The murder of a student re-opens a series of cold cases in this intriguing mystery
A young student is found brutally murdered in her room, killed while her flatmates slept nearby. The police soon recognize that this is frighteningly similar to a crime committed fifteen years before. A crime investigated by the now discredited Detective Inspector Joe Jackson, but never solved.
Other deaths, linked to the same modus operandi and stretching back more than twenty years, have also remained unsolved. No link has been found between the victims – but it seems Joe Jackson had a perpetrator in mind. He had however been unable to prove his guilt.
Can the new investigation trust the judgement of a man who was himself a killer? Or did that give Naomi Blake’s one-time friend and mentor an insight his colleagues did not have?
About the Author
Jane Adams was born in Leicestershire, where she still lives. She has a degree in Sociology, and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist in a folk rock band. She enjoys pen and ink drawing, martial arts and her ambition is to travel the length of the Silk Road by motorbike. She is married with two children. Her first book, The Greenway, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award.
Read an Excerpt
A Murderous Mind
A Naomi Blake Novel
By Jane A. Adams
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2015 Jane A Adams
All rights reserved.
When the New Year dawned uneventfully, Naomi dared to hope that it would be a peaceful one – if only in comparison to the one just passed. Frankly, she was glad to see the back of the previous year.
Alec seemed more settled now and had even enrolled in a couple of evening classes. He was still no nearer deciding what he wanted to do with his life post police force, but he was at least doing something and for that, Naomi was deeply grateful even if she wasn't convinced that his choice of evening activity – creative writing on a Tuesday and pottery on a Thursday would hold his attention for very long. Her old friend Harry just suggested she let him be and don't fuss.
'Find something you'd like to do too,' he suggested. 'Get yourself out. You've spent the last six months cooped up and worried. It's time you had some fun.'
He was right, Naomi conceded. Both she and Alec had a lot to put behind them. The death of friends, the threat of violence, the car crash that had nearly taken Alec's life. It was a lot to come to terms with. And Harry was probably right about allowing Alec some slack; she'd fussed enough for a lifetime, never mind a twelvemonth and it really was time to let go and focus her fussing elsewhere. But what did she actually want to do? Neither of Alec's choices really appealed; she considered the writing option impossible, unless she took someone along with her to take notes, or she took her laptop with the voice input software. And pottery just seemed too messy. It had been Patrick, Harry's eighteen-year-old son who finally came up with an alternative.
'He's always wanted to learn to dance,' Patrick said. 'Why don't the pair of you find a class? Really, Naomi, he could do with the exercise and losing a bit of weight.'
Naomi laughed at the idea. 'Great, Patrick. Just one small thing. I can't see what the dance teacher shows us. Small matter of being blind, remember.'
She couldn't actually see his shrug, but she could hear it in his voice. 'If you get a good teacher, I'm sure you can get around that. Dad said you did some when you were younger anyway, so I'm sure you'll pick it up again.'
Naomi smelled a set-up. 'You and Harry have already talked about this?'
'Yeah, well just a bit. I mean I can hardly go along with him, can I?'
Much against her better judgement Naomi had agreed to give it a try, on condition that they found the right teacher, only to discover that Patrick and Harry had already made some enquiries.
'She says it's not something she's done before,' Patrick said. 'But she and her partner are willing to give it a go if you are. Soo ...'
Naomi gave in. Secretly, she was always buoyed up by the way Patrick and Harry just seemed to assume she could do anything if she put her mind to it. And, she thought, it might be fun. She had taken up Latin dance in her teens and learnt it for about three years. She'd never been brilliant, but it had been good exercise and, as Patrick suggested, she could remember a bit of what she'd done.
Patrick and Harry's rather cavalier attitude to what others saw only as her disability put her in mind of another she had come to call friend and who had a very similar – maybe even more extreme – disregard for things she couldn't do. Gregory had been in touch over the Christmas period, sending a card and a small gift and phoning them on New Year's Eve to wish them the blessings of the season. Occasional texts and a postcard from Aberdeen had followed. Naomi found she thought of him often and of the younger man that Gregory currently had charge over, having nursed Nathan back to health after he had taken two bullets and almost been lost to them. Naomi didn't know Nathan so well but circumstances had conspired to bring strangers together and now those strangers were part of what Naomi considered extended family – though maybe the kind that no one talked about, or at best discussed in hushed whispers when the children or the more respectable members couldn't overhear.
Harry and Naomi had their first dance lesson on the first Tuesday in the New Year, roughly at the same time Alec went to learn to wrangle words. Ninety minutes later and Naomi was hooked. She had held her own in a class of both beginners and those who had started to learn back in the autumn term and despite the difficulties – Harry having to interpret what the teacher was showing them – and sore toes, there had been moments when Naomi had remembered how to perform basic steps. Brief instances where she had even been able to direct Harry and one very precious minute where the teacher had called upon her class to 'look at what Naomi's doing. That's what you're aiming for.'
She had practically floated up the stairs to her flat when Harry dropped her home after that first class and dancing had now become a weekly pleasure. Tonight had been no exception. She'd struggled a bit with some new steps, but so had the rest of the class and the resultant almost childish giggling had lifted her spirits.
Alec, as usual, turned up about twenty minutes later.
'You look happy,' he said. 'You had a good time?'
'Wonderful,' she said. 'You?'
'Yes, I think so. I read out that poem I'd been working on and got some good feedback. I think I might look for something different next term, but it's been an interesting experience. There's a conversational Italian starting in the same slot. Thought that I might give that a go.'
Naomi laughed. 'Does that mean we ought to plan a holiday? You know, try it out?'
'It's not a bad idea,' Alec said. He bent to fuss Napoleon, Naomi's large black guide dog. 'Did you get to watch, old man? How did she do, then?'
'He wouldn't know,' Naomi said. 'He went to sleep. I could hear him snoring.'
Alec laughed. 'Very sensible,' he said. 'I don't mind admitting, I'm tired. I've got out of the habit of using my brain. I'm hungry too.'
They ordered takeaway and settled in front of the television waiting for it to arrive. It's going to be all right, Naomi dared to whisper to herself as Alec went to answer the door. She could hear him chatting to the delivery man and he sounded so much more like his old self. We're going to get through this.
All they needed now, she thought, was a bit of peace and quiet, time to work out what they both wanted from what she was starting to think of as their new lives. Their old ones – the police, responsibilities, anxiety, shed like so much dead skin. Now it was time to start over.
Naomi closed her eyes, her sighted habits still surfacing when she was stressed or even just remembering past worry. Please let everything be OK now, Naomi whispered, not really praying but putting the thought out there for anyone that might conceivably be listening.
Alec bustled through. She heard him in the kitchen, rattling plates and dishing up their supper, chatting to Napoleon who thought that as his people were getting an extra meal maybe he should be entitled as well. She found her thoughts turning to Gregory and wondered where he was right now. How he was. What this year might bring for him.
Alec set her tray on her knee and told her where everything was. 'There's a late film on,' he said. 'Or do you just want to eat and then go to bed?'
Something in his voice hinted that he might not just be thinking of sleep.CHAPTER 2
Patrick Jones had driven over to Bob Taylor's place early as he always did on a Tuesday morning. He worked for a morning before returning to the university for the afternoon lectures. Had Patrick had his way then he would not still be on his uni course; he enjoyed his time working with the artist far more than his studies, but both his father, Harry, and Bob had told him that he should not throw away this time. That he should enjoy broadening his knowledge base and meeting other people following Patrick's general path.
Patrick had hated University in the first term, but his dad and Bob had been right and he'd not only got used to it but he had made some good friends – though he still thought he was learning far more from Bob Taylor than from his degree course.
As Patrick arrived a courier van was turning out of Bob's gate and a wooden crate sat on one of the tables in the studio when Patrick went through.
'Do you like a puzzle?' Bob asked.
Patrick frowned. 'What kind of puzzle?'
'Mysteries. Nothing dangerous, nothing life or death,' he reassured. He and Patrick had met because of a situation that really had been life or death and both were acutely aware of that. And not keen to repeat the experience.
'Just abstract sort of puzzles. Like who painted what, or who might just be saying they did.'
Bob shrugged. 'It's not always that simple,' he said. 'Forgery implies intent. Sometimes that intent is there, sometimes mistakes are made, sometimes artists allow their students to use their name and their influence. Sometimes copies are made and at the time everyone knows they are copies. Then time passes, memories are lost or a new owner sets out to deceive. You have to peel back the layers, find the objective truth, the forensic truth if you will, and then you get to the other minutiae. The subjective truth, the opinions. The mystery and the deceit. It's fascinating stuff, Patrick.'
Patrick looked speculatively at Bob Taylor. 'And is that what the courier brought this morning? A mystery?'
'Yes and no. I've been asked to look at a painting and make a judgement as to its authenticity. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it's a fake. I'm even pretty sure I know who made it. What I'm not so sure about is what I'm going to say.' He winked at his wife, Annie, who laughed.
'You'll do the right thing,' she said. 'You always do.'
'Maybe I don't know what that is this time?'
'Maybe the right thing isn't what other people might think,' Annie parried.
Patrick got the feeling he'd walked in on an ongoing conversation. 'Why might you not?' he asked. 'Why would you like to tell a lie?'
'Because,' Bob Taylor said, taking up a scalpel and gently easing a layer of tape away from the edge of the box, 'because some people don't deserve to own anything beautiful. Because all they want to know is what it might be worth and it would amuse me to let them think they may have something really valuable, in monetary terms anyway, just for a while before I let them down.'
He pulled the tape free and then started on the second edge. Patrick moved in closer, aware that Annie had been unable to resist and had come to stand beside him.
'And because if they think this is genuine then they'll either try to sell or they'll shove it into a bank vault somewhere just so it can get even more valuable. If they think it's a fake then they'll make sure it's destroyed and that hurts me, Patrick. That hurts me very much. No one should be permitted to destroy a thing of beauty, just because it isn't worth as much as they hoped.'
He continued to remove the tape to reveal the wooden frame of a box, the sort Patrick had become familiar with in the studio because Bob packed his own work for shipment in something similar. Bob removed the tape and pins holding the top of the box in place and lifted it aside. Patrick and Annie both craned in for a first look.
'It's beautiful,' Annie said.
Patrick almost held his breath as Bob eased the picture from its box and laid it out on his worktable. Beautiful, he thought, didn't even begin to describe it. The picture glowed in the weak winter sunlight. It was small, maybe thirty centimetres by twenty, he guessed and enclosed in an ornately carved wooden frame with a flat, inner border. Areas of gold leaf on the inner mount gleamed softly, the gilded gesso worked with punches to add texture; more surfaces to catch the light. The subject was traditional. A Madonna and child with an older woman, he guessed, probably St Anne. Patrick, having now spent several months as assistant and general part-time factotum for Bob Taylor, was getting his head around medieval iconography. They sat at rest in a landscape of trees and rocks, the grass beneath the virgin's feet scattered with delicate flowers. Both women leaned in towards the toddling child, protective arms ready to catch him, should he fall. The colours were fresh and clear as only egg tempera could be after all this time, he thought. Then reminded himself that it might not be 'all that time'.
'The Bevi Madonna,' Bob said softly. 'A masterpiece in any language. Any except the language of hard cash.'
Patrick looked up at him. 'Surely, no one would want to destroy this?' he argued. 'Even if it wasn't an original. It's still ...' he sought the words. How could you describe something that glowed from within, the expression on the women's faces so intent and so loving, the embroidery on their robes so detailed and delicately wrought that a skilled needleworker could have recreated the pattern of it. Now he looked more closely he realized that this was actually a transitional painting, the artist breaking free from the technical and traditional stricture of pure tempera. There were areas of transparent glaze, colours finely and thinly applied over the tempera underpainting, effects that could only have been achieved by using oils in conjunction with the tempera. The result was one of restrained ... joy. It was the only word Patrick could come up with. The artist had poured love and skill and a sense of awe into this picture and the result was something that lit up the room. It was jewel-like and uniquely lovely and Patrick could not countenance even the possibility that anyone could wish it harm.
'Who is supposed to have painted it?' Annie asked.
'It's attributed to a student of Giovanni Bellini.' He tipped the painting forward to show a selection of imprints on the wooden support. 'As you can see there is a selection of collector's marks, all impossible to verify, of course. Two of the collections do actually mention a Madonna and St Anne in their catalogues, but as there are no details ... Bevi was an art finder; bought for a number of collectors, that mark there —' he pointed to a triangle inside of which was some kind of stylized, plump bird – 'purports to be his.' Bob shrugged.
'And who do you think actually did paint it?'
Patrick found he was holding his breath again. He wanted to believe there was no doubt. That this beautiful little object was under no threat.
'I think it's one of Freddy's,' Bob said.
'Freddy?' Patrick asked.
Bob turned to him with a sad smile. 'Frederick Albert Jones,' he said. 'One of the greatest artists never to be recognized by the establishment. He died a couple of weeks ago, which is why the sudden doubt about the authenticity of this piece. Trouble was, when Freddy died, there was another Bevi Madonna sitting on his easel.'CHAPTER 3
Ginny tapped on her friend's door and then knocked harder. 'Come on, time to rejoin the living. We've got a lecture in half an hour, remember.'
Still no response, not even the usual sleepy grunt that would have told Ginny that she had at least been heard. She tried the door. Leanne rarely bothered to lock it and Ginny often got the job of shaking her friend into full consciousness. Leanne was not a morning person.
Finding it unlocked she pushed it wide, her nose wrinkling at the strange, unpleasant smell that suddenly issued from the now open room. The curtains were still drawn and the room twilight dark. Ginny could make out the bed and the heaped bedclothes that she assumed still concealed her sleeping friend.
'Leanne? You OK? It's time to be up.'
She sniffed again, wondering at the smell. It was more familiar now and even more unpleasant for the recognition. Some combination of butcher's shop and the bathroom after Sam had used it.
Ginny made to take a step forward and then paused. The small sense of wrongness that Leanne was still not awake and had not answered her call now grew into a massive certainty of wrongness that held her, frozen in the doorway.
'She not up yet?' Sam asked from across the kitchen. He dumped his bag on the floor and reached into the cupboard for his jacket.
'No,' Ginny said. 'Sam, I think ... I think there's something wrong.'
'Like what?' he asked. He came over and stood beside Ginny in the doorway. 'Christ, what's that smell?'
Ginny reached around the door frame and switched on the main light.
'Oh my God,' Sam whispered, his voice suddenly failing him as though his breath was forced from his lungs.
Ginny didn't even manage that. I should be screaming, she thought. But I don't know how. Instead she stared and stared, disbelief fighting what her eyes knew to be true. What was left of their friend lay on the bed and the whole room was red with her blood.
Excerpted from A Murderous Mind by Jane A. Adams. Copyright © 2015 Jane A Adams. 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.