Unlucky for Some: A Novel of Suspenseby Jill McGown
Selected by The Times (London) as one of the twentieth century’s “100 Masters of Crime,” Jill McGown writes mystery-suspense novels with plots that defy second-guessing. In Unlucky for Some, her thirteenth book featuring Detective Chief Inspectors Lloyd and Hill, the quiet life of an English town scarcely conceals the deadly menace lurking around dark corners and within the human mind.
Michael Waterman is a self-made millionaire. His casinos and nightclubs ensure a constant flow of cash, and Waterman knows what he needs to do to keep it that way. So far, it seems, he has stayed on the right side of the law. Certainly, no one seriously suspects him of murdering bingo player Wilma Fenton, who was struck down while walking home with a purse crammed full of winnings. Her murder looks like an ordinary mugging except for one oddity: The killer had left Wilma’s money neatly fanned out across her body.
The motive behind the bafflingly violent act dogs Lloyd and Hill– now married and the harried parents of a two-year-old daughter. The stakes are raised with a second murder, modeled on the first . . . and then a third. A cold-blooded killer is challenging not only the police but the one witness to the first slaying: England’s premier expert on serial crime, well-known journalist and TV personality, Tony Baker. It has now become a twisted game of madness and logic–in which failure to outwit the murderer means more senseless deaths.
In this astonishing Lloyd and Hill novel, Jill McGown’s storytelling genius will captivate longtime fans as well as first-time readers. Unlucky for Some is lucky for all admirers of virtuoso suspense writing.
From the Hardcover edition.
MURDER AT THE OLD VICARAGE
“A first-rate mystery . . . A spiderweb of a tale . . . fiendishly clever.”
–The Washington Post
THE MURDERS OF MRS. AUSTIN AND MRS. BEALE
“Sophisticated and satisfying.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A cleverly constructed, realistic courtroom drama that keeps you totally involved.”
PICTURE OF INNOCENCE
“A masterpiece of controlled complexity.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
PLOTS AND ERRORS
“A dazzlingly devious tangle of clues and coincidences.”
SCENE OF CRIME
“As sound an example of pure classical detection, including Agatha Christie-style whodunit misdirection, as you’ll find.”
–Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
DEATH IN THE FAMILY
“An intricate, convincing web of family intrigue that endures to the final pages.”
- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
In the cold, gray light of a mid-February afternoon, Michael Waterman watched Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Yardley’s putt roll gently over the manicured green heading toward the thirteenth hole, and walked over, hand outstretched, conceding the putt before the ball had stopped moving. “Too good,” he said, taking out his wallet, and extracting five twenties. “I believe we said a hundred?”
“We did.” Ray grinned, sliding the notes into his back pocket. “Which means a lot more to me than it does to you.”
Michael picked up both balls and put his redundant putter back in the bag, hoisting it to his shoulder as the two men walked together toward the clubhouse. He’d lost at the thirteenth hole on the thirteenth of the month—maybe there was something in the superstition after all.
But Ray’s burly figure dwarfed the slight, wiry Michael, and that was much more likely to be where Michael’s problems lay. Admittedly, Michael was looking closely at fifty and Ray had just turned forty, but they were both fit, they were both competitive. Age wasn’t a factor. Ray could drive the ball farther, it was as simple as that; he gave himself a better chance of a simple approach shot to the green. Maybe, Michael thought, he should go to one of these coaches to help him get more power into his shot.
“I’d have thought you’d know better than to gamble,” said Ray. “At least when you know you don’t stand a chance of winning.”
“I make my living from people who gamble when they’ve no chance of winning. And I would remind you that some of my best customers are coppers.”
Ray grinned. “Oh—policemen gamble on anything. I think our unof?cial bookies sometimes take more than you do in a day’s trading.” He pulled open the clubhouse door, and stood aside to let Michael go ahead. “The current book is on who’s going to head the major crime unit—the betting’s been very heavy.”
“Oh?” Michael frowned. “I thought that had been shelved.”
“The serious crime squad’s been shelved—it was felt that the specialist units already in place covered the causes of most serious crime. Drugs, fraud, terrorism—that sort of thing. The major crime unit will have a different brief,” he said, as they reached the bar. “What’ll you have?”
“A whisky, thanks.” It was a rare treat; Michael never drank when he was driving, and he was usually driving. “So what would this major crime unit do?”
“It would deal with the serious crimes non-criminals commit. The thinking is that detectives used to dealing with known offenders and hardened criminals aren’t so hot when it comes to honest citizens turned murderers. Crimes like that need a different approach. It would be a small, hand-picked unit.”
“Is there enough of that sort of crime to keep a specialist unit going?”
“I think so, because of the length of time they can take to investigate. But they’ll also reopen cold cases, see what someone with a bit more imagination than the average copper can do with them.”
Michael smiled. “I’m tempted to say that everyone has—”
“I know, I know,” said Ray, before Michael could finish. “But some of us can see past the ends of our noses.”
Present company excepted, thought Michael. Ray might have fast-tracked his way to his current job of heading Malworth CID, but he had no imagination whatsoever. “So who’s the front-runner?” he asked.
“Detective Chief Inspector Hill, assuming she applies for it. I told you we gambled on anything—she might not come under starter’s orders. She’s based at Malworth—she’s done a good job there.” He smiled. “She’s very attractive, too.”
“Well—maybe I can get an introduction.”
“Sorry, Mike, she’s taken. She’s married to DCI Lloyd over at Stansfield.”
Even better, thought Michael. Married women didn’t expect anything from you. “She kept her own name?”
“Only to avoid confusion. They are happily married, with a two-year-old daughter.”
“More fast-track coppers?”
“No. This is second time around for both of them—she’s ten years younger than him, though. I think you’ve met DCI Lloyd—he’s Welsh, not particularly tall. Very dark hair, what there is of it.”
“Oh, yes. I remember him.” Michael smiled. “A two-year-old daughter will keep him on his toes.”
“They’ve been together for years, but they only got married about eighteen months ago.” Ray asked for the menu, and once they had ordered, he settled in for a gossip. “Apparently, it all started twenty-odd years ago when they were both in London, at the Met. He was married, but she wasn’t. Then next thing, she goes and marries some man and goes to live in Nottingham, while he gets a divorce, but she doesn’t know that. Anyway, she manages to persuade her husband to move to Stans?eld . . .”
Michael stopped listening, as he often did with Ray. He liked his brother-in-law, but he seriously suspected that he never actually stopped talking. Having a conversation with him was almost impossible, once he’d got going. Michael wondered if he was like that at work.
Being related by marriage to casino owners was not something the constabulary recommended to its senior of?cers, but it hadn’t held Ray back, because in his line of work Michael heard the odd whisper of use to the police, and it sometimes worked to their advantage. And Michael played it straight, for the most part. His business dealings were squeaky clean and always had been, but if Ray really believed that he just resigned himself to writing off large gambling debts that he couldn’t recover in court, that just showed how little imagination he had.
During the meal, Michael was given a minute assessment of everyone’s chances in the Bartonshire Constabulary promotion stakes, and by the time he was being deposited at his front door, he could have opened a book on the outcome himself. He retrieved his golf bag from the boot, slammed it shut and tapped the roof of the car, watching as the X-type Jaguar swept back down his gravelled driveway. He raised a hand in salute as its taillights disappeared from view, and smiled. He had never bought a Jag—he drove a modest Ford Focus, and it got him from A to B in comfort, so he was quite happy with that.
All his adult life he had consciously veered away from the overt trappings of self-made wealth; no camel-hair coats and gold identity bracelets for him, no flashy sports cars or Havana cigars. He wasn’t about to play the part of the East End boy made good, even if he was one. His family had moved to Bartonshire from London when he was ?fteen, so the accent had been ironed out, but he was an East End boy at heart.
The Grange was the only ostentation he had ever allowed himself, and it was different, because Josephine had grown up in Stoke Weston village, and her dream had been to live in the Grange, so when it came on the market twenty years ago, Michael had bought it. It sat in several picturesque acres of Stoke Weston, and had once been someone’s country house. Whoever that was had probably only used it part of the year, and that was ostentation in Michael’s book. At least he lived there all year round. But he did employ a full-time housekeeper and gardener, not to mention part-time cleaners and groundsmen, and it was a hell of a size for just him and Ben.
Come to that, Ben was hardly here now that he was at university—perhaps he should think about selling. But then, Ben loved it, too; it had been a great place for a boy to grow up. He and his friends had played for hours in the woods, and the old summerhouse by the lake had in its time been everything from a prehistoric cave to a spaceship.
They had camped out in it—though Michael would hardly call it camping, in something as sturdy and weatherproof as that—and it had been a self-important clubhouse for some secret society at one time. It was kept in good order, but no one used it at all now Ben’s friends were all grown up. They had held barbecues, played cricket and croquet on the lawns, messed about in boats on the lake, and everyone had had great fun. Ben might want to live here when he got married and had kids, which he would do sooner or later. No, he’d hang on to the Grange for the moment.
Anyway, he liked being able to host parties and business gatherings here—he was very fond of Stoke Weston, and enjoyed showing it off. And he took not a little pride in the fact that he was a one-man job provider; wherever possible, he employed people from the village in his various enterprises. He knew who he could trust, and what capabilities they had to offer, so it suited him, and the resentment that might have been felt at this upstart in the villagers’ midst was totally absent.
Fine snow began to fall, shaking Michael from his reverie. As he went into the house, he could hear Ben on the phone to someone. He had come home for the weekend for a friend’s twenty-first birthday party, and was going back tonight. Michael leaned the golf bag silently against the wall, and listened.
“. . . but I’ll be gone by then, I don’t want to go without seeing you at all. I’ve missed you. I always miss you—you know that. Can’t you get the time off? Ask to leave early? Good. So you’ll meet me there? You know where they are, don’t you? No—not them. The ones on Waring Road. They’re only about five minutes from the bingo club. They’re empty—he’s just had them done up, but they’re not on the market yet. Yes—that’s the ones. It’s quicker to come on foot through the alleyway from Murchison Place—the one-way system takes you miles off the route. I’ll be in number three. OK, Stephen, see you at half past eight or so.”
Michael frowned, then let the door close with a bang, and went along the hallway to the sitting room. Perhaps he’d misheard. He’d thought Ben had finished with that sort of nonsense years ago.
Ben rose from the sofa with the easy grace that he had inherited from Josephine, along with her dark hair. Michael’s was sandy and, these days, sparse.
As he thought of her, Michael looked quickly down at the thickly piled carpet. It had been seventeen years since she’d died, and he still felt tears prick the back of his eyes when she came into his mind. She had married him when he was twenty years old, and hadn’t enough money even to take her out for a meal, and she had given him the capital he needed to open his ?rst betting shop. She had been ten years older than him, and everyone had thought she was mad, that he’d married her for the money, but that wasn’t how it was at all.
And she had been right to believe in him: the betting shop had turned into shops in the plural, and he had expanded into bingo clubs, nightclubs, and the Lucky Seven casino, making himself a millionaire several times over. That was when he’d bought the Grange. Now, as Ben had just mentioned on the phone, he was moving into property development. He had repaid Josephine’s investment with handsome interest, despite her protests that she was his wife, and didn’t want the money back. She had put it all into a trust for Ben, then just a baby, to be paid out on his twenty-first, and that, unbelievably, was just three months away. Time moved on at an alarming rate.
He looked up with a determined smile, not wanting to embarrass Ben with his show of emotion. “Not really. Ray sees me as some sort of income supplement.”
“Oh.” Ben smiled. “I can never see the attraction of golf myself—something I daren’t say in St. Andrews, of course.”
“I should think not.”
Meet 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 have followed are Gone to Her Death, Murder at the Old Vicarage, Murder . . . Now and Then, The Murders of Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Beale, The Other Woman, A Shred of Evidence, Verdict Unsafe, Picture of Innocence, Plots and Errors, Scene of Crime, and Death in the Family.
Visit the author’s website at www.JillMcGown.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Having read the other Lloyd & Hill mysteries from Jill McGowan, I had expected a much better effort. I found 'Unlucky for Some' to be dull reading. The plot is unimaginative, the dialogue dry, the characters are flat and undeveloped. Mid-way through the book I was tempted to give up (something I never do). Having just finished Elizabeth George's 'With No One As Witness', this is comparasion is a waste of the reader's time.
Wickedly clever whodunit. Wry, deftly written drama and head-scratching red herrings fuel the suspense of this irresistibly addictive novel.
Married couple Detective Chief Inspectors Judy Hill and Lloyd cope with a terrible two¿s daughter, having Judy¿s mother live with them and wondering if they can handle the responsibility of a cat. While they cope with their personal life, they work doubly hard trying to bring down a serial killer. His first victim Wilma Fenton won a tidy sum at the bingo parlor. Employee Stephen Holiday delivers her winnings and walks her home before meeting someone he doesn¿t want to reveal to the police when they question him................ When a second person is murdered in much the same way as Wilma, Stephen is in the area again and doesn¿t have an airtight alibi that could clear him. The murderer contacts journalist Tony Baker, who brought down a serial killer years ago. It is obvious the perpetrator wants to play a Cat and Mouse game with the reporter and the cops. As the killings continue, Stephen is either the killer or somebody with inside information has set him up. Judy and Lloyd believe Stephen is innocent despite the evidence and don¿t want to see him go to jail, but the miasma of lies hide the truth................................ Jill McGown writes some of the best British police procedurals on the market today. The marriage between the two protagonists gives insight into the personal lives of these fascinating characters and the way they work together is remarkable because neither one is jealous of who is in command of the situation. Though the flaunting serial killer is over killed in novels, UNLUCKY FOR SOME is an enthralling mystery that should be on everyone fan¿s keeper shelf...................................... Harriet Klausner