Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Historical Fiction

The Missing Sister – #BlogTour Dinah Jefferies- 5*#Review @PenguinUKBooks @VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25-year-old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Such an evocative read, this story of loss, political unrest and a quest for the truth takes place in Burma during the 1930s, with slips back in time to 1911 and the 1920s.

Belle has left England, for a life as a singer in exotic Rangoon. She’s not the usual type of singer they have, but her talent and independent spirit bring her both admirers and adversaries.

Her mother’s failing mental health blighted her childhood, but after her father’s death, she discovers her parents once lived in Rangoon and had and lost a child there. Can this terrible tragedy explain her mother’s illness and what happened to her missing sister?

Belle’s search for the fate of her missing sister reveals more questions and answers, Oliver an attractive journalist offers to help, but can she trust his motives, or should she rely on the establishment to help her?

The plot is engaging. The perfect pacing adds to the story’s sense of mystery and menace. The political climate is dangerous, and Belle shows her emotional strength as she witnesses unspeakable violence and prejudice.

Full of powerful imagery, both in terms of the geographical and historical setting and the vivid characterisation, this story enthrals the reader. There is a mystery to solve a family tragedy to witness and empathise, and a lovely romance.

A lovely escapist read, which will touch your emotions and inspire your imagination.

Extract from The Missing Sister – Dinah Jefferies

Rangoon, Burma, 1936

Belle straightened her shoulders, flicked back her long red-gold hair and stared, her heart leaping with excitement as the ship began its steady approach to Rangoon harbour. Rangoon. Think of it. The city where dreams were made, still a mysterious outline in the distance but coming into focus as the ship cut through the water. The sky, a shockingly bright blue, seemed huger than a sky ever had business to be, and the sea, almost navy in its depths, reflected a molten surface so shiny she could almost see her face in it. Even the air shimmered as if the sun had formed minute swirling crystals from the moisture rising out of the sea. Small boats dotting the water dipped and rose and she laughed as screeching seabirds swooped and squabbled. Belle didn’t mind the noise, in fact, it added to the feeling that this was something so achingly different. She had long craved the freedom to travel and now she was really doing it.

With buzzing in her ears, she inhaled deeply, as if to suck in every particle of this glorious moment, and for a few minutes, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she gasped in awe. It wasn’t the bustling harbour with its tall cranes, its freighters laden with teak, its lumbering oil tankers, its steamers and the small fishing boats gathering in the shadow of the larger vessels that had gripped her. Nor was it the impressive white colonial buildings coming into sight. For, rising behind all that, a huge golden edifice appeared to be floating over the city. Yes, floating, as if suspended, as if a section of some inconceivable paradise had descended to earth. Spellbound by the gold glittering against the cobalt sky, Belle couldn’t look away. Could there be anything more captivating? Without a shadow of a doubt, she knew she was going to fall in love with Burma.

The heat, however, was oppressive: not a dry heat but a kind of damp heat that clung to her clothes. Certainly different, but she’d get used to it, and the air that smelt of salt and burning and caught at the back of her throat. She heard her name being called and twisted sideways to see Gloria, the woman she’d met on the deck early in the voyage, now leaning against the rails, wearing a wide-brimmed pink sun hat. Belle began to turn away, but not before Gloria called out again. The woman raised a white-gloved hand and came across.

‘So,’ Gloria’s cut-glass voice rang out, breaking Belle’s reverie. ‘What do you make of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Impressive, no?’

Belle nodded.

‘Covered in real gold,’ Gloria said. ‘Funny lot, the Burmese. The entire place is peppered with shrines and golden pagodas. You can’t walk without falling over a monk.’

‘I think they must be splendid to create something as wonderful as this.’

‘As I said, the pagodas are everywhere. Now, my driver is waiting at the dock. I’ll give you a lift to our wonderful Strand Hotel. It overlooks the river.’

Belle glanced at the skin around the other woman’s deeply set dark eyes and, not for the first time, tried to guess her age. There were a number of lines, but she had what was generally termed handsome looks. Striking rather than beautiful, with a strong Roman nose, chiselled cheekbones and sleek dark hair elegantly coiled at the nape of a long neck . . . but as for her age, it was anyone’s guess. Probably well over fifty.

Gloria had spoken with the air of someone who owned the city. A woman with a reputation to preserve and a face to match it. Belle wondered what she might look like without the thick mask of expertly applied make-up, carefully drawn brows and film-star lips. Wouldn’t it all melt in the heat?

‘I occasionally stay at the Strand after a late night, in fact, I will be tonight, though naturally, I have my own home in Golden Valley,’ Gloria was saying.

‘Golden Valley?’ Belle couldn’t keep her curiosity from showing.

‘Yes, do you know of it?’

Belle shook her head and, after a moment’s hesitation, decided not to say anything. It wasn’t as if she knew the place, was it? She simply wasn’t ready to talk to someone she barely knew. ‘No. Not at all,’ she said. ‘I simply liked the name.’

Gloria gave her a quizzical look and Belle, even though she had determined not to, caught herself thinking back. A year had passed since her father’s death, and it hadn’t gone well. The only work she’d found was in a friend’s bookshop, but each week she’d pored over the latest copy of The Stage the moment it arrived. And then, joy of joy, she’d spotted the advertisement for performers wanted in prestigious hotels in Singapore, Colombo and Rangoon. Her audition had been in London, where she’d stayed for a gruelling two days and an anxious wait until she heard.

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Posted in Book Review, Crime, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

The Greenway – 4* #Review – Jane Adams #mystery #crime #psychological #suspense #detective @JoffeBooks @janeadamsauthor

AUGUST 1975: Cassie Maltham’s life changes forever one scorching day. She and her twelve-year-old cousin Suzie take a shortcut through the Greenway, an ancient pathway steeped in Norfolk legend. Somewhere along this path Suzie simply vanishes . . .

TWENTY YEARS LATER: Cassie is still tormented by nightmares, parts of her memory completely erased. With her husband Fergus and friends Anna and Simon, she returns to Norfolk, determined to confront her fears and solve a mystery that won’t let her rest.

Then another young girl goes missing at the entrance to the Greenway, and Cassie is pushed once more into the darkest recesses of her mind.

John Tynan, the retired detective who’d been in charge of Suzie’s case, is still haunted by her disappearance. He offers his help to Detective Inspector Mike Croft who is leading the increasingly frantic search for the missing child. Has evil returned? And what really happened all those years ago and who can be believed?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A well-written retro, psychological suspense mystery set in Norfolk.

Cassie is the link between two disappearances of young girls. Her cousin Suzie in 1975 and Sara in 1995, whilst Cassie is revisiting the area after twenty years, as part of her mental health rehabilitation.

There is a multi-layered plot, which encompasses many themes; myths and legends, supernatural occurrences, crime, mental health and police procedural. Some of these are explored in detail, like the day to day police activity surrounding the missing child, others like the supernatural elements, and Cassie’s mental state are hinted at but left to the reader’s imagination to decide what to believe.

Mike Croft the SIO in the case is an interesting character, he has a tragic past, which threatens to impinge on his decision-making capacity in the case. John Tynan, a retired detective who was SIO on the previous missing girl case in 1975, sees the similarities between the two cases, and he supports Mike and his team with the new case. His involvement ties up the historical, and present day elements of the story in a realistic way.

The plot twists are good and the final resolution solves the mystery. Some questions remain but, this is intentional, making this an authentic story, as in real life not every aspect of a crime or mystery can be solved in entirety.

I like the retro ethos of the story, it adds to the plot’s level of menace and the mystery. The complex characters, especially Cassie who is the unreliable protagonist in the story are believable.

Overall this fusion of genres works well and makes the story a compelling read.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

A Tale of Two Sisters – Merryn Allingham 5*#Review @canelo_co @MerrynWrites #historicalfiction #historicalromance #fridayreads

Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost

When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.

Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.

Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A beautifully told story of sisterly love, impetus youth,
and evil. The Tale of Two Sisters is set in the vibrant historical background of early twentieth century Turkey. Full of vivid imagery and intricate historical details, you can imagine the opulence and the culture the two sisters experience.

The plot is believable and well thought out, the twists and turns, which keep the reader guessing are plentiful and the mystery keeps its terrible secrets to the end.

Lydia is a woman before her time, driven by political equality, yet naive and ill-equipped for what she becomes embroiled in. She is selfish and flawed, but her exuberance and zest for life’s experiences make this forgivable, Ultimately she becomes a heroine.

Alice is the antithesis of her sister, dependable, selfless and resigned to subjugating her needs for the good of her parents and sibling. She is easy to empathise. Her courage is notable and as the story progresses her adventurous and impulse qualities come to the fore, making her share more with her sister than you would first imagine.

Gentle pacing reflects the many obstacles Alice faces as she tries to discover her sister’s whereabouts. Told from both sisters’ points of view, the story is full of emotion, historical interest and suspense, as the mystery surrounding Lydia’s disapperance is solved. There is also a tender, unexpected romance, which adds extra depth to the story and allows its ending to be hopeful.

If like me, you love historical fiction with a mystery to solve, and just a touch of gentle romance, this lovely tale will draw you in.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery, Romance

His Convenient Highland Wedding – 4* #Review- Janice Preston @MillsandBoon @JaniceGPreston #PublicationDay #HistoricalFiction #LochmoreLegacy #Romance

Bought by her husband…

…Bound by secrets of their past!

The start of The Lochmore Legacy – A Scottish castle through the ages! Earl’s daughter Flora McCrieff brought shame on her family once, now she discovers she must wed impossibly rich but low born Lachlan McNeill. He’s undeniably handsome, but a man of few words. Despite the attraction that burns between them, can she reach beyond his impeccable clothing to find the emotions he’s locked away for so long…?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands and West coast, this story is full of rich imagery that makes it easy to visualise both the setting and the time period this story is set in.

The slums of Glasgow and Edinburgh form part of the story, and the poverty and deprivation found there in Victorian times, set against the riches of the lairds and the aristocracy is one of the elements covered in this interesting story.

This is the first story in the Lochmore Legacy, which written by four different historical romance authors travels back through time, exploring the secrets of the legacy. This story touches on the secrets, with a discovery made by the heroine Flora, and the feud that exists between two clans.

The romance element predominates as expected, and is based on a marriage of convenience trope. Flora’s youth and beauty are her family’s way out of financial ruin. Her father is dictatorial, and she has little choice in the man she marries. Her previous actions embroiled the family in a scandal, and so she is given no choice in marrying the second suitor her father presents her with.

There is a physical attraction between Flora and Lachlan but he is mostly withdrawn and refuses to engage with her emotionally. The reasons for this, Flora gradually discovers, as she loses her heart to her husband. Flora’s strength of character and her emancipation, set against the social strictures of the time lead to inevitable conflict. Lachlan is a philanthropist motivated by his roots and his secrets, he is more enlightened than the majority of men in Victorian society.

This is a romantic story set against a background of social deprivation and social divide. The characters are believable, and the hero and heroine are easy to empathise. This is a complex story, showcasing an interesting time in history.

The added dimension of the secrets of the Lochmore Legacy makes this an enjoyable, historically based romance.

Posted in Book Review, International Thriller, Political Thriller

4*#Review – Robert Hedley- Interlude in Kosovo – @hedley_robert

Dr Claire Peters flees her unfaithful husband, James, to work for The World Health Organisation in post-war Kosovo. Her husband follows, hoping for reconciliation.
Both take lovers, she a French Captain in KFOR (Kosovo Force), part of UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) he a beautiful Kosovar, wife of a senior member of the KLA (Kosova Liberation Army), catapulting both into a mix of Kosovo politics and criminality. 
Intimidation and murder in the mountains and then threats on the life of Claire climax in the capital, Pristina. 

This book is a novel. It is a love story and a mystery. All the characters are fictitious but the description of war-torn Kosovo as seen through their eyes and the background to the events described are true. 
Robert Hedley was recruited by the World Health Organisation as a consultant on medical education and health service development in 2000. For ten years before the war, Albanian Kosovars were treated as second-class citizens, encouraged to emigrate, denied access to the University for Law, Medicine and other careers. In Medicine, a ‘Parallel System’ was established where Albanian Kosovar students were taught Medicine in private houses with no access to the University Medical School. 
WHO fast-tracked a new medical education system, upgrading the training of Kosovar doctors, including medical education techniques to train future doctors, using experienced doctors from across Europe and other parts of the world. A new system of Primary Care was developed with a new curriculum for Family Doctors as well as a new curriculum for some Secondary Care Specialists at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Eventually, several years later, The Royal College of General Practitioners in London recognised the postgraduate training and examination for Family Doctors in Kosovo as equivalent to the diploma of MRCGP INTERNATIONAL. 

Amazon UK

dav

I received a paperback copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story scores highly for originality and factual detail. It’s clear from reading this book that the author has first-hand knowledge of the political climate at the time, the setting and the ethos of Kosovo. This is an atmospheric, tense novel with vivid but not overly graphic imagery.

It’s a tale of two doctors, married but estranged through the actions of the husband. When his wife decides to leave the country and make a new start, he follows. His motivations for this are not entirely clear since he professes to love her but starts an affair whilst in Kosovo. Claire is easier to empathise, but neither character’s emotional states and motivation are fully explored.

The story is suspenseful and there are some passionate moments, but this story’s strength is in the authentic, detailed setting, action scenes and realistic plot.

dav
Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Mystery, Romance

The Lost Letter from Morocco – 3*#Review Adrienne Chinn @AvonBooksUK @adriennechinn

A forbidden love affair. A long-buried secret. A journey that will change everything.

Morocco, 1984. High in the Atlas Mountains, Hanane’s love for Irishman Gus is forbidden. Forced to flee her home with the man she loves, Hanane is certain she’s running towards her destiny. But she has made a decision that will haunt her family for years to come.

London, 2009. When Addy discovers a mysterious letter in her late father’s belongings, she journeys to Morocco in search of answers. But instead, she finds secrets – and is quickly pulled into a world that she doesn’t understand.

And when history starts to repeat itself, it seems her journey might just change the person she is forever

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Addy has survived illness and when her estranged father dies, she finds old photographs, one of which contains a happy image of her father Gus, and a woman she doesn’t know, The back of the photo is dated 1984 Morocco.

She sets off on a journey of discovery, hoping to get to know her father better. She falls in love with Morocco but finds more questions than answers and risks repeating history.

The setting for this story is beautifully described. The vivid images immerse the reader, in the culture and ethos of Morocco. I like the timeslip story best, but unfortunately, the plot doesn’t allow this to be explored to its full potential. Whilst this faithfully represents what Addy discovers, from a reader’s point of view it would have been preferable to spend more time in 1984.

The characters whilst complex and interesting are hard to empathise in most cases. The pacing is a little slow and there is perhaps too much emphasis on the setting rather than the characterisation and plot.

An interesting read of forbidden love in a different culture.

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery, Mystery

The Castle Mystery – 4* #Review -Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @FaithMartin_Nov

Jenny Starling has her dream job cooking for Lord and Lady Avonsleigh in a genuine castle. Then one of the castle’s treasures, a fabulously jewelled dagger, is used to murder one of the staff members. The victim is found stabbed through the heart in the conservatory. Lady Avonsleigh insists that Jenny help the police find the murderer. But how can Jenny solve this case when the murder was committed in front of several reliable witnesses, none of whom saw a thing? This is the fourth in a series of enjoyable murder mysteries with a great cast of characters and baffling crimes which will keep you in suspense to the final page.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Jenny Starling, travelling cook and reluctant sleuth, has found a job where she might like to stay. Life as a cook in a castle full of historic artefacts, for people who appreciate her skilled cookery, seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, Jenny’s penchant for attracting murder means that someone dies in mysterious circumstances and Jenny finds her detective skills are needed once again.

This is a murder mystery reliant on detective skills, which Jenny has in abundance and the police detectives, less so. Set apart from the world of forensics and psychological profiling, this story will appeal to those who like a cozy mystery, concentrating on knowledge of people and what motivates them and a dazzling array of suspects, clues, red herrings in an atmospheric, vivid setting.

This is an enjoyable read, with an enigmatic main character reminiscent of Miss Marple with Mary Berry’s cookery skills.

This is the fourth in the Jenny Starling series but reads well as a standalone. A perfect escapist read.

Posted in Book Review, Childrens Books, Cozy Mystery

4* #Review – Agatha Oddly Murder at the Museum – Lena Jones @HarperCollinsCh

A second mystery for thirteen-year-old Agatha Oddly – a bold, determined heroine, and the star of this stylish new detective series.

Agatha Oddlow’s set to become the youngest member of the Gatekeepers’ Guild, but before that, she’s got a mystery to solve!

There’s been a murder at the British Museum and, although the police are investigating, Agatha suspects that they’re missing a wider plot going on below London – a plot involving a disused Tube station, a huge fireworks display, and five thousand tonnes of gold bullion…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Children’s Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Agatha Oddly – Murder at the Museum is the second in the Agatha Oddly series. I didn’t read the first book, but this has sufficient backstory for the main characters and setting to let you read it as a standalone.

This is intended for the 11-14 year age group of young people, but the great characters, fast pace and easy to follow, yet coherent mystery make it fun to read as an adult too.

Even though a murder features in the title, the story concentrates on Agatha and her two friends’ investigative skills as they try to work out why there was a murder at the museum.

Agatha’s grief about the loss of her mother, and how she is perceived in her school peer group are sensitively written,and highlight issues that often affect young people.

A fun read for everyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction

5*#Review – Dinah Jefferies The Missing Sister @PenguinUKBooks@VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25-year-old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Such an evocative read, this story of loss, political unrest and a quest for the truth takes place in Burma during the 1930s, with slips back in time to 1911 and the 1920s.

Belle has left England, for a life as a singer in exotic Rangoon. She’s not the usual type of singer they have, but her talent and independent spirit bring her both admirers and adversaries.

Her mother’s failing mental health blighted her childhood, but after her father’s death, she discovers her parents once lived in Rangoon and had and lost a child there. Can this terrible tragedy explain her mother’s illness and what happened to her missing sister?

Belle’s search for the fate of her missing sister reveals more questions and answers, Oliver an attractive journalist offers to help, but can she trust his motives, or should she rely on the establishment to help her?

The plot is engaging. The perfect pacing adds to the story’s sense of mystery and menace. The political climate is dangerous, and Belle shows her emotional strength as she witnesses unspeakable violence and prejudice.

Full of powerful imagery, both in terms of the geographical and historical setting and the vivid characterisation, this story enthrals the reader. There is a mystery to solve a family tragedy to witness and empathise, and a lovely romance.

A lovely escapist read, which will touch your emotions and inspire your imagination.

Posted in Blog Blitz, Blog Tour, Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery, Mystery

A Testament to Murder – Vivian Conroy – #5*Review #BlogBlitz #Extract @canelo_co @VivWrites

A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…

 At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day, he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.

Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.

As tensions mount with every passing second retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper must stay two steps ahead of every player if he hopes to prevent the billionaire’s devious game from becoming a testament to murder…

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I looked forward to reading this story, as I love murder mystery and especially those written in a similar style to Agatha Christie’s stories. This book delivers in every way.

The plot is clever, fast-paced, full of twists and has numerous suspects, all with motive and opportunity to commit murder. The setting on the French Riveria is ultra glamorous and epitomises the era, the story is set in.

The detective, Jasper, is charismatic, yet mysterious. When you look back at the story you learn very little about him, other than he is excellent at his job. The ending is well-orchestrated and the cryptic thoughts from one of the characters in the final lines, makes you wonder about Jasper and his motivations.

The cast of characters are not particularly likeable, but this is a requirement of this type of mystery. The reader has to suspect everyone at some point in the story for it to be enjoyable, and complex to solve. The narrative and dialogue are easy to read and realistic. The story has wonderful imagery that allows the reader to play it out in their mind as if they are watching it in real life.

An entertaining, compulsive read, I look forward to Jasper’s next case.

Extract

Patty really didn’t understand why the mood had been so bleak after Uncle Malcolm’s grand revelation. Wasn’t it a marvellous idea that they all had a chance to become sole heir to his entire fortune?

Of course, it would have been better if he had just made her sole heir, to begin with, but if he wanted to do it this way, he was entitled to. Hugh was just a spoilsport to have no stomach for this game. He didn’t like risks and he certainly didn’t like the idea he could lose out to somebody else.

Patty listened to her husband’s heavy breathing as he lay, face down, beside her in the double bed. He had gulped down several glasses of whiskey and was now completely oblivious to the world. While she normally wouldn’t encourage his drinking, it was now very convenient to her that he wouldn’t notice a thing when she crawled out of bed.

Lightning put the room in a bright white glare for a second, then died down. Moments passed before thunder rolled in the distance. The storm hadn’t yet reached the villa. Despite the reassurances that there were higher points it could strike, Patty’s heartbeat fluttered and she rubbed gooseflesh off her arms. She pushed away the sheet and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Feeling her way through the room, she picked up her dressing gown and slipped it on over her silk nightdress.

At the door she listened carefully, first to determine Hugh was still asleep, then whether there was anyone in the corridor outside the room. With the storm brewing, it was possible people couldn’t sleep and went out of their rooms to get some milk or a book to read, from Malcolm’s library.

Yes, needing a book to read would be the perfect excuse to hang around, and catch a glimpse of the signing of the will. It was happening in his study, he had said, and the study was adjacent to the library. Wouldn’t it be easy to make a small mistake and enter the wrong room?

In the corridor little lamps burned along the wall, shedding just enough light to be able to move around. Malcolm seemed to dislike the dark. Or perhaps it had been arranged for by the nurse who had to rush to Malcolm’s bedside at any hour? Anna Cane had struck Patty as a young lady who liked to make demands, just to see how far she could get with them.

Still, it was a good thing the nurse hadn’t left. The more suspects, the better.

Downstairs in the hallway, the grandfather clock struck twelve.

That’s my cue.

Patty tiptoed down the corridor, making sure to stay on the carpet so nothing thudded or creaked. Thunder rolled again sounding like a stack of cans collapsing. Her heart beat so fast she could barely breathe.

In front of the door leading into the study she halted. Malcolm was a man of his word, a man who liked punctuality. He’d be signing his document now.

She opened the door a crack and peeked in.

Behind a huge desk, Malcolm sat leaning over a sheet of paper. His trembling right hand held a pen, and he was just scribbling something. The name?

Patty’s stomach tightened at the idea it could be Patricia Bryce-Rutherford he was writing. It was quite a long name. But then Hugh Desmond Bryce-Rutherford was about as long. And Theodora Cummings wasn’t exactly short either. Anna Cane was, but Malcolm wouldn’t make the nurse his heir. Not on the first day anyway.

Maybe as he ran out of heirs to use.

After all, he had said everybody would only get one turn.

How unfair. To think that if he lived long enough, some unimportant person like that nurse or the butler would get it all.

He’d better not live that long then.

Malcolm looked up, and for a moment Patty could have sworn he looked straight at her. She didn’t make the mistake to move. She stood firmly, holding her hand on the knob so the door didn’t move either. She had stood just as firmly as she had made her wedding vows to Hugh. Knowing this was something she had to go through to reach something better. Something she deserved.

Malcolm shoved the document away from him, and Koning looked it over. He then gestured to the two other men present to sign it. The skeletal butler and the rugged, probably French, chauffeur.

Patty’s breath caught. Would they know the name that was filled in? Could she bribe them, entice them somehow to tell her what name the document held on that particular day?

They were but servants with meagre pay. They might be open to the promise of a rich reward. After all, once she had inherited the fortune, she could fulfil their every dream.

Patty suppressed a satisfied smile as she watched the men do their duty. Then Koning picked up the document and folded it in halves. He slipped it into an envelope and sealed it. He handed the envelope to Malcolm, who had pushed himself up behind the desk.

Careful, swaying, the old man walked to the side wall and pulled at a painting. It swung away to reveal the gleaming metal of a safe. Malcolm looked at the men to see if they were watching him. They were all keeping their eyes on the floor. Still, Malcolm covered the combination lock with the envelope as he turned it to the right combination to unlock it.

Careful bastard, Patty thought.

The door of the safe opened, and Malcolm placed the envelope in it and closed it again. He spun the combination lock.

“It has begun,” he said to the men, a strange satisfaction in his voice.

Author Bio

Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.

Twitter: @VivWrites