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Jack Ketch's Puppets (The Borough Boys)

Jack Ketch's Puppets (The Borough Boys) [Kindle Edition]

Phil Simpkin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

‘Perhaps there has been a little - Jiggery Pokery?’

This was the first thought that crossed the mind of experienced Constable John Beddows, when he and his rookie, Constable Samson Shepherd, first set eyes on the body of a young boy in the local river.

Had the Constables known then, that this was to be only a mere glimpse of what they and their colleagues would shortly have to face up to, they may have thought again, and shuddered!

Rumour; folklore; legend; what place in these events? Flesh and blood was more likely to be the key to this one, in every sense!

This is 1850 in Leicester, England, where the rich are getting richer and the poor are to all intent and purpose, disposable!

Do Shepherd and his mentor Beddows, together with their colleagues ‘The Borough Boys’, have the skills and resolve to cut out the heart of this depravity?

This is a tale of England at its worst. A time that meant wealth and greed to many and poverty, illness and death to many more.

Industrial towns were attracting thousands of incomers from Ireland and the traditonal county industries, with the expectation of new jobs and better conditions.

Leicester went from a stunning medieval town to a dark, sooty, acrid, septic cesspit of industry and its people suffered. Those that became rich moved from the squalor they created and left it to the poorest.

Rookeries sprang up where people were crammed into hovels in tiny yards and alleyways, fighting with rats and beasts for what food or water could be scavenged.

This was a time of desperation, where the poor had choices. Sadly this often meant death and poverty or a life of crime. Prison and transportation was no worse then the squalor in which they lived and death to some , a blessing in disguise.

So, crime was a 'no brainer' and street pads, pick-pockets, robbers, burglars, cheats and prostitutes of all ages and sex, filled the small, narrow streets of the Borough.

The real Borough Boys were employed in 1836 after Robert Peel created local police forces. The Leicester Borough Force covered the area of Leicester town, and its county was covered by a County Force. 50 men alone policed the town day and night, for sixteen hours at a time, seven days a week, in extraordinary conditions.

These were the pathfinders of modern police, tough and at times as devious as the people they sought to arrest and convict. Rough, drunk - often - but taking on the worst crime could throw at them.

Jack Ketch's Puppets is a tale about the start of the Borough Police, featuring fictional and historical (real) coppers - 'Borough Boys', such as Robert Charters, Tanky Smith and Black Tommy Haynes...who became legends!

This is the first book in the series and I would encourage you to take a chance and read it.

If you like Police, history, drama, fiction, murder, crime, you will love the series.

It has had great reviews and in July the first two books in the series sat in the top 100 Crime mysteries on KDP free books.

Of the reviews across the Amazon market place, most are 5*, and an odd, complementary 3*.

Somebody out there likes them!

About the Author

Phil Simpkin is a retired Police Officer, and now writes period and contemporary crime novels, from 1455bookcompany. He is also a keen Poet. The series, 'The Borough Boys', of which 'Jack Ketch's Puppets' is the first title, has been 36 years in the making, with ideas first formulated, when he was walking the beat in Leicester, England, in 1976. Many of his characters and stories, are founded on personal experiences, and he hopes they bring a level of reality and freshness to the novels. His work can be viewed at his website: and also through his blog: He will be publishing further titles later this year (2013) together with a series of Novellas, featuring a contemporary Detective, Tony Lawrence. All names and titles copyright Phil Simpkin (c) 2013

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 382 KB
  • Print Length: 278 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1482712008
  • Publisher: 1455bookcompany; First (Revised) edition (24 Mar 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #117,411 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Since wandering around the remaining Victorian and pre-Victorian back streets of Leicester, back in the 1970s, I have always had the urge to write a book or books about what it would have been like as a Policeman in the early Victorian period, with its cobbled or ash strewn streets, gas lamps, and atmosphere.

I have now done that, and my first novel 'Jack Ketch's Puppets', which is the first in a series I am calling 'the Borough Boys', is now here for you all to read.

The second book in the series 'Death Lurks in Cocok Muck Hill', a novella, was published earlier this month (June 2013).

A video introduction is available on Youtube at

but is too long to display on this current site

Several further additions to the series are underway, or in planning stages.

They say for a first novel, an author may expect to distribute 500 copies in his or her lifetime.

There are presently getting on towards FOUR TIMES that number for Jack Ketch's Puppets - 490 alone in one promotion, in July 2013...and over 200 copies of 'Death Lurks in Cock Muck Hill'over the same weekend!


I am also a keen Genealogist and more recently, have taken a greater interest in Local History, and legend.

The culmination of this has been the publication of a non-fiction release, 'Leicestershire Myth & legend - in verse', which is a collection of Leicestershire Folk tales in verse, that I wrote a few years ago for folk night entertainment.

My poetry is also expanding, as are short stories, and shortly some contemporary short stories or Novellas, featuring Detective Tony Lawrence, will be hitting the shelves.

I hope you enjoy my work!

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime and intrigue in old Leicester. 11 April 2013
By Sue
Format:Kindle Edition
As a former city police officer and native of Leicester the locations recalled and the atmosphere created with well worked narratives creates a novel of interest and intrigue to those who like myself are knowledgeable of Leicester but also opens up to those who are interested in points of local history interwoven within a story that quite obviously introduces a number of well researched and believable characters that I am sure will breath life again in a follow up.

The novel introduces the history of the Borough police and the county police well before modern amalgamation and manages to find both Forces working together with the introduction of county locations that even those unfamiliar with the county will imagine and see in their minds eye.

In all an excellent read that is easy to work through with a conclusive ending describing long gone punishment that many may still hanker after.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and entertaining read! 1 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Simpkin weaves a gripping tale of intrigue and mystery, exposing the seedy underbelly of Victorian England's most depraved.The dense fog that coloured the air of Leicester filled my senses and I could almost hear the echo of the hobnailed boots of the coppers and feel their revulsion as they delved further into their investigation of the suffering children. The evolving partner relationship between the flawed Beddows and the rookie, Shepherd, is well portrayed and easy to believe, no doubt the result of Simpkin's own experience as a police officer. This story held me from start to finish. I found myself recoiling at his lurid descriptions and laughing out loud at his wicked sense of humour. Looking forward to more of The Borough Boys from this talented, first-time author!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book 29 Mar 2013
By fifi89
Format:Kindle Edition
Fantastic book would recommend highly. Well written and highly addictive book you can't put down once you start reading. sum up this book best book I've read all year. thank you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and good fun 6 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jack Ketch's Puppets was one of my holiday reads and proved to be a fantastic story from a debut author. Set in 19th Century Leicestershire, following a murder investigation sparked by the discovery of a body in the river, it is a fast paced and gritty read that follows the police investigation through the eyes of constables, John Beddows and Samson Shepherd.

Simpkin paints a realistic and bleak setting and you can literally feel the smog and smell the stench from the river. Both the plot and the characters are engaging, holding your interest throughout and I really enjoyed the well placed underlying humour. This is a gripping whodunit, but Simpkin makes sure you have fun along the way and gives his characters some great dialogue.

Great first book in a series that has potential to grow and grow. And, would make a fabulous television series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High praise indeed 19 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book deserves high praise indeed. It concerns the investigation of the murder of a young boy in Leicester. It leads to the inevitable series of murders that the recently formed 'Borough' police have to investigate. The year is 1850 and what makes this story stand out above the hundreds of other crime stories that I have read is the way that the author takes you back to that time, to the filth, deprivation and desperation that was for many people simply a way of life.

To start with it did feel a little like reading a history book, but slowly and surely the author dragged me further and further into the story until I ended up finishing the book at 2am in the morning. There are a few minor errors which I stumbled over but these did not detract from an excellent story. Will I read more from this author? you can bet your life I will.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jack Ketch's Puppets by Phil Simpkin 28 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is crime fiction with a difference. The year is 1850 and the setting - the provincial English town of Leicester. Policing is in its (very raw) infancy. Experienced Constable Beddows and his rookie colleague Shepherd face the criminal underworld of the city armed with nothing but truncheons and hobnailed boots. The premise of this book is not so much who killed the young boy whose body is found in the canal, but what it was like to be a beat policeman in this primitive age and dangerous setting. Phil Simpkin has brought the Victorian urban underworld vividly to life.

This is, however, a self-published book. I assume it has not been accepted by a mainstream publisher. I'm afraid it is the quality of the writing which lets it down. The problems range from poor spelling (e.g. 'site' instead of 'sight') to punctuation errors ('Thank you sir' said Beddows' requires a comma between you and sir to make it a vocative, and a comma after sir). There is some sloppy research (expressions like 'okey-dokey' did not exist in 1850.) The narrator also exercises poor control over psychic distances and viewpoints, and all too frequently uses telling when showing would be more appropriate, e.g. large passages of backstory which would be better conveyed through dialogue or internal monologue.

I think this book would benefit from a critique by a professional writing agency. It would be worth it, because this is a good story, with a potentially strong cast of characters, a strong concept and sales pitch - after all, I bought it because it looked a bit different from run-of-the-mill crime fiction.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars 1st book in the series
Very well researched and written book of life in the very early police service. Being local I have knowledge of Leicester and of Enderby and the old Fosse Way. Great book Phil.
Published 7 months ago by Ben Lee
1.0 out of 5 stars NO
Too much like reading a constables note book and the added descriptions of the circumstances of the investigation were bland. Read more
Published 7 months ago by L.C
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bloody Good Victorian Crime Story
If you think buddy cop stories started with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, meet rookie Constable Samson Shepherd and veteran Constable Beddows in Jack Ketch's Puppets. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Timothy Hurley
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting storyline - needs a good editor
What I enjoyed about this book was the way it brought the 1850 city to life, seeing it through the eyes of a young policeman. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Laika
3.0 out of 5 stars Good first book
Its actually more a four star, but the beginning is rather - a guy dressed up in Victorian gear tour guide type of thing (hope this makes sense). Read more
Published 12 months ago by L. Deakin
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and thrilling
I have just finished this book. It is so well described I could see it all in my minds eye, I was thinking of the Ripper Street series but with humor. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Josie
5.0 out of 5 stars Jack Sketches's
Very good story enjoyed it very much. Good story look forward to next book or books. Keep on writing them
Published 15 months ago by Peter
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended - Great Read - Great Detail - Great Story.
This book is excellent, brilliantly researched and quite riveting. The author obviously has a passion for Victorian Leicester and as an ex policeman an interest in the origins of... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and entertaining.
This is not the usual sort of genre that I read . Some parts were very graphic and had it been a TV show I would have been hiding behind my hands. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Lian Jayne
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the borough boys return?
Great book griping story, how Leicester has changed over the years. Lots of research into old Leicester areas .well done phil can't wait for next book
Published 16 months ago by james grant
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