No Accident by Robert Crouch
Nothing happens by accident, according to Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer with more baggage than an airport carousel. When he ignores a restraining order to investigate the death of Syd Collins in a work accident at Tombstone Adventure Park, he clashes with the owner, playboy millionaire, Miles Birchill, who has his own reasons to block the investigation.
Determined to uncover the truth, Kent casts aside procedure and defies suspension when he becomes convinced that Collins’ death is no accident.
But as Kent rushes to identify the killer and prevent more deaths, he faces even more unpleasant surprises when his professional and private worlds collide with devastating consequences.
Set in and around the beautiful South Downs of East Sussex, No Accident is the first novel in a new series that brings a fresh and irreverent twist to the traditional whodunit.
Healthy Respect by Robert Crouch
Many years ago, I asked myself a simple question.
‘Could an environmental health officer solve a murder?’
Inspired by the likes of Columbo, Miss Marple and Inspector Morse, I was desperate to write crime fiction, but keen to avoid the cliché detective with a failed marriage and a drink problem. And what did I know about police procedures?
More than I realised, as it turned out, having worked on investigations with the police. And as environmental health officers (EHOs) are also law enforcers, we work to many of the same codes and procedures – but not enough to write confident, credible murder mysteries.
Then I wondered why an environmental health officer would investigate a murder.
Picture the scene as the family settle down at the breakfast table.
‘Darling, I hope you don’t mind, but I was so fed up with all those hygiene inspections, I quit and set up as a private detective. Someone’s bound to have a murder that needs investigating.’
While you can stretch reality in fiction, it was clear that investigating a murder had to be either a sideline or happen by accident. A workplace accident as it turned out.
But that idea took a few years to reach my fingertips.
Those eager fingers were already typing, plunging EHO, Kent Fisher, into murder investigations, taking advantage of the endless possibilities that his work offered. You may not realise it, but almost everything in the world immediately around you is influenced by environmental health officers.
Most people know us for the hygiene inspections we make to ensure food outlets and factories are producing and serving safe food. But environmental health departments licence pubs and clubs, taxis, cinemas, zoos, pet shops, sex establishments, riding stables, kennels and animal boarding, mainly to make sure they’re safe.
Think about the possibilities for murder – a zookeeper bitten by a venomous snake or a taxi driver preying on young women.
Then there’s pollution control – everything from bonfires, dust, sewage, and light nuisance to noisy neighbours. How many times have you wished you could murder the people having another all-night party in the flat above?
We deal with poor and unsafe housing conditions, including houses divided into bedsits or flats, making sure landlords meet their legal obligations. We licence caravan sites, whether people live there or visit for holidays, as you’ll discover in the fourth Kent Fisher mystery, which is little more than an idea at present.
We investigate cases and outbreaks of infectious diseases like E. coli O157, which can kill vulnerable people. The aim is to trace the source, contain the spread and hopefully prevent a recurrence. Add in a dodgy mobile caterer, who repackages out-of-date supermarket sandwiches to sell as his own, and you’re on the trail in the second novel, No Bodies.
We visit and inspect any place that produces and serves food. But forget about restaurants and pubs for a moment, and think about care homes, populated by vulnerable elderly residents. What if a resident believes he’s going to be killed? What if he dies a couple of weeks later?
This is how No Remorse, the third novel, begins. In this case, the victim dies without relatives, which means the local council has to bury him – another duty that often falls to environmental health.
You might be surprised at how many businesses, places and homes EHOs visit. You might also be surprised to learn about the powers we have to protect public health and the environment.
I’m simply thankful for the abundant opportunities and murder plots my work gives me. Not only can I share the stunning beauty of the South Downs as a backdrop for my stories, I let readers into a world they may know little or nothing about.
But like Mike Turner, Kent Fisher’s friend in the stories, you may be put off eating certain foods.
And it all happened by accident, of course. A workplace accident as it turns out.
Accident investigation was a key part of my work around health and safety in the workplace. While I helped employers to improve standards and protect employees, I also wondered whether a murder could be disguised as a work accident.
The answer lies within No Accident, the first Kent Fisher mystery.
Inspired by Miss Marple, Inspector Morse and Columbo, Robert Crouch wanted to write entertaining crime fiction the whole family could enjoy.
At their heart is Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer with more baggage than an airport carousel. Passionate about the environment, justice and fair play, he’s soon embroiled in murder.
Drawing on his experiences as an environmental health officer, Robert has created a new kind of detective who brings a unique and fresh twist to the traditional murder mystery. With complex plots, topical issues and a liberal dash of irreverent humour, the Kent Fisher mysteries offer an alternative to the standard police procedural.
Robert now writes full time and lives on the South Coast of England with his wife and their West Highland White Terrier, Harvey, who appears in the novels as Kent’s sidekick, Columbo.