Cover image for A grave Coffin : a Commander John Coffin mystery
A grave Coffin : a Commander John Coffin mystery
Butler, Gwendoline.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2000.

Physical Description:
246 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : HarperCollins, 1998.

"Thomas Dunne books"
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



With the papers near the mutilated body of Harry Seton is a note: "Ask Coffin." Seton was a detective doing undercover work on the sale of illegal pharmaceuticals. No one, including John Coffin, Commander of London's Second City, knows what the note means, but it appears that Seton was secretly investigating internal police corruption. Coffin begins to look into Seton's secret investigation, only to find that someone has beat him to it and is already destroying evidence that the commander will need.

Just as Coffin starts to follow Seton's trail, a far greater tragedy strikes Second City. Four boys, each connected to the police in some way, are missing and the body of one is found buried in a shallow grave. It is clear that someone who holds a grudge against the police has targeted the children, but there is little evidence to go on. The only witnesses are a group of rollerbladers, but fear and something else are keeping them quiet.

The terror in Second City comes directly to Coffin's house, threatening him and his wife Stella. Is it Harry Seton's nemesis seeking him out? Or the child-killer? Or are they connected? Is Coffin cunning enough to avert any further disasters?

Author Notes

Gwendoline Butler, née Williams was born on August 19, 1922 in South London, England. She was a British writer of mystery fiction and romance novels since 1956. She also used the pseudonym Jennie Melville. Credited for inventing the "woman's police procedural", is well known for her series of Inspector John Coffin novels as Gwendoline Butler, and by female detective Charmian Daniels as Jennie Melville. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read History, and later lectured there. In 1956, she started to publish John Coffin novels under her married name, Gwendoline Butler. In 1962, she decided to use her grandmother's name, Jennie Melville as pseudonym to sign her Charmian Daniels novels. In addition to her mystery series, she also wrote romantic novels. In 1981, her novel The Red Staircase won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Her titles include Receipt for Murder, Coffin Following, Coffin's Ghost, Coffin Knows the Answer and Loving Murder.

She died on January 5, 2013.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

John Coffin, Chief Commander of the Second City of London Police and veteran of more than 20 novels (Coffin's Games; The Coffin Tree, etc.), has to juggle a secret assignment in addition to a serial-murder case in this absorbing police procedural in the classic manner. Trouble begins with the discovery of the mutilated body of detective Harry Seton, who was part of a special detail to eliminate British traffic and possible British manufacture of counterfeit pharmaceutical productsÄand had been looking into police corruption. On orders from above, Coffin has to follow up on Seton's clandestine investigation into the latter case. Meanwhile, the commander has a gruesome set of schoolboy murders in his own patch. Particularly unsettling is that each boy had a parent connected in some way to the police. Coffin calls on the usual array of quirky personalities for support: Inspector Paddy Devlin, a striking woman who specializes in pederast cases; his chief adjutant, Paul Masters, whose white Pekinese, Augustus (possibly a police dog working undercover), barks and sniffs for important clues; and Coffin's actress wife, Stella Pinero, with her emotional unpredictability. In the end Coffin isn't sure who poses the greater threatÄSeton's killer or the deranged child-murderer. For readers new to the series, the author provides both a note explaining the inspiration for the setting ("Second City" corresponds to London's East End) and a helpful summary of Coffin's life and career. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved