Scene of Crimeby Jill McGown
In Jill McGown's masterful new noel, the continuation of her acclaimed British police procedural series starring Detective Chief Inspectors Lloyd and Hill, real-life crime engulfs the domestic life of the/i>
When an amateur dramatic society begins rehearsing a production of Cinderella, murder lurks in the wings. And the killer is definitely no Prince Charming.
In Jill McGown's masterful new noel, the continuation of her acclaimed British police procedural series starring Detective Chief Inspectors Lloyd and Hill, real-life crime engulfs the domestic life of the Riverside Theatre players. Will Lloyd and Hill be able to crack the case before murder most foul turns the production into the bloodiest drama this side of Macbeth? In Scene of Crime, Jill McGown raises the curtain on her most ingenious psychological thriller to date.
About the Author:
A native of Argyll, Scotland, Jill McGown has lived in Corby, England since she was ten. She wrote her first novel, A Perfect Match, in 1983. Among those that followed are Murder at the Old Vicarage and A Shred of Evidence.
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Read an Excerpt
Chapter One “I felt like a prat,” said Lloyd as he and Judy made their way downstairs from the room in the Christmas-decorated Riverside Family Center in which the so-called relaxation classes were held. It had been his first visit to such a thing. And, if he could possibly work out how to get out of it, his last, because the one thing it had not been was relaxing.
Judy snorted. “And I didn’t?”
“Well, at least you’re pregnant. Why do I have to do the breathing?”
“They explained why. Anyway, you’re supposed to be relaxing, too.”
“As far as I’m concerned, relaxing is a malt whiskey and a crossword. Or maybe a video. Or both. Not squatting on the floor making stupid noises.”
“I don’t think the malt whiskey and crossword method of childbirth has proved all that successful,” said Judy.
“I’ll bet no one’s tried it.” Lloyd looked at the people going down ahead of them and lowered his voice. “Apart from anything else, all the others look about sixteen,” he said. “And there am I, fifty and bald.”
Judy arrived on a landing and turned to face him. “I’m forty-one,” she said. “How do you suppose that makes me feel?”
He smiled and took her hands in his, looking at her dark, shining hair, and today’s choice of color coordinated pregnancy outfit. She had scoured the county to find clothes she regarded as fit to be seen in when you felt like a whale. Even in her eighth month, she didn’t look like a whale, pleasant though these creatures were, in Lloyd’s opinion. She looked wonderful. There really was a glow. He’d told her that once, and she thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.
“I don’t know how you feel,” he said. “But you look great.”
“It isn’t rubbish,” he protested. “You do look great. I think I’ll be a little sorry when you’re not pregnant anymore.”
“Well, I won’t.” She frowned. “Didn’t you go to classes when Barbara was pregnant?”
Lloyd shrugged. “I don’t think they’d invented them in those days,” he said. He didn’t have the faintest idea whether they were fashionable then, but he was fairly safe in assuming that neither did Judy.
Life had been easier back then, he reflected. His marriage had been uncomplicated, basically, until Judy’s arrival in his life made it complicated. By and large, Barbara had done the female stuff and he’d done the male stuff. He wasn’t the archetypal Welshman; he enjoyed cooking, and he didn’t mind housework. He had never expected women to be at his beck and call. But having babies had always seemed to him to be beyond his remit, as the Assistant Chief Constable would say, and he really didn’t know if Barbara had done all this relaxation business. He became aware that he was being subjected to dark brown scrutiny, and felt uncomfortable. “It was different then!” he said.
“I was in uniform. I worked shifts.”
It was different because Barbara hadn’t been a police officer. Judy was, and she knew what was what; he couldn’t plead a heavy caseload or the sudden necessity to work overtime; she would want chapter and verse. And it had been almost twenty years since he’d had anything to do with a pregnant woman; times had changed. Men weren’t just encouraged to be involved, they were expected to be.
“Were you present when the children were born?” she demanded.
“Well . . .”
“Don’t try telling me they didn’t do that in those days, because they most certainly did. Where were you? Pacing up and down outside? Waiting to hand out cigars?”
“You mean you weren’t there at all?”
“I meant to be there, but it wasn’t possible. Things came up at work. . . .”
“Both times? Oh, sure they did.”
“Look, if Barbara didn’t give me a hard time about it, why are you?”
She didn’t answer.
“Good evening, Chief Inspector Lloyd,” said a voice. “What are you doing here?”
Lloyd turned to see the long, thin frame of Freddie, their friendly neighborhood pathologist, loping down the steps from the rooftop car park. Lloyd had parked in the street—he wasn’t a fan of rooftop lots, or rooftop anything elses, come to that.
“I’m here because I’m going to be a father,” he replied. “Apparently I have to learn how to bear down. What’s your excuse?”
“When it comes to being a father, I think you’d be better off learning how to bear up, but I expect you know that better than I do. I’m here to play squash.” Freddie beamed at Judy. “Hello, Judy—positively blooming, I see. And I believe it’s Detective Chief Inspector Hill now, isn’t it? You’ve caught up to this one.” He jerked his head in Lloyd’s direction. “And not before time. How’s the new job?”
“It’s fine, I suppose. I can’t honestly say I know what I’m doing yet, but Joe Miller does.”
“Ah, yes. He’s the computer buff, isn’t he? My only regret about your promotion is that I won’t see you anymore.”
Judy smiled. “Don’t take this personally, Freddie, but as far as I’m concerned, the absence of mortuary visits is a major plus about this job.”
“Dead bodies are more interesting than most live ones—present company excepted. Besides, you should be used to them by now.”
“I’ll never get used to them.”
“Still—there’s always the housewarming. I presume you’ll invite me, if I promise not to bring any dead bodies. Have you found somewhere to live yet?”
“No,” said Lloyd.
“You mean you’re still living in separate flats?”
Not exactly, Lloyd thought. He wasn’t sure if Judy had noticed yet, but he’d more or less moved in with her.
“We keep looking at houses, but we can’t agree on what we want,” said Judy. “It’s all going to have to wait until after Christmas now.”
“Well, there’s one for the books,” said Freddie, glancing at his watch. “You two failing to agree. Sorry—must dash. I’m on court at quarter past. If I don’t see you before, have a happy Christmas.”
“Same to you,” said Judy. She caught Lloyd’s wrist and looked at his watch as Freddie disappeared down the next flight of steps two at a time. “Is that the time? I’m ten minutes late for the rehearsal. She wanted us all there at eight prompt.”
Lloyd followed as she made her way down. “I thought you just did their books for them,” he said. “How does that involve rehearsals?”
“I’m doing the sound effects tonight because someone’s away sick.”
Lloyd grinned. “Do you have to moo and things like that?”
“There isn’t any mooing in Cinderella.”
It had been the mildest of jokes. When she was in this sort of mood, he thought, she was hard work. “Can I come?” he asked. “Or would you rather I went home and came back for you?”
“Suit yourself. But if you come, make yourself useful.”
Lloyd walked with her through a maze of corridors that would apparently take them under cover to the Riverside Theatre, rather than having to go back out into the rain. The complex had been built with help from the lottery, and as far as he could see, it was still being built. “Watch your step,” he said as Judy briskly walked past wooden panels and pots of mysterious smelly stuff.
She didn’t slow down.
“What should I do to make myself useful?”
She didn’t answer.
Lloyd sighed. “I can make tea,” he said. “And you said you would need to eat—I can nip down to the snack bar for sandwiches or something. Will that be useful?”
“Fine. Just don’t get in the way.”
The theater, which they entered by a rear door that took them along another corridor into the wings, was just about finished. Not too much builders’ debris to catch the unwary mother-to-be. They walked out onto the stage, where a spare, tall woman of uncertain years and flaming hair, dressed in what seemed to Lloyd to be a remarkable number of scarves and very little else, was dramatically glad to see Judy.
“Thank God you’re here, darling!” she said. “I was beginning to think no one was going to turn up.”
“Sorry, Marianne, we got held up. This is Lloyd, my partner. Lloyd—Marianne.”
“How lovely to see you here, Lloyd.” She extended her hand, palm down, and Lloyd felt certain he was supposed to bow and kiss it, but he settled for giving it a necessarily ineffectual shake. “It was my fault that we were late,” he said. “I ran into an old friend.”
Marianne tilted her head to one side and regarded Lloyd. “I don’t suppose you could possibly read Buttons for us, could you, darling?”
Lloyd blinked. “Yes,” he said. “If you’re serious.”
“Oh, I’m desperately serious.” She turned to Judy. “Dexter rang and said he’s come down with something. So I haven’t got Buttons or Cinderella now. And I don’t know where Carl Bignall is. He’s supposed to be bringing the chimes, apart from anything else.”
“Chimes?” said Lloyd.
“Midnight,” said Judy. “The clock has to strike midnight. Carl does the sound effects, and understudies Buttons, amongst other things.”
From the Paperback edition.
Meet the Author
Jill McGown, who died in 2007, lived in Northamptonshire and was best known for her mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Lloyd and Sergeant Judy Hill. The first novel, A Perfect Match, was published in 1983 and A Shred of Evidence was made into a television drama starring Philip Glenister and Michelle Collins.
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Eleventh in Jill McGown's series of British procedurals featuring Chief Inspector Lloyd and his partner in crime and life, Chief Inspector Judy Hill, SCENE OF CRIME stands alone beautifully. I think that a sense of you-are-there at the heart of the chase is absolutely crucial if a procedural is to work, and Ms. McGown provides us with thrills and misdirection aplenty before the real villain slips up just enough for Llloyd and Hill to make the collar in this cleverly-devised, multi-suspect puzzler. Neurotic Esther Bignall is found dead...bound and suffocated in her home in what looks like a burglary gone wrong. Caught red-handed with the missing property, car thief and former juvenile delinquent, Ryan Chester, would seem to be the obvious culprit, but the Pink Panther gives him an alibi. While his half-brother, Dexter Gibson, can be placed at the scene of the crime, the timing is all wrong which is also apparently true for Esther's doctor, Denis Leeward, who has a guilty secret of his own to hide as does her not so grief-stricken husband, Carl. To further muddy the waters, the Bignall's sleazy neighbor, Eric Watson, has a very private agenda to pursue, and helping the police with their inquiries is definitely not part of it. Fortunately, the combination of left-brained Hill's logic and right-brained Lloyd's intuition is more than up to the challenge, and they uncover the answer that unmasks a cunning killer at the SCENE OF CRIME itself in a way this is both utterly ingenious and intensely satisfying. In a nutshell, Ms. McGown does all-well-that-ends-well better than anyone else whom I've encountered recently, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this delightfully civilized thriller.
In Malworth, a local theater group decides to do a production of Cinderella. At the tryouts is eight-month pregnant Detective Chief Inspector Judy Hill who wants the title role. Accompanying her is her professional and personal partner Lloyd. At the same theater is Dr. Carl Bignall, who learns there that someone murdered his wife during an apparent robbery turned ugly. The police quickly find two suspects. Teenager Ryan Chester has been found with a stolen car and Christmas gifts that Carl identifies as being in his home. A witness confirms that Ryan¿s half-brother Dexter was near the crime scene at the time of the murder. The case is resolved so why does Lloyd continue to investigate the homicide as if someone else committed the crime? The eleventh Lloyd-Hill police procedural, SCENE OF THE CRIME, is a fabulous who-done-it that shows why the author and her series are so popular. The story line is intelligent as the reader observes Lloyd and his assistant work through a maze filled with lies, half-truths, and false clues. The recurring cast retains their human qualities so that fans will feel old friends have returned and anxiously await the next visit from Jill McGown¿s top of the line series. Harriet Klausner