“Here we go gathering nuts in May”…or should that be “knots of May”? I don’t think even the experts on English nursery rhymes know for sure. But it’s May and summer seems as if it might be round the corner (in a typically Brit fashion of cold one day and sweltering the next).
There’s another one of those themed events going on at the moment, this time focussing on military themed stories. Lots of authors, lots of books, including my Pack up Your Troubles. As I always remind you, if you fancy working through several of these, take a screencap, because the page with the list on will disappear when the event ends.
Pack Up Your Troubles is brought to you by Indie publisher Williams and Whiting. I’m delighted to say that they want to contract my Cambridge Fellows/Toby and Alasdair crossover novel. More news on that when I have it.
The cover for the new Lindenshaw has had its official reveal so I can share it with you properly. I really have been very lucky with the artwork for this series. It’s available for pre-order on the Riptide site and will be on other outlets very soon.
They may be locked down but this case isn’t.
Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.
Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.
Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.
Today’s excerpt comes from one of the stories in Pack up your Troubles.
The leaves on the copper beeches danced in the breeze; the late summer sun lighting on them produced a warm glow. Nicholas had always loved them more than any other trees on his estate, even in their bare winter form. Now, leaving the cab at the gate and savouring the walk along his own drive, he saw them afresh. He used to meet Paul under these branches when they were hardly more than boys, taking a chess set or pack of cards to play seemingly endless games bathed by the warm August Hampshire sun. There’d be no time for such frivolity now.
He told Nanny that he was signing up almost as soon as he reached the house, before anyone else. She’d been so proud at the thought of him putting his name down. “You’ll look a picture in your uniform. Have all those mesdemoiselles waving their handkerchiefs at you. Be careful you don’t come back with one of them on your arm.”
“I promise.” Only recently had Nicholas been able to address his former governess and not feel seven-and-a-half again. Even though he towered over her, she would always seem the grown-up one of the pair. “I hope to be off training in just a few weeks, which will give me time enough to set my affairs here straight. There are plenty of safe pairs of hands to entrust things into.”
“Young Mr. Haskell will keep a steady eye on things,” Nanny said, fiddling with her knitting. No doubt those fingers would be employed producing socks or scarves or who knew what else over the next few months. “You’ll be back come the spring, in time to see the lambs over at Longlea.” She made the pronouncement as if it were a certainty, as sure as Christmas Day falling on December the twenty-fifth.
“I hope so.” As Nicholas spoke the words, he felt a prophetic jolt, and knew it was all a lie. Somewhere inside—heart or brain, he couldn’t be sure—he was certain they were in for a long campaign. Leaving the old lady with her wool and her thoughts, he went out into the gentle light to find Paul.
As he walked down the path back to the beech avenue an instantly recognisable, elegant figure came to meet him, a gun hanging off its shoulder and an uncharacteristically serious look on its handsome face.
“You’ll sign up?” Paul didn’t attempt any small talk; it wasn’t their way. They usually met three times a week, if Nicholas was down in Hampshire, and those meetings always began with a litany of business, action taken or to be considered on the estate, successes and failures. Only when all the business was dealt with would Paul take a beer, relax for half an hour and indulge in chit-chat. A discussion of parish scandal, something which might have been called gossip if they’d been female, a brief harking back to the days when they’d traded all their secrets over that chess board. True to form, Paul hit straight at the crux of things now.
Nicholas wasn’t sure if the question was an order—you do this for the honour of the estate, I can’t—or some sort of expression of jealousy, that he could go where the other man could only dream of. He couldn’t dare hope it was the beginnings of a plea for him not to go.
“It’s my duty.” The words seemed inadequate, barely expressing anything Nicholas felt. Yes, he was bound by duty, but there were other considerations. He was, he knew, running away from conflict as much as running towards it.
“I’ll look after things.” Paul’s eyes registered something which might have been offence.
Nicholas replied hastily. “Of course you will. I’ve never doubted it.” He’d doubted his own intentions, of course.
He cast a sidelong glance at Paul, wondering what expectations he’d have. The estate manager wore his business face, a cool, clear eye surveying the fields, maybe weighing up the chances of the next pheasant brood surviving the depredation of fox or buzzard.