When archaeologist Alan Morris disappears in Turkey, his great-niece, Charlotte, regrets never having gotten to know him better. In an attempt to better understand him, Charlotte begins reading the books he wrote. One of them leads her to visit the Roman site of Aurae Phiala on the Welsh border—the last place her great-uncle worked before leaving for Turkey. But when Charlotte arrives, she finds more than just a few old stones. . . .
First there is a charming young man, coincidentally staying at the same hotel, who is very insistent on being her guide. Then a troublesome schoolboy disappears and a corpse is found. Detective Chief Inspector George Felse is called in to solve a case with origins in ancient Rome.
City of Gold and Shadows is the 12th book in the Felse Investigations, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Ellis Peters is a pseudonym of Edith Mary Pargeter (1913–1995), a British author whose Chronicles of Brother Cadfael are credited with popularizing the historical mystery. Cadfael, a Welsh Benedictine monk living at Shrewsbury Abbey in the first half of the twelfth century, has been described as combining the curious mind of a scientist with the bravery of a knight-errant. The character has been adapted for television, and the books drew international attention to Shrewsbury and its history.
Pargeter won an Edgar Award in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman, and in 1993 she won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an annual award given by the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She was appointed officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1994, and in 1999 the British Crime Writers’ Association established the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award, later called the Ellis Peters Historical Award.
Read an Excerpt
City of Gold and Shadows
The Felse Investigations: Book 12
By Ellis Peters
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1973 Ellis Peters
All rights reserved.
Mr Stanforth came from behind his desk to meet his visitor in person, and settle her with ceremony into the client's chair, though she was not a client, had no need whatever of a solicitor, and had come here in response to his telephoned request chiefly out of pure curiosity, of which she had a woman's proper share. Mr Stanforth was not entirely what she had expected, but neither, she deduced from the covert glances he was using upon her like measuring instruments, was she quite matching up to his preconceived picture of her. He was small and nimble and immaculate in fine grey mohair, with a clever, froggish, mildly mischievous face, like a very well-turned-out troll from under some Scandinavian mountain. But towards her he was being punctilious in a way which seemed slightly out of character, as though he did not quite know how to approach her, even though it was he who had brought her here.
Her part was easy. She had only to sit back with perfect composure – something at which she was adept – and wait for him to find his way through the necessary preliminaries to the real business of this meeting. After all, he had initiated it. He must have some need of her; she had none of him. This could not even be a matter of learning something to her advantage. Her mind – and she was well aware that it was an elastic and enterprising mind – was quite open. Perhaps that was what baffled him about her. She should have been more concerned, more anxious to know what he had to confide, since he had invited her here for that very purpose.
'Mademoiselle Rossignol, it's very kind of you to spare me a little of your time ...'
'Miss will do,' said Charlotte helpfully. 'I'm almost completely English, you know, apart from the name, although I've lived most of my life in France. My father walked out on my mother when I was seven, so the English influence came out on top from then on.' Her mother, flighty as a butterfly, had heaved a sigh of relief at getting rid of a whole entrenched family along with Maître Henri Rossignol, who still, perhaps, coloured Charlotte's image of the law, and made Mr Stanforth incongruous, with his pricked ears and his mild, perilous, goatish hazel eyes.
'That certainly makes things easier,' he said heartily, and leaned across the monumental desk to offer her a cigarette and a light. He was just warming up; she knew the signs, knowing quite accurately the effect her looks had on most males of most ages. What she had was not beauty, and she had learned that early, and come to terms with it, being of a practical mind. But there was something more adventurous than beauty in her, a tendency to surge forward into situations somewhat risky in their ambiguity, a taste for accepting any challenge that offered, and a manner and a gait to match the proclivity. Angels might well have feared to tread where Charlotte habitually planted her size four sandals with zest and aplomb.
'You must be wondering,' said Mr Stanforth, approaching by inches, 'why I asked you to come here like this. It was pure luck, my seeing that notice of your concert. There couldn't be many Charlotte Rossignols who happen also to play the oboe. So I made enquiries at the hall. It was an opportunity for me. I hope you didn't mind my asking you to come here. I would gladly have come to you, but I thought we could talk more freely here than in an hotel. Briefly, I need to ask you, my dear Miss Rossignol, if you have had any word within the last year from your great-uncle, Doctor Alan Morris.'
There was a moment of absolute silence and surprise. Her eyes had opened wide in wonder, and the light entered their long-lashed blackness and turned it to a dusky, flecked gold. Her small, delicate monkey-features quivered into childish candour, reassuring him that for all her formidable composure she was, indeed, no more than twenty-three. She had fine, white skin, not opaque and dull, but translucent and bright, with the vivid come-and-go of vibrant blood close beneath it; and she had beautiful hair, fine as an infant's and black as jet, curving but not curling about a very shapely head, and cropped cunningly to underline the subtlety of the shaping. Oh, yes, there was a great deal of France there, whether she knew it or not. And her lips, opening to reply to his question, were long and mobile, eloquent even before she spoke, though she might sometimes go on to contradict what they had intimated.
'Mr Stanforth,' she said now, 'I've never once in my life had any communication from my Great-Uncle Alan. I've never set eyes on him. I know quite a lot about his work and his reputation, and am quite proud of him, but I don't expect ever to exchange one word with him. My mother was his niece, and the only daughter of his only sister, but she was as footloose as he, and when she married into France she never kept in touch with her English connections at all. I grew up detached. I'm sorry if it seems almost unnatural. It wasn't out of any want of feeling. No, I've had no word ever from Doctor Morris. I should have been very astonished and concerned if I had. I should have taken it for granted there was something the matter.'
Mr Stanforth massaged his sharp jaw with one finger, and looked thoughtful.
'Is there?' asked Charlotte, making connections with her usual rash speed. 'Something the matter?'
'That's exactly the trouble, we don't really know. Naturally I hope not, and the probability is that we're exercising ourselves over nothing. But the fact remains, we can't be sure. I'm not surprised,' he agreed, 'that you've received no word from him, but it was just a chance.'
'I'm sorry to be a disappointment. Was that the only reason you asked me to come?' She was reasonably certain by then that it was merely a necessary preliminary to the real business he had with her.
'Hardly, or I could have asked it over the telephone, and avoided imposing upon you. No, circumstances make it very desirable that we should have this talk, and continue in close touch afterwards, if you're agreeable. I had better,' said Mr Stanforth, philosophically accepting the fact of her total ignorance, 'tell you exactly what the position is. I have acted for your great-uncle for more than twenty years now, and have often been left in charge of his affairs during his long absences abroad, on digs all over Europe and North Africa and the Middle East, everywhere that the Roman and Graeco-Roman power extended. You're familiar with his subject, you know he is an authority, internationally known and universally respected. So naturally he travels a great deal, and is in demand as a consultant wherever Roman sites are being excavated. A year ago last October he planned a year's tour in Turkey. It was approaching the end of the season, of course, but he intended to make a first flying visit to Aphrodisias, where some old friends of his were at work, and then to spend the winter on research in libraries and museums, and have the whole of the following summer for field work. He let his house in Chelsea furnished for the year, with the usual proviso that his own staff should remain to run it – he has a housekeeper who has been with him for years, and one daily maid. All quite in order, of course, he has done the same thing at least twice before. And of course no one expected to hear much from him during his sabbatical year, unless, as you say, something was wrong. But the trouble is that no one has heard anything from him even now that the year is over.'
'Nearly six months over,' Charlotte pointed out. 'Quite an edgy matter for his tenants.'
'Precisely! Finding accommodation in London is difficult in any circumstances, and this couple happen to be Australians who don't intend to stay permanently, but are anxious to see their daughter through her physiotherapy training here, and take her back with them afterwards. It would suit them very well to have the tenancy of the house for at least another year. But without any instructions from Doctor Morris it's difficult to know what to do.'
'And what,' she asked practically, 'have you done about them so far?'
'In the absence of any word from my client, I took the responsibility of renewing the tenancy for six months. They could hardly be expected to agree to less, and they're excellent tenants.'
'And now the six months is nearly up. And still no word! Yes, I see why I represented a last hope,' she said. 'Is this very unlike him?'
'Very. He is a man who has deliberately avoided certain responsibilities in his life, and certain involvements, but those business obligations which do unavoidably devolve upon him he has always observed punctiliously. There are money matters, investments, tax affairs to be considered. It is, one might say, a conscious part of his policy of personal detachment to have all his affairs in scrupulous order, and so obviate pursuit and inconvenience of any kind. To be slipshod is to be hounded, which is the last thing he wants. No, I must say that things have now gone so far as to justify me in feeling considerable uneasiness about his continued absence.'
She gazed back at him in thoughtful silence for a moment, and shook her head doubtfully. 'I don't know ... he's a free agent, and he has confidence in you. At a pinch, he might very well feel safe enough in going ahead with what he's doing, and leaving all the rest to you. Supposing he got excited about some new discoveries, for instance ...'
'During the winter months work would be at a standstill. In many places it couldn't open up again before June, late May at the earliest.'
'You ought, perhaps, to start official enquiries,' she suggested hesitantly.
'I already have, more than a month ago. I rather wish I'd taken the step earlier. The trail came to a dead end. One that might be perfectly normal, though it leaves us in complete uncertainty.'
'How much do we know? I mean really know? Do we even know that he ever reached Turkey? Exactly what did they find?'
'Oh, yes, he got to Istanbul, all right. He caught his flight from Heathrow on the 6th of October, the flight-list has been checked through. He claimed his reservation at the Hotel Gul Bejaze, and stayed there for three weeks. We even know just what he was doing, intensively, during that time. He took a piece of work with him to finish. He was commissioned to write one of a series of monographs on the settlements of Roman Britain, and he took the almost completed text with him when he left England. I knew of that from him before he left, for he was going to spend his last few days before the flight actually on the site, refreshing his memory on certain details. Well, he posted the finished text to his publishers from Istanbul about three weeks after he arrived there. The book has been out several months, of course, now. A few days after he mailed it, he telephoned his friend and colleague at Aphrodisias, in Anatolia, and called off his visit. He said he was afraid the delay over the book had lost him the opportunity of reaching the city in time to take part in any meaningful work, and promised to join the next summer's dig in June.'
'But he didn't.'
'He didn't. The day after that telephone call he paid his hotel bill and left by taxi for the main station. Attempts to trace one taxi in Istanbul, after a year and more, naturally fell flat. No one has heard from him since, no one knows where he is.'
It began to sound more serious than she had realised. 'Who undertook these enquiries?'
'The police, through their Turkish colleagues. Missing Persons has all the information available. But I'm afraid the trail was cold before I called them in, and we didn't take it the length of broadcasting or advertising. One doesn't want to set a public hue and cry in train after a perfectly rational and responsible person who knows very well what he's about.'
'He may still be that,' she said. 'There may be reasons for his silence, perfectly good reasons if we only knew them. And he may turn up at any moment with a simple explanation, and wonder what we've been worrying about.'
'So I think, too. Though let's admit that personal security has recently become distressingly tenuous all over the world, and the most innocent and uninvolved of people can still find himself made a pawn in all manner of dangerous games. And Turkey has its share of the modern virus. But urban guerillas don't kidnap distinguished foreigners only to keep their exploit secret, hijackers can hardly help becoming news on the instant, and here there has been profound silence. I tell myself that silence is more likely to be a personal choice than an imposed one.'
'There is such a thing as amnesia, I suppose,' Charlotte said dubiously. 'Illness or accident could have isolated him somewhere. I mean, if he did go off into the wilds of Anatolia, or somewhere remote like that – something might happen to him in some village, where he isn't known.'
'Villagers would be all the more anxious to get the responsibility for him off their hands. And there are quite a number of people in Turkey who do know him, people in his own field.'
They looked at each other for the first time with a long, speculative look, weighing up the possibilities honestly and in much the same terms. 'You think, then,' she said, 'that this disappearance is more likely to be voluntary on his part. But in that case, all we have to do is wait, and when he chooses, he'll reappear. And I take it the police still have his case more or less open, and will be looking out for news of him, in case there's something more in it. There isn't much more we can do, short of going off to Istanbul in person to try and find his tracks. And if, for some reason, he has really chosen to drop out for a while, he wouldn't be grateful for too much fuss, would he?' 'You state the position admirably. That's exactly how we are situated – you and I both.'
'I?' she said, drawing back slightly into her crystalline, black-and-white reserve, and becoming in a breath notably more French. 'I realise that I come into the picture as a relative, and I do feel natural interest and concern for my great-uncle. But I can't feel that I have any more positive standing than that in the matter.'
'You have a very positive standing, my dear young lady,' said Mr Stanforth patiently, and perhaps a little patronisingly, too, for this was where money entered into the reckoning, and very young concert artists and music teachers with a living to make must surely react to the alluring image. 'Let us suppose, just for one moment, that we are being over-optimistic, and that Doctor Morris will not reappear, as, of course, we hope and believe he will. If this situation goes on unchanged, then it may become necessary eventually, for legal reasons, to take steps to presume his death. That need not jeopardise his position if he should subsequently emerge from his limbo. But it would, meanwhile, regularise his affairs and ensure proper continuity, proper attention to investments, and so on. In short, Miss Rossignol, I've reached the point where I must have your approval and consent for whatever steps I take in protection of his financial affairs. Since your mother's death you are his only remaining relative, apart from some distant cousins in Canada, several times removed. And Doctor Morris – a remarkable quirk in his otherwise orderly character, I may say – has always stubbornly refused to make a will. There are people,' said the Norse troll, burning into sudden antagonistic fervour across his cavern-desk, 'who hypnotise themselves into believing that they are going to live for ever.' His client's optimism and appetites, with equal suddenness, burned clear in opposition, and Charlotte had a vision of two principles in headlong collision, and chose to ally herself with her own kinsman, by intuition and once for all. 'If we do not see him again – for we must take that possibility into account – you are his next of kin and his sole heiress. That is why I need to consult with you over anything I do, from now on, in his name.'
Excerpted from City of Gold and Shadows by Ellis Peters. Copyright © 1973 Ellis Peters. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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