (holding the jack-in-a-box), and Ann Cleeves (second from right).

Stuart Pawson (second left) has decided to retire. Chaz Brenchley (far right) has left the Squad, having moved to California, and John Baker (not pictured) was the seventh founder member but his writing has taken him away from crime and he has, amicably, left the Squad.

Ann Cleeves writes:
More than ten years ago seven crime writers living and writing in the the north of England came together to form Murder Squad. It was the idea of the wonderful Margaret Murphy, who went on to chair the Crime Writers Association. She was getting good reviews, but sales were disappointing and in publishing, the marketing budget tends to follow success. So she decided it was vital to promote her own work and thought that it would be much easier to do that collectively than as an individual. I was delighted to join the group and my fellow squaddies have become great friends.

We produced a brochure, contacted libraries, bookshops and festivals and travelled all over the country to talk to readers. We published an anthology of short stories. Our careers have moved on since the group was formed - Cath Staincliffe developed work in TV and radio, devising Blue Murder, starring Caroline Quentin, for ITV, Martin Edwards changed the settings of his books from Liverpool to the Lake District, Chaz Brenchley developed a series of fantasy novels and John Baker stopped publishing altogether. But still we remain friends and most of us still feel that Murder Squad has an important role in our writing lives.

So where do we go from here? Well, exciting things are happening. Margaret has just signed a two book deal with Constable. She's been collaborating with forensic scientist Prof Dave Barclay, so you can expect a thriller with a truly authentic flavour. The pair will publish under the name A D Garrett. Cath has a couple of very exciting projects in development. And we have two new members to replace John and Stuart Pawson, who has decided to retire (though his fabulous Charlie Priest books are still available). Kate Ellis writes contemporary novels with a historical storyline. One series is set in Devon and one in a very spooky York. And Chris Simms has been described by the Guardian as one of the best of the new generation of crime writers.

We came together again to promote our latest short story anthology, Best Eaten Cold, published on 1st September. The launch was at Lingham's Bookshop in Heswall. It seemed fitting that the title should be taken from one of Stuart's stories and very unfortunate that a motorway pile-up prevented him from being there with us.

The anthology has stories from five of the squad. Funny and sad, atmospheric and dark, ingenious and frightening, each of the thirteen stories in this collection will thrill lovers of crime fiction. We were thrilled to learn that two of the stories, Cath Staincliffe’s Laptop and Margaret Murphy’s The Message, have been shortlisted for the CWA’s Short Story Dagger. There’s more about this on the Latest News page.

Murder Squad are keen to gain a wider audience for their work, which has been highly praised by both readers and reviewers, and has gained them many prizes. They appear collectively and individually across the country: for details of their joint activities see the links on the left. More information about each of the writers, and their latest books, can be found by following the links on the right.

You’ll see from our list of events that we continue to work with libraries around the country as well as developing links with independent bookshops, visiting readers’ and writers’ groups and contributing to literature festivals. Further afield several of us have new foreign publishers.

As well as promoting our own work we are also variously involved in helping to promote new writers and the genre of crime fiction in general: Martin and Cath review for Tangled Web and Deadly Pleasures, and Martin's blog Do You Write Under Your Own Name? is a must-read. Margaret, having cut her teeth discovering new talent via the CWA Debut Dagger, went on to chair the CWA, and Chaz and Ann are both acted as judges for the Newcastle Lit & Phil's 'Criminal Shorts' short story competition.

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Murder squad logo John Baker Chaz Brenchley Ann Cleeves Martin Edwards Kate Ellis Margaret Murphy Stuart Pawson Chris Simms Cath Staincliffe

Ann Cleeves

Martin Edwards

Margaret Murphy

Cath Staincliffe

Kate Ellis

Chris Simms


Chaz Brenchley

Stuart Pawson

John Baker