Gwendoline Williams was born on 19 August 1922 in Blackheath, South London, England, UK, daughter of Alice (Lee) and Alfred Edward Williams, her younger twin brothers are also authors. Educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read History, and later lectured there. On 16th October 1949, she married Dr Lionel Harry Butler (1923-1981), a professor of medieval history at University of St. Andrews and historian, Fellow of All Souls and Principal of Royal Holloway College. The marriage had a daughter, Lucilla Butler.

In 1956, she started to published John Coffin novels under her married name, Gwendoline Butler. In 1962, she decided used her grandmother's name, Jennie Melville as pseudonym to sing her Charmian Daniels novels. She was credited for inventing the "woman's police procedural". 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.

Book List in Order:45 titles

  • In the court of King George IV, Major Mearns---an old dog of war and veteran of Willington's army---is the guardian of Windsor Castle. Some would call him a spy; he calls himself a "watcher." Working with his close friend, the resourceful Sergeant De...


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    "With his wife, the acclaimed actress Stella Pinero, away on a movie shoot in Scotland, Chief Commander John Coffin is at a bit of a loose end with just the cat and dog for company. But one morning, as he checks through the mail for his wife, he gets...


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    A pile of infant skulls unearthed near police headquarters is particularly horrifying. John Coffin and DI Phobe Astley investigate. London has been the scene of many a terrifying crime, but the discovery of a pile of infant skulls unearthed near p...


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    Young Fanny Burney is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. The life of the entire castle is affected by the wanderings and ravings of the deranged monarch, and Fanny does the best she can to soothe her mistress in the midst of her troubles....


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    "Everyone has a few ghosts in their closets, but John Coffin, Chief Commander of the Second City of London's Police, believes that his are all safely tucked away. In fact, recently recovered from a gunshot wound, Coffin is hoping for a calmer life wi...


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    Dying Words Next to the body of the murdered police officer was a note with the scrawled words "Ask Coffin." But what is it that John Coffin, Commander of London's Second City police, is supposed to know? The victim, Harry Seton, was investigat...


  • Three women: Dodo, Val, and Charley, orphaned at birth, are bound by a unique friendship spanning two continents, and two world wars.Dodo, ""born to Bohemia"", always lived by her own rules until an unknown enemy turns her world upside down; Val, bea...


  • Charlotte Chaudin has created herself from a chrysalis, building a successful career as a fashion designer and using her butterfly wings to conceal that she is not quite what she seems. Though she has youthful success, a man she loves, and a seemingl...


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    PLACES IN THE MIND A series of random terrorist acts have struck the heart of Commander John Coffin's Docklands area. The body of a dead woman, rendered unidentifiable by her killer, is at first believed to be that of Stella Pinero, Coffin's wife....






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    HISTORY AND DESTINY He may have seen more than ninety years, but former British Prime Minister Richard Lavender still has the political savvy to know when things need handling quickly and discreetly. Hence his summons to Commander John Coffin of L...


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    Marriage is proving anything but dull for Commander John Coffin, keeper of the peace in London's Second City. With grande dame of the stage Stella Pinero in his life, Coffin's days lack no drama." "When the curtain comes down on opening night in Stel...


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    That summer when the old Docklands of London sweltered in the great heat... was the summer when John Coffin walked his Second City of London and felt that life was unraveling about him... Something had to be done and it was for him to do it. Two of C...


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    John Coffin's life, steadily unfolding in Gwendoline Butler's long series of novels about him, continues to be both involving and suspenseful. After a stormy affair, he and actress Stella Pinero are now married, and Coffin has reached the rank of Com...


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    The latest of the accomplished Commander John Coffin mysteries revolves around the disappearance of two students from the university of the Second City of London. Although Amy Dean and Martin Blackwell have been missing only two days, Coffin, head of...


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    In Butler's latest procedural, ominous threats to a child galvanize the police of the fictional Second City of London and their commander, John Coffin, who is being investigated by an overzealous MP. Nell Casey, an American soap opera star who is app...


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    The brutal murder of a sixteen-year-old girl polarizes the inhabitants of the newly gentrified London neighborhood under the jurisdiction of police chief commander John Coffin, seen before in Coffin in the Museum of Crime . Victim Anna Mary Kinver be...


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    MATTERS OF THE HEAD Life was good for Detective John Coffin--he'd earned a promotion and had just moved into a new home in the tower of a renovated church-turned-theater. True, he now headed his own force and was no longer a street detective, but ...


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    FOR THE TWISTED AND TALENTED, MURDER IS A GAME Scotland Yard Chief Superintendent John Coffin is properly skeptical of the evil reputation of the house at No. 22, Church Row. True, the house has seen violent death over the centuries. None of it...


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    Scotland Yard's eminent Detective John Coffin was a mere sergeant. Anticipating a promotion, he now buys a house that needs repairs and proves a catalyst to dire events. Workmen find the body of an adolescent boy under the floor--and Coffin, though i...


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    In 1946, newly promoted detective-constable John Coffin arrives in Greenwich to take up his post. Soon after, the body of a young woman floats down the Thames to South London. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary murder: the victim has b...



  • Here is a spellbinding tale of mysticism, love, and betrayal, set in St. Petersburg on the brink of revolution, with the Tsarina in thrall to Rasputin, the Tsarevitch ailing, and conspirators planning to topple the three-hundred-year-old Romanov dyna...


  • Amid the royal splendor of the German court, vibrant young Trelawney Adair found that her secret attraction toward Prince Frederick, her sister's husband, had cast her inexplicably under a dark cloud of suspicion. Day by day her beautiful sister, Dai...


  • Original title: "The Brides of Friedberg". Amid the royal splendor of the German court, vibrant young Trelawney Adair found that her secret attraction toward Prince Frederick, her sister's husband, had cast her inexplicably under a dark cloud of s...


  • BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER That was all the note said. Lovely, vivacious Errol Vesey was certain she knew who sent it. And this made her even more afraid. It was her step-brother. A man whose existence she had known nothing of until a few days ag...


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    Inspector John Coffin has a yellow canary - not a bird, but a woman, as the police refer to women who sing with a touch of hysteria. Olivia struggles through a nightmare where fact and fantasy merge as she tries to find who murdered her lover....


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    A novel of illusion and intrigue... the amorous attentions of a stranger... a woman caught in a subtle, shifting, sophisticated London....


  • A Victorian thriller complete with a series of bizarre crimes and a bold, beautiful and well-educated heroine....


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    The papers hinted that behind the deaths of Thomas Barr, M.P., and his secretary, Sheila Daly, lay scandal and depravity. But Detective Coffin believed the causes lay buried deep among the secret emotions and shadowy pasts of the quick - and the dead...


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    Three little girls had been reported missing recently in the same district of South London and Superintendent John Coffin was aware there could be others. The area had more than its fair share of cranks. For a start there was Tony Young's club of UFO...


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    Aaron Tyler and his poker club friends apprehend and accidentally kill an intruder in his house. Thus begins a descent into a web of violence that may cost them everything - their jobs, families and ultimately their lives. No act of violence ever ...


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    A crime novel featuring John Coffin, who is investigating cases of handbag slashing in London, he had a feeling that the cases were going to lead him to something far worse. A similar case appears in Murreinhead in Scotland, and then court officer wa...


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    An Oxford crime thriller featuring sleuth John Coffin, for whom what starts out as a simple case of murder turns into one of the most chilling cases of his career....


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    Mary Ellen worked in a baby clinic in London where her days were busy and her cares, in the main, small. Until the Bishop baby was kidnapped, before Mrs Cox was murdered, and before the gruesome discovery of a mummified child in a suitcase....


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    The man was quiet, determined, curious even - and always in his spot across the street from her home. Sometimes he followed her when she left town on lectures or other scholarly occasions. Sometimes not. What obsession did he harbor for the intell...


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    DR. MARION MANNING WAS BEING WATCHED The man was quiet, determined, curious even - and always in his spot across the street from her home. Sometimes he followed her when she left town on lectures or other scholarly occasions. Sometimes not. Wh...


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    A young girl has a link to a vicious killer and who cannot say any word other than 'man'....


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    The first John Coffin Mystery....