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It’s a different time of year to usual (winter rather than summer), but don’t think for one moment that this excuses you from your duty: choosing the title of the latest Sam Plank novel, heretofore known as “Plank 5”.  Just to remind you, the four predecessors in the series are called “Fatal Forgery”, “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat”, “Worm in the Blossom” and “Portraits of Pretence”.  Of course, no-one can be expected to choose a title without knowing a little about the book, so here we go:

“Plank 5” is set in the autumn/winter of 1828.  Constable Sam Plank becomes curious about religious meetings led by a charismatic preacher at which ‘heralds’ claim that they can communicate with the deceased and pass on messages from them to their mourning relatives.  [This practice gained enormous currency in the Victorian period, with spiritualism and mediums gathering huge followings, but the idea has been there since the beginning of time.]  Some of the messages suggest that the subjects should donate quite a bit of money to the preacher’s cause – and when a man’s wife refuses to allow him to do this, the herald suggests a rather extreme solution, and this is how Sam becomes involved.  Others who attend the meetings because they have lost beloved children are told that, for a fee, replacement babies could be found.  And yet everything suggests that the preacher himself is an honest and godly man, who truly believes that you can communicate from beyond the grave.  Sam’s baffled scepticism is matched only by Martha’s heartbreaking desire to believe and Wilson’s stolid determination to make sense of it all.

As ever, I have thought of five possible titles and will leave the final choice to you.  The poll will run from today for three weeks – i.e. until Friday 9 February 2018 – and then I have to give the title to the cover magicians.  So here we go, the five contenders…