As we head into 2009, all of us are affected in some way by the financial gloom that has enveloped the world. It is a timely moment to reflect on Shakespeare’s great and wise words from King Lear: “The worst is not so long as we can say, this is the worst…”

It is all too easy to forget the only thing that actually truly matters in life, which is our health. I have one old, very dear friend and a brilliant researcher for my Roy Grace series, who has recently suffered from a stroke and is fighting bravely to recover. Another friend, not so lucky, who died of an aneurysm last weekend. And my dear mentor Fred Newman, the founder of one of the UK book world’s most read publications, “Publishing News”, who has supported my writing right from the very start, who died sadly some weeks ago after a long battle with cancer.

I know it is an old cliché, but health ultimately is all that really matters, the only currency of true value. What is the joy of having millions in the bank, but to be too incapacitated to enjoy it, or have only months or weeks to live?

I have often said that one of the cheeriest places I know is also the grimmest, the Brighton and Hove City Mortuary, run by the fictitious Cleo, Darren and Walter in my Roy Grace novels, and in real life by the wonderful Elsie Sweetman, Sean Didcott and Victor Sinden. They have to witness and deal with, every day, tragic victims of sudden death – and they have to give comfort to their loved ones. If any one group of people have a true right to feel gloomy all the time it is this remarkable trio. Yet they remain among the most positive and cheerful group of people I have ever been privileged to know. Here is their Christmas card which I want to share with you. If they can keep their humour and keep smiling, in the face of all they have to deal with, then so should we all. Chapeau, Elsie, Sean and Victor!

A Happy, and above all, Healthy New Year to all.

My very best to you.


Mortuary Christmas Card front cover
Brighton and Hove City Mortuary Christmas Card front cover…

Mortuary Christmas Card inside
…and inside