In the village of Castle Farthing a mean-spirited, spiteful, curmudgeonly old man is found drugged and strangled in the kitchen of his cottage, with no obvious clues to the perpetrator of the crime.
DI Falconer and Acting DS Carmichael are summoned from the police headquarters in the nearby town of Market Darley and begin to uncover a web of grudges against the old man and a sea of familial connections between those who knew him.
As the heat of July continues relentlessly, tempers flare, disturbing the usual rural calm of the village, and the normally imperturbable Harry Falconer. Faced with a crime with no obvious prime suspect and the idiosyncrasies of his new partner,Carmichael, he feels that he is gradually losing his grip on the case as the body count rises ...
Andrea Frazer is married, with four grown-up children, and lives in the Dordogne with her husband Tony and their six cats. She has wanted to write since she first began to read at the age of five, but has been a little busy raising a family and working as a lecturer in Greek (she has a Fellowship Diploma in Greek), and teaching music. Apart from writing, Andrea continues to teach music, and now also teaches French to ex-pats.
Her interests include playing several instruments (but not all at the same time!), reading, and choral singing (she sings with two choirs in a nearby town). In her spare time, she breathes!
The village of Castle Farthing drowsed in the heat of the July sunshine, postcard-pretty with its diamond-shaped green duck pond and Saxon church.
At the top of the High Street, at the Old Manor House, Brigadier Malpas-Graves scratched his head and frowned as he surveyed the empty patches in his asparagus beds. He was sure and certain that they had not cut that much over the last few days. From the soft fruit beds his wife’s voice called, ‘There’s hardly a strawberry here, and I know there were more raspberries on these canes yesterday. Have you checked the hens?’
‘I have indeed,’ replied her husband. ‘Only the two eggs, and I’m sure it wasn’t a fox made off with that bantam the other week. If it was, there would’ve been feathers and injured birds. I’m going to have to put a stop to this before it gets out of hand.’
‘Oh, Godfrey, must you? You know how I hate bad feeling between neighbours.’
‘I’m sorry, Joyce, but I must. We’re not a charity and I won’t be taken for a fool. It has to stop now.’ So saying, the Brigadier smoothed down the ends of his white moustache, hitched his belt over his prominent frontage and marched off to check his salad beds.
To the west, at The Old School House in Sheepwash Lane, the white-haired figure of Martha Cadogan could be seen bobbing about in the garden as she twitched out chickweed and other invading greenery from amongst her beloved blooms. Really, she thought as she weeded, these raised beds that Bertie built for me are a real God-send. Nowhere nearly so much bending, and the stonework is really very attractive. She stopped for a minute and smiled as she thought of all the hard work put in by her beloved nephew-in-law, then, spotting greenfly on her rose bushes, resolved to give them a good spray before she set off for her Sunday afternoon stroll, a habit that eased the ache of her arthritis and gave her much-needed contact with the other folk of the village. Since her retirement from teaching she missed the daily hustle and bustle of social intercourse, and did what she could to get out and about and keep up with what was going on in what she considered to be ‘her patch’.
Next door to her property was an unusual oval-shaped thatched property, appropriately named ‘The Beehive’ as it boasted several of these in its rear garden. With its whitewashed walls and black-painted window frames and door it had a very attractive appearance which would not have looked out of place on the top of a jigsaw-puzzle box. To the rear of the property, beyond the hives and abutting the orchard wall of ‘The Rookery’, stood an outbuilding that served as a studio. Inside, Cassandra Romaine was just laying down her paintbrush as her husband Clive appeared in the doorway.
‘I’ve got to nip into the office to get some paperwork for tomorrow. Do you want to come with me for the ride?’
‘No thanks. I’ve got a bit more to do here, then I thought I’d go for a walk to clear my head. You go on. I’ll see you at teatime.’ As the door closed she picked up her brush again and frowned at the canvas on the easel. It was always so difficult to know just when something was finished.
On the corner of Sheepwash Lane and the High Street, in the substantial residence known as Pilgrims’ Rest, Piers Manningford was pacing impatiently round the drawing room, occasionally glancing at his watch and sighing. His wife, Dorothy, at forty-nine eight years his senior, looked up from her laptop and tutted. ‘Oh for heaven’s sake, Piers, isn’t there something you could be doing? I’ve got to get the design for this warehouse conversion finished today and you’re driving me to distraction.’
‘Sorry, dear. I wasn’t thinking.’ He glanced at his watch again. ‘I think I’ll just go for a stroll down the Carsfold Road and see if the hang gliders are up, if that’s all right with you.’
‘Go, go, and give me a bit of peace and quiet. And don’t hurry back. I’ll be glad to see the back of you for a couple of hours.’
Piers’ bored expression dissolved as he headed for the hall to collect his binoculars, stopping at the hallstand to check his already immaculate appearance.
‘a mischievously entertaining crime novel’