Murder in Thrall (Doyle and Acton Scotland Yard Series #1)

Murder in Thrall (Doyle and Acton Scotland Yard Series #1)

by Anne Cleeland


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Can London's most elusive killer elude the keen minds of Scotland Yard's most unlikely pair of detectives?

An Irish redhead of humble beginnings and modest means, Kathleen Doyle is the antithesis of Chief Inspector Michael Sinclair, Lord Acton, the brilliant but enigmatic lord with a knack for solving London's most high profile homicides. When a horse trainer is found dead at a racetrack, the duo's investigation does little to deter the killer at large. Jeopardizing the case are their colleagues at CID headquarters, whose nosing into the nature of Doyle and Acton's after hours relationship threatens to lay bare the most classified information of all. As the murders pile up, Doyle and Acton uncover something far more sinisiter than they could have imagined. Now that they know too much, their partnership could be very brief indeed. . .

"It's been a long time since I encountered two characters this charming and engaging. I look forward to more of their adventures." —David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author

"[T]his entertaining pair will linger in readers' imaginations, making them want more." —Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758287915
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 07/30/2013
Series: Doyle and Acton Scotland Yard Series , #1
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Anne Cleeland, a member of the California State Bar, has worked as a research attorney for both federal and state court judges and is a guest lecturer at the University of California, Irvine and Cal State Fullerton. She also writes historical fiction set in the Regency period, contemporary romantic suspense, and the occasional inspirational novel. A member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Historical Novel Society, she lives on Balboa Island, California, and has four children. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2013 Anne Cleeland
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7582-8791-5



Her eyes were five centimeters apart. Her face was proportioned perfectly; the wide-set eyes, the spacing between the zygoma and the mouth, the ratio of chin to forehead to temples. He had taken a photograph of that face when she was unaware, and he often studied it after he went home. He could not help himself.

"I am wretchedly sorry, sir," Doyle apologized for the fourth time in the past two hours. She was waiting with Acton in the unmarked police vehicle, the rain pattering on the roof. Although she was cold and miserable, she would rather be tortured than admit to it, a demonstration of stoic atonement being needful at present.

"Whist, Constable," he answered without taking his eyes from the door of the pub. They had been staking it for over an hour.

Cautiously heartened, she stole a quick glance in the dim light at his averted profile and wiggled her toes in her boots to keep them warm—she was fast losing feeling. Surely it was a good omen for her future prospects that he was imitating her; he was not one to joke about before lowering the boom. She stole another glance at his impassive face and recalled that he was not one to joke about at all, so perhaps it meant nothing. Or perhaps it did. She was Irish, with an accent that tended to broaden when she was nervous—the present circumstance serving as an excellent example.

She ventured, "Is there a rank lower than detective constable?"

"Not at present."

He continued his silent perusal of the pub and did not look at her. Snabble it, she thought, sinking into the seat. You're only making it worse; keep this up and he'll push you out of the car, he will.

They were outside the Laughing Cat pub, hoping their prime witness would make a reappearance. Doyle had lost him.

"D'you think he has gone to ground, then?" The words were out before she could stop them. Honestly; what ailed her that she couldn't keep her mouth shut? Acton was going to rethink his ill-conceived plan to partner with a first-year and give her the well-deserved boot—it was a rare wonder she had lasted this long.

It was indeed one question too many, and Acton turned to meet her eyes.

"I'm that sorry," she offered yet again, feeling the color flood her face.

The chief inspector had been most displeased when he discovered she had allowed Capper to trick her. She knew this only because the words delivered in his modulated public-school voice had become clipped. The signs were subtle, but she was alive to them—it was a survival mechanism, it was.

The witness had been a fellow Irishman, from Limerick, who was coming to meet with the murdered man. Doyle was never to discover the purpose of his visit because the aforesaid witness, a man named Capper, had neatly given her the slip. He had thought to show her the tack room as a likely place to search for evidence, all the while expressing his profound shock at the horse trainer's murder. So helpful he was, in his low country manner, that she had abandoned protocol and had gone in before him. The door to the room had then locked with a snap and she was left alone in the darkness, breathing in the scent of worn leather and muttering Gaelic curses. She was forced to ignominiously text Acton on her mobile to request a rescue, and after springing her free, her commanding officer had told her in all seriousness that she had taken a huge risk and was lucky not to have been shot. He never raised his voice nor changed his tone, but she was thoroughly ashamed of herself all the same; she wouldn't care to lose his good opinion. She knew—although she couldn't say how she knew—that she indeed held his good opinion. Or had held it until this latest misadventure in the tack room.

At present he was having her repent fasting for her wayward ways—although she took it as a good sign that he had not sent her back to CID headquarters to submit to yet another session of retraining in basic protocol. Instead, after backtracking for several hours around the racecourse, they had managed to find the merest scrap of a lead that had led them here; a pony boy's tip, given on promise of anonymity while the frightened man looked over his shoulder every other word. Have a look about the Laughing Cat pub in North Hampton, the man had told them. He intimated the murder was not an isolated incident but would say no more; wouldn't even give his name. This was of interest; when Acton had briefed her about the murder, he mentioned Home Office concerns that a syndicate of some kind was laundering money at the racecourse. Her run-in with Capper could turn out to be a case-breaker—if she didn't get the sack, that was. And if they ever laid eyes on him again.

They waited in silence. Doyle didn't dare suggest he turn on the engine so that the heater was engaged, and she didn't like to even think of what the wet weather was doing to her hair after such a ragged day. Have pity, Acton, she pleaded mentally; I'll expire of shame, else.

At long last he relented and turned to face her, his dark eyes meeting her own. "I don't think he's here, but there may be someone who knows where he's gone to ground. Let's have a look 'round."

As was his custom, he opened the car door for her and she declined his umbrella, as the rain was now only sporadic. He was somewhat older than her and always treated her with grave courtesy. It's in the breeding, she thought as she cautiously stood up on stiff legs; he's probably dyin' to give me the back of his hand.

They approached the pub, which was located on an undesirable corner of the working-class area that bordered Kempton Park racecourse. It was late and the street was quiet as they crossed it, their footsteps echoing whilst she tried to keep up with Acton's long strides. He forgot, sometimes, that she was so much shorter. Or he continued unhappy with her, and would just as soon leave her behind. Doyle stepped up her pace.

He glanced down at her sidelong. "You will allow me to take the lead, please."

She blushed again in shame; he was reminding her not to stray away from him as she had done at the racecourse when she had been roundly hoodwinked. "I'll be clingin' to you like a barnacle, sir," she replied in an overly pert tone; may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and perhaps she could tease her way back into his good graces—anything to alleviate her current state of disgrace. She glanced up to observe his response and was relieved to receive one of his half-smiles as he opened the door for her. There now; perhaps she wasn't to get the sack, just be tortured till the wee hours in the hope that she had learned her flippin' lesson. It was a rare wonder the man didn't get sick of the sight of her.

They stepped in through another set of doors and made for the bar, Acton giving the interior of the pub a quick survey and Doyle trusting him to see if their man was present. He was keenly observant; her talents lay elsewhere.

"Not here," he said quietly.

They leaned on the counter and she glanced around; the rain had kept the customers away, and as it was quite late there were only a half dozen or so hardy souls scattered about, drinking in a desultory way as could be expected on such a night and in such an area of greater London. It was a shame their man was not in evidence; if Capper had indeed been present, Doyle would have leapt upon him and strangled him single-handedly for putting her through it with Acton. Sadly, her temper would occasionally goad her into doing things she oughtn't, so perhaps it was just as well.

"Should I ask a few questions, sir?" She was hoping to redeem herself by showcasing her talents.

Acton considered, his elbow on the bar whilst he took a keen look around and then settled his gaze upon her. "Have one of your coffees and we'll see what the barkeeper has to say."

Doyle didn't hesitate and caught the 'keep's attention; coffee was her life's blood. "A latte with half soy and half skim." She threw caution to the winds. "And whipped cream." She was empty as a pocket and in desperate need of sustenance—it was grueling work, here in the doghouse.

The barkeeper lifted his lip and regarded her with undisguised scorn. "Not that kind of place. I can give you coffee with half-and-half."

"Done." At this point, plain hot water would do, if for nothing else than to pour on her poor frozen feet.

When the man brought the coffee, Acton took the opportunity to display his identification. Doyle watched; often the witness's reaction to the warrant card told her a lot, as Acton was well-aware.

Acton asked, "Do you know a man named Danny Capper?"

The barkeeper took a little too long to answer, and while he considered, she noted that he gripped the bar rail with both hands for a moment. "Yeah. He's here sometimes."

"When's the last time?"

"Dunno," said the man in the tone of one who would no longer discuss the topic. "Maybe a couple of days ago."

Doyle brushed her hair from her forehead.

Acton leaned forward, all menacing law enforcement. "Obstruction of justice is twelve months. Shall we try this again or shall we continue the conversation down at CID headquarters?"

Now uneasy, the barkeeper weighed his options but continued defiant. "Look, I don't want any trouble."

"There's trouble enough," countered Acton, unrelenting. "A trainer's been murdered at the racecourse, and we'd like to speak with Mr. Capper."

Thus admonished, the barkeeper decided to cooperate but made a show of sullenness so that there was no misunderstanding his reluctance to cooperate with all persons constabulary. "He stopped in to talk with his girlfriend and asked that I cover for him—to say he wasn't ever here. He left about an hour ago."

"Know where he is now?" Acton tapped a long finger on his warrant card case, just as a reminder.

"No. But I suggest you talk to her." The man jerked his chin toward a woman who sat at a table alone. "She's the girlfriend."

Doyle pulled out her occurrence book and jotted down the barkeeper's information while Acton watched her. He always watched her hands while she wrote, and it made her self-conscious; as a consequence, her left-handed scrawl was even less legible when he was present. No matter; it would all be typed into a report shortly—thinking of the coming report, she paused, her heart sinking.

Acton indicated she was to follow as he walked over to introduce himself to the girlfriend. She was the type of woman who inhabited this type of pub; a buxom brunette of perhaps thirty who looked a little the worse for wear, an empty pint glass before her along with an ashtray full of cigarette butts marked with lipstick. She was texting on her mobile phone, pausing to draw on a cigarette and gaze out the window, a crease between her brows. She appeared abstracted and unhappy until she took one measuring look at Acton and brightened—Acton was tall and darkly handsome. He was also reclusive and unapproachable, which made him all the more attractive to the opposite sex; Doyle had witnessed the phenomenon many a time.

"Do you mind if we ask a few questions?" Acton showed his warrant card and introduced Doyle.

"Sure—I'm Giselle and I am very pleased to meet you." She ignored Doyle and took Acton's hand, looking up at him from under her lashes.

Doyle noted that her eyes strayed for a moment in the direction of the barkeeper but couldn't determine if any unspoken message had been sent or received.

"May we join you?" Acton could be semi-charming if he thought he could obtain an advantage, which was a useful talent in this line of work. Doyle knew she should observe and learn; she was not good at subterfuge.

Smiling warmly, Giselle indicated to Acton that he was to take the seat beside her, and then when he offered to light her cigarette, it gave the woman an opportunity to lean in and show her cleavage to full advantage.

Brasser, thought Doyle, annoyed; you'll catch cold at that. It didn't help that the other's cleavage was indeed impressive and made more so by a push-up bra with the emphasis on push. Doyle was left to seat herself and her less impressive bosom in the chair opposite them.

"Aren't you that detective from the papers?" Giselle put a teasing hand on his arm and blew a cloud of smoke Doyle's way.

Worse and worse, thought Doyle, who may as well have gone somewhere else in search of a decent cup of coffee. Acton was larger than life in the public's eye; the brilliant, titled chief inspector who regularly solved high-profile murders. The newspapers featured him often—not that he noticed. He had little use for the newspapers and tended to give them short shrift, much to the dismay of the detective chief superintendent who knew a good public relations gambit when he saw it. Instead, Acton was reserved almost to the point of rudeness and definitely did not suffer fools—a decided drawback for Doyle at present. In this instance, however, Acton was giving every indication he was intrigued by this two-penny brasser, who was taking full advantage and small blame to her; it must seem like Christmas.

"We are told you know a man named Danny Capper."

"Oh, Danny—" Giselle made a dismissive gesture with her hands that made it clear he was yesterday's news. "We had a falling-out."

Doyle surmised that this remark was meant to convey to Acton that he had a clear field—it was too much to hope for that the woman was truly unhappy with her beau; few things were more helpful to a detective than a disgruntled girlfriend.

"He was here tonight?"

"Yes." She exhaled some smoke in Acton's direction, pursing her bright red lips. "That's when we fell out."

Doyle brushed her hair from her forehead.

"A shame," said Acton, his tone indicating it was anything but.

"I suppose that depends," said Giselle with a great deal of meaning.

Honestly, Doyle thought crossly; they should get a room.

But Acton was as subtle as a serpent. "You wouldn't mind giving me some information about him, then."

There was only the tiniest pause before Giselle rendered a slow smile and drew on her cigarette. "No, I wouldn't mind at all."

Giselle gave Capper's address and explained she had known him, off and on, for over a year—yes, they had dated but it wasn't serious; this said while fingering a curl that rested on her bosom, as though any more emphasis was needed or necessary. Trying to suppress her annoyance, Doyle jotted down the information and sensed that the girl seemed wary, despite her easy banter with Acton.

"Do you know what he was doing at the track today?"

Giselle threw back her head to blow a cloud. "He likes the track."

Acton arched a brow at her. "Did he come home with a lot of cash sometimes?"

Giselle laughed throatily, tapping the cigarette on the ashtray. "Now, that would have been nice."

She is definitely wary, thought Doyle, trying to avoid the scattering ashes. She glanced around the room but could see no one who sparked an interest. The barkeeper was not within earshot.

Acton leaned in to suggest, "Perhaps there would have been no falling-out, then."

The woman stubbed out the cigarette, even though it was half smoked. "Hmm," she agreed, contemplating the ashtray. "Money does talk."

"Did you quarrel with Capper about money?"

She shrugged, and the movement made her breasts shift upward. Honestly, thought Doyle; may as well plant a flag between them.

"No; we have different ideas about our future."

This was true, and although Doyle kept her gaze on her occurrence book, she felt Acton glance at her, to make certain. She tried to gauge what he was about; Acton never asked an idle question.

"Do you know where he is now?"

"Not a clue." She smiled at him as though it was the last thing on her mind now that Acton had come into her orbit, and crossed her legs toward him.

In response, his tone was almost apologetic, having to interrupt their semi-flirtation with the grim facts. "A man's been murdered; Mr. Capper may have information that could prove useful, and I would very much like to speak with him."

"Murder. How shocking." Giselle's heavily mascara'd eyes widened with dismay. She did not ask who had been killed.

Doyle considered as she scratched out some illegible notes while Acton assured Giselle that she was perfectly safe. So Capper came here, needed to see Giselle in person, then did a bunk. He didn't want to use his mobile, perhaps. Or he needed to deliver something to her or to another. He may be the killer or he may be unwilling to tell the police what he knows. Or he may be afraid of the killer. Whatever it was, it had been important enough to lock a police officer in the tack room so he could escape with all speed back to the Laughing Cat. She remembered thinking that his story rang true when she interrogated him—he had been coming to meet up with the trainer at the stables and was brought up short when he saw the forensics tape cordoning off the area and heard that the man had been murdered. He hadn't known the man well, but they had friends in common. Doyle had been in the process of asking him about the identity of the aforementioned friends when he suggested they look around the tack room. Trumped me, she thought in annoyance. Stupid culchie.

Excerpted from MURDER IN THRALL by ANNE CLEELAND. Copyright © 2013 by Anne Cleeland. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Murder In Thrall 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down. I was a bit confused in the beginning but it made perfect sense at the ending. The story was outstanding and I look forward to the author's sequel. Recommend it highly to readers of British murder mysteries.
Patito02 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed but I have a few reservations about the plot. My criticism is that the author uses an unlikely twist to make the plot work. All at once she suddenly essentially says oh yeah this happened a few days ago and I didn't tell you until now. (I'm being intentionally vague so I don't ruin story for readers) I think the story would have been better had she not contrived the personal aspects so much.... and it would have been more believable. I also felt the results of the climax were contrived and totally fictional and unbelievable. With a little less contrivance and more believable outcomes this book could be the beginning of a very enjoyable series. I did enjoy the book but found it a little confusing and less than believable at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
slow moving. difficult to get into. had to force myself to continue reading to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the two main characters. The action is thrilling. Having Acton’s thoughts is great to understand him better. Can’t wait to read the next thriller.
nhr3bookcrazyNR More than 1 year ago
I quite enjoyed this book and will definitely read the other books in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely outstanding story and characters. The story line took my breath away. I have never read anything like it. I am hooked. I just finished book 3. They all string together in one long story. Perfect. Because after you finish book 1, you don't want the story to end. It just gets better and better and better!
Joanie2016 More than 1 year ago
Murder in Thrall is an absolutely exquisite reading experience. I love everything about this book from the very first page until the last sentence. Acton and Doyle are a wonderful, albeit unusual, husband and wife detective team. I've sporadically read some police procedurals over the years but this was never a favorite genre. Until now. I was completely enthralled with this book. Writers like Anne Cleeland makes me fall in love with reading all over again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A totally engaging story with complex and intriguing characters. A real page turner. Highly recommended if you like romantic mystery/suspense stories.
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
What an intriguing concept. Two police officers, one a constable from a poor Irish family, the other a DCI peer. And a relationship, above and beyond their police work. I don't want to say much more for fear of giving away some nice surprise points. The mystery is fascinating and the resolution, quite interesting. I intend to read more of these.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My new favorite detective series. Really enjoyed the dynamics between the two main characters. funny, romantic with a decent mystery to boot. I hope she writes many more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an odd book and not one I enjoyed. It actually was sort of the creepy because the older man was stalking the young detective that he had gotten assigned to him. And, then when he proposed to her she fell right i n with it. It was a really bad story.
Shilo2010 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story and fun to read! Bit confused about some of it, but think it all came together, maybe the confusion was meant to keep me reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poorly developed characters plodding through a thin plot i couldn't bring myself to care about. The attempted twists were laughable at best and insulting to the reader at worst.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. The characters are intriguing, and I was left anxious for the next installment. Lord Acton, in particular, left me with many unanswered questions. Exactly how much mayhem and lawbreaking does he think he can get away with?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really hate giving a low rating and bad review but sometimes I just have to.  I found Murder In Thrall to have too much of a lot of things. Like too many murders happening very quickly, too many characters with strange personalities and just too much going on all the time. The story was hard for me to follow and I felt like I missed something in the story because I didn't get what the gift was that Acton had which Doyle referred to as his condition. I didn't like the main characters at all. The female lead character, Doyle, is a rookie Detective who struck me as being a ditz in her personal life and I didn't connect with her.  She was very good at her job though. Given my feeling about her, I never understood what Acton saw in her. And Acton was stalking her and then proposed but she stayed with him like she was flattered.  A normal person (which she definitely is not) would have run fast and far. Also, Doyle's Irish slang and expressions were over the top in this book, which I also thought helped make her sound dumb. I won this book in a giveaway.
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Bukgoddess More than 1 year ago
Murder in Thrall is first in the series of author Anne Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard mysteries! This story held me captive from beginning to end! First year Detective Constable Kathleen Doyle, all the envy of her fellow first year detectives is partnered up by mysterious request with the seasoned and highly reputed Chief Inspector Michael Sinclair, member of the aristocracy, a Baron in his own right; also known as Lord Acton. This coveted duo has solved many a case in the three months they have been partners, almost as if there is an “other-worldly” connection between the two. Doyle herself is noted among her peers as exceptional on reading witnesses and suspects, slight of stature she is one red-headed Irish girl from Dublin who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, but then apologizing for it afterwards. Especially to her illustrious boss. While Acton’s abilities and impressive arrest record which speaks for itself does draw the attention of all concerned when he decides to take Doyle under his wing; none have the where-with-all to comment about it to his face including Doyle’s Supervisor Inspector Habib. But is there an ulterior motive under foot? At thirty-eight years old Acton has traditionally worked alone and not mixed often with those whom he works; although a rumor is bantered about of a personal alliance with Fiona from Forensics. Acton, (whose nick name is Holmes, breathed quiet tones behind his back) and Doyle are called upon to investigate a puzzling murder at a local race track; little do they know how personal their investigation will become. Surging with action to keep your heart racing like too much of Doyle’s super charged lattes she is so addictively fond of but also containing romantic undertones that skirt the edges of obsession! I loved this book! I cannot wait for book two to be released in August 2014!!
nsrn More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love these two...can't wait to read more and more about them. Their relationship is quite special.
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avidreaderctb More than 1 year ago
Many other books out there that I'd have rather read. Not a bad read but not very interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago