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Heartbeat Books - The Constable Series

Constable on the Hill Constable around the Village Constable across the Moors Constable in the Dale Constable Beneath the Trees Constable in Control Constable under the Gooseberry Bush Constable in the Farmyard Constable in the Wilderness Constable Along the Trail Constable on View Constable on the Coast Constable at the Fair
'Constable on the Hill'

The Constable books are probably Nicholas Rhea's best known work, since they form the rootstock from which the much-loved TV series, Heartbeat, sprang. Author Nicholas Rhea drew on his own experiences as a local bobby for a small Yorkshire village in the 1960s to chronicle the career of Constable Nick, from his first arrival in Aidensfield in Constable on the Hill (first published in 1979) to his retirement in Constable over the Hill (2011). Many other Constable books filled in the narrative between those two events. One of their many admirers was the Head of Drama at Yorkshire Television, and this led to the sale of the television rights to what eventually became Heartbeat. The early series not only used the location and many of the major characters of Nicholas Rhea's books, they also drew on his storylines. Nicholas Rhea played an active part in the storyline process throughout the show's lifetime, and his advice on police procedure and Yorkshire life in the sixties was always highly appreciated by the programme makers.

The growth of electronic publishing means that many of those early, hard-to-find stories are now easily available once more, and new editions are appearing all the time, so use the list below to discover every stage of Constable Nick's career - and even that isn't the end of the story...

When Heartbeat came to an end, Nicholas Rhea decided that it was time for Constable Nick to take his well earned retirement. But neither he nor his readers were ready to say goodbye, and retirement has brought Nick new challenges, helping to create a small private police force of monk-constables serving Maddleskirk Abbey and its adjoining college.

Constable on Trial

Constable on Trial

There are more stories to be told, as well, about Nick's earlier life. Constable on Trial takes us back in time as Detective Constable Rhea, stationed in the popular seaside resort of Strensford as a somewhat raw recruit, is given an attachment to CID. As Nicholas Rhea explains, there is an autobiographical element in this, too: "When patrolling in uniform, especially in the lonely night hours, young constables would dream of becoming a detective or having their own country beat. I was no exception and although the seaside town where I served my two years' probation provided much of interest, the CID promised extra excitement and intrigue.

Detective Constable Nick is kept busy as he endeavours to trace a stolen garden spade, a sleeping baby in a car driven away by a thief and someone who stole a make-shift hearse with a corpse on board. And who was the phantom knicker-pincher of Harbour Rise? He even finds himself in Aidensfield trying to outwit the roguish Claude Jeremiah Greengrass, and solving the case of the scary noises coming from a holiday cottage.

Throughout his early days Nick, like many other detectives, nurses an ambition to arrest a murderer, but no opportunities come his way - until a killer on the run seeks refuge in Strensford and an elderly lady is found dead at home.

Order Constable on Trial via Amazon UK or from any bookshop (it may help to tell them the ISBN: 978-0-7198-1814-1).

Constable on Trial is now available as an audiobook, read by Nick McArdle: download it now from Amazon or order direct from Soundings in a choice of formats.


Constable on the Prowl Constable by the Stream Constable around the Green Constable versus Greengrass Constable at the Dam Constable along the Lane - audio edition Constable Across the Moors Constable About the Parish Constable in Control Constable over the Bridge Contable in the Country

The Constable books in order

Click the title for additional information about the books, where available - and look out, too, for the Heartbeat editions, sometimes of a single novel, sometimes an omnibus edition of several titles (check the full publications listing for details):

  • Constable on the Hill (original edition 1979)
    Currently available in the Kindle edition from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com.
  • Constable on the Prowl (original edition 1980)
    now available in a Kindle edition and matching paperback (also available from Amazon.com).
  • Constable around the Village (original edition 1982)
    reissued by Áccent Press in 2008; now available as a Kindle eBook from Amazon UK and Amazon.com.
  • Constable across the Moors (original edition 1982)
    reissued by Áccent Press in 2008; now available as a Kindle eBook; download it from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com.
  • Constable in the Dale (original edition 1983)
    reissued by Áccent Press in 2008.
  • Constable by the Sea (original edition 1985)
    reissued by Áccent Press in 2008; now also available as a Kindle eBook from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com.
  • Constable along the Lane (original edition 1986)
    reissued by Áccent Press in 2008.
  • Constable at the Double (1988)
    comprises the books Constable around the Village and Constable across the Moors
  • Constable through the Meadow (original edition 1989)
    reissued by Áccent Press in 2009; also available as a Kindle eBook from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com.
  • Constable in Disguise (original edition 1989)
    reissued by Áccent Press.
  • Constable among the Heather (1990)
    available for Kindle from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com
  • Constable by the Stream (1991)
    The varied and humorous continuation of the exploits of a Yorkshire village constable, PC Rhea. This book includes women bathing nude in local lakes and a thief who leaves poetic notes at the scene of his crimes.
  • What the critics said:

    "Stories of a constable on his village beat in North Yorkshire. All very gentle and far, far removed from the hurly burly of modern day city policing."
    Daily Telegraph

    "Rhea's real strengths are his sharp portraits of people. The best humour comes from the author's close understanding and affectionate portrayals of the character of Yorkshire country folk."
    Northern Echo

  • Constable around the Green (1993)
    Constable Nick copes with a bizarre range of duties. We meet yet more Yorkshire characters, including Sergeant Blaketon's wife who won't let him watch the Cup Final on television, and a wealthy socialite who stocked her handbag with freebies.
    Issued in two versions, the original edition and the Heartbeat TV tie-In edition.
  • Constable beneath the Trees (1994)
  • Constable in Control (1994)
  • Constable in the Shrubbery (1995)
    As the village constable of Aidensfield, Nick has never taken part in a murder investigation. But murder finally comes as Lord Thackerston celebrates his birthday with a mansion full of family and guests.
  • Constable versus Greengrass (1995)
  • Constable about the Parish (1996)
  • Constable at the Gate (1997)
  • Constable at the Dam (1997)
  • Constable over the Stile (1998)
  • Constable under the Gooseberry Bush (1999)
    When it comes to growing prize-winning gooseberries, the village of Aidensfield has always been surpassed by nearby Egton Bridge. As the annual show approaches, the rivalry between the two villages intensifies.
  • Constable in the Farmyard (1999)
    There is crime to solve when a smallholder gets his wages stolen, raiders are disturbed on a lonely farm, and garden equipment is being stolen. Constable Nick copes with it all.
  • What the critics said:

    "These books... do for the police service in North Yorkshire what James Herriot did for the vets there... very relaxing, very readable"
    Manchester Evening News

    "Recommended if it's laughter you're after"
    Bolton Evening News

    "Richly entertaining"
    Yorkshire Evening Post

  • Constable around the Houses (2000)
    There are problems with Greengrass's goat which loves butting motor vehicle headlights and even attacks the police constable's official transport, while Claude Jeremiah himself decides to establish the Greengrass School of Motoring, an ideal means of coping with egg deliveries. Aidensfield isn't free from crime, however. Geoffrey Cunningham reports the theft of his famous art collection of red-headed nudes. Meanwhile a burglar breaks into an isolated house and leaves something behind and a builder discovers a human skeleton under the property he is renovating.
    Constable around the Houses was also published as an audio CD or cassette, read by Graham Roberts.
  • Constable along the Highway (2001)
    Elderly Casper Netherton is advised to give up driving after knocking down his gatepost with his open-top Rolls. Resorting to using his wife's old bicycle, Casper soon finds himself being taken to court by a fuming magistrate from Middlesborough. PC Rhea has to deal with a growing number of motorists on the roads as the townies of the 1960s take their caravans to the country or go on day trips. Meanwhile he has to try to discover the cause of an accident black-spot outside Field House, home of attractive Helen Newcombe. And how will Ashfordly's new Welsh sergeant Craddock fit in, especially after it is discovered that he and his wife love ballroom dancing?
  • Constable over the Bridge (2001)
  • Constable goes to Market (2002)
  • Constable Along the River-bank (2002)
  • Constable in the Wilderness (2003)
  • Constable around the Park (2004)
  • Constable Along the Trail (2005)
  • Constable in the Country (2005)
  • Constable on the Coast (2006)
  • Constable on View (2007)
  • Constable Beats the Bounds (2009)
  • Constable at the Fair (2010)
  • - and, of course, last but not least, Constable over the Hill:

Constable over the Hill

Constable over the Hill

Constable Nick has earned his retirement, for, as you can see, the list of his adventures is long. In a January 2008 interview, Peter Walker (Nicholas Rhea) joked that the last volume of the series would have in its title a nod to the first: from Constable on the Hill to Constable over the Hill. Now at last the wheel has come full circle.

During his final days at Aidensfield, Nick has much to consider, both private and professional. In addition to his personal concerns there are duties to complete as he struggles to balance his family's needs against the demands of the police service. However, crimes and general police duties cannot be ignored whilst the resident constable is preparing to depart. Nick is challenged to solve a centuries-old Aidensfield murder mystery but is also expected to trace a coal thief before he burns the evidence. And what is Claude Jeremiah Greengrass up to? He is secretly spending a lot of time in woodland without his beloved dog, Alfred. Intense pressure comes to Nick and his family because they must find a suitable house before he assumes his new responsibilities. Will the family purchase the police house? And is it true that Claude Jeremiah Greengrass is making a serious bid to buy it? As he struggles to finalise his ambitious plans, some surprising offers are made to Constable Nick as he prepares for the next stage of his career.

Constable over the Hill was first published in May 2011.

Available as an ISIS Soundings audiobook Available in a Magna Large Print edition


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