‘OH MY God,’ she said, still looking at the phone. ‘The Beckhams are in Betty’s’.

One of the most photographed couples in the world was enjoying tea at Betty’s with their children.

The revelation was delivered by a dental hygienist to a patient, whose knowledge of the famous couple was scant, yet sufficient to compel him to make his way to the café after leaving the surgery.

He even pretends to be a journalist, telling a bystander that ‘the celebs just buy me time to work on the more serious stuff…a few pictures, couple of quotes - that’s a month’s earnings right there.’

Why did he do it? Why did he strive to catch a glimpse of David, Victoria, Brooklyn, Romeo and possibly others - ‘Was there a third, a fourth?’ - he does not know himself.

The tale - based on a genuine news story at the time of the 2014 Tour de France - is included in a collection of short stories written by Ilkley-based author Martyn Bedford.

The award-winning novelist, who writes for both adults and young adults, explores themes including love, loss, death, identity and belonging.

A Missing Person’s Inquiry sees young Christie applying rudimentary skills from his SuperSleuth detective kit to find his mother who disappeared after getting into a taxi outside his home.

‘Under the Magnifying Glass, the hair was lots of colours all at once; at one end, it split on two. When he was done with examining the hair, Christie taped it to a card and put it in an Evidence Bag.

mummies hare he wrote on the label.

It’s a sad ending, and not one I was expecting.

The title story ‘Letters Home’ tell of an asylum seeker imagining what he would write to his wife and son back home, giving the impression that England is a friendly, welcoming place, when it is just the opposite. Living in a grim flat near Elland Road in Leeds, he suffers abuse and threats, enduring them so as not to jeopardise his chances of permanent residency and a better life for his family.

A worker in a sleep clinic forms an attachment to one of its patients: ‘She rolls onto her left side, towards the camera. I note the time - 03:12:57,’ it begins. ‘Strands of hair are snagged between her lips; a bare foot has emerged from the duvet and peers over the edge of the bed like a periscope. She swallows, crinkles her nose. As always, she smiles her Mona Lisa smile.’

Martyn gets beneath the skins of his characters and their behaviour in an unsettling way. Short stories, neatly packaged, capturing the reader’s attention from the outset.

Avoiding a bad-tempered husband on Christmas Day, an out-of-work actor living in a bedsit ,stepping into the life of a former resident.

My favourite in the 12-story paperback is ‘Waiting at the Pumpkin’, telling of two work colleagues waiting at a station, one having an appraisal with her dreadful boss.

‘Duncan’s voice reeled her in again. He was inquiring about her Time Management skills. ‘There was a half-hour last Monday,’ she said. ‘I think I managed that quite well.’

‘He didn’t smile. ‘You want me to add “Sense Of Humour” to the list?”

I like the story because I know that station and the café, and have seen countless people in it, who could easily be acting out a similar scenario. And because I’ve worked with people just like the detestable Duncan.

Martin Bedford is the author of five novels for adults including Acts of Revision, The Houdini Girl and Exit Orange and Red. He has also written three novels for young adults: Flip - shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and longlisted for the Carnegie Medal - Never Ending, and Twenty Questions for Gloria.

Letters Home - Martyn's first collection of short stories - offers an insightful, and sometimes stark, look into modern society.

The only downside - as I often find with short stories - is that you become so engrossed you don’t want them to end so soon.

*Letters Home by Martyn Bedford costs £9.99 and is published by Comma Press; W: commapress.co.uk

Helen Mead