The new compelling mystery featuring Anglophile Dorothy Martin and her husband, retired policeman Alan Nesbitt . . .
Dorothy Martin’s husband, Alan Nesbitt, is heavily involved in the complex and lengthy process of choosing a new bishop for Sherebury Cathedral. The very day that the short list is announced publicly, one of the candidates is found murdered in his own church. With a long list of possible suspects, including Alan himself, Dorothy and Alan start to delve into the history of the victim, hoping to find some clue to a motive for murder.
Then a second candidate is found dead, and the case becomes very complicated indeed. Who is murdering England’s clergymen and why . . .?
About the Author
Jeanne M. Dams, an American, is a devout Anglophile who has wished she could live in England ever since her first visit in 1963. Fortunately, her alter ego, Dorothy Martin, can do just that. Jeanne lives in South Bend, Indiana, with a varying population of cats.
Read an Excerpt
Day of Vengeance
A Dorothy Martin Mystery
By Jeanne M. Dams
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2014 Jeanne M. Dams
All rights reserved.
My cry brought Alan from the kitchen, where he was tidying up after breakfast. Mutely, I handed him the Telegraph.
The Very Rev. Andrew Stephen Owen Brading, dean of Chelton Cathedral, was found dead late Wednesday night in the cathedral, victim of an apparent assault. His wife, concerned that he had not returned from a meeting in London, asked a neighbour, one of the cathedral staff, to accompany her to the church to look for him when he did not answer his mobile phone. They found a side door open, and when lights were turned on, found the dean lying on the floor of one of the side chapels, dead of an apparent blunt trauma injury to the head. There is a possibility of foul play, and police are investigating.
Dean Brading was named on Tuesday as one of four men on the shortlist for the episcopate of the diocese of Sherebury (see p. 3).
The peace of the gorgeous spring day was shattered. Alan sat down abruptly. The phone shrilled; I went to answer it.
Dean Allenby's secretary was on the line. 'You've heard the news.'
'Just this minute. Alan's still reading the paper.'
'Then will you give him a message? The dean has asked that no one speak to the media, not just yet. The diocesan information officer will issue a brief statement, and he would like everyone from the diocese who's on the Appointments Commission to meet in his office this afternoon. Two o'clock, unless someone simply can't make it then. I'll let you know. Thank you, Dorothy.'
'That was Allison,' I said to Alan. 'Nobody's to talk to the press, and you're to go to a meeting at two this afternoon. Dean's office. She said the information officer will put out a statement.'
Alan sighed. 'Yes, the usual thing, I suppose. Shock and sorrow, no one knows anything, cooperating with the police, et cetera. And speaking of the police, they'll want to interview every one of us on the commission, sooner or later. I'd better put in a call to Derek.'
Detective Chief Inspector Derek Morrison had been Alan's right-hand man when he was in the Sherebury constabulary, and later, as chief constable, Alan had relied greatly on Derek's talents and good sense. He was a good friend and would, I was sure, help all he could.
'Won't he call you?'
'I don't think we'll be answering the phone, love.'
Two of them began ringing at that point. Alan turned his mobile off. I waited until the home phone stopped ringing and then took it off the hook, and turned off my own mobile.
I took a deep breath. 'We knew this bishop business would be a terrible strain, with all the contention, but this ...'
'No. Vicious as church politics can be, one doesn't expect murder.'
We had been embroiled for months in the wearisome business of selecting a new bishop to replace Bishop Hardie, who was retiring. First, the dormant Vacancy in See Committee, on which Alan had sat for years, was called into action. After weeks of surveys and consultations, of contention over hot-button issues such as High versus Low Church, gay marriage, women as bishops – whatever concerns had exercised any individual or group – they had come up with a document detailing the needs of the diocese and spelling out what kind of bishop they were looking for. Then several members of the committee, including Alan and Dean Allenby, were elected to serve on the formidably named Crown Appointments Commission, which would actually choose the bishop. That body had met for a day and a half of confidential discussions at Lambeth Palace at the beginning of the week and had come up with a list of four candidates for the job.
One of them was now out of the running.
'Murders have been committed in the name of religion before now.' I looked at the headline again. MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL. '"Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" Alan, this is frightful!'
He sighed heavily. 'It is. You have realized, haven't you, that every member of the commission, with the probable exception of the two Archbishops and the two secretaries, is a potential suspect in Brading's murder? Not to mention a rich source of information about the man. We've been looking into the candidates' backgrounds and qualifications for weeks, and everyone and his aunt has been lobbying us. We probably know more about Brading, and who loved and hated him, than anyone else in the kingdom.'
I rolled my eyes to heaven. 'I think I need some more coffee.'
Alan followed me into the kitchen. We sat brooding while the coffeemaker did its thing. When we had sat down at the kitchen table, I said, 'All right. Remind me again of who's on the commission. I know their names were published, but I didn't pay much attention.'
'The dean and I and four others, two lay, two clergy, represent the diocese. There are six representatives from the General Synod, three clergy and three lay persons. One of the latter, incidentally, is our MP.'
I groaned. Our Member of Parliament, Archibald Newsome, is an extremely conservative Tory whom I have always disliked. As an expat American, I can't vote, of course, but if I could, it wouldn't be for him. He is a very wealthy and influential man who has been reelected for years because so many of his constituents owe him favours. Whenever an election comes up, I always think of Chicago, and Tammany Hall, and reflect that politics all over the world are very much the same. Even in the Church. 'I suppose he's been throwing his weight around.'
'What would you expect? As a matter of interest, Dean Brading is – was – a close friend of Newsome's.'
'Then that takes him off the suspect list.' I must have sounded disappointed, because Alan uttered what was almost a laugh.
'Not necessarily. I'd like to see him left on, if only because he's an almighty nuisance. I don't know any of the rest well. The other four diocesan representatives are from far-flung parishes, and as they never happened to be involved in a crime I investigated, I'd never met them until we all assembled at Lambeth.'
'Well, they're involved in one now, aren't they? Is that everybody, then? Six from the diocese, six from the Church at large, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York?'
'And the Archbishops' appointments secretary, and the Prime Minister's appointments secretary.'
'Oh, I always forget about the Prime Minister getting in on the act. That seems so odd to an American.'
'It must do. Dorothy, why are we talking about the bureaucratic details?'
'To keep from thinking about what's going to happen. At least, that's my reason. Are you serious about the whole commission being under suspicion?'
'If I were in charge of the case, which I am not, praise God, that's where I'd direct my attention.'
'Who will be in charge? What's the drill?'
'The crime happened in Chelton, so it falls to the Gloucestershire chaps. However, a dean is a major national figure, not to mention the fact that this one was a potential bishop. This is high-profile stuff, Dorothy. The Met will get involved, since the commission met in London. Then Church lawyers will be heavily involved, perhaps even the ecclesiastical courts, though that's highly uncertain.'
'In short, it's going to be a huge mess. With you right in the middle.'
That produced a slight smile. 'Slightly off to one side – at least at the moment. I wish I were out of it altogether. Give me your phone for a moment, will you? It's slightly less likely to ring before I can get in a call to Derek.'
It didn't ring, but the doorbell did. Already in siege mode, I peeked nervously around the curtain before opening the door to the dean and his wife, Margaret. 'Come in quick before some journalist spots you,' I said.
'I'm afraid we did rather slink on our way here,' said Margaret. 'Dorothy, this is a dreadful thing!'
'It certainly is, for all concerned,' I agreed. 'But come into the kitchen and let me get you some coffee.' The English often think tea is the cure for all ills. I enjoy tea, but in a real crisis I feel the strength of coffee is required.
'We may not have much time before the authorities arrive,' said Alan when he had finished his quick call to Derek, and we had sat down with steaming cups of comfort. 'We need to compare notes and work out how much we can tell them, given our vows of secrecy.'
'So soon?' asked the dean. 'I'd have thought they'd have other people to talk to first.'
'They'll want to interview everyone who might be concerned, as soon as possible.'
'But why?' asked Margaret.
'So that we won't have time to compare notes and work out what we're going to say,' I said. 'Has neither of you ever read a detective novel nor watched a cop show?'
'Of course we have,' said Margaret, 'but it's always the suspects who want to get their story straight before the police get there.'
'Precisely,' said Alan, and paused to let that sink in.
The dean was the first to speak. 'Oh, dear. I hadn't quite realized ... that is, I was thinking of the vast damage this could do to the Church at large, and never thought about the danger to us – you and me, Alan. But, of course, they'll have to question us, won't they? There's been enough publicity about the controversies that they might think ...'
'They certainly might. So, Dean, they'll ask where you were and what you did between the end of the meeting on Tuesday and last evening.'
'I ... Really, I haven't the slightest idea. That is, I came home after the meeting. The train was very slow, owing to the construction delays. I missed Evensong, I know. Then ... Margaret, did we do anything in the evening?'
'We'd planned to have dinner with Peggy and Howard and the children, but you were too tired and upset. I scrambled some eggs and sent you to bed with a hot toddy.'
'Ah, yes, so you did. I felt badly about it. We don't see our grandchildren often enough. But I was too tired to be good company. What did you do, Alan? I looked for you on the train, but didn't see you. We'd got separated at Lambeth.'
'I had driven in. The last time Dorothy and I went to London the delays were infuriating, so I decided to drive, expensive as that is. Then, after the meeting – well, you know how contentious it was. I was feeling fury and exhaustion in equal parts, and decided I was far too tired to drive home. In any case, the traffic was horrendous. So I phoned Dorothy and told her I was having dinner in town. I didn't get home until quite late. Dorothy was asleep when I came up to bed.'
'I was not,' I retorted. 'I pretended to be, so you wouldn't fret about my staying up for you. I knew you were upset, so I worried. Margaret understands.' She nodded and raised her hands in the classic 'But what can you do?' gesture.
Alan shook his head and continued. 'And yesterday I pottered about the house, cleared out the garden shed, worked on my memoirs for a bit – that sort of thing. Dorothy went shopping in the morning and lunched with friends at Alderney's, so she can't vouch for my presence here for a good many hours. Not that her testimony would be worth much in any case.'
'I suppose not.' The dean looked troubled. 'A devoted wife would lie for her husband, presumably.'
'And I,' said Margaret, 'am your only alibi. You had no services to take yesterday, and you were looking a bit white about the gills. I made you stay home and rest.'
'I wonder just when Dean Brading actually died,' I said into a dismal little silence, and just then the doorbell rang.
Again I did the curtain routine at the window. 'Gird your loins,' I said. 'It's Derek and a couple of other people who look awfully official.'
'I'll get it,' said Alan, and went to the door. The rest of us stayed in the kitchen.
'Come in, please,' we heard him say. 'I've been expecting you.'
'We apologize for disturbing you so early in the day, Chief Constable,' said a deep voice, 'but, as you'll appreciate, sir, we've a grave matter to investigate.'
'I do understand, and there's no need to use my former title. I've been retired for quite some time now. "Nesbitt" will do nicely. And you would be?'
'Chief Constable Michael Armstrong, Gloucestershire. And you may remember my assistant, Superintendent Frances Davids. I believe you met over a rather nasty case in the Cotswolds a little time back.'
'Of course I remember you, Superintendent Davids! I didn't recognize you at first.
Something about your hair ... well, never mind. Won't you all sit down? May we offer coffee?'
That was my cue. Alan had, effortlessly, taken control of the situation and indicated that the rest of us were to take part in the interview. I assembled coffee things on a tray, along with a plate of biscuits. 'You carry the pot, Margaret,' I said softly. 'We're treating this as a pleasant social occasion. Here we go.' Watson, who had been waiting in the kitchen for something nice to fall on the floor, followed us into the parlour. Both the cats had vanished. They love visitors they know, who can probably be conned into a cat-appreciation session, but they don't care for strangers.
I greeted Superintendent Davids with an effusiveness that probably surprised her, since we'd met only once or twice over the Cotswold mess. I intended to keep the social atmosphere going as long as possible. I poured coffee for everyone, let Alan make the introductions with Margaret and Kenneth, and then sat back and tried to make myself invisible.
Actually, I felt a little sorry for the Gloucestershire contingent. It was an embarrassing situation for them. Here they were in the middle of a high-profile murder, and two of the possible suspects in the room were a retired chief constable and a senior clergyman! They had to conduct the investigation strictly according to the book, but without stepping on important ecclesiastical and constabulary toes. I sat back to watch the fun.
Alan maintained his firm hold of the initiative. 'Now then, Chief Constable. I'm sure you'll want to know, first of all, where I was after the meeting and all day yesterday. You know, of course, that I'd been in London at a meeting of the Appointments Commission. My alibi until the middle of the afternoon is, therefore, impeccable. Two archbishops, among other people, can vouch for me. Unfortunately, my schedule becomes murkier after that. The meeting broke up at a little after three, and as it was not the most comfortable I've ever attended, I was not in the best of moods when I left. I'm sorry I can't give you details, as we're all sworn to secrecy. I can, later and in private, tell you what I said and did, if you wish, but I can't speak for anyone else. At any rate, I felt it was unjust to take out my bad temper on my wife, so I walked about for quite a little time before deciding to have dinner in town. After dinner – at Simpson's-in-the-Strand, if you want to check – I retrieved my car and drove home. The traffic was still miserable – there was a smash-up on the M20 – so it was quite late before I finally got home. And I fear I spent all day yesterday at home, without anyone at all to vouch for my whereabouts most of the day, as Dorothy was out.' He sat back with a bland smile.
Armstrong, who seemed to be nobody's fool, smiled back. 'Indeed, sir. We appreciate your candour, though at this stage there is no question of suspicion resting on anyone. It is possible I may need to speak with you later – privately, as you suggest – about the commission meeting. For now, may I ask why you did not take the train to London and back?'
'The service has been abysmal of late. You know, of course, that there are works on the line at several points along the way. I don't enjoy driving in London, but I anticipated a difficult meeting and did not want to arrive already annoyed by transport delays.'
'Quite understandable, sir. And just to clear the decks, so to speak, you, Mr Dean, were ...?'
Excerpted from Day of Vengeance by Jeanne M. Dams. Copyright © 2014 Jeanne M. Dams. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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