In her most gripping mystery yet, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles returns readers to the streets of London and the ever-struggling Detective Inspector Bill Slider. When the body of Phoebe Agnew, radical left-wing journalist, champion of the underdog, and prominent critic of the police force, is discovered, Inspector Slider must put aside any personal feelings for the victim and find her killer. One of the first clues Slider finds is that on the day of her death the horribly ...
In her most gripping mystery yet, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles returns readers to the streets of London and the ever-struggling Detective Inspector Bill Slider. When the body of Phoebe Agnew, radical left-wing journalist, champion of the underdog, and prominent critic of the police force, is discovered, Inspector Slider must put aside any personal feelings for the victim and find her killer.
One of the first clues Slider finds is that on the day of her death the horribly undomesticated Agnew cooked an elaborate meal for someone. Was it her old friend and reputed lover, Josh Prentiss? Slider tries to pursue that angle, but since Prentiss is a Government advisor, the pressure is on Slider to look elsewhere.
There are plenty anomalies for him to chase: unidentified fingerprints, the object used to strangle Agnew is missing, alibis offered where none are required, the downstairs tenant lying about his whereabouts, and papers missing from Agnew's file. As Slider struggles to untangle the web of lies and hidden relationships, his task is made harder by the strange behavior of his friend and colleague, Atherton, who seems to be on the verge of a breakdown.
Tightly plotted and full of fascinating characters, Slider searches to find the key to Agnew's chillingly lonely life, but will he find it in time to prevent further tragedy?
This remarkable British police procedural series continues as Detective Inspector Bill Slider investigates the murder of a female journalist famous for criticizing the police. Apparently the woman uncovered one secret too many. Good work from a well-practiced hand. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
CYNTHIA HARROD-EAGLES is the author of fifty-four novels ranging from crime and historical fiction to romance and horror/fantasy. She is the author of the epic Morland Dynasty series that follows a fictional family through British history from 1434 onward. She lives in London, England.
CHAPTER ONEBig horse, God made you mine‘Have you noticed,’ Joanna said as they sped along the M4 towards London, ‘how the self-drive hire business has been completely taken over by that Dutch firm?’‘What Dutch firm?’ Slider asked unwarily.‘Van Rentals.’‘How long have you been thinking that one out?’‘I resent the implication that my wit isn’t spontaneous.’‘I resent your having been away,’ he countered. ‘It was daft going to Switzerland when it’s cold enough here to freeze the balls off a brass tennis court.’‘Do you think I wanted to go?’ Joanna said. ‘Beethoven Eight six times in one week - and in a country where they still think fondue is cuisine.’Despite the best efforts of that husband-and-wife circus act May Gurney and Cones Hotline, he had got to the airport in time to meet her. Though it was the umpteenth time he’d done it, there was still that thrill when she came out of the customs hall doors with her fiddle case in one hand and her battered old fits-under-the-seat-in-front travel bag over her shoulder. It had bothered him when she came through with the trumpet section, Peter White and Simon Angel. Put those two horny young bloods – only one of them married (and it was a well-known fact that blowing the trumpet had a direct effect on the production of testosterone) – together with a curvaceous love goddess like Joanna Marshall, and it spelled trouble with a capital Trub. But she had kissed him and pressed herself against him with an avidity that had had the lads whooping, so his pride was assuaged, and he led her off like a prize of war to find the car.The Orchestra of the Age of the Renaissance, despite the handicap of a name that wouldn’t fit across a poster unless it was in characters too small to read, had come in as a life-saver. Its fixer had called Joanna as a last-minute replacement for the pregnant deputy principal, whose blood pressure had gone over into the red zone. Post-Christmas was always a drought period for musicians, but this year was particularly bad. Her own orchestra had nothing for two months and freelance work was as rare as elephants’ eggs.Joanna’s thoughts were evidently on the same track as she watched the chill, bare fields of Middlesex reel past the windows. ‘Do you know what’s in my diary between now and March?’‘Yes,’ he said, but she told him again anyway.‘Two Milton Keynes dates and one Pro Arte of Oxford – and I’m lucky to get those.’‘Why are things so bad?’ he ventured.‘They’re just getting worse every year,’ she said. ‘Fewer people going to concerts or buying records, and more and more musicians pouring out of the colleges. And then,’ she made a face, ‘we all have to do this blasted “outreach” crapola, going into schools and encouraging more of the little beasts to take up music. If we had any sense we’d be breaking their arms, not telling them what a fulfilling life it is, ha ha.’‘Have you just come home to complain at me?’ he asked, trying for a lighter note.She didn’t bite. ‘Seriously, Bill, it’s getting to be a hell of a problem. The Phil’s in financial trouble and there’s more amalgamation talk. That old chestnut, “Can London sustain four orchestras?” The Government’s threatening to withdraw the grant from one of us, and everybody knows we’re the likeliest.’‘But all this has been said before, and it never happens,’ Slider comforted her.‘Even if it doesn’t,’ she said, sounding very low, ‘we aren’t getting enough dates to live on.’‘We’ll manage somehow,’ he said. ‘Tighten our belts. We’ll get through.’‘Hah!’ she said. She didn’t elaborate, for which he was grateful, but she meant, of course, how much belt-tightening can you do when your salary already has to go round an almost ex-wife and two school-age children?But she wasn’t a whiner, and a moment later she said, ‘Peter and Simon were telling me on the plane about this wonderful scam for parking in the short-term car park while you’re on tour. All you have to do is borrow a tuba.’‘A tuba?’‘Well, of course it only works if you’re touring with a big orchestra. Anyway, apparently a tuba is a big enough mass of metal for the automatic barrier to mistake it for a car. So, when you get back from tour, you walk up to the entrance barrier holding the tuba in front of you, and it issues a ticket, which you then use to get out, throwing away the original one. You pay for ten minutes instead of two weeks. Voilà.’‘Should you be telling me this? I am a policeman.’‘That’s what makes you so sexy.’ Her warm hand crept gratefully over his upper thigh. ‘I’m glad to be back,’ she said. ‘Have you missed me?’‘Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?’‘Nice hot bath and an early night tonight,’ she said.He’d just got to the bit where the motorway narrows to two lanes and his attention was distracted. ‘I suppose you must be tired,’ he said absently, keeping his eye on a BMW that didn’t want to move in.Her hand slid further up. ‘Who said anything about sleeping?’
The office was its usual hive of activity when he got in. DS Jim Atherton, his bagman and friend, was sitting on a desk reading – of all things – The Racing Post.‘What do you reckon for the first race at Plumpton, Maurice?’ he said.‘Shy Smile,’ DC McLaren answered, without looking up from the sausage sandwich and Daily Mail that were occupying him. Atherton opined that McLaren read the tabloids only because the broadsheets needed two hands, which meant he couldn’t eat and read at the same time.‘Are you sure?’ Atherton probed. ‘Everyone else gives Ballydoyle.’‘Not after that frost last night. Ballydoyle likes a bit of give in the ground.’‘Shy Smile?’ Atherton pressed.‘She’ll walk it,’ said McLaren.‘How d‘you know about horses anyway?’ Anderson asked, clipping his nails into the waste-paper basket. ‘I thought you grew up in Kennington.’‘Y’don’t have to have a baby to be a gynaecologist,’ McLaren answered mysteriously, sucking grease and newsprint off his fingers.Slider, at the door, said, ‘It would be nice if you could at least pretend to be usefully occupied when I come in. Give me an illusion of authority.’‘Didn’t know you were there, guv,’ McLaren said imperturbably, rolling a black tongue over his lips.‘That much is obvious.’ Slider turned to Atherton. ‘And why are you reading the racing pages? Since when did you have the slightest interest in the Sport of Kings?’‘Ah, it’s a new investment ploy,’ Atherton said, unhitching his behind from the desk. ‘I’m thinking of buying a part share in a racehorse. I saw this ad in the paper and sent off for the details. I’m going to put my savings into it.’‘Have you been standing around under the power lines without your lead hat again?’ Slider said mildly.‘Well, there’s no point in leaving cash in deposit accounts, with interest rates at rock bottom,’ Atherton said. ‘And anyway, it’s not a gamble, it’s a scientific investment. Serious businessmen put big money into it. This Furlong Stud is a proper company: they’ve been putting together consortia for years. It’s all in the information pack. It’s no more risky than the stock market, really.’‘What’s the name of the poor wreck of a horse they’re trying to flog you?’ Slider enquired.‘The one I’m looking at is called Two Left Feet,’ Atherton announced, and when Slider groaned he said, ‘No, it’s a really cute name, don’t you see? All horses have two left feet.’‘Mug punter,’ said McLaren pityingly, turning a page. ‘It’s sad, really. Bet on the name, every time. Here,’ he recalled suddenly, looking up, ‘talk about names, did you see that story in the paper a bit since, about those two Irish owners who tried to register a colt, and Tattersalls wouldn’t allow it? They wanted to call it Norfolk and Chance.’‘I’m worried about you,’ Slider said, as Atherton followed him into his office. ‘You didn’t used to be irrational.’‘How do you know?’ Atherton said cheerfully. ‘Anyway, I need a bit of excitement in my life. I used to get it chasing women, but now I’m settled down in cosy domesticity, I have to look elsewhere for that thrill of danger.’‘I wish I thought you were joking,’ Slider said, going round his desk. He shoved fretfully at the piles of files that burdened it. They bred during the night, he was sure of it. ‘What’s this steaming pile of Tottenham?’‘Case files. Ongoing. Mr Carver’s firm passed them over, Mr Porson’s orders. They’re down four men again, with the ’flu.’‘Carver’s firm are always catching things,’ Slider complained. ‘What do they do, sleep together?’‘I wouldn’t be a bit surprised,’ Atherton said. ‘It’s worse than it looks, anyway. Most of it’s to do with that suspected fags-and-booze smuggling ring.’‘Take ’em away,’ Slider decreed. ‘I’m too frail for gang warfare at this stage of the week.’WDC Swilley, who had answered the phone out in the office, came to the door now, her posture suddenly galvanised, which, since Swilley was built like a young lad’s secret dream, was hardly fair on the two within. ‘We’ve got a murder, boss!’ she announced happily.‘Gordon Bennett, what next?’ Slider said. ‘It shouldn’t be allowed on a Friday.’