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Inky Stevens: The Case of the Caretaker's Keys by Chris Martin

Inky Stevens: The Case of the Caretaker's Keys YA Novel

Inky Stevens, the Case of the Caretaker’s Keys is written by Chris Martin. Published by Hogs Back Books March 2020.

Inky Stevens is a reclusive, deep-thinking, schoolboy who lives in a remote British coastal town called ‘Blinkton-on-Sea’. He’s endured a troubled upbringing and avoids confronting his own problems by reaching out and helping others. And Inky does have one extra-special talent to offer… that of ‘detecting’. Every breaktime Inky offers up his services as a self-styled ‘Great School Detective’, inviting anyone at Blinkton High School with a problem to seek his assistance. If inspired, he’ll go undercover to seek out the truth, and in seeking out the truth.

In this book, the first in the series, school caretaker (janitor), Fred Varley, enlists Inky’s help. Fred’s school keys have been stolen. The whole building finds itself at the mercy of whoever took them. Were they taken as a joke, or for a far more sinister purpose altogether? Inky has just three days to find out...

The Case of the Caretaker’s Keys is designed to introduce readers aged between 13 and 18 to crime fiction. In many ways the book parodies the genre, mirroring its dark, gritty, gothic feel and supplying a suitably enigmatic protagonist. Yet, it’s the comedy of the classroom which propels the drama forwards in a setting very familiar to every school pupil the world over.


Chris began his teaching career in 1991 where he taught English and Drama in a British secondary school for over 20 years. During this time he was required to present any number of what he considered ‘dull’ school readers to his often disaffected classes.

It was towards the end of his teaching career that Chris’s writing took on a greater significance. In 2005, he was asked to write a murder mystery play for a School PTA fundraising event. The resulting piece, Who Killed the Headmaster?, proved to be so successful that Chris was asked to write another play the following year. Then another. Then another.

Until finally, in response to increasing levels of interest, he created the website to make his whodunits available to the general public. Today, there are over twenty-five plays on the site, in either 2 or 3 acts, designed to appeal all manner of different institutions… schools (naturally), but also drama groups, sports clubs, church groups, scout troupes, the Women’s Institute, libraries, museums, cruise liners, hotels, pubs and restaurants, or just residential house parties.

Buoyed by the success of Murderplays, Chris left teaching in 2013 to focus on writing full-time. The result was a series of whodunit novels aimed at the young adult market. And when Hogs Back Books offered him a writing contract in 2017, Chris felt incredibly lucky that a publishing house was prepared to take a chance on the character at the heart of his school-based pieces… Inky Stevens, the Great School Detective!

When I finally plucked up the courage to leave the profession in order to fulfil my dream of becoming a full-time writer, I was eager to fuse together my two great passions… ‘education’ and ‘creating whodunits’… in the hope of creating a series of books which I knew from my own experience would inspire, amuse and engage today’s young people. -Chris Martin

Chris Martin explained some of the difficulties he faced while pursuing his author dream. "Like most writers, I never tire of writing and, with over 30 years spent inside a school (one way or another), I relish the art of committing that vast amount of experience to paper."

"What was a problem, however, was… having completed my first and then second book, knowing what to do next? I mean, I can upload my murder mystery pieces straight to my website and they’re ‘for sale’ in a blink. Yet courting a publisher was a whole different ballgame, and one which took me away from what I enjoy doing most… writing fiction," Martin continued.

"It took over eight years to write my book/s, find a publisher, then see my first title appear in print," said Martin. "It took a lot of hard work, full of knock-backs, disappointment and frustration. But finally my series found a home and building a following."

"At last, the future’s looking Inky!!" he added.

Book 2 ‘Inky Stevens, the Case of the Abominable Snowball is out Summer 2022

Writing whodunit fiction is like creating a huge puzzle and I often write without knowing what the final outcome will be myself. This, for me, keeps the story engaging and I’m as intrigued to find out what will happen as (I hope) the reader will be!


For Martin, discussing his inspiration for his books was easy. "School kids!" came Martin's hearty reply, "My book was always intended to engage and amuse today’s young people. It was written for school kids, about school kids, and now having completed it, it’s been my absolute pleasure to be able to go straight back into schools to present Inky via a number of English workshops, either in person or over Zoom."

"To see for myself the reactions the very people it was designed for has made my journey worthwhile," he added.

Marin also acknowledges those who have helped him during the process of publishing his series. "I’ve been greatly assisted in this process by Jamie Foster, a young man I once taught who, loving the book and now an English teacher himself, created a 60-page PDF learning resource, especially for students/teachers (which has also been professionally published)."

A free copy can be found on Chris Martin's website. The website also offers a free twice-yearly ‘Inky Newsletter’ helping all ‘Inklings’ to keep up to date with any developments.

Sneak Peek at the Prologue:

A week after Blinkton’s Great Storm, a tall, dark figure set off to finish what he’d started; his jaw was set, his features a mask of resolve. It was well past midnight by the time the intruder slipped inside Blinkton High School. As he waited for his eyes to adjust, drops of rainwater slid from his leather coat, spotting the floor beneath, while all around an intense blackness spread out over the Reception area like ink on blotting paper. Everything was still.
Reassured, the intruder set about his business with a confidence rarely seen in someone so young. He stole along the labyrinth of corridors, scarcely troubling the air, his crisp footsteps following him into the darkness. The figure exited the main building and crossed the rain swept yard towards a plain-looking office in the old part of the school. He unlocked its door and slipped inside. Immediately, the intruder snapped on his torch, and a funnel of intense, white light sliced through the confined space, causing shadows to pool around his eyes like those of a Halloween mask.
“So far, so good,” he muttered to himself.
The intruder continued his task with the precision of a watchmaker. Squinting, he unlocked the thick, iron door to his left. The cavernous space that revealed itself – the school’s vault – hadn’t changed since his last visit. His expression remained fixed, as he beheld rows of shelves stretching back into the darkness, but he had no time to marvel at the vault’s vastness, nor its orderliness; instead he made his way purposefully down the central aisle. Reaching above his head, he swiftly located the relevant file and removed a sheaf of papers. From these, he quickly identified the item he was after: a single brown envelope.
“How is it that such a plain-looking item can carry so much weight?” he thought.
Instinctively, the intruder tore it open and extracted a piece of A4 paper from within. He angled his torch down onto the document. Just as before, his skin prickled at the horror of what he read. He folded the paper in half and in half again, and placed it in his rucksack. He then switched it for an identical looking sheet with a smile so faint that it scarcely troubled his pale face.
The intruder returned the file to its rightful place and retraced his steps to the smaller office, where he snapped off his torch before stepping back out into the yard.
Outside, with the remnants of the Great Storm drumming on the tarmac, he lifted his head heavenwards and breathed in the icy sharpness of the night before turning swiftly and melting away into the night …

Find More about Chris Martin


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