Today we have something a little different on the blog. Rather than a straight review, we have an extract as a little sneak peek between the covers of a new release book. This gives you a little taste of what the book is about so you can decide if you want to take the plunge and read the whole book!
This month we have Death in Dulwich by Alice Castle.
Thirty-something single mum, Beth Haldane, has her hands full – with a bouncy young son, a haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own, and bills to pay. She loves her little home in plush London suburb Dulwich, but life here doesn’t come cheap.
She is thrilled to land the post of archivist at top local school, Wyatt’s, though she secretly fears she’s not up to the job. But even Beth couldn’t have imagined how badly things could go, until she discovers a hideous crime and finds herself prime suspect.
Setting out to clear her name, Beth encounters a cast of characters who will follow her through the London Murder Mystery series, proving along the way that the nicest places can hide the nastiest secrets.
Strangely, for such an organised and successful school, the archives were in a woeful state. When she’d been shown them briefly at her interview, she had been taken aback. Some might have scratched their heads at a school having archives at all, but Thomas Wyatt’s legacy was more than just money for a good education; it was a tangle of deeds, transfers, maps, and titles. Much of the material was in boxes, following successive moves from office to cupboard and building to building, as the schools acquired property, weathered wars, and finally split into two as the years rolled by. Some of the records had gone to the College School site, as part of a detangling process which had never quite been fully achieved. There were also huge volumes of them left at the Wyatt’s site. And the little which was in the right place had looked as though it had never been put in the right order. She had her work cut out.
As usual, she worried about being found out – she’d never dealt with archives before and was still amazed, and even puzzled, that she’d landed the job. She quickly scanned the letter clutched in her hand. It confirmed her appointment and told her the drill for her first morning. She must have read it a dozen times, she pretty much knew it by heart, but looking again gave reassurance. After signing in at the porter’s lodge, she was to stop at Reception to pick up her official pass from Janice, the school secretary, in the main school building. She remembered Janice from her interview – mid-thirties, pretty, warmly competent.
Beth trotted up a flight of stairs to the main entrance, pushed with some difficulty through a heavy wooden door with mirror-bright brass inlays, and was suddenly plunged into a cool and echoing entrance hall, all wood panelling, smooth flagstones, and icing sugar cornices on the ceiling miles above. She sniffed – floor polish, books, and the faintest tang of adolescent boy. Turning sharp right off the main corridor, as laid down in her letter, she found herself in Reception, where Janice held sway behind a countertop which glowed like a freshly peeled conker.
Beth hurried over pale, velvety carpet – which would not have been her top choice with hundreds of muddy shoes on the premises – past a pair of lush, low sofas and a coffee table bearing just one discreet prospectus. A flat screen TV flicked silently from sporting triumphs to stratospheric A level results, showing why there was no need for a hard sell. Wyatt’s was effortlessly perfect, with the subtext that your child would be, too, if only you could crowbar him in here.
Janice, in a pink cashmere sweater accessorised with a welcoming smile, was the cherry on the top.
‘Beth! Welcome to Wyatt’s. One of the family now,’ she said, springing out from behind her burnished counter to give Beth the regulation double Dulwich kiss. ‘Glad you’re joining us. It’s a big school, but we’re only a small team behind the scenes; you’ll soon get the hang of who everyone is. And it’s lovely and quiet today. Lots of classes are out on school trips – we call it Field Day. Great way to start.’
‘Oh? It seemed pretty busy coming in …’ said Beth.
‘Probably just the last-minute rush of sixth formers trying to beat the bell,’ said Janice. Beth was relieved – perhaps that explained why they’d all been so enormously tall.
‘Now, I’m just wondering who you already know at the school? You’ll already have met Tom Seasons, the Bursar, at the interview; and Dr Jenkins.’ Janice paused, then rushed on. ‘Tell you what, come and find me at lunch time and I’ll introduce you to a few of the others then. Now, here’s your security pass, you’ll need to swipe that to get through the doors to most of the buildings. Do you know where you’re going?’
Beth swallowed. She couldn’t altogether remember where the archive office was, but in the face of so much bright competence, she wasn’t about to admit that. She smiled, assuring Janice that she knew the way like the back of her hand, and was soon outside again and negotiating her way through the last straggles of teenagers making for the Sixth Form Centre and the Science buildings.
Just as she was wondering if she’d missed the turning leading to the far-flung archives block, she spotted her new boss, Dr Jenkins, clad in a mustard yellow tweed jacket. He’d been wearing the very same thing at her interview. It had stuck in her mind for all the wrong reasons.
‘Alan! Alan…’ she called, breaking into a trot and rapidly catching up with the elderly man. He seemed miles away. It wasn’t until she had put a hand on his arm that she got his attention. ‘Hi, Alan, er, Dr Jenkins… it’s Beth, Beth Haldane. Your new assistant?’
The archivist seemed startled at being accosted, and peered over half-moon spectacles. It seemed to take him an age to place her.
‘Ah. Yes. The lovely Miss Haldane. Yes, yes, I remember,’ he breathed. Then his small black eyes seemed to be running all over her like beetles. Oh dear. She’d had a few misgivings at the interview, but she had decided he was just of that generation which didn’t find it easy to treat women as equals. She was sure she could cope with it. And she needed the job.
If you like the sound of that and fancy giving the whole book a read, then Death in Dulwich is available right now on Amazon from 99p*
*price correct as at September 2017