Thriller writer Joan Brady found seeds in her stolen handbag when it was returned, helping her track down the spot where it was dumped A thriller writer has turned into a real-life super sleuth to track down burglars who broke into her Oxford home.

Burglars raided award-winning author Joan Brady's house in Walton Well Road, Oxford, and escaped with hundreds of pounds worth of electrical goods and personal items including rare 80-year-old letters.

But when a mystery man knocked on her door to return a handbag after he had found it in bushes Dr Brady became like one of the characters from her novels and started to piece together the crime.

Using seed pods caught in the purse, the mother-of-one tracked down where the handbag had been dumped and, with the aid of her son Alexander Masters, discovered some of the stolen property dumped by the canal.

The pods, believed to be from willow trees, pointed to bushes near Port Meadow where addressed envelopes and a magazine stolen from her house were discovered.

But three rare letters written to American poet Edgar Lee Masters concerning journalist HL Mencken remain lost and she is now setting up a failsafe 'drop' straight out of fiction novels to get them back.

Widow Dr Brady was the first woman to win the Whitbread Prize in 1993, for Theory of War, and has recently published her first thriller Bleedout.

Burglars broke into her home on June 6 stealing a computer monitor, DVD recorder, a rain jacket, her dead husband's distinctive dressing gown and £20 cash as well as personal items.

A week later the unknown man came to her door with the handbag and the search for the lost items began.

After tracing seeds in the purse, Dr Brady and her son found the stranger who is not believed to be a burglar.

She said: "He was charming, pointed out where the purse had been found. My son searched all around and managed to recover two other items that had also been stolen, but I'm heartbroken the letters are still missing.

"The thief also took a long white woollen dressing gown, with a distinctive grey silky lining. It was my husband's and one of the few things I have left to remind me of him. I miss it enormously."

Her husband Dexter Masters died 15 years ago.

Now, Dr Brady has arranged a failsafe drop to allow whoever has the letters to return them safely.

For a £1,000 reward, one of the letters, from the 1930s, can be dropped off at a designated PO Box number and verified before the cash is paid out and the rest of the letters are returned.

To claim the reward and arrange the return of the letters, ring Dr Brady's son Alexander Masters on 0207 229 0219.