Death in the Stocks (Inspector Hannasyde Series #1)

Death in the Stocks (Inspector Hannasyde Series #1)

by Georgette Heyer


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Death in the Stocks (Inspector Hannasyde Series #1) by Georgette Heyer

"Death in the Stocks is rare and refreshing."-The Times

A Moonlit Night, a Sleeping Village, and an Unaccountable Murder...

In the dead of the night, a man in an evening dress is found murdered, locked in the stocks on the village green. Unfortunately for Superintendent Hannasyde, the deceased is Andrew Vereker, a man hated by nearly everyone, especially his odd and unhelpful family members. The Verekers are as eccentric as they are corrupt, and it will take all Hannasyde's skill at detection to determine who's telling the truth, and who is pointing him in the wrong direction. The question is: who in this family is clever enough to get away with murder?

"Miss Heyer's characters act and speak with an ease and conviction that is refreshing as it is rare in the ordinary mystery novel."-Times Literary Supplement

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402217975
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 10/01/2009
Series: Inspector Hannasyde Series , #1
Pages: 314
Sales rank: 237,414
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. It is known that she was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth, was published in 1921.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Heyer's large volume of works included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known also as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer, and they had one son together, Richard.

Read an Excerpt


It was past midnight, and the people who lived in the cottages that clustered round the triangular green had long since gone to bed and to sleep. No lamp shone in any window, but a full moon sailed in a sky the colour of sapphires, and lit the village with a pale light, as cold as the sheen on steel. Trees and houses cast grotesque shadows, black as soot; every object in the moonlight stood out sharply defined, but without colour, so that even a prosaic line of petrol pumps looked a little ghostly.

There was a car drawn up at one end of the green, its headlights throwing two golden beams ahead, and its engine throbbing softly. One of its doors stood open. Something moved in the shadow of the great elm tree beside the car; a man stepped into the moonlight, glanced this way and that, as though fearful of seeing someone, and after a moment's hesitation got quickly into the car and began to turn it, jarring his gears a little. He looked once towards the elm tree, at some object dimly discernible in the shadow, and then, having swung the car right round, drove away up the London road. The noise of his engine died slowly in the distance; somewhere at hand a watch-dog barked once, and then was silent.

The shadow of the elm tree was shortening as the moon travelled across the sky: the eerie light seemed to steal under the branches, and presently shone on two feet in patent leather shoes, stuck through the holes in a pair of stocks. The feet remained motionless, and as the moonlight crept nearer the glimmer of a white shirt-front showed.

An hour later a cyclist rounded the bend in the road by the King's Head. Police-Constable Dickenson was returning home from a night patrol. The moonlight now fully illuminated the stocks. A gentleman in evening-dress was sitting in them, apparently asleep, for his body had sagged forward, his head lolling on his chest. Police-Constable Dickenson was whistling softly as he rode, but the whistle stopped suddenly, and the front wheel of the bicycle swerved. The stocks were a feature of Ashleigh Green, but the Constable could not remember having seen anyone imprisoned in them before. It gave him quite a turn. Tight as an owl, he thought. Looks like somebody's been having a game with you, my lad.

He got off his bicycle, and pushed it on to the grass and carefully propped it against the elm tree. The figure on the bench did not move. ‘Now then, sir, wake up!' said the Constable, kind but reproving. ‘Can't spend the night here, you know!' He laid his hand on the sagging shoulder, and gave it a slight shake. ‘Come along, sir, you'll be better off at home, you will.' There was no response, and he shook the shoulder rather harder, and put one arm round the man to hoist him. There was still no response, but an arm which had lain across its owner's knees was dislodged, and hung dangling, the hand brushing limply against the Constable's trousers. The Constable bent, peering into the downcast face, and sought in his pocket for his torch. The light flashed on, and the Constable stepped back rather quickly. The figure on the bench, disturbed by his shaking, toppled over sideways, its feet still held in the stocks. ‘Gawd!' whispered Police-Constable Dickenson, feeling his mouth to be very dry all at once, ‘Oh, Gawd!' He did not want to touch the figure again, or even to go nearer, because there was something sticky on his hands, and he had never seen a dead man before.

He stooped, and rubbed his hand on the grass, telling himself he was a proper softy. But he hadn't been expecting it, and his stomach had kind of turned over. Made a chap feel sick for a minute; it was like as if one's innards took a jump into one's chest. Breathing a little jerkily he went up to the figure again, and ran his torch over it, and rather gingerly touched one of the slack hands. It wasn't exactly cold, not clammy, like you read about in books, but just cool. He didn't know but that he wouldn't rather it had been icy. That faint warmth was nasty, somehow.

He pulled himself up. It wasn't his job to get fanciful, but to make up his mind what was the right thing for him to do first. The man was dead, sure enough; it was no use standing over the body: he'd better get on to the Police Station at Hanborough as soon as possible. He pushed his bicycle back on to the road, mounted it again, and rode swiftly along to the other end of the green to the cottage with the prim muslin curtains and the tidy flowerbeds which had County Police painted on a narrow board over the front door.

He let himself in and made his way to the telephone, taking care to tread softly so that his wife, who was asleep upstairs, should not wake and call to him to go up. He'd have to tell her what had happened if she did, and she was expecting her first, and none too well.

He lifted the receiver, wondering whether he'd done the right thing after all, leaving a corpse stuck down in the middle of the village. Didn't seem decent, somehow.

The Station-Sergeant's voice spoke. He was surprised to hear his own voice so steady, because he really felt a bit shaken, and no wonder. He told his story as matter-of-factly as he could, and the Sergeant, not nearly so phlegmatic, said first: ‘What?' and then: ‘In the stocks?' and lastly: ‘Look here, are you sure he's dead?'

Police-Constable Dickenson was quite sure, and when the Sergeant heard about the blood, and the wound in the back, he stopped making incredulous exclamations and said briefly: ‘All right. You cut along and see no one touches the body. The Inspector will be down with the ambulance in a couple of shakes.'

‘Hold on a minute, Sergeant,' said the Constable, anxious to give all the information he could. ‘It isn't a stranger. I was able to identify him — it's Mr Vereker.'

‘Mr Who?' demanded the Sergeant.

‘Vereker. The gentleman from London, as bought Riverside Cottage. You know, Sergeant: comes down week-ends.'

‘Oh!' said the Sergeant, rather vaguely. ‘Not a local man.'

‘Not properly speaking,' agreed the Constable. ‘But what beats me is how he came to be sitting in them stocks at this hour of night. He's in evening-dress, what's more.'

‘Well, you get back, and keep your eye on things till the Inspector comes along,' said the Sergeant, and hung up the receiver.

Constable Dickenson heard the click of it, and was rather sorry, because now that he had had time to recover from his first amazement he could see several queer things about the murder, and would have liked to have talked them over with the Sergeant. But there was nothing for it but to do as he was told, so he put his receiver back on the hook, and tiptoed out of the house again to where he had left his bicycle propped against the iron railings.

When he got back to the stocks the dead man was lying in the same position. There was no sign that anyone had been there since the Constable left, and after looking over the ground for a bit with the aid of his torch, in the hope of discovering some clue, or footprint, the Constable leaned his back against the tree, and tried, while waiting for the Inspector to arrive, to puzzle out the problem for himself.

It was not very long before he heard the sound of a car in the distance, and in a few minutes it drew up beside the green, and Inspector Jerrold hopped out nimbly, and turned to give a hand to a stout man in whom the Constable recognised Dr Hawke, the Police-Surgeon.

‘Well,' said the Inspector briskly. ‘Where is this body, Dickenson? Oh! — ah!' He stepped up to the bench, and ran his torch over the still figure there. ‘H'm! Not much for you here, Doctor, from the looks of it. Turn those headlights this way, Hill. That's better. Like this when you found him, was he?'

‘No sir, not properly. He was sitting up — well, when I say sitting, he was kind of slouching forward, if you know what I mean. I thought he was asleep. Him being in evening-dress, and his feet in the stocks like that, I never thought but what he's had a glass too many — so I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder to give him a bit of a shake and wake him up. Twice I shook him, and then it struck me there was something queer about him, and I felt the palm of my hand kind of wet and sticky, and I switched my torch on him — and then of course I saw he was dead. Me shaking him like that made him fall sideways, like you see.'

The Inspector nodded, his eyes on the Doctor, who was kneeling behind the body. ‘Sergeant Hamlyn says you identified him. Who is he? Don't seem to know his face.'

‘Well, I daresay you might not, sir. It's Mr Vereker, of Riverside Cottage.'

‘Oh!' said the Inspector with a little sniff. ‘One of those week-end people. Anything out of the way, Doctor?'

‘I shall have to do a PM, of course,' grumbled the Doctor, getting up rather ponderously from his knees. ‘But it looks quite a straight case. Knife wound a little below the left shoulder-blade. Death probably occurred instantaneously.'

The Inspector watched him at work on the body for a moment or two, and presently asked: ‘Formed any opinion of the time it was done, sir?'

‘Say two to four hours,' replied the Doctor, and straightened his back. ‘That's all for the present, thanks.'

The Inspector turned to Constable Dickenson. ‘Know how the body was sitting when you found it?'

‘Yes, sir.'

‘All right. Put it back as near as you can. Ready with that flashlight, Thompson?'

Constable Dickenson did not care much for the task allotted him, but he went up at once to the body and raised it to the original position, and carefully laid one arm across the stiffening legs. The Inspector watched him in silence, and, when he stepped back at last, made a sign to the photographer.

By the time the photographer had finished his work the police ambulance had arrived, and a light was turned on in one of the windows of an adjacent cottage. The Inspector cast a shrewd glance up at the window and said curtly: ‘Right. You can take him out now. Careful how you touch that bar! We may get a finger-print.'

The bar of the stocks was raised, the body lifted out and carried to the ambulance, just as the lighted window was thrown up and a tousled head poked out. A ghoulishly expectant voice called out: ‘What's the matter? Has there been an accident? Anybody hurt?'

‘Just a bit of an accident, Mrs Duke,' replied Constable Dickenson. ‘Nothing for you to worry about.'

The head was withdrawn, but the voice could be heard adjuring one Horace to get up quick, because the police were outside with an ambulance and all.

‘What I know of this village, we'll have a whole pack of busybodies here inside of ten minutes,' said the Inspector, with a grim little smile. ‘All right, you men: mortuary. Now then, Dickenson, let's hear what you can tell us. When did you discover the body?'

‘By my reckoning, sir, it would be about ten minutes to two. It was just on two when I rung up the Station, me having been out on patrol.'

‘You didn't see anyone here? No car? Didn't hear anything?'

‘No, sir. Nothing.'

‘Was the man — what's his name — Vereker, staying at Riverside Cottage?'

‘Not to my knowledge he wasn't sir, but then he didn't, not during the week as a general rule. It being Saturday, I figured it out he must have been on his way down to the Cottage. Mrs Beaton would know whether he was there. She'd have had her orders to go in and make things ready for him.'

‘Does she live out?'

‘Yes, sir. Pennyfarthing Row, a couple of minutes from the cottage. She keeps the place clean, and gets in milk and eggs and such, when he's coming down. He often gets down late on Saturdays, so she was telling me. I have known him to bring his valet down to do for him, but just as often he comes alone.' He paused, and corrected himself. ‘When I say alone, I mean he often don't bring a servant with him.'

‘What do you mean?' inquired the Doctor.

‘Well, sir, he sometimes bring friends down with him.' He gave a little cough. ‘Most often females, so I've heard.'

‘Wife? Sister?' interrupted the Inspector.

‘Oh no, sir! Nothing like that,' replied the Constable, rather shocked.

‘Oh, that kind of female!' said the Inspector. ‘We'd better go round first thing in the morning to Riverside Cottage, and see if there's anything to be got there. There's nothing here. Ground's too dry for footprints. We'll get along, Doctor, if you're ready. You'll hand in your report to-morrow, Dickenson, see? You can go off to bed now.' He moved away towards the car with the Doctor. Constable Dickenson heard him say in his dry way: ‘Looks to me like a case for the Yard. London man. Nothing to do with us. Nice easy case too — if they can lay their hands on the woman.'

‘Quite,' agreed the Doctor, smothering a yawn. ‘If he had a woman with him.'

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Death in the Stocks 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
Arnold Vereker has been found murdered and his body has been left in the stocks on the village green. Vereker was wealthy and as the police investigate, they discover many characters who had a motive to kill him, most of them his relatives. There are his half-brother and half-sister, Kenneth and Antonia Vereker. Arnold was their guardian and kept them on a very short lease. Antonia is engaged to Rudolph Mesurier, the accountant at Vereker's business. Arnold had just discovered that Mesurier had been embezzling funds and was ready to prosecute him. Kenneth is also engaged, to a venomous but beautiful woman named Violet Williams. She flirts with every man she encounters, and makes it clear that her affections can only be bought and paid for, never freely given. Then there are the investigators. Superintendant Hannasyde, finds the case perplexing, specifically because it seems so simple. Giles Carrington is Kenneth and Antonia's cousin, and also their lawyer. He helps the superintendant understand the relationships that exist, and they discuss the case over drinks and dinners. A further wrench is thrown in the case when another half-brother emerges; Roger, who the family had thought dead for years. Readers who enjoy cozy mysteries such as those written by Agatha Christie will enjoy Georgette Heyer's writing. The character's speech and personalities place the setting firmly in England, and the mystery gets untangled satisfactorily. This book is recommended for all readers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second Heyer book I' ve read. Her characters are quite fun to follow along. The brother and sister in this book are really quite terrible people but endearing all the same. They treat murdered family members cavalierly and I felt I should dislike them on principle but I just couldn't.
momgee More than 1 year ago
As P.C. Dickinson was riding his bicycle across the village green, he sees a man in the stocks. Thinking it is some drunken prank, he investigates only to find it is a dead man. When he calls the police station to report the death, he tells the sergeant he knows the identity of the dead man. It is Arnold Vereker, a man who is not well liked; in fact, some of his family admit to actually hating him. And what a family Arnold leaves behind. The main suspects include Arnold's half brother Kenneth and his half sister Antonia. With Arnold gone, Kenneth stands to inherit a tidy sum of money and property. Not only members of the family are suspect but there is an embezzling employee who just happens to be engaged to Antonia, a disgruntled employee and possibly one of Arnold's many female conquests or even one of their husbands. All of the suspects have viable motives. They are all too clever by half; conjuring up possible scenarios as to why any one in the family murdered Arnold and how it was accomplished. Superintendent Hannasyde has his work cut out for him as he tries to determine from all this banter who is the guilty party. The action heats us when a second murder is committed. This definitely throws a new wrinkle into Hannasyde's previous findings. I love the world of British mysteries created in the thirties. There's just something compelling about all that stiff upper lip kind of understatement and world of red herrings. When Anonia was apprised of how her half brother died by a knife thrust to the back, her respose was a very composed, "Oh, rather beastly." Somehow, I could just picture her saying that quite easily. Heyer certainly manages to capture the imagination in this mystery with her unique murder location, quirky characters, and droll dialogue. Even though I figured out the culprit, it was still an engaging and enjoyable read.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I thought this mystery was very different from the previous Heyer mystery (No Wind of Blame). I seemed to have enjoyed this one more as both Antonia and Kenneth were so quirky and eccentric they got me into fits of giggles because they were just so annoying to Hannasyde. However the plot still kept me guessing. They were eccentric and funny yet there's an underlying almost sinister like quality that made you think: just because they're joking about it doesn't mean they didn't really kill Arnold Vereker.right? and you're left with that uncertainity that made the jokes and comedy a little on the uneasy side. It really added more to the mystery and gave it a flavor of a black comedy to it. Each character had their own motive, and their own unique personality. I like Antonia for her quirky personality and her maddening ability to annoy the police. Kenneth was the same although I didn't like him as much because there's an arrogant disposition surrounding his personality which seems to put me off. I would say, this book is more of a laid back mystery. There wasn't much suspense, no thrills or chills. Yet my curiousity was so piqued because of these interesting characters I really did want to know who did it. However be warned, there is a bit of surprise bomb towards the end of the book which caught me by surprise and I was left still guessing who did the crime. However, my guess was correct and although it wasn't a surprise to me, it was nice to see I guessed right! I'd have to say it was not predictable though, how they solved the crime was totally not how I pictured which is good, I don't like predictability in books. The only criticism in this book was, I found it to drag a little, with the banter between Kenneth and Antonia. It almost ruined their quirkiness and it almost got the point where they were starting to annoy me just a little bit. The plot could have moved a little more faster and although the crime was solved, it was a little too quick and it ending seemed rather abrupt. Other than those few points, I enjoyed reading the book and would read her other crime novels. Overall, an interesting mystery with a dash of comedy to keep things interesting. Its' characters are certainly memorable and worth reading into.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was tedious to read -- I think it was because of the characters. They were not very likeable except for Inspector Hannasyde. But it was an interesting mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A shockingly irreverent, callous-seeming family of half-siblings, their fiances and lawyer cousin, & some financially advantageous murder amongst them. Hardly any blood, plenty of speculation and arguing about propriety...I did figure it out but a fun read anyway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You will never guess who did it! it may be a little too well written for those who are use to quick reads m.a.
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LKC47 More than 1 year ago
Georgette Heyer never disapoints
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I really enjoy the mysteries of the Agatha Christie era. They are simply delightful to read--good cerebral workouts.
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Vanessa Asher More than 1 year ago
Found it a little chatty with all the dialogue. Not as good as another of her books. Enjoyed it was able to guess who did it. Light reading.
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AmandaMae More than 1 year ago
Sparkling dialogue and eccentric characters abound in this delightful mystery. As with most of Ms. Heyer's mysteries the whodunit is secondary to the fun of getting to the reveal.