Joslin Competition




This month Dennis Hamley celebrates 50 years since his first publication. And still going strong. Dennis makes no bones about preferring paper to e-ink (and I for one agree with him) but he also knows how to move with the times. He understands that having work read is one of the purposes and joys of writing and has embraced epublishing with a vengeance.  In the last six months he’s brought out all six parts of The Long Journey of Joslin de Lay (originally published in paperback in the 1990’s.)

Outlines of them are given below. Dennis is giving away some of his titles for free during the Edinburgh ebook festival (click on the early bird tweet post  daily for information) and we are running a special competition. It’s open to under 16 and 16+.  We’d like you to read one of the Joslin stories and write a review. The best review in each category will get published on the Indie e-book review site. And if you’re REALLY brave then you could try and write a review for THE WHOLE SERIES. We’ll come up with a special prize for that feat! I’m sure Dennis could provide a signed copy of something to anyone rising to the challenge of writing a really comprehensive review of the whole saga!


Six murder mysteries set in 1369.  England is a dark, violent, dangerous place, riven by plague and rebellion.  Joslin de Lay is a young French minstrel, seventeen years old.  His father is murdered: Joslin escapes to England , a hostile country at war with his homeland, to find the mother he never knew, discover the secrets of his father’s past and the identity of the man who murdered him.  Now begins his quest across England to Wales, from east to west.  But a mysterious figure dogs his every step. Described as ‘A juicily macabre series of page-turners’  (Jan Mark, Carousel)


No sooner does he step ashore at Ipswich than Joslin is embroiled in murder.   The great Doom painting is taking shape in Stovenham church, but each time a face is completed the person in the portrait meets a mysterious death..  “The devil walks abroad in Stovenham” says the travelling friar.   There are danger, tears and cruel murder  before Joslin finds the truth and  resume his journey.

There was no doubt.  Near where the altar had been there were legs encased in green hose, a barrel chest in red doublet and shiny leather jerkin.  Whoever it was looked sound asleep too.

      Fearfully, Joslin crept closer.  Then he caught his breath.   He knew who lay there.  And he was not asleep.


A London mystery.   Arriving with Alys at the house of Randolf Waygoode the painter and his apprentices, Joslin finds himself in the middle of strange events. First, the body of an unknown man is found in the Thames.   Second, one of Randolf’s apprentices has disappeared and is found murdered.  His throat is slit and he bears the boils of the Plague.  Two deaths in one.  There is a double-dealer in death somewhere in London. Terror stalks the streets and  Joslin must beware of it.

“Father Thames will give you cheaper lodgings then any Fleet Street tavern, I think.  It’s a pity I couldn’t put you further upstream where the tide’s weaker and you might have rotted unknown.  But no matter.  I should have remembered how stubborn night watchmen can be.  Still,

            you’ll probably drift out to sea now and that will be an end of you.”

      A push, a splash in the black water and the companion was gone.


An old scholar is murdered in the library of Doncaster College, Oxford just as he is about to unearth a great secret.  Joslin arrives in Oxford and finds himself  enveloped  in a mystery with sinister, horrifying implications and its roots deep in the past.  Two people are seeking answers and revenge, while forbidden and terrible knowledge is abroad in the college.  Joslin is led to a confrontation which could literally tear the heart out of him.

      It was like no plant Joslin – or even Gilbert, with so many years behind him – had ever seen.  They stood in the pouring rain looking down but fearing to touch

       What stood up from the earth was no plant.  Gilbert turned away.  They saw a human hand, part of a body which must have been there for weeks, buried next to the cursed mandrake.


Coventry is the next place on Joslin’s journey.   He meets the enigmatic Crispin, another minstrel who also has a long quest to complete.   They fall in with a band of travelling actors led by Miles, their leader, on their way to the Corpus Christi Miracle Plays.   But one actor has disappeared and when he is found he presents a grisly warning.   Miles and his band do not seem welcome in Coventry and the performances of the plays are surrounded by danger, murder and mystery.

He stood up.  Here was someone newly dead  and left for others to find or be buried in leaves, eaten by animals and never known at all.  The open eyes glittered upwards.   Greasy, black hair, pointed, even rat-like nose and chin.  The bloodsoaked garment was a minstrel’s tunic.  Lambert of Shoreditch had come all the way from London to meet his end in the Forest of Arden. 


Crispin is coming home to Hereford to claim his inheritance and Joslin goes with him.  But a body is found at the foot of the tower of  St Ethelbert’s Cathedral and when Crispin finds out who it is he realises that there are people who don’t want him there and are set on his death.  He and Joslin together come to a terrible climax in which they face a truly nightmarish end.

The murderer watched the body’s almost graceful progress until it reached the roof of the nave.  There, it teetered on the edge, nearly lodged in the guttering, then fell further like a monstrous bird shot with an arrow.  It hit the ground below and spread out, still, sprawling as if its arms and legs were carefully placed in some strange display in the grey moonlight.  Its robe showed black against the stony ground, almost like the wings of an angel of death.

       “Useless then, useless now,” the murderer said, then stepped back into the tower and felt a careful way down to the foot of the ladder.


At last Joslin meets the mysterious figure who has secretly followed him across England into Wales.   But when this man tells him who he is, Joslin’s world collapses round him.   However, having solved other people’s mysteries, now he is on the brink of solving his own.  The journey is long and hard, the clues he has followed all the way from France are riddling and not to be trusted, there are men and women dead on the way and the secret buried in the past is so hard to unearth.

It was as if a dark angel, or the devil himself, or the huge black spider of Joslin’s dreams  descended on them with dreadful suddenness and then vanished.  But in that instant, one sinuous arm hooked round Edmund’s throat and the other plunged a knife deep in his back.  The body pitched forward with a gurgling cry and the death-dealer was gone before anyone could draw breath.  After the first moment’s shock, Joslin knew he had just seen how, with one strong and smooth stab, his father and Rhys had died.  At last he knew that he had been right all along about who killed his father.  And yet…

If you have enjoyed these synopses, you can download ALL the Joslin stories HERE and when you’ve read one (or the whole lot) why not try your hand at writing a review for the competition.

The Competition is for a review of 500 -1000 words on any one (or the whole series) of The Long Journey of Joslin de Lay.  Submit your review by 30th September to IEBR and we’ll feature the best on the site before the end of the year.  Your submission should feature YOUR NAME and EMAIL CONTACT as well as your age (under or over 16) and the TITLE of the Joslin story you are reviewing. Good luck and get reading!  

Reviews by other people are posted on IEBR site both in the virtual bookshelf (Children/YA) under the appropriate title, and in a SPECIAL Dennis Hamley review feature on IEBR on August 21st

 And Don’t miss Dennis’ Festival Writers Piece on August 22nd at 12.30 

Visit Dennis’ Festival PAGE