Over the last year, Superintendent Draco has turned the little police station at Sturrenden upside down. A hard-driving, fiery Welshman, he has breathed new life into a stagnant police force, and Det. Inspector Luke Thanet has been forced to admit that even if he’s difficult to work with, Draco gets results. But when a body is found in the little village of Sutton-in-the-Weald the morning after a heavy snowstorm, Draco insists on overseeing the investigation—which means finding the killer won’t be Thanet’s only problem.
Leo Martindale returned to Sutton-in-the-Weald after twenty years to claim his inheritance. Two days later, he’s dead. Was the death an accident, a hit and run caused by icy roads—or was it murder? Thanet will have to ignore his boss breathing down his neck to find out the truth.
When it comes to mixing elements of the traditional English murder mystery with the thrills of a modern police procedural, no one does it better than CWA Silver Dagger winner Dorothy Simpson.
Dead by Morning is the 9th book in the Inspector Thanet Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Dorothy Simpson (b. 1933) was born and raised in South Wales, and went to Bristol University, where she studied modern languages before moving to Kent, the setting for her Inspector Thanet Mysteries. After spending several years at home with her three children, she trained as a marriage guidance counselor and subsequently worked as one for thirteen years before writing her first novel. Says Simpson, “You may think that marriage guidance counselor to crime writer is rather a peculiar career move, but although I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, the training I received was the best possible preparation for writing detective novels. Murder mysteries are all about relationships which go disastrously wrong, and the insights I gained into what makes people tick, into their interaction and motivations, have been absolutely invaluable to DI Thanet, my series character, as have the interviewing skills I acquired during my years of counseling.”
Read an Excerpt
Dead by Morning
An Inspector Thanet Mystery
By Dorothy Simpson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Dorothy Simpson
All rights reserved.
Thanet lifted the edge of the curtain aside and peered out into the dark street. 'It's nearly half-past twelve. Where can she be? She's never been as late as this before. And – yes – it's beginning to snow, look!' Joan joined him at the window. 'So it is. The temperature must have risen.'
Earlier on it had been freezing hard.
She returned to her seat by the fire. 'Darling, do come and sit down, you're driving me mad prowling about like that.'
'How you can sit there so calmly I just do not know. She's always home by half-past eleven. Anything can have happened.' Thanet, who had seen far more than his share of broken bodies during his years in the police force, blanked off hideous images of Bridget mutilated, injured, suffering appalling pain or even now dying, perhaps. He plumped down beside Joan on the settee and, leaning forward, put his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
Joan put her hand on his shoulder. '"Anything" includes perfectly ordinary things like being delayed at work, Tim's car not starting, being held up because they witnessed an accident ...'
Their daughter Bridget was now nearly seventeen. She had managed to scrape one or two respectable grades in her GCSEs last summer and, always keen to have a career in cookery, was taking a year off to gain some practical work experience in the kitchens of a local restaurant before starting a year's Cordon Bleu course in September. Tim was one of the waiters, and gave her a lift home each night that their stint of duty coincided.
Thanet's shoulder twitched impatiently. 'Yes, I know ... But in that case, why hasn't she given us a ring?' Perhaps Tim wasn't as trustworthy as he had appeared. A married man with two children, he had seemed a decent enough young man, but what if his offer of lifts for Bridget had had an ulterior motive, what if ...?
Thanet jumped up and crossed to peer out of the window once more. 'It's coming down more heavily now.'
The snow was already beginning to lie, mantling the ground with a thin gauzy veil of white. Huge soft wet flakes swirled around the fuzzy orange globe of the street lamp on the pavement outside their house and hurled themselves silently against the windowpane like moths attracted to the light, melting from the contact with the warm glass as they slid down. Thanet peered hopefully down the street. Nothing.
'We should have refused Tim's offer, insisted on fetching her ourselves.'
'That would have looked really churlish, as he actually has to pass our house on his way. Anyway, it's ridiculous turning out late every night if we don't have to.'
'Better than having to sit here and wonder where she is and what's happened to her.'
Joan laughed. 'It looks as though you're in for a really bad time.'
'What do you mean?'
'Don't look so alarmed! I simply mean that this is only the beginning. We've been unusually lucky up to now but no doubt this is only the first of many, many nights over many, many years when we're going to lie awake waiting for the sound of her return, wondering where she is, if she's all right ...'
'How can you make so light of it?'
'I'm not making light of it. It's just that I ... well, I'm a little more resigned to it, I suppose. I can remember how my own parents used to fuss when I was late home after going out with you.'
'Do you? Did they? I never knew that.' Thanet took her hand, momentarily distracted.
'They certainly did. But I wasn't going to tell you, naturally. It would have made me sound like a little girl, to be fussed over.'
He grinned. 'The ultimate insult.'
'Exactly. And that's precisely how Bridget will take it if she gets home and finds us sitting here like a reception committee.' Joan stood up, decisively. 'So come on, let's go to bed.'
'Luke! Come on.'
Grudgingly, he allowed himself to be persuaded upstairs. 'But I'm not going to let it go, mind. If she's going to be late like this she really must let us know.'
'All right. I'll speak to her about it. Tactfully.'
Thanet caught her eye and grinned. 'Not too tactfully.'
She smiled back. 'Agreed.'
They had just got into bed when outside in the street a car door slammed. A few moments later they heard the front door close. Quickly, Joan switched off the bedside light. When Bridget had crept past their door on the way to her room, Joan said, 'That wasn't all that was worrying you tonight, though, was it?'
Thanet turned to face her in the darkness. There was no point in denying it. 'No,' he admitted.
'Why didn't you say?'
'I should think you're sick and tired of hearing about him.'
'Nonsense. It enlivens my days no end.'
He could hear the laughter in her voice.
'Seriously, though,' she said. 'What's he been up to this time?'
'That's the trouble, we're not sure. There're all sorts of rumours flying around. Some new campaign he's planning ... But one thing's certain, it's sure to make life even more uncomfortable for the rest of us.'
Just over a year ago Superintendent Parker had retired and Goronwy Draco had taken over at divisional headquarters in Sturrenden, the small country town in Kent where Thanet lived and worked. The new Superintendent was a fiery, dynamic little Welshman who was firmly of the opinion that a new broom should sweep clean as quickly as possible. Suffering under the new regime of regular morning meetings and tighter control, Thanet had grudgingly to admit that under Draco's ever-watchful eye divisional headquarters at Sturrenden had become a much more stimulating place to work. Enlivened by newly-decorated offices and higher standards of cleanliness and efficiency, the place now crackled with a new energy and there had been a gratifying increase in crimes solved and villains safely ensconced behind bars. Draco may not be popular, but he certainly got results.
Thanet sighed. 'I expect we'll survive.'
As soon as he opened his eyes next morning he was aware of the difference in the quality of the light. There must have been more snow overnight. He hoped that the fall had not been heavy. Snow was very picturesque but it brought problems. However hard the local authority tried, it never seemed to make adequate preparation for bad weather. A mere skim of snow brought its crop of traffic jams and minor accidents; anything over six inches, severe disruption. And of course, there was the cold. Thanet hated the cold and the tip of his nose told him that the temperature in the bedroom was at a far from acceptable level. February was definitely bottom of his personal popularity chart of favourite months. He allowed himself the indulgence of a few more moments in the warm cave that was the bed, then braced himself and slid out, careful not to allow a gush of cold air to disturb Joan who was still sleeping peacefully. He padded across to the window. Might as well know the worst.
Despite his dislike of the inconvenience snow brought in its wake he could not escape the inevitable sense of wonder at its transforming beauty. Beneath its mantle of pristine white, his familiar world preened itself in the first rosy light of a clear winter dawn. He peered at the roof of the garage, trying to gauge the depth of the fall: not more than a few inches, by the look of it. Good. It shouldn't take too long to clear the drive, with Ben's help. And the gritting lorries had been out last night, so the roads shouldn't be too bad.
Three-quarters of an hour later, fortified by the porridge that Joan had insisted on making, he and Ben had almost reached the front gate. Up and down the road warmly-clad figures shovelled and swept drives and pavements. In the road cars seemed to be making slow but steady progress.
Joan appeared at the front door. 'Luke? Telephone.'
'Finish it off, will you, Ben?'
Ben, thirteen, gave a reluctant nod.
'Sergeant Pater,' said Joan, handing over the receiver.
The Station Officer. Something out of the ordinary, then, to necessitate an early morning call, in view of the fact that Thanet was due at headquarters in half an hour or so.
'Morning, sir. Just had the report of a body in a ditch at the side of the road, out at Sutton-in-the-Weald. Found by a man walking his dog.'
As in his last case, Thanet thought. If you were a dog owner you certainly seemed to run a greater risk of stumbling over a corpse than most.
'You've reported it to the Super?'
'Yes, sir. He says he's going out there himself.' Pater's tone was carefully noncommittal.
'Ah.' Thanet's heart sank. This was new. What was Draco up to now? He remembered wondering, when Draco first arrived, just how long the new Superintendent would be content to sit behind a desk. All that restless energy needed numerous outlets. Thanet hoped that active participation at ground level wasn't going to be one of them. It would be impossibly inhibiting to have Draco breathing down his neck.
'Apparently there's been quite a bit of snow out there, fifteen inches or so, with some pretty deep drifts in places, so it's going to make transport a bit tricky. The Super's put through a request to the Council to clear the road as soon as possible and he's asked for a couple of Land Rovers to be laid on for you. He wants you to meet him here and he'll go out with you.'
'I see. What time?'
'Right, I'll be there. Have you contacted Sergeant Lineham?'
'I'll do that next, sir. I'll arrange for the SOCOs and the CCTV sergeant to come in the other Land Rover, and pick up Doc Mallard on the way. I thought I'd let you know first.'
So that Thanet wouldn't be late for Draco, no doubt.
Grateful that he had already had breakfast and that the driveway was clear, Thanet put on thick socks, wellington boots, sheepskin jacket, gloves and woolly hat in anticipation of hours of standing around in the snow. 'I feel like the Abominable Snowman,' he said as he kissed Joan goodbye.
She grinned. 'You look like him. Here.' She handed him a Thermos.
'Thanks, love. Oh, hang on. Better take some shoes, in case. I can't go tramping in and out of houses in these.'
'Sure you wouldn't like me to pack a suitcase for you?'
'All very well for you, in your nice, centrally heated office.'
Joan worked as a Probation Officer in Sturrenden.
'Courtroom, office, what's the difference, it'll be warm.'
'Stop grumbling,' she said, pushing him out of the front door. 'Go on, you don't want to keep Draco waiting, do you?'
Thanet rolled his eyes. 'Heaven forbid.'
As he got into the car he realised that he had been so put out by the prospect of Draco's presence that he had forgotten to ask whether the body was that of a man or a woman.
It was another couple of hours before he found out.
The journey out to Sutton-in-the-Weald had been irritatingly protracted. The first few miles hadn't been too bad but then the snow had begun to deepen and a little further on they had caught up with the snow plough sent out at Draco's request. After that they had resigned themselves to travelling behind it the rest of the way, at a snail's pace. Fortunately a local farmer with a snow-clearing attachment on the front of his tractor had eventually turned up coming the other way and after a certain amount of manoeuvring they had been able to proceed more quickly.
There then followed a long wait for the second Land Rover bringing Doc Mallard and the Scenes-of-Crime officers. Meanwhile, there had been little to do. The body lay in a roadside ditch backed by a high stone wall, only a few yards from the lion-topped pillars at the entrance of the driveway to Longford Hall Country House Hotel. From the road nothing could be seen but the upper surface of a sleeve in distinctively bold black-and-white checked tweed, lying along the edge of the ditch as it had been uncovered by the dog. Although the arm was patently stiff with rigor mortis, PC Yeoman, the local policeman who had been first on the scene, had understandably cleared the snow from the man's face, to make quite sure that he was dead. The rigid features, pallor of the skin and open, staring eyes had told their own tale and thereafter he had left well alone, winning Thanet's approval by erecting a temporary barrier of sticks stuck into the snow and linked by string.
Despite his years in the force Thanet had rarely been able to overcome a dread of his first sight of a corpse, but today, uncomfortably preoccupied by Draco's presence, he had approached the body with no more than a twinge of trepidation and, gazing down at the dead face set deep in its ruff of snow, he felt no more than his usual pang of sorrow at a life cut short. Blurred as the man's features were by snow, it was difficult to estimate his age with any accuracy, but Thanet guessed that he had been somewhere between forty and sixty. Time, no doubt, would tell.
No further attempt had yet been made to clear the snow from the rest of the body. Thanet wanted photographs taken first. Not that he thought this very important. Covered with snow as it was, the body had obviously been placed or had fallen into the ditch before or around the time the snow started. Still, one never knew. It paid to be scrupulously careful and, with Draco taking in every move, Thanet had every intention of playing it by the book.
In any case, the marks in the snow told their own story: a scuffled, disturbed area betrayed the dog's excited investigation of this interesting and unusual find and there were two sets of approaching and departing footprints, belonging to Mr Clayton, the dog's owner, and PC Yeoman. Thanet, Draco and Lineham had been careful to enquire which were Yeoman's tracks, and to step into his footmarks when they approached for their brief inspection of the body.
As yet the snow had kept most people indoors and there had been little traffic up and down the road. Half an hour ago a tractor had begun clearing the hotel drive and any minute now Thanet expected someone to arrive and demand an explanation of the activity just outside the gates.
'Where the devil are they?'
Draco, who along with Lineham and Thanet had been stamping up and down the road in an attempt to keep warm, was finding it difficult to contain his impatience. 'They should have been here half an hour ago.'
'Perhaps Doc Mallard was out on a call.'
Draco snorted, two dragon-like puffs of condensation emerging from his nostrils. Short, square and dark and sporting an astrakhan hat and a heavy, furlined overcoat, he looked like a Russian statesman awaiting the arrival of foreign dignitaries. The backdrop of snow served to heighten the illusion.
'Like some coffee, sir? I've got some in the Land Rover.'
'Thank you. Excellent idea. Should have thought of it myself.'
'My wife's, actually.'
Thanet fetched his Thermos from the Land Rover and he, Draco and Lineham took it in turns to sip the steaming liquid. Lineham had been very quiet so far, subdued no doubt by Draco's presence. Thanet had to suppress a grin at the memory of Lineham's face when he had seen Draco climb into the Land Rover. The sergeant evidently hadn't been warned.
A vehicle could be heard coming down the hotel drive and a moment later a Range Rover pulled up between the stone pillars. A man and a woman jumped out.
'What's going on here?'
It was, unmistakably, the voice of authority, cultured and self-assured. Its owner, clad in country uniform of cords, thick sweater, Barbour and green wellies, was in his late forties, tall and well built with slightly receding dark hair and slate-grey eyes which quickly summed up the situation and unerringly selected Draco as the person to approach. 'What's happened?'
Draco handed the Thermos cup to Thanet and, drawing himself up to his full height, announced, 'Superintendent Draco, from divisional police headquarters at Sturrenden ...'
But the man wasn't listening. He had caught sight of the arm in its boldly checked sleeve and his expression changed. 'My God, that's ...' He spun around, putting out his hand to prevent the woman behind him from coming any closer.
'What is it, Giles? What's the matter?'
Clear, ringing tones, another Barbour and more green wellies. A beautiful woman, this, a little younger than her husband, in her early forties, Thanet guessed. She, too, was dark, her long hair swept back into a thick French plait, accentuating the classic bone structure of her face. She would look much the same, he thought, twenty years from now.
'I think you ought to get back into the car, darling,' said her husband.
She shook off his restraining arm impatiently. 'What do you mean, what are you talking about?'
The movement gave her a clear view of the arm for the first time and she gasped. 'My God, that's Leo's coat.'
Excerpted from Dead by Morning by Dorothy Simpson. Copyright © 1989 Dorothy Simpson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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