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Evan and Elle: A Constable Evans Mystery
     

Evan and Elle: A Constable Evans Mystery

4.6 7
by Rhys Bowen
 

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There is both excitement and dismay in Llanfair when a new French restaurant opens. The glamorous owner, Madame Yvette, tries to win over the locals, and everything seems to be going well until a string of fires plagues the town. One night the restaurant burns down, and a body is found in the rubble.

Constable Evans joins Sergeant Watkins to follow a trail of

Overview

There is both excitement and dismay in Llanfair when a new French restaurant opens. The glamorous owner, Madame Yvette, tries to win over the locals, and everything seems to be going well until a string of fires plagues the town. One night the restaurant burns down, and a body is found in the rubble.

Constable Evans joins Sergeant Watkins to follow a trail of clues that leads them to the South of England and then to France, and finally to the conclusion that a dangerous killer is loose in Llanfair, in Rhys Bowen's fourth Evan Evans mystery, Evan and Elle.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle
A sweet and sunny read.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Madame Yvette, a seductive widow, opens a French restaurant in Llanfair, in northern Wales, her blend of haute cuisine and traditional Welsh fare soon wins over the locals, including Constable Evan Evans, the village's lone policeman and the hero of three previous outings in this appealing series (Evanly Choir, etc.). Ever true to his girlfriend, schoolteacher Bronwen Price, Evans resists Madame Yvette's attempt to make him more than just a culinary conquest, but he's ready to be of service when she really needs him--after her restaurant burns down, the latest target in a string of recent arson attacks in the area. Or is it? While at first the fire seems the work of Welsh extremists, the discovery of a corpse in the restaurant's ruins puts this crime into a different category altogether. In the ensuing investigation, Evans retains his modesty and good humor as he deals with a condescending English arson expert, a flirtatious female constable and a host of lively locals. The trail leads to the South Coast of England, where Madame Yvette and her late husband previously lost a restaurant to fire, and to France, where Evans and his colleague Sergeant Watkins uncover a startling secret about her past. Bowen keeps the reader guessing as to the actual menace that awaits Constable Evans in the hills above Llanfair on his return. This is a light confection of a mystery, sweetened with the author's obvious affection for her characters, as well as for all things Welsh. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Constable Evans and Sgt. Watkins investigate arson and murder in the Welsh village of Llanfair after a body is found in the rubble of a torched French restaurant. A pleasant evening's entertainment. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429971089
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Series:
Constable Evans Series , #4
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
47,573
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Evan and Elle

A Constable Evans Mystery


By Rhys Bowen

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2000 Rhys Bowen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7108-9


CHAPTER 1

The Reverend Tomos Parry Davies, minister of Chapel Bethel in the village of Llanfair, sang loudly to himself as he drove up the pass from Caernarfon. Heaven had certainly smiled on him today! What a stroke of luck that he had spotted the advertisement for a government surplus auction. This van was the answer to his prayers — high mileage, of course, and painted a depressing institutional gray, but it seated fifteen and was perfect for his needs.

He had long been aware that his congregation was dwindling. There was little interest in religion these days, and no fear of the hellfire that he preached so eloquently. All over Wales chapels were being abandoned and turned into beauty parlors, garages, or even worse, New Age healing centers. Tomos Parry Davies shuddered.

Chapel Ebenezer, only a couple of miles down the pass from Llanfair, had been abandoned last year. Tomos feared for the souls of its former flock. If a way could be found to bring them up to Llanfair ... but many older parishioners didn't drive and there were no buses on Sunday. That's when the idea of a van came to him. To put it in non-Christian terms — if Mohammed couldn't come to the mountain, then the mountain would come to Mohammed. He had said nothing to anyone except his wife, and Roberts-the-Pump at the petrol station, who always had an ear to the ground when it came to secondhand cars for sale — and he had watched, waited, and prayed. And now his prayers were answered!

He closed his eyes and pictured all those new worshipers pouring out of his van and into Chapel Bethel, while his rival, Rev. Powell-Jones of Chapel Beulah across the street, could only stare in disbelief. A satisfied smile spread across his plump, middle-aged face. And so cheap, too. A stroke of luck indeed — or rather the Lord's doing. The Lord knew which chapel He wanted to prosper!

And this was just the beginning, Rev. Parry Davies said to himself. A bigger congregation meant more money coming in. Then he could replace the oil stove in the corner with a real central heating system, and maybe update the sound system to reach out to the young people. He'd have slide shows and video presentations to enhance his sermons. He was going to bring religion back to Llanfair in a big way.

He drove through Llanberis, carefully negotiating the last vacationers of the season as they crossed the street to catch the mountain railway to the summit of Yr Wyddfa, which the English insisted on calling Mount Snowdon.

Right after Llanberis the road began to climb. He put his foot down and heard a satisfying roar of power from the engine. He chose not to notice the black smoke that hung behind him in the clear mountain air.

The village of Nant Peris passed by in a blur. He knew he should have slowed to thirty but he was so excited by the power of his new vehicle that he couldn't slow down. Besides, there was no policeman closer than Constable Evans up in Llanfair. Nobody here to give him a ticket.

He came to the last straggling buildings before the pass narrowed and climbed again to reach Llanfair. He turned to look at the abandoned chapel whose congregation he hoped to round up every Sunday. It had been a sad sight, with windows boarded up and door nailed shut. He had almost passed it when he realized that something was going on there. He braked and rammed the heavy gear into reverse with much grinding, followed by an ominous clank. A builder's lorry was parked outside and two men were carrying in a slab of marble.

Tomos's face grew hot with anger. What kind of dirty trick was the Lord playing on him? To reopen the chapel when he'd just spent his savings on the new van! Was his beautiful plan now doomed to failure?

Then he saw the sign over the arched doorway to one side:


CHEZ YVETTE. RESTAURANT FRANÇAIS. HIGH QUALITY FRENCH CUISINE.

Over it a banner proclaimed, Grand Opening Tomorrow! Tomos felt his blood pressure rising to boiling point. The Lord's house — or what had been the Lord's house until recently — being turned into a restaurant! And not only a restaurant, but a French restaurant. Chez Yvette. Even the name sounded positively sinful.

Tomos Parry Davies put his foot down and roared on up the pass to spread the dreadful news.

CHAPTER 2

Constable Evan Evans of the North Wales Police came down the steep mountain track. It was a crisp autumn evening. Snowdon and her sister peaks were already black silhouettes against a clear pink sky. The last swallows swooped overhead, ready to fly south. Below him the village of Llanfair lay nestled in an autumnal haze. Evan paused and sniffed the smell of wood smoke with satisfaction — so different from the smell of the coal fires he remembered from the cottage of his early childhood. That had been an acrid smell that clung to the nostrils and sent him to bed with bronchitis every winter. Now most of the cottages had radiators and it had become a status symbol to have a wood-burning fireplace.

It had been another glorious day — the latest of a prolonged Indian summer that people were already calling a drought. Of course one week without rain counted as a drought in North Wales. Evan could feel the windburn on his face, the result of a long day's climbing on Glyder Fawr, the peak across the valley from Snowdon. His sore muscles were beginning to remind him that he was no longer in climbing condition. There never seemed to be time for weekend climbs these days. His job as community police officer in Llanfair couldn't exactly be described as strenuous, but he found it hard to say no to the constant stream of volunteer projects.

And then, of course, there was Bronwen. The young village schoolteacher shared his love of the outdoors and expected to share his weekends. Not that he objected to spending his free time with Bronwen, but it meant that he hadn't done any serious climbing in a while and he missed it.

His corduroy trouser legs swished through dying bracken as he continued down the mountain. To his right the dark square of a Norwegian Spruce plantation broke the smooth sweep of the pastures. Evan looked at it with distaste. Another ugly blot on the landscape, like the Everest Inn, Evan thought. Nobody asked the locals before they came in and planted their Christmas trees!

Lights were coming on in Llanfair. He'd better hurry if he wanted to get back before dark. Discreet floodlights already outlined the monstrous shape of the Everest Inn, perched, like an overgrown Swiss chalet, at the top of the pass. Like the rest of the villagers he felt that it looked completely out of place on a Welsh mountainside.

The village itself was a poorly lit straggle of cottages except for the Red Dragon pub. Harry-the-Pub had invested in a floodlight this summer, now that more tourists were coming to Llanfair. Not everybody was in favor of a floodlit pub sign. The two ministers of Chapel Bethel and Chapel Beulah, usually deadly enemies, had teamed up for once to denounce this brazen advertisement of the demon alcohol — especially when lit on the Sabbath. Evans-the-Meat had gone one step further and lodged an official complaint, saying that the light was a public nuisance and shone directly into his bedroom. The joke around Llanfair was that Evansthe-Meat's system couldn't take the shock of seeing Mrs. Evans-the-Meat in her face cream and curlers. But nobody else had complained. In fact some people felt that the extra light had long been needed on the dark village street.

Sheep scattered at Evan's approach and the sound of their bleating echoed across the valley. Now that the sun had gone down, a cold wind was blowing from the Atlantic. It sighed through the grass, rattled the dry bracken and moaned through the crags. Suddenly Evan felt a tension invading the tranquil scene. With his fine-tuned senses, he was almost certain that he was being watched. He stopped and looked around.

He heard the splashing of the young stream close by and the distant drone of a car as it climbed the pass. The dark shape of a ruined sheep byre loomed to his right. He peered in that direction, imagining he saw a fleeting movement. His torch was in his pack but he didn't want to stop and retrieve it now — not when a pint of beer in the Red Dragon was calling. If anyone was sheltering up on the mountain, it was probably nothing more than a passing tramp or a courting couple from the village, which would explain the tension and watchfulness he sensed.

He had only gone a few more paces when he heard the tread of boots on the path close behind him. He spun around.

"Noswaith dda. Evening, Constable Evans," a deep voice called.

"Oh, it's you, Mr. Owens," Evan breathed a sigh of relief as the farmer caught up with him. "You're out late. Anything wrong?"

"No, nothing wrong. I've just been to take a look at Rhodri's cottage — I wanted to make sure those English people closed the gate this time so that they can't accuse my sheep of eating their bloody flowers!"

"They've gone, then?" Evan asked, looking across to the low squat outline of the shepherd's cottage perched above the village.

"My wife saw them go this afternoon. And good riddance, I say." Evan looked at him in surprise. Mr. Owens was usually the most mild-mannered of the villagers.

"Nothing but trouble they've been since they bought the place." He moved closer to Evan. "I don't blame old Rhodri for going to live with his daughter — he was getting on in years, poor old chap, but he had no right selling his cottage to foreigners, did he?"

"I hear they offered him a very good price," Evan said. "And nobody in the village was interested."

"Well, nobody in the village was daft enough to put all that money into an old shepherd's cottage, were they? You should see it now, Mr. Evans. My wife goes up there to clean for them and she says they've got all mod cons, including an indoor bathroom with one of those French beedy things. Must have cost them a fortune, but then the English always did have more money than sense."

Evan grinned. "Still, it's good for business to have visitors, isn't it, Mr. Owens?"

"It would be if they bought anything locally. My wife says they come with ice chests packed full of food every weekend. They probably think good Welsh produce would poison them." His wheezy laugh betrayed years of smoking and ended in a rattling cough. "I don't rightly know why they want to come here. They don't seem to like us very much."

"Lots of English people are buying cottages in Wales," Evan said. "They like to get away from the cities for the weekend, and I can't say I blame them. I couldn't wait to escape from Swansea like a shot when I lived there."

"I don't mind English people, look you, Mr. Evans," the farmer said, leaning confidentially close. "Old Colonel Arbuthnot who used to stay with us was the salt of the earth, wasn't he? But then he was of the old school — he had manners. I just don't like it when they come here and act all toffy nosed, as if they're the landlords and we're the peasants."

"Do these people act like that?" Evan asked. "I can't say I've seen much of them, apart from their Jaguar driving past."

"Too bloody fast, I'll warrant," Mr. Owens commented. "He nearly hit my dog the other day. She's not used to cars, is she? That Englishman came up the track, driving like a madman and at the same time my bitch decides to go after a sheep that's wandering off. He bloody near hit her, and then instead of apologizing, he had the nerve to tell me to keep her under control. That's the kind of people they are, Mr. Evans. Acting like they own the place."

"Lucky they're only here on weekends then, eh, Mr. Owens?" Evan said. "And I don't suppose we'll see much of them when the weather finally turns cold."

"My, but it's been a lovely long summer this year, hasn't it, Mr. Evans?" Mr. Owens spoke with pride in his voice, as if he was personally responsible for the weather. "I've got the hay all stacked and ready for winter, which is more than I can say most years." He looked at the rope hanging from Evan's pack. "You've been climbing today, I see."

"I have. Up on Glyder Fawr."

"There's some good climbing country up there — good challenging rocks."

"A little too challenging," Evan confessed. "At one point I thought I'd got myself stuck. I'm afraid I'm out of practice. I thought I'd have to call for the mountain rescue."

Farmer Owens slapped him on the shoulder. "What you need is a pint at the Dragon."

"That's just what I was thinking," Evan said with a smile. "A pint of Robinson's would go down a treat. Are you heading that way too?"

The farmer glanced at the lights of his farm, just above the houses of the village. "Mrs. Owens is waiting for me, worst luck, and she doesn't like it when my dinner dries out in the oven." His face lit up. "But it's Sunday, isn't it? We usually have cold on Sundays! And she won't know exactly how long it took me to get up to the cottage and back, will she now?"


As the voices died away, a figure came out of the ruined sheep byre and stood watching. That was a close shave, having the local copper almost find him. One good thing — he now knew where the policeman was. He'd be safely in the pub until it was too late.

He could feel the blood pounding in his temples as the adrenaline raced through his body. He followed the track across the meadow to the cottage gate. A movement in the hedge to his left made him jump, until he saw an old sheep lumbering away into the darkness. Obviously hoping to get at those flowers again, he thought with a grin. Well, too late now. By the time he'd finished there wouldn't be any flowers.

The garden gate squeaked as he opened it. He walked up the newly flagged front path to the door. Then he paused and took the pack from his back. The can clanked loudly as it put it down on the front step and he felt his heart jump again. Calm down, he told himself. There's nobody for miles around. You have all the time in the world to do this.

He took the rags from his pack and put them down beside the path while he saturated them. Then, one by one, he dropped them through the letter box.

Then he went around to the back of the house. The windows were all locked but it was easy enough to break a pane and pour more petrol inside.

Then he used up the last of the can on the creeper growing up the front of the house and the bushes beneath the front window. It would take a bit to get a really good blaze going in an old stone cottage like this.

Lastly he took out a fuse. It was the kind they once used in the old slate mines — especially slow-burning, to give the men time to get back to the surface. By the time the fuse burned all the way down from the letter box to the rags on the floor, he'd be far away.

He secured the fuse through the open letter box, then, fingers trembling with excitement, he lit it. There was a gentle hiss, like exhaling breath, and the end of the fuse glowed red. He stuffed the empty can and any other telltale bits of rubbish into his pack and hurried back down the path. At the gate he paused and took a piece of paper from his pocket. The note was made up of words he'd cut from a newspaper. It said,


GO HOME. YOU'RE NOT WANTED HERE.

He found a nail protruding from the gate and he stuck the note on it. When he turned to look, the fuse was glowing like a red eye in the darkness. Then he fled down the mountain.

CHAPTER 3

The bar at the Red Dragon was crowded as Evan pushed open the heavy oak door and ducked under the beam to enter. A fire was burning in the big fireplace on the far wall. The air was heavy with cigarette smoke.

"Look you — there he is now!" A high voice rose over the murmur in the bar. Betsy the barmaid's face lit up as she spotted Evan. "Noswaith dda, Evan bach!"

Heads turned in their direction.

"We were wondering where you'd got to, Evan bach," Charlie Hopkins called. "It's not like you to miss opening time. Betsy was all set to send out a search party ..."

"I was not!" Betsy said, her cheeks flushing. Evan was startled to see that Betsy's hair was a dark, rich auburn color this evening. Ever since she had almost been seduced by a famous opera singer who liked his women dark she had been experimenting with hair color. She was also wearing a leopard print velour tank top with a low scooped neckline. The result was disconcerting, to say the least.

"I know very well that Evan Evans can take care of himself," Betsy went on, giving him a challenging smile. "I mean, he's built for it, isn't he?"

"Unless he managed to find himself trapped by you someday," Charlie Hopkins said, and his skinny body shook with soundless mirth, revealing missing front teeth. "I'd like to see him fight his way out of that!"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Evan and Elle by Rhys Bowen. Copyright © 2000 Rhys Bowen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Rhys Bowen is the author of the award-winning Molly Murphy and Constable Evans mysteries. Her novels have garnered an impressive array of awards and nominations, including the Anthony Award for her novel For the Love of Mike and the Agatha Award for Murphy's Law. Her books have also won the Bruce Alexander Historical Award and the Herodotus Award, and have been shortlisted for the Edgar, the Agatha, the Macavity, the Barry, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

She has also written Her Royal Spyness, a series about a minor royal in 1930s England, and she is the author of several short stories, including the Anthony Award–winning "Doppelganger." Her story "Voodoo" was chosen to be part of the anthology of the best of 50 years of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Ms. Bowen was born in Bath, England, and worked as an announcer and studio manager for the BBC in London, before moving to Australia and then California. It was here she started writing children's and young adult novels, and then moved on to mysteries with the Constable Evans novels. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, play her Celtic harp, and entertain her grandchildren. She lives in San Rafael, California.


Rhys Bowen is the author of the award-winning Molly Murphy and Constable Evans mysteries. Her novels have garnered an impressive array of awards and nominations, including the Anthony Award for her novel For the Love of Mike and the Agatha Award for Murphy’s Law. Her books have also won the Bruce Alexander Historical Award and the Herodotus Award, and have been shortlisted for the Edgar, the Agatha, the Macavity, the Barry, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She has also written Her Royal Spyness, a series about a minor royal in 1930s England, and she is the author of several short stories, including the Anthony Award–winning “Doppelganger.” Her story “Voodoo” was chosen to be part of the anthology of the best of 50 years of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Ms. Bowen was born in Bath, England, and worked as an announcer and studio manager for the BBC in London, before moving to Australia and then California. It was here she started writing children’s and young adult novels, and then moved on to mysteries with the Constable Evans novels. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, play her Celtic harp, and entertain her grandchildren. She lives in San Rafael, California.

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Evan and Elle (Constable Evans Series #4) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Get a cuppa tea and settle in for one of the best reads ever.
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Tjr0919 More than 1 year ago
I enjoy her style of writing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading all o these books - learning much about Wales.