On the recommendation of MI5 Detective Chief Inspector Steve Winwood is asked to come out of retirement to find one of their agents who has gone missing from the small English market town of Rutherford. He cannot think of a good reason why a department of the secret service asked for him to be recruited for this job rather than one of their own.
He has no photo or even a name to help locate the agent. Trusting his instinct, he follows up a report of a car crash where the vehicle and driver have been completely incinerated beyond identification. Circumstantial evidence points to the driver being Roger Chapman, the Overseas Marketing Executive for Redbourne Brewery. One further clue is that his photograph in the company’s brochure matches the description given by the Fleetwood Arms Hotel night porter from where he was arrested by the local police.
Assuming that his information is correct he discovers from the Brewery that Chapman was working as a go-between for the British and Chinese Governments.
When searching Chapman’s home address Winwood has his first contact with one of the mysterious Men In Black. No one knows for sure if they work for a Government agency or an alien one. They appear to be responsible to no one; just ask questions and send a chill of fear and alarm in those they contact.
Emma Porter once Winwood’s sergeant and now an Inspector in a department of the Fraud Squad returns to Rutherford and joins Winwood to investigate claims of a property scam reported by a Chinese businessman. The prospectus handed to her by the Chinese is a property development company fronted by Chapman trading as Barleycorn Property Investments.
Winwood is convinced that Chapman was being chased by both the Government and the Chinese over the embarrassment that would be caused if the fraud was exposed. At every turn he is met by obfuscation and blind alleys erected by the secret service.
Winwood is then handed confidential documents confirming a contact with the Men In Black by Dr Rose Collins who treated Chapman for a nervous breakdown. One contains her report of his experiences under regression hypnosis claim he had been abducted by aliens. His company and friends certainly notice a total personality change and a different attitude to work and his position
There are few people he can trust; only his closest friends, the newspaper editor, the antiquarian bookseller and the local vicar. When he pulls all the evidence together Winwood finally discovers who and what the Underground represent and the terrible secret that they and the secret service are hiding.
Some incidents in this book were researched from real accounts but names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. Parts of this book featured in a previous edition which has since been deleted.
About the Author
John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. The Education Act of 1944 saw great changes in the way the nation was taught; the main one being that all children stayed at school until the age of 15 (later increased to 16). For the first time working class children were able to reach higher levels of academic study and the opportunity to gain further educational qualifications at University. This explosion in education brought forth a new aspirational middle class; others remained true to their working class roots. The author belongs somewhere between the two. Many of the author’s main characters have their genesis in this educational revolution. Their dialogue though idiosyncratic can normally be understood but like all working class speech it is liberally sprinkled with strange boyhood phrases and a passing nod to cockney rhyming slang. John Barber’s novels are set in fictional English towns where sexual intrigue and political in-fighting is rife beneath a pleasant, small town veneer of respectability. They fall within the cozy, traditional British detective sections of mystery fiction. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder which investigated a famous murder mystery of 1907 and names the killer. This is still available in softback and as an ebook, although not available from Smashwords John Barber had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He is now retired and lives with his wife and two cats on an island in the middle of Hertford and spends his time between local community projects and writing further novels.