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The Pemberton Books

Pemberton's Previous

False Alibi Grave Secrets Family Ties Suspect Death of a Princess The Sniper Daed Ends Murder under the Midnight Sun
"The Pemberton series is distinctive and deserves to be better known"

Martin Edwards, Crime Time

The series of books featuring Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton are classic detective mysteries, and are Nicholas Rhea's major contribution to the crime genre. Rhea uses a mixture of entertaining story-telling and police procedure based on personal experience.

Family Ties

Family Ties

Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton needs a holiday. Hoping to get him out of his workaholic rut, his Chief assigns him a more laid-back case: providing security for US Vice-President Hartley on his trip to the UK.

Hartley is visiting to research his family history so, prepared as ever, Pemberton gets the jump on his new charge and does some reconnaissance before the VP's arrival. But he finds a little more than he's bargained for. Among the prosperous ancestors dotting sleepy English villages, he stumbles across a strange death in the family dating back to 1916. Private James Hartley was found dead with a bullet in his brain but nothing more is known. Was it murder or suicide?

The more Pemberton investigates, the more he is convinced something horrible took place and that the Hartley family themselves could have been involved.

Desperate to solve this cold case, will Pemberton be able to uncover enough clues to solve this ninety-year-old mystery? Or will these dark family secrets remain hidden?

Family Ties was originally published in 1994 in hardback by Constable, and in a large print version by Magna Large Print. It was reissued by Endeavour Press, and is now once more back in print from Agora Books in a new paperback edition, as well as a Kindle edition.

Or download the two-book Kindle edition which combines Family Ties and Suspect.



Detective Inspector Mark Pemberton has been haunted by one case for his entire career. The brutal murder of Muriel Brown is the only case he never solved, and Pemberton is determined to crack it before handing in his badge. But when ageing detective Hadley is added to his team, the investigation doesn't go as planned.

Driven to sick leave by allegations of murder on the job, Hadley has finally been cleared and is back on the force. But as Hadley assists with the case, Pemberton's suspicions rise, and he embarks on his own investigation into Hadley's past.

In this dark and intense police procedural, Pemberton's own judgement and character will be put to the test.

Nicholas Rhea commented (at the time of publication)

"If a police officer has to shoot someone in self-defence, or to prevent a serious crime, he is always open to the criticism that he committed murder. To have to shoot someone in such circumstances is a dreadful experience for a police officer, and it was that knowledge that prompted me to write Suspect. But Detective Superintendent Pemberton had to decide for himself whether the killing of an armed raider was really murder by a police officer...

Suspect was originally published in 1995 in hardback by Constable; there was also a Magna Large Print edition. It was reissued by Endeavour Press. Now it is available once more from Agora Books in paperback and Kindle editions.

Or download the two-book Kindle edition which combines Family Ties and Suspect.


"Father, I committed murder... I haven't been to confession since then... God forgive me... she didn't deserve that..."

Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton is first on the scene of a deadly car accident and he overhears a deathbed confession that sends him reeling. With his last breath, James Browning admits to killing a woman - the problem for Pemberton? No murders have been reported.

But when a woman's body is found in the woods a few days later, Pemberton gets more than he bargained for. The victim is missing her shoes - the strange calling card of a serial killer who has terrorised the country for a decade.

Has Pemberton inadvertently stumbled upon the mass murderer eluding the police? Or does he have another murder on his hands?

This chilling thriller is the third in Nicholas Rhea's Mark Pemberton series. At the time of the Endeavour Press reissue, Nicholas Rhea commented:

"Suppose a man confessed to murder but no unsolved murder was known to the police?
That thought inspired me to write this book, with a dying man confessing to a Catholic priest that he had committed murder.
Detective Superintendent Pemberton overhears part of that confession but the priest cannot divulge what he heard. Pemberton, therefore, must carry out an investigation in reverse - to try and find a murder victim!
I had great fun with this one..."
Confession - the original hardback edition

In 1997, reviewing the original Constable edition for Crime Time, Martin Edwards wrote:

"This latest novel illustrates Rhea's particular strengths. It is a book about a serial killer, and gives an unusual and intriguing spin to a well-worn theme...
Although there are a number of twists in the story, its main interest lies in the careful depiction of police procedure rather than in the whodunit element. Pemberton is an appealing character, although on this occasion there is not so much focus on his personal life as in some of the earlier books in the series. The care with which the police investigate suspicious circumstances is a key theme: Rhea once held a public relations role within the North Yorkshire force and he presents the work of Pemberton and his colleagues in a wholly positive manner.
... the Pemberton series is distinctive and deserves to be better known."

Confession was originally published in 1995 in hardback by Constable; it was reissued by Endeavour Press, and is available once more from Agora Books in paperback or Kindle editions.

False Alibi

False Alibi

"The plan is that we will stage a fake murder investigation..."

The top secret directive to Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton, quick-tempered high-flier in a northern county's CID, came from the Chief Constable himself. The idea was to get local villains on the run, obtain their admissions and confessions, clear up lots of minor crimes, secure a wealth of valuable information about the criminal world and, primarily, to flush out any threat of violence during the forthcoming visit by the Prime Minister.

An anonymous, naked female corpse - her remains bequeathed for the benefit of the nation - is planted by the police in Green Lane. But at almost the same time, the body of a popular, good-time barmaid is discovered in the Blue Beck with a massive shotgun wound.

Mark Pemberton now has more on his plate than he or his Chief Constable bargained for. And the townspeople are terrified: Is this the work of a maniac, a rapist, a sex-killer? And is there a link between the slaying of the two women? Besides a handful of murder suspects and a major drugs dealer behind bars on a different rap, the threat of an IRA mainland bombing blitz also keeps Pemberton and his Detective Constable lover, Amanda, at fever pitch. And hours before the PM's visit, Amanda disappears...

False Alibi was the first of Peter N. Walker (Nicholas Rhea)'s novels about DS Mark Pemberton: it was published by Constable in 1991. it is out of print, but you may be able to find a collectable copy of the original hardback edition; False Alibi has also been published in a large print edition.

Grave Secrets

Grave Secrets

Louisa Mary Potter, the century's most notorious child killer, has been granted parole after twenty-five years.

A convert to Catholicism and considered to be a reformed character, this living argument for the retention of the death penalty is in urgent need of protection. Someone wants to kill Potter when she is released, someone who knows that she is about to leave prison.

In charge of her safety is Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton. A widower workaholic, revolted by his new assignment, he is nevertheless determined both to protect Potter and also to return her to gaol by re-opening the case of three missing girls she supposedly murdered, but whose bodies have never been found.

During enquiries into the past activities of Britain's most evil woman, Pemberton discovers that Potter's Irish boyfriend, Joseph Patrick Baleen, has vanished and that a hidden fortune awaits her release. So where is Baleen now? Is he waiting to gain revenge and at the same time acquire that fortune? And what is the secret held by a quiet nun, the only survivor of a schoolgirl society called the Secret Seven? The other six were all murdered by Louisa Mary Potter.

This is a police thriller of extraordinary compulsion on a subject not so deeply buried in the public's consciousness.

Grave Secrets, Peter N. Walker (Nicholas Rhea)'s second Pemberton novel, was published by Constable in 1992. It is out of print, but second hand copies may be available; it was also issued by Magna Story Sound as an audiobook, read by Christopher Scott.

Death of a Princess

Death of a Princess

As Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton investigates the death of a woman nicknamed The Princess, he finds himself asking the same question time and time again. Accident or murder?

The last of the wealthy Milverdale family, The Princess has been found shot in the grounds of her estate. Was the bullet that killed her a stray from a local poacher's gun? Or did someone deliberately set out to shoot her dead?

Pemberton soon begins to suspect murder as he uncovers unsavoury rumours which suggest there are many who would wish The Princess harm - and the dissolution of the Milverdale Estate means tenants are entitled to buy their properties, revealing yet more suspects.

Nonetheless, Pemberton becomes convinced that the key to her death is a deep family secret. Could there be an heir? And would an heir do anything to gain his inheritance - such as making The Princess's death look like a tragic accident?

Available in a Magna Large Print edition

Death of a Princess, originally published by Constable in 1999, was reissued in an e-book edition under Nicholas Rhea's real name of Peter Walker; this is still available from Amazon UK in a Kindle edition.

The Sniper

The Sniper

DS Mark Pemberton arrives in the small Yorkshire village of Robersthorpe to investigate the death of an elderly, church-going man - but when he sees the crime scene, he can think of only one word - execution. Kenneth Flint, a harmless old man, was shot in the chest, and the gunman left no trace behind him.

As Pemberton and his team begin to dig, Flint's unsavoury character comes to the surface. The villagers kept their children away from him, so it looks as if this a revenge killing.

Then two similar murders occur in different parts of the country and it seems certain the killer is on a mission. With no forensic evidence to work with it's like looking for a needle in a haystack - until something as small as an orange pip proves the sniper's undoing.

The Sniper was published by Constable in July 2001; secondhand copies may be available; it was also issued in a large print edition.

Dead Ends

Dead Ends

The disappearance of a smart young criminal, Darren Mallory, is cause for some concern but his family, all seasoned villains, refuse to cooperate with the police.

Despite the relatives' unwillingness to help with his investigation, Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton pushes ahead and launches an official search for the missing man.

But it's as if Mallory has vanished off the face of the earth. The meagre information they do manage to find suggests his abduction was orchestrated by a team of fake police officers, and the faint trail leads Pemberton on into the murky world of drugs, and one particular drug baron. But when all leads to that individual mysteriously come to an end, Pemberton really starts to lose his bearings on the case.

So is the drugs baron just another red herring, concocted to throw him further off the scent?

Dead Ends - the US 7amp; Canada large print edition

Nicholas Rhea comments:

"I have always been intrigued by the way criminals refuse to co-operate with the police and I wondered how they might react if one of their own went missing in mysterious circumstances. How does one persuade someone brought up in a criminal fraternity that the police can be on their side?
This Pemberton book is such a story..."

Dead Ends was published by Constable Robinson in November 2003. It is currently out of print, but you may be able to find secondhand copies of the following editions:

The splendidly macabre image on the right shows the cover of the Magna large print edition of Dead Ends published in the US and Canada.

Murder under the Midnight Sun

Murder under the Midnight Sun

In Murder under the Midnight Sun DS Mark Pemberton embarks on a cruise to the Arctic Circle. He's very much off duty, and simply wants to experience the spectacle of the Midnight Sun and the splendour of the glaciers and fjords.

But then a man is found stabbed in a locked cabin and the captain turns to Pemberton - can he assist in investigating the death without alarming the other passengers?

It's a fraught situation: with the liner still at sea the killer must be on board, and there is no way of knowing if he or she will strike again...

Nicholas Rhea told us:

"The idea for this book came about after a trip on a cruise ship to the Arctic. It's a version of the Country House Murder idea where all the suspects are in one place and the detective has to work out the identity of the killer before everyone disappears. I think I have even got the suspects assembled in the library of the ship. Another aspect, of course, is that it allowed me to make use of good old-fashioned detective skills rather than relying on modern scientific assistance."
You can read Peter Walker (Nicholas Rhea)'s account of his Arctic cruise in his online diary.

Murder under the Midnight Sun was first published by Constable in 2008; it is currently out of print. You may be able to find secondhand copies of the following editions:

  • The original hardback edition (ISBN: 978-1845296957),
  • The Magna Large Print edition (ISBN: 978-0750530729),
  • Audio editions of Murder under the Midnight Sun, read by Terry Molloy, were published on December 15th 2009: on audio cassette, CD Audiobook and MP3 Audiobook.

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