I’m giving in to the long-suppressed urge to share a scene from the new murder mystery I’m currently working on. It will be called A Wreath Of Lilies – you may well have seen me banging on about it already. This will be the second book of my new-ish 1960s series featuring Dee Gascoigne as a private detective. If you haven’t already seen it, you can find out more about book 1 – A Meeting With Murder – here.
Here’s the blurb-type thing (which may change…)
On her first ‘official’ investigator case, Dee Gascoigne is off to the village of Hartwell Priory, where locals are up in arms over the proposal to dig up the deceased ancestors buried in the local cemetery in order to make way for three hundred new houses.
As if things aren’t tense enough, a group of hippie-like ghost hunters arrive and hold a seance. A message from beyond the grave seems to indicate that a grave has been forgotten.
Or was it just an illegal burial?
This book will be out in October, and like all my books, will be available in eBook form, paperback and large print paperback, from Amazon, and regular-print paperback only from ‘other’ online retailers and libraries. Here’s a sneak peek, in case you’re interested, hope you enjoy it.
Dee Gascoigne was the only person in the train carriage. She had a newspaper in case she got bored, as it was a long, slow journey to Hartwell Priory, a village close to the North Essex coast. And if the newspaper was not enough, she had a novel in her handbag – the Agatha Christie book that she had wanted to read for some time and that she’d been given by her cousin Jenny as a birthday present. Next to the brand new copy of A Caribbean Mystery was the envelope Monty had given her. She had better not lose it. It contained some cash to pay for her expenses, and a couple of sheets of paper that outlined her new ‘case’. She used the word in her mind, and it thrilled her to the core – she was actually on a case. In addition to these she had a letter of introduction and a handful of business cards so that she could be confident in the face of any challenge to her – call it what it was – nosy questioning.
If there was something that could be called a ‘gift’ in Dee’s character it was her ability to ask far too many questions, and it was pleasing to know that these could now be asked officially on behalf of Montague Montague of London, legal services.
Only yesterday, Thursday September 2nd 1965, Dee had been sitting in Monty’s office, hoping almost against hope it had seemed, that he could help her.
It had been practically six months since she had left – or been asked to leave – her job as a modern languages teacher at a very nice school for very nice young ladies. Since then she had found herself at a loss over what to do with her life.
Then, in the Spring, she had been sent off to the seaside to convalesce after an illness and had stumbled into a murder mystery exactly like those she so dearly loved to read. (Here she glanced with fond anticipation at the little bit of the cover of A Caribbean Mystery that she could see nestling in the top of her open bag). She had helped her dratted sort-of cousin, Inspector Bill Hardy, to clear up the mystery, risking her own life and limb to do so, but was the man grateful? Not at all. ‘Keep out of police business in future,’ he had growled at her at her mother’s birthday party, grabbing her arm in a vice-like grip and steering her away from the celebrations where she had been enjoying a lively discussion with her aunt, his mother, who also loved to ‘dabble’ in mysteries. He had a bloody cheek, Dee fumed to herself.
Anyway… Where was she? She had lost herself in the midst of feeling angry with Bill. She certainly wasn’t going to think about how handsome he had looked in his formal dinner suit, nor about how much she liked the way his dark hair crinkled behind his ears and at his neck now that he was wearing it a little longer as many young men did these days.
She had been out of work for some months now. Oh, she had been invited to several interviews for positions at other schools, but it always came down to the same thing: she just didn’t want to go back to teaching.
Yet what else could a recently separated woman do? People were so sniffy about the idea of a woman leaving her husband. It was this scandalous action on her part that had cost her the job in the first place.
And then, seemingly from nowhere, when all hope was lost and the money she had borrowed from her parents was dwindling to a pitifully tiny amount, dear, dear Monty had asked her brother Rob to get her to come and see him.
‘I’ve got something in the way of a job idea that might interest you,’ M’dear Monty had wheezed at her across his vast oak desk. Eighty if he was a day, and about to start his fifth retirement, Monty’s legal expertise had saved Dee’s family on more than one occasion.
She had been all ears. Could he really be serious? She held her breath waiting to see what he said. Even if it was a typing job, she’d have to take it. Not that she could type, not really. But she could no longer pretend that she wasn’t desperate. Her pride – that thing that goeth before a fall – was now in tatters.
‘Most law practices engage investigators to find out things for them. To carry out research, or to go to speak to people, that sort of thing. Montague’s is no different. But the fellow I have been using for the last two or three years has – er – shall we say – found it advantageous to his health to quickly move to South America. Therefore I now have a vacancy.
‘Dear Rob has kindly given me full account of your exploits down in Porthlea – delightful place – in the spring, and I think you could be just what I’m looking for. I know your inquiring mind, (nosiness, Dee told herself) and that you are an intelligent woman. Resourceful too, (crafty, Dee amended) and I know that I need have no doubts whatsoever about your moral integrity.’
She was on the point of speaking, but he held up a hand to halt her. He added, ‘Oh I know this is rather new to you, M’dear, but I feel you have a certain bent for investigating. In any case, I need someone right now, and if I may be blunt for a moment, you need the money. Can I persuade you to give it a try? If it doesn’t suit you, M’dear, no harm done on either side. What do you say?’
Well, what could she say?
‘My goodness, Monty dearest, I’d love to!’
And so here she was, on a painfully slow train that seemingly stopped at every rabbit hutch and milepost, heading to a place she’d never even heard of: Hartwell Priory.
She knew it was a tiny place, barely more than a halfway point between the busy port of Harwich and the city of Colchester in the county of Essex. She was to find her way to a guesthouse and rent herself a room for the week. Monty seemed to think it could take her several days, perhaps a whole week, to find out the things he needed to know.
She had money for her expenses, and the promise of ten pounds in wages, whether she was successful or not. Oh, she prayed she would be. The last thing she wanted was to let Monty down after his kindness.
The guard peered at her through the window of the connecting door to the next carriage. He’d already clipped her ticket and was checking to see if any new passengers had boarded into her carriage. They hadn’t of course, it had been almost an hour since she’d seen anyone other than the guard.
The business cards Monty had so clearly had printed before he even knew what she would say, stated simply: Miss Diana Gascoigne, Associate, Montague Montague of London, legal services. And the letter of introduction, was exactly that, short, to the point, impossible to quibble with or gainsay:
‘To whom it may concern,
I confirm that Miss Diana Gascoigne is an associate of this company, Montague Montague of London, legal services, and that she is employed by myself and under my instructions.
The Honourable Montague Montague QC, Bart.,’
The connecting door opened. Dee glanced up. The guard, a young man in his twenties, said,
‘We’ll be there in two minutes, miss. Watch your step getting down, it’s quite a drop to the platform.’
‘Do you need help with your suitcase?’
‘Oh no, that’s quite all right, thanks.’ She beamed at him.
He blushed and left, and Dee closed her handbag with a snap, got up, grabbed her raincoat and hat, and hefted her case down off the luggage net and began to make her way to the corridor. The train slowed and the long narrow platform appeared beneath the window.
She had arrived.
grateful thanks for the image go to Shutterstock and more especially, Agalaya: