From the Publisher
"It may be cheating to add this, but Tom Holt deserves the very greatest praise for writing two quite brilliant Benson books with the blessing of the Benson Estate. A remarkable achievement."
--Alexander McCall Smith's top 10 favourite humorous books, theguardian.com, Tuesday 2 December 2003 19.00 EST
Read an Excerpt
After a long and leisurely lunch had been eaten and properly digested, and coffee lingered over to an extent unusual even in Tilling, the Padre went sorrowing away for what he termed the afternoon shift, while Elizabeth sat and devised in her mind the overthrow of the Tapestry.
She could declare a war of mockery and derision on the project and be sure that the oppressed workers would rise up and defect at her call. Yet to do so would be an overt act of hostility, and Lucia (so vindictive!) would blame her for the collapse of her precious hobby. A harder but better course of action would be to subvert it from within, smiling and smiling and being a villain, so to speak. And it so happened that she had within her luggage a secret weapon of unbounded potential, brought back from Southampton for just such a purpose. But now this mine could be exploded within the enemy's citadel, rather than simply laid under her walls.
She rose and went to the telephone. A number was demanded; she was put through. Foljambe's voice answered at the other end.
'Mrs. Mapp-Flint wishes to speak to Mrs. Pillson,' she said, and soon Lucia's voice, shrill and sharp as ever, came through the receiver.
'Lucia, darling, it's your Elizabeth here. Yes, dear, a simply lovely time, I must tell you all about it when we meet. But, first, I have just heard from the Padre about your marvellous Tapestry; such vision, dear Worship, so full of praise for your clever idea. Lucia, you naughty one, how could you bring yourself to be so unkind to your old friend as to let her go away on holiday and start work without her? Hello?' She's dropped the receiver again, thought Elizabeth. 'Do be sweet and reassure me that there's still something left for me to do--that's if you think that I'll be up to it, of course!'
Lucia reassured her that there was plenty for her to do; only too delighted.
'Splendid! Shall I bring my own needles? No? How thoughtful. And thread? That too! Such organisation. But, of course, I forgot, I am speaking to the Mayor of Tilling, after all. Very well, then, I shall run all the way to Mallards.'
Curiously enough, Lucia entirely failed to catch the significance of Elizabeth's promise to run all the way (surely unnecessary for a motorist), for her mind, like Macbeth's was full of scorpions. She knew only too well that her own declaration of peace had been Machiavellian policy. What else could Elizabeth's gratuitous and unprovoked gesture of friendship be but another such? And, if so, what diabolical scheme had that dark intellect devised?