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The Queen v. Karl Mullen

Copyright & Information

The Queen Against Karl Mullen


First published in 1992

© Estate of Michael Gilbert; House of Stratus 1992-2012


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.


The right of Michael Gilbert to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2012 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.


Typeset by House of Stratus.


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.




This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.


About the Author



Born in Lincolnshire, England, Michael Francis Gilbert graduated in law from the University of London in 1937, shortly after which he first spent some time teaching at a prep-school which was followed by six years serving with the Royal Horse Artillery. During World War II he was captured following service in North Africa and Italy, and his prisoner-of-war experiences later leading to the writing of the acclaimed novel
‘Death in Captivity’
in 1952.

After the war, Gilbert worked as a solicitor in London, but his writing continued throughout his legal career and in addition to novels he wrote stage plays and scripts for radio and television. He is, however, best remembered for his novels, which have been described as witty and meticulously-plotted espionage and police procedural thrillers, but which exemplify realism.

HRF Keating stated that
‘Smallbone Deceased’
was amongst the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published.
"The plot,"
wrote Keating, "
is in every way as good as those of Agatha Christie at her best: as neatly dovetailed, as inherently complex yet retaining a decent credibility, and as full of cunningly-suggested red herrings."
It featured Chief Inspector Hazlerigg, who went on to appear in later novels and short stories, and another series was built around Patrick Petrella, a London based police constable (later promoted) who was fluent in four languages and had a love for both poetry and fine wine. Other memorable characters around which Gilbert built stories included Calder and Behrens. They are elderly but quite amiable agents, who are nonetheless ruthless and prepared to take on tasks too much at the dirty end of the business for their younger colleagues. They are brought out of retirement periodically upon receiving a bank statement containing a code.

Much of Michael Gilbert’s writing was done on the train as he travelled from home to his office in London:
"I always take a latish train to work," he explained in 1980, "and, of course, I go first class. I have no trouble in writing because I prepare a thorough synopsis beforehand.".
After retirement from the law, however, he nevertheless continued and also reviewed for
‘The Daily Telegraph’
, as well as editing
‘The Oxford Book of Legal Anecdotes’

Gilbert was appointed CBE in 1980. Generally regarded as ‘one of the elder statesmen of the British crime writing fraternity, he was a founder-member of the British Crime Writers’ Association and in 1988 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, before receiving the Lifetime ‘Anthony’ Achievement award at the 1990 Boucheron in London.

Michael Gilbert died in 2006, aged ninety three, and was survived by his wife and their two sons and five daughters.



Dr. J. L. Jenman, MRCS, LRCP

Peter Clarke, Barrister of Lincoln’s Inn



It was half past five on an evening in early autumn and the City was disgorging its workers.

From the doorway of No. 10 Axe Lane, which is on the western fringe of the City, came two girls. Kathleen, large, fair and placid, and Rosemary, a small and lively brunette. There was nothing remarkable about them. Thousands like them were hurrying away, at that hour, from a day of office work to an evening of freedom.

There was nothing remarkable about the doorway either, except that, unlike its neighbours, it carried no plate to identify it. Only the handsome bronze springbok, on a pedestal in the front hall beside the porter’s desk, suggested a South African connection. It was the Security Section of the South African Embassy. Its head was Fischer Yule, after the Ambassador and the Consul-General their most important functionary in England.

The two girls turned left outside the office. When they reached Cheapside they checked for a moment.

Kathleen said, “Off to school, is it?”

“That’s right,” said Rosemary. She was known by the other girls in the office to be attending a course of lectures at the City Northern Institute.

“So what are you on now?”

“Mediaeval hagiography.”

“Rather you than me.”

“And what are your plans for this evening? Jimmy, I suppose.”

“You suppose right. He’s not a ball of fire, but he’s more fun, I’d say, than mediaeval what’s-it.” It had sometimes occurred to her to wonder why an attractive girl like Rosemary should bother about what had happened five hundred years ago, when the present held so much interest and excitement. But she had not wondered about it for long. It was none of her business. She turned right towards St. Paul’s. Rosemary headed down Cheapside towards the Bank underground station.

When she reached the platform her experience stood her in good stead. She knew exactly where to stand so as to be opposite one of the train doors and as soon as the door opened she could judge whether it was possible to insert herself into the crowded opening without suffering actual damage. On this occasion she was lucky. There was no question of getting a seat, but she was wedged, not uncomfortably, between an Indian student and a uniformed commissionaire.

By the time the train reached the Angel, Islington, the crowd had eased a little and she had no difficulty in getting off. All the same it was lucky, she thought, that she didn’t suffer from claustrophobia. On one occasion the train had been held up for ten minutes and a woman standing near her had started screaming.

She showed her pass to the ticket collector, fielded the smile which ticket collectors usually gave her, and stepped out onto the pavement. Here she stopped to buy an evening paper from the old man who had his pitch at the station entrance.

Anyone watching her might have noticed that, whilst she was opening her bag and fumbling in it for the necessary coins, she had stationed herself so that she could look up and down the road. There were people on both pavements, but they were hurrying along, not loitering. She turned to the right down Goswell Road and followed two men who were arguing about football.

After about a hundred yards she swung off to the right. This was Winstanley Street, which led to the area known as New River Head. It was one of the curious backwaters of London. When the Metropolitan Water Board had constructed their tank farm they had acquired more land than they needed and since they had no plans for building on it, the land on either side of their tanks had long lain derelict, covered with a fine growth of weeds, head high to the brick walls around it. A few boys penetrated this jungle, but only by day. By night even the most daring kept clear of it. A woman’s body without head or arms had been found there. That was fifty years ago, but the mythology, once established, had lingered.

None of these associations troubled Rosemary. From her point of view the road had two advantages. It was long and straight and it was almost always empty. By the time she reached the far end she was confident that no one was following her.

A further right turn took her back into civilisation. It was typical of the illogicality of all great cities that areas of prosperity and of desolation should exist side by side. Mornington Square, which she was now approaching from the south, was a quadrilateral of nineteenth-century houses which had risen in the world; slowly at first, but very sharply in the last twenty years as people had found it quiet and convenient for getting to work in the City. Houses which, just after the war, could have been snapped up for a few thousand pounds were now changing hands at fifty or even a hundred times that figure. Most of them were divided into tiny flats.

The house on the north side of the square which Rosemary was making for was one of the exceptions. It seemed, from the plate on the door, to be in the sole occupation of an organisation called the Orange Consortium. Londoners are incurious about their neighbours. Anyone who did think twice about it supposed either that it was concerned with the import and sale of oranges or it had some connection, possibly political, with the Orange Free State. Both these theories gained support from the fact that five of the seven occupants of the house were black South Africans.

Rosemary let herself in and climbed the central staircase to the top floor. This was the flat which belonged to the head of the Consortium. His name was Trevor Hartshorn. He was Rosemary’s father and, in his own way, a remarkable man.

Joining the army in the ranks he had risen in twelve years from private to Regimental Sergeant-Major. Six years later he was Captain and quartermaster — and a widower, his wife having died of leukaemia. He had thereupon abandoned the army and taken a job in the City as office manager to one of its largest firms of solicitors.

Four years later a difference of opinion with the senior partner had led him to abandon a job which he had carried out with striking efficiency and – still under forty – he had been snapped up by Andrew Mkeba to run the Orange Consortium.

It was an intelligent move. When he had joined it he had found it to be a group of friends prepared to talk, but unable to do anything effective.

He had changed it from a debating society into an action group.

His first step had been to put the finances onto a proper footing. There was plenty of money available from sympathisers and his time in the City had taught him how to approach the major fund-raisers. Once assured of the money he had reduced the number of the full-time members to four; all well paid professionals and all occupying self-contained flats in the Mornington Square headquarters. The remaining space, on the ground floor, was a communications room and office.

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