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Out Comes the Evil: A Cotswold murder mystery
     

Out Comes the Evil: A Cotswold murder mystery

4.3 3
by Stella Cameron
 

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Second in the traditional British mystery series featuring rural inn owner and amateur sleuth Alex Duggins: an intriguing departure for bestselling romantic suspense author Stella Cameron.

Once again Alex Duggins and her veterinarian friend Tony Harrison are thrown into a major murder investigation. An almost fresh body is discovered in a

Overview

Second in the traditional British mystery series featuring rural inn owner and amateur sleuth Alex Duggins: an intriguing departure for bestselling romantic suspense author Stella Cameron.

Once again Alex Duggins and her veterinarian friend Tony Harrison are thrown into a major murder investigation. An almost fresh body is discovered in a disused well among the ruins of a 14th-century manor house … the motive for the killing a baffling mystery. The victim was a widow who had lived quietly in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Folly-on-Weir for the past ten years. Who on earth could want her dead, and by such brutal means?

As rumour and speculation engulf the town, another woman is attacked – and Alex discovers that behind a tranquil face lurks a cunning and vengeful mind. Despite warnings from the police to stop interfering, she finds herself in the sights of a ruthless killer who has decided she knows too much …

The Alex Duggins series will appeal to fans of Louise Penny and Elizabeth George.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/19/2015
At the start of Cameron’s captivating sequel to Folly, widow Pam Gibbon, “a fit, attractive, sexual woman,” goes looking late one night for a lover of hers, Harry Stroud, at Ebring Manor, a ruined 14th-century house, in the quaint Cotswold village of Folly-on-Weir. Pam meets a bad end, but days pass before Alex Duggins, the owner of the Black Dog pub, and her handsome boyfriend, veterinarian Tony Harrison, discover Pam’s dismembered body at the bottom of a well near the ruined manor house. At the risk of irritating the local police, Alex investigates. Tony does his best to keep Alex safe, though the impetuous, unpredictable Alex has a tendency to get into tight fixes, such as the time she gets locked inside Harry’s house while doing some snooping. Various assaults and a second murder raise the stakes. An appealing heroine and an atmospheric setting make this romantic mystery a winner. Agent: Liza Dawson, Liza Dawson Associates. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
2015-10-08
Two friends try to turn small-town gossip into a reasonable murder investigation when they discover a body and some clues that spur them on. Veterinarian Tony Harrison is a nice guy. At least, that's what his closest friend, Alex Duggins, reassures him when she tries to understand why Tony doesn't stop on seeing a woman crouched at the side of the road in his small town of Folly-on-Weir. Alex helps Tony re-enact the scene to make sure that what he's seen isn't a figment of his imagination, and that's when things begin to get creepy. First they stumble on an abandoned pair of binoculars as they approach the ruins of the building nearest the re-enactment, the deserted Ebring Manor. Then they find evidence of a body in a well on the property. Both suspect that the body is that of Pamela Gibbons, who's recently disappeared without a trace. When the two bring talk of the death back to The Black Dog, the tavern Alex manages, the town swirls with rumors about who could have done Pamela in. The public suspect No. 1 is Harry Stroud, a wealthy eccentric who happens to be a childhood acquaintance of Alex. Because of her connection to Harry, Alex feels compelled to learn more about his relationship with Pamela, even if it brings her into danger's way. Tony just wants to keep Alex safe and find out if their friendship is finally becoming something more. Many characters but little character development, and the story luxuriates in gruesome details. Though Cameron (Second to None, 2012, etc.) obviously loves her characters, she assumes the reader's interest rather than earns it.
John A Charles
"if you miss Caroline Graham’s Inspector Barnaby books this should be just your cup of tea."
Booklist
“A feisty heroine, plenty of eerie suspense, and unusual twists make this village cozy thoroughly engaging”
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell
"Alex Duggins is back on the job, peeling away layer after layer of the loves and hatreds of a small English town. Even when deaths and her own injuries mount, Alex pushes ahead, determined that right win out. Out Comes the Evil is a page-turner not to be missed by Stella’s fans!"

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781780290782
Publisher:
Severn House Publishers
Publication date:
12/01/2015
Series:
Alex Duggins Mystery Series , #2
Edition description:
First World Publication
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
1,258,699
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Out Comes the Evil


By Stella Cameron

Severn House Publishers Limited

Copyright © 2015 Stella Cameron
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78029-562-6


CHAPTER 1

'The eye will have to come out.'

'Oh, no,' Alex said. 'There isn't any way to save it?'

'Too much damage. At least the right eye doesn't look bad. Some conjunctivitis but no discharge. You can see the dry crust on the cornea of the left eye and it's very swollen. There's no indication of sight. This needs to be dealt with now.'

She looked at her watch.

'Do you have to get back?'

'No. I'll stay while it's done.' She had no idea if the cat belonged to someone. 'I didn't see your assistant when I came in.'

'This isn't a clinic day,' Tony Harrison told Alex. 'Radhika doesn't come in until later. I'm just glad I was here.'

'I forgot.' She shrugged and said, 'Sorry.'

He held the cat she'd found in a rubbish bin in the yard at her pub, the Black Dog. The animal looked more dead than alive, its orange tabby fur matted, his ears torn and badly mended from fights, and his long-legged body hanging limp in Tony's arms.

'I'm going to get on with it. I'll let you know how he does.'

'I wonder who he belongs to,' Alex said. 'I haven't seen him before.'

Tony looked from the cat to Alex. He smiled a little, the corners of his mouth turned down, which she knew meant he was about to say something he didn't like. 'I don't think he belongs to anyone. If we pull him through we'll have to decide what to do next.'

'You can do his eye on your own?' Alex said, closer to tears than she would ever admit. 'Someone must have thrown him away.'

'Or he was looking for food,' Tony said, his dirty blond hair curling around his ears and jumbled everywhere else, the same as usual. Folly-on-Weir's only vet turned heads but not because he worried about details like frequent fashionable haircuts. 'I can manage on my own. It's not optimum but once he's under it's no sweat.'

'Under?'

'Anesthetized.'

She dumped her gilet and cardigan on a chair in the cottage clinic sitting room and started rolling up her sleeves. 'I can help. Just talk me through it.' She avoided looking at him. 'Come on, he doesn't look good.'

Without a word, he led the way to his combination examination and surgery room. He'd told her he was having a separate operating room designed but for now he made do.

'I won't ask if you're sure you're up to this but if you change your mind just tell me you're leaving.'

She snorted. 'Don't worry about me. I've always been bloodthirsty.'

Tony gave a short laugh, pulled out a heating pad and a towel from a drawer and set them on the steel table. He settled the cat on the table and plugged in the pad. 'Poor fellow,' Tony said when the cat didn't attempt to move.

'He seems out of it already,' she said, worried. 'Is he going to die?'

'Let's do this, nurse.' He gave an injection and the already lethargic animal relaxed in seconds. 'I'm going to intubate him and start some fluids in case he gets into any trouble and needs them. First, a little lidocaine spray to make it less painful for his throat and easier on all of us. Put your hand over the top of his head and grasp his upper jaw to hold it open ... great. You're a natural.'

Through sliding a tube down the animal's throat, flushing out his eye with saline and trimming away fur and eyelashes, Tony didn't speak. Alex stroked the unconscious cat.

Tony looked up at her. 'Now we need to change the towels he's on for dry ones and get him positioned for the surgery. His head needs to be at this end. Can you do that while I set out a surgery pack and scrub up?'

'Yes, I can.' She was certain she could have done anything to help the cat and did as she'd been told.

'Then give your hands a good scrub.'

Alex did as he asked, grateful to be busy, too busy to give in to a jumpy tummy.

'Enucleation of the eye,' Tony said, glancing up at her over his mask, his dark-blue eyes darker than ever. But he was so matter-of-fact she knew this was where he was most comfortable, with his patients. 'This incision lets me get at the muscles. Hand me those scissors, please, the curved ones.'

She followed his instructions, aware that he gave her another glance as if gauging if she was about to pass out. 'It's interesting,' she said, although she felt a bit wobbly. 'I feel useful even if I'm not.' She laughed.

'You're wonderful, but we already know that.' There was no laughter in his eyes.

Alex returned her attention to the cat. She and Tony were great friends and could easily be more if the right things happened at the right moments.

'I clip all the muscle attachments to expose the globe and take out the eye,' he said. 'Not a moment too soon – it's leaking pus.'

Alex clenched her teeth and didn't look too closely.

'Clamping the stalk, including nerve and vessels. Two ligatures. Transecting the globe. Flush orbit with warmed saline.' Once again he looked at her before continuing. 'Adding some ampicillin – the orbit looks clean but infection is always the risk with something like this. That and bleeding. I'm trimming this small bit of tissue where the lashes were so the skin will grow together, and now I'll close.'

The lesson ended there. He stitched the wound and stood back an instant with his gloved hands held up. 'Good job, Nurse Duggins. I think I could use another assistant. I'm not sure how on-the-job training works but we'll figure it out.'

She stroked the cat's side again. 'You can't afford me,' she said. 'His breaths are short.'

'Regular,' he said. 'I know you must need to get back but thanks for the wonderful help. You are one capable woman.'

It was true they'd been through some nasty times together before and she hadn't swooned or crumpled. The thought made her smile. 'Harrison and Duggins. Emergency Situations, Ltd.'

This time his look was long enough to make her uncomfortable. They walked the fine line of trying to find their way to whatever they were meant to be to each other and it frequently became almost painful.

'Doesn't sound bad,' he said finally. 'Now, this fellow will be kept warm and watched for bleeding and infection. Radhika will be in before too long. She'll baby him.'

Alex nodded at that. 'Lucky you that she came along when she did.' Tony's former assistant had left to get married but Radhika, a knock-out gorgeous Hindu woman in her twenties, had moved into the village a few months earlier and had nursing skills that answered Tony's needs well.

In addition to being wonderful with the animals, Radhika was organized and managed the task Alex would have thought impossible, she ran Tony's practice smoothly. She was a friend of Vivian Seabrook who ran stables for the Derwinters, the big local landowners and self-appointed 'lords of the manor.' However, Radhika's reasons for settling in a small English village remained a mystery.

'Don't feel you have to stick around,' Tony said, taking a thin blanket from a warming drawer. 'I'll keep him beside me in the office until Radhika gets here.'

Already Alex was worrying about the cat's future. 'Should I put up signs to see if anyone's lost him?'

He reached out to ruffle her short, dark curls and she smiled. 'Ever the caretaker, Alex. Put something up at the Dog, if you like. The word will get out from there. All we have to do is tell Harriet and Mary Burke – they're as good as a megaphone.'

The elderly sisters owned Leaves of Comfort, the village tea and book shop, and kept their fingers on the pulse of local affairs from their reserved table at the Dog.

'You've got a point there,' Alex said. She bent over the scruffy, unconscious cat and kissed the top of his head through her mask before taking it off. 'OK, I'll get out of your way. If you feel like —' 'Tony, where are you?' a familiar male voice bellowed, cutting off the invitation Alex had almost issued for Tony to stop by for a pint and a pie at lunch time.

Tony's father, Doc James, the local GP, walked in. Even with his white hair and weathered network of life's lines on his angular face, there was no mistaking the resemblance between father and son.

Doc James went to give the cat a critical once-over. 'Poor fellow lost an eye? How's he doing?'

'We'll see in a few hours.'

'Looks like a punched-up fighter. How old?' He looked at Alex who shrugged.

'Alex found him in the rubbish,' Tony said. 'He's maybe a year. Eighteen months.'

Doc James took in the scene in the room, raised his brows, but made no comment.

'Police been here yet?'

Tony picked up the cat, the blanket wrapped around him, and headed for the door. 'Why would the police come by? Did you give me as an alibi again?'

'No.' And Doc James didn't crack a smile. 'Were they at the Dog yet, Alex?'

'No.' She frowned at him as she followed Tony to his office. He had two kennels under the window and settled the still flaked-out cat in one. He turned on a small electric heater and pulled it to one side of the open door.

His dog, a big, sandy terrier named Katie wandered into the room, looked curiously into the open kennel and lay down almost inside, her head on her paws, her eyes watchfully worried.

'Katie's into patient care, too,' Tony said. 'What's up, Dad?'

'The police are searching the area. Constable Frye came to see me. He's no longer our dedicated plod but he made a point of coming in and talking to me. They're trying to get a timeline.'

Alex gave him her entire attention. A whisper of remembered awareness prickled up her spine. Tony's hand on her arm startled her. 'What?' she almost shouted.

'OK, OK, don't worry. We're in a different time now.'

He had felt her go on alert. 'Not a different place, though,' she said tightly.

'Prue Wally didn't notice anything was wrong until early this morning.' Doc James looked troubled. 'That's the problem when you deal with people who keep odd hours – or don't keep any particular hours at all. They're looking for Pamela Gibbon.' Prue was Pamela Gibbon's housekeeper.

The tiny stream that ran past the cottage where Tony held his clinic, one of a row of chocolate-box buildings, was suddenly too loud. So were the occasional quacks of ducks out there.

'She only goes into Cedric Chase in the afternoons so she didn't think anything about the house being empty the day before yesterday. Yesterday she noticed the mail was still on the hall table where she put it the day before and there was more mail on the floor inside the door.

He shrugged. 'Doesn't have to mean anything. Some people are careless about that sort of thing. But they're going all over the village and searching any empty surrounding buildings, so I thought if they hadn't come yet, I'd warn you.'

'Dad, stop pussyfooting around. Just spit out what's on your mind.'

'You've both been through enough this year. You don't need more prodding and poking from the police. Frye said something about thinking they could need the Major Incident Team if things went badly.'

Alex froze inside. She swallowed and said, 'You mean Inspector O'Reilly?'

The man shrugged. 'If he's the one who draws the short straw, I suppose.'

'Did something happen to Prue as well?' Tony spoke slowly. 'Or are we only worried about Pam Gibbon?'

Doc James spread his hands and looked at the ceiling. 'How can one small place be cursed with this sort of thing? Prue's fine, shaken up but fine. It looks as if Pamela Gibbon has disappeared. There was nothing wrong with her before this as far as anyone knows. Alex's new manager said she was in the pub a few days ago, as ...' He cleared his throat. 'Just as comfortable and friendly as she always is with the, er, men, he said. The police think she's been gone as long as two days – even three. Her car's in the garage and she hasn't been up to the Derwinter place to check her horse. Apparently she does that every day come hell or high water.'

'She could have taken off for a couple of days,' Alex said, but her heart beat hard. 'She doesn't have anything to tie her down.'

'Who knows anything about her,' Tony said. 'I never heard any mention of family and I don't think she and her husband had children.'

Doc James' mind was elsewhere. 'Pamela didn't call a taxi and so far no one says they took her to the station or saw her on the bus,' he said. 'She wouldn't get far on foot.'

'If they send in O'Reilly or someone like him,' Tony said, 'it'll be because they suspect foul play.'

Alex whispered, 'Murder.'

CHAPTER 2

Hugh Rhys was one of those men women buzzed around like bees sucking up to lush roses in mid-summer.

There was nothing even vaguely feminine or rose-like about him. He was athletically built, tall, and he had magnetism ... regular features, perfectly close-clipped dark hair and eyes just as dark that smiled, with or without help from a very sexy mouth. Hugh exuded an aura; it gave off his fearless view of life in waves. Even Alex sometimes looked at him and wondered what made a man like him happy to live in a small English village where he seemed to have few interests outside work – other than his outrageously gorgeous navy-blue-and-white Frazer Nash BMW 1937 convertible.

He nodded when she came through from the back of the pub and turned away from a larger than usual early-afternoon customer crowd. Liz Hadley who ran a struggling dress shop in nearby Broadway, but helped out at the Dog, flitted busily back and forth, keeping the customers happy.

'Smell that?' she said, passing Alex and rolling her eyes as if she'd pass out from bliss. 'The Cotswold Farmer's sausages and bacon. They're going over like mad. Simple Suppers is packaging them now. I think we should sell them if people want us to.'

Alex waggled her head. 'Always the entrepreneur, Liz. I think we'd get sent to Coventry by a few local businesses if we started retailing sausages, but they do smell good. I believe in getting along with people, though, especially when we do business with them.'

Smiling, Liz sailed on her way.

'You got out of here at the right time,' Hugh said, keeping his deep Scots voice low. His very Welsh name was something he'd never explained. 'You missed Constable Frye and another copper in here asking about Pamela Gibbon. They can't find her.'

'Doc James came to Tony's surgery and told us about it. Has Harry Stroud come in today? I've seen him in here talking with Pamela a few times.'

'Not today,' Hugh said. 'And if you listen to the general village talk, those two do more than talk in other places. Do you know a Detective Inspector O'Reilly?'

'Yes,' Alex said shortly. 'He's been in Folly-on-Weir before.'

'The plods said he might be back again.' He watched her too closely. When she didn't respond, he said, 'How's the wee cat? He looked half dead.'

'Tony had to take that swollen eye out. It was already infected and useless.'

'Might be better if it died.'

She glanced at Hugh. 'If I ever have a bad eye infection, I'll stay out of your way. He's a lovely cat.'

Hugh grinned. 'If you say so. I'd say he's a rough and tumble bad laddie, that cat. But women go for bad boys, don't they?'

Alex had to smile back. She glanced around, checking on who was there, starting with the regulars by the bar. Harry's father, Major Stroud, was a fixture in the pub and she was relieved to see him, usual beer tankard in hand, sitting with Harriet and Mary Burke from the tea shop. Alex's dog, Bogie, black ears plastered to the sides of his head, managed to stay by the fire but as far from Major Stroud as possible. The dog was otherwise gray and a mix of terrier with possible long-ago connections to poodle. He was a faithful love.

An unlikely group, Alex realized. The major liked to stand at the bar where he enjoyed an audience of men when they would listen to him.

'He went straight over there,' Hugh said, as if he read her mind. 'Didn't have anything to say to his regular bunch.'

'I think it could be something to do with Pamela taking a hike,' Alex said. 'I hope she shows up, and fast.'

'Could be with Harry somewhere,' Hugh said. 'Haven't seen him in a couple of days. I bet that's what's making Stroud edgy. He's trying to fly the flag and be normal but he's not pulling it off.'

'They think Pamela's been gone as long as two or three days.'

'If she's been gone that long —'

'Exactly,' Alex said. 'It's too long for us not to start thinking the worst.'

Hugh leaned closer. 'As soon as this gets out – if she doesn't come back, that is – we'll have reporters all over us. Like as not the major will say something he'll wish he hadn't.'

'Please let her come back,' Alex said. 'I don't want to think about the alternatives.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Out Comes the Evil by Stella Cameron. Copyright © 2015 Stella Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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

Stella Cameron is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. With over fourteen million copies of her books in print, Cameron has turned her pen to mysteries. She draws on her English background for a new, already critically acclaimed mystery series, introducing Alex Duggins and her pub, The Black Dog, the little town of Folly-on-Weir and the intrigue that bubbles beneath the surface of village life. Atmospheric, deeply character and relationship-driven, the first book in the series, FOLLY, reveals the power of old secrets to twist the present. Cameron's reputation for using her backgrounds to add tension and allure to her stories is heightened again. Cameron is the recipient of the Pacific Northwest Achievement Award for distinguished professional achievement and for enhancing the stature of the Northwest Literary community. She lives in Washington with her husband Jerry, her Papillon Millie, black cat Zipper, and a cheeky little tabby named Jack.

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Out Comes the Evil: A Cotswold murder mystery 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booklover- More than 1 year ago
OUT COMES THE EVIL (ALEX DUGGINS MYSTERY, BK 2) by STELLA CAMERON I have been a fan of Stella Cameron's Romantic Suspense books for quite a while. I was surprised to see that she had started a new series that was much more mystery/suspense than romance. Although this is the second of the series featuring Alex Duggins and Dr. Tony Harrison, this is very good as a stand alone. As always, I highly recommend starting with Book 1 so as to pick up all the background information. Quick rundown - Alex is owner of a small restaurant/pub in Folly-on-Weir's, a small but interesting little English village. Dr Tony Harrison is the town's only veterinarian. They have been friends forever, but are now looking at each other with different eyes. The two of them have become amateur sleuths, by accident rather than design. A woman has gone missing and because Tony thought he saw her the night she disappeared, he and Alex go looking. They find her at the bottom of a well, with some of her fingers smashed. And then two more village residents go missing only to turn up dead. I love the author's English Village.... quaint, picturesque, filled with quirky people who make wonderful suspects. Gossip abounds and is truly the place everyone knows everyone else ... except when it comes to murder. Alex and Tony are terrific characters ... perfectly described with their unique traits well thought out. Although complete opposites, they mesh together perfectly. Alex seems to be a little more 'out there' than Tony ... usually risking her very life in the quest for the truth. This is a nice read, the mystery is more than a cozy and kept me turning the pages. I liked the village, the characters, and look forward to seeing where their adventures lead them. My thanks to the author, Stella Cameron, who furnished a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
The title was more terrifying than the book. I would say this was more of a cozy mystery except for one gross part. There were a lot of strange characters in this little town and one very creepy one who had a lot of money and still lived with his mama and daddy. All signs pointed to him, and why not, he was really creepy. However, mystery readers know if the author has got arrows over a character's head with a flashing light every time he's discussed in the book, Yeah, some mystery reader I am. HA!! There was one sex scene and I'm not sure if it was implied or what, I just skipped over the pages. There were only four or five. So, for me it was no big deal. This story was pretty good and believable. I liked most of the characters, except for the creepy one of course. I enjoyed it and pretty much found it entertaining. The author kept me guessing until the very end. Thanks Severn House and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I definitely recommend this book!