The officer on duty at Bamford police station is skeptical when he takes a call from Guy Morgan. Morgan claims to have stumbled upon human bones in Stovey Woods in the heart of the Cotswalds, but surely animal bones are more likely? Morgan, though, is a doctor as well as a hiker, and he knows exactly what he's found.
It sends a shiver down Detective Alan Markby's spine when he hears the news. Twenty-two years ago, as a fresh-faced young inspector, he had a rare failure: His hunt for a brutal serial rapist preying on local women in the Stovey woods came up empty. After the third rape, the attacker disappeared, never to be heard of again.
Now, with a new investigation prompted by Morgan's grisly discovery, the trail could be warm once more. But almost at once Markby is confronted with another body and a thoroughly up-to-date murder. Markby's lover, Meredith Mitchell, can't help but wonder: Could the two be connected? But as both are about to find out, it seems that some of the village residents would be just as happy to let sleeping dogs lie and secrets-both old and new-stay hidden...
About the Author
Like Meredith Mitchell, Ann Granger has worked in British embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy, in Prague, and together they received postings to places as far apart as Munich and Lusaka. They are now permanently based in Bicester, England, near Oxford. A Restless Evil is Ann's fourteenth Mitchell and Markby mystery. She is currently at work on the fifteenth.
Ann Granger has worked in British embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy, in Prague, and together they received postings to places as far apart as Munich and Lusaka. She is the author of the Mitchell and Markby Mysteries and the Lizzie Martin mystery series. She and her husband are now permanently based in Bicester, near Oxford.
Read an Excerpt
A Restless Evil
By Ann Granger
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2002 Ann Granger
All rights reserved.
The pub was called the Drovers' Rest. Its faded sign creaked monotonously back and forth, depicting a flock of sheep and a figure in a smock. The sheep were shown too big, or the shepherd too small, depending how you looked at it. Guy Morgan looked at it for no longer than he had to before he slipped his rucksack from his shoulders and straightened up with a sigh of relief. A number of bicycles were propped against the mellow stone walls. He wasn't the first to stop for a midday break.
Guy hadn't walked very far that day but the weather had sapped his strength and made his legs feel as if they were weighted with lead. The dust which had filled his nostrils had parched his throat and given him a raging thirst. It was all the fault of that same wind which played with the pub sign. April is normally a time of squalls and showers and buffeting winds interspersed with spells of sunshine. But this was a variety of the south wind which goes by different names in parts of Europe and is blamed there for any number of ailments from general lassitude to depression. It had no business here at all on the rolling Cotswold hills. It was a child of the desert which had taken the wrong turning and after sweeping across the Mediterranean and Europe, marauded over the English countryside for twenty-four hours as unpredictable and merciless as a Rif tribesman.
High in the sky, birds struggled to maintain their course against its wayward currents. From early morning when he'd set out, Guy had felt himself besieged by it. It had ruffled his hair and puffed its dry warm breath disagreeably into his face. He pushed open the door, glad at the prospect of being free of his tormentor for an hour.
Inside he found himself in a long, low-ceilinged room which ran across the building from one side to the other. It was partitioned by a lath and plaster wall pierced by an opening between massive oak uprights. He guessed that once this had been part of a more formal division of the room into two. Beyond the opening, to the right, the cyclists had taken up residence. They huddled over the tiny tables, quaffing strange-looking liquids, making short work of various high-energy snacks. Guy had nothing against cyclists but tended to avoid them at these often shared halts. They hunted in strung-out packs, human greyhounds, swooping past him crouched over their handlebars in an extremely uncomfortable posture. Their legs and torsos were clad in figure-hugging Lycra and their shins were shaved to glossy smoothness. Some of them affected peaked caps, the peaks turned upward. In their minds they were tackling not just this dusty country track but some Pyrenean col. Guy acknowledged fairly that they, in turn, probably looked on him as a heavy-booted technophobe, as archaic in this millennium year 2000 as the smocked rustic of the inn sign. Guy exchanged a nod with the nearest cyclist and moved away to lean on the bar. The landlord appeared before him and said amiably, 'Hello, there.'
'Hello,' returned Guy. 'I'll have a pint and your bar menu, if I may.'
'You may, indeed.' The landlord produced a plastic folder.
Guy opened it up and read the list of offerings. It seemed somewhat elaborate for such a traditional-looking establishment in such an out-of-the-way place. Even the Ploughman's Platter boasted Brie.
'Haven't you got any Cheddar?' he asked.
'If you want it,' said the landlord.
'It doesn't say so here.'
'Yes, it does, look, right there.' A stubby forefinger pointed at the foot of the page where Guy read the words 'A selection of English cheeses available'.
'What other English cheeses have you got?'
'Only Cheddar.' The landlord added reproachfully, 'It's the beginning of the season.'
Guy settled for the Cheddar Ploughman's and his order was shouted into a back room. The landlord returned to the bar.
'Walker?' he asked.
'Yes. Just taking a break for a couple of days.'
'All on your own?'
'A colleague was coming with me but had to cry off.'
'Oh, right.' The landlord pursed his lips. 'How much further are you going?'
'As far as Bamford and from there I can catch the train back to London.'
'Ah, London, is it? Well, you might be lucky.'
Guy wasn't sure what this meant. 'No trains?' he ventured.
'Oh, you'll catch a train all right, once you get to Bamford. You might get a bit wet before you get there.'
'It's been as dry as a bone all morning,' objected Guy. 'Just very breezy.'
'Weather's changing. It's already tipping it down in Wales and they're threatened with floods in Devon. It's coming this way. I saw it on the telly.'
'I'll just have to walk a bit faster, then, won't I?' retorted Guy, annoyed by the landlord's evident satisfaction.
The door opened and another pair of cyclists came in. The landlord abandoned Guy for the newcomers. His parting shot was, 'You want to get a bike, like them.'
A gum-chewing girl bearing a plate of salad appeared from the back room and looked at Guy with a mixture of doubt and assessment.
'You the Ploughman's?'
He took his lunch from her and retreated to a far corner where someone had left a tabloid newspaper. Guy settled down to his lunch, his beer and scandal. As he got to the end of all three, he became aware of a shadow across the printed page and the faint warmth of another human being nearby. His ear caught a noisy intake of breath. He looked up.
The adenoidal girl stood by his table, watching him in a curiously unsettling way. She stretched out a hand to his plate. Her fingernails were bitten short and on the middle finger of her right hand she wore a cheap ring. Instinctively Guy felt himself throw up the defences. He knew her type.
'You finished?' she inquired.
'Yes, thank you,' Guy told her.
She picked up the plate but instead of moving away, stayed rooted to the spot, the plate held in both hands.
He managed not to snap back that wasn't it obvious? He confirmed it in as discouraging a voice as he could.
She was impervious to subtle hints. 'All on your own?'
He'd explained this already to the landlord and he was blowed if he was going to explain it again to this predatory female. He nodded curtly, not giving her the satisfaction of a proper answer which would keep the conversation, such as it was, going.
'Shame,' she said. 'Can't be much fun all on your own and that. No one to talk to. Where are you staying tonight?'
'I'm not sure,' he told her, evading the trap.
'The Fitzroy Arms in Lower Stovey does rooms,' she offered.
'I hope to get a bit further than Lower Stovey.'
'Pity,' she said. 'I live there.'
He was rescued by the landlord who surged up and ordered, 'Come on, Cheryl, get going. Don't stand there nattering.'
'He might have wanted some afters,' Cheryl defended herself, adding in a sing-song voice addressed to Guy, 'We've got apple pie, lemon lush pie and ice-cream.'
He declined. 'I've got to get on.'
'Please yourself,' she said and flounced off towards the kitchen.
The landlord observed, 'Anything in trousers, that one.' He lumbered back to his bar.
Guy saw now how empty the place had become. He was the sole visitor. The cyclists had prudently got on their way long since. Glancing guiltily at his wristwatch, he realised he also should have moved before this. He grabbed his rucksack and strode through the door.
Outside there were distinct signs that the landlord's forecast was to be proved correct. The vexing wind had definitely fallen and a grey rash on the horizon heralded a depression spreading eastward. Already a misting of rain veiled the furthermost hills. Guy set out, refreshed and clinging to an optimistic hope he could keep ahead of the weather.
For twenty minutes he made good progress, even though he was now walking uphill. Then a large fat drop of water landed splat in the dust in front of him. In the past few minutes, the grey mass had raced across the intervening sky. Guy swung his rucksack to the ground and delved in it for his map and waterproof cape. He looked around him. He'd not yet crested the summit but even so, from up here he had a fine view all around. The hills were a subtle patchwork of varying shades of green enlivened by patches of bright yellow under the shadow of the now overhead rainclouds. Sheep and their lambs clustered in ragged white groups under stone walls. His eyes also sought shelter. There was a farm in the distance, he judged at least a mile and a half across the fields, too far. He could turn back to the pub, but it went against the grain to retrace his steps and even more to face the grinning landlord. Never admit defeat.
Guy ran his finger across the dotted line on the map which marked the old drovers' way. Far removed from the modern ribbons of asphalt which criss-crossed the country, it was no more than a stony track but it ran as straight as a die. Some said it had been laid down by the Romans, who were famous for that sort of thing, as the legions moved northward in their conquest of Britain. What was certain was that as long as the history of the area had been recorded, it had been marked as a drovers' path. Once traffic had been plentiful: herders driving cattle to the towns for slaughter; country folk going to and from market, driving their flocks of sheep ahead of them and burdened with baskets of farm produce; strings of pack-ponies taking goods to isolated hamlets or bringing the packs of wool to the town. Then the wool industry had dwindled. Many of the markets had vanished or survived in a new form without animals. The drovers' way was no longer needed. Today it was travelled by ramblers, like Guy, cyclists like those he'd encountered at the pub and horse-riders.
Occasionally, to the annoyance of all three of these groups, a roaring destructive motorbike blazed its unwelcome trail across the hills. At its widest the drovers' way was about ten feet across. In parts it narrowed to admit only a pair of walkers in comfort.
Guy opened out the map. The wind, to prove it still had breath in its body, caught it and rattled it in his hands so that he couldn't read it and it threatened to rip free. He squatted down and spread it on the ground. Another raindrop fell, plumb in the centre of it as he held the paper flat with his palms. The village of Lower Stovey was the nearest hamlet, but that was another good two miles and meant going out of the way. Moreover it was where Cheryl lived. He didn't know what hours she worked but it was likely the afternoon was her free period and he'd no wish to come across her again. He wondered how she got to and from work and vaguely remembered a small motor scooter parked at the side of the pub.
However, there was another haven. Just over the crest of this rise he'd see lying below him Stovey Woods.
Guy folded the map hurriedly, creasing it, and jammed it back in his rucksack. He slung the straps over his shoulders and pulled the hooded waterproof cape over his head and the pack. The rain was falling faster now, striking malicious pellets against his face and bare legs. The dust puffed up where the drops landed. Slowly the spots blended with adjoining ones as the dry ground slaked its thirst. Soon raindrops would turn to puddles, earth to mud. Guy strode out briskly.
As he topped the rise and started down the other side towards the dark stain the woods made on the landscape, he heard a rumble of thunder. As he'd done when a child, Guy began to count in his head. One — two — three — four — The lightning burst across the sky in a sudden flash which hurt his eyes. Four miles away. He had a brief sensation of heat on his face and he thought, blimey, it must've been closer than that!
He began to jog down the hill. Received wisdom was that you shouldn't shelter under trees when there was lightning about. Guy hoped that meant you shouldn't shelter under the one tree around in open land. In a wood, surely, the odds against your tree being the one struck had to be in your favour.
The nearer he came to the woods, the more they struck him as a black, impenetrable mass. He felt a twinge of atavistic alarm. The forests had always been places to be feared, the haunt of elves and witches, bandits and wild beasts. Not now, Guy consoled himself. Not in this day and age when we were free from medieval terrors. No elves, no witches, hopefully no muggers and no —
'Hell's teeth!' Guy heard himself exclaim. 'What the dickens is that?'
Something, some sort of animal, had been lying in the long grass at the edge of the wood. At Guy's approach it rose up. He thought at first it was a large dog, but the dark outline was all wrong for a dog. Was it a goat? Impossible. No, it was a small deer — a muntjak. He laughed aloud in relief. The muntjak, disturbed by his arrival, trotted away from him, ears laid back, into the woods.
Guy followed it. The track which was the old road ran between trees on either side. This part of the woods was Forestry Commission land. The planting was of pines. To either side of the track was a grassy verge, beyond that a deep ditch before the trees began. Guy scrambled across the ditch to the right and stumbled into the darkness — and dryness — among the regiment of straight, uniform trunks.
Beneath his feet the carpet of pine needles was soft and spongy. The scent of resin was heavy on the air like incense after mass. There was a cathedral stillness, a holding of breath, a waiting for the moment of revelation. There was no sign of the muntjak. He couldn't hear it. He couldn't hear the crunch of his own feet. He couldn't hear anything except the patter of the raindrops falling on the pine branches.
There was a track among the trunks and he followed it automatically. It was narrow, made by the regular passage of the deer not by man. It twined capriciously, as no Roman road ever did, weaving to the left around this tree, to the right around that one, making him perform manoeuvres he associated with country dances. Occasionally his ear did catch the brief sound of a rustle, not made by the rain, up in the branches overhead. A pigeon, perhaps, or a woodpecker. Like him, the birds kept a silent watch, waiting for the rain to cease and life to begin again as normal.
There was some kind of clearing up ahead. He made for it out of curiosity, just to see what it was, not to step into it and the rain. On the edge of it, he stopped.
He stood atop a sort of rampart. It dropped steeply and at the bottom, in the clearing, grew a tangle of bramble bushes, nettles, dock, cow parsley and puny saplings of native trees sprung from seeds blown there, carried there on the hide of the deer, excreted in animal droppings, or scattered by the birds. Beyond it rose a corresponding bank, completing the saucerlike depression. Guy, standing by the first line of pines ringing the area, thought it formed a natural amphitheatre. He ought to be looking down at some spectacle, a show. Curious about the nature of the rampart, he scraped at it with the heel of his boot to little purpose. To excavate this would be a major archaeological task. When he got home, he'd look it up in the library. Find out if anyone else had made note of this place, had any theories.
The rain was easing. His curiosity now had overcome his first instinct to keep dry. He began to negotiate his way down the slope. He needed to take care. Underfoot it was loose, unstable. Tree roots poked through forming treacherous snares. Nettles nipped his bare shins spitefully. Brambles reached out and scratched at his unprotected skin. Nature, allying itself against him, driving back the would-be intruder.
The muntjak must have been sheltering here but he hadn't seen it. Now it saw or smelled him. Without warning, it dashed out of the tangle of undergrowth, sprang up the slope on the further side of the clearing and disappeared among the trees. Startled, even though he now knew what it was, Guy stopped short, slipped, felt the earth give way beneath his foot and fell.
Over and over he tumbled, scrabbling in vain for a handhold, brambles tearing at his flesh, until he came to a stop, on his stomach, face down in the rotting vegetation. It smelled foul from underlying stagnant water which had drained down into the basin. He moved cautiously, a limb at a time, checking for breaks and sprains. Everything seemed OK. He'd been lucky but he'd have a sore back from the rucksack bumping against it on the way down.
He got to his feet and turned to make his way back by the route he'd come. Then he saw that, in his descent, he'd disturbed the tangle of greenery which had been covering the entrance to an animal lair in the side of the bank. Too big, he thought, for the entrance to a rabbit warren. A fox-hole possibly, or even a badger's entrance to its set. He knelt and scraped away some more debris and peered in. A stale, fetid odour oozed out. He muttered, 'Faugh!' and was about to pull back his head when his eye was caught by an object near the mouth of the den.
Excerpted from A Restless Evil by Ann Granger. Copyright © 2002 Ann Granger. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dr. Guy Morgan calls the Bamford police station to report he found human bones in the Cotswold Lower Stovey Woods. When Detective Superintendent Alan Markby on a house-hunting trip with his beloved Meredith Mitchell learns of the human remains, he thinks back to a haunting failure. As a rookie over two decades ago, he never caught The Potato Man, a serial rapist, who vanished, after his third rape. Alan hopes that even after all this time has passed, a break has finally occurred. However, a new concern surfaces when another dead body is found, but this one is a recent corpse. As he digs deeper accompanied by his lover, the locals refuse to cooperate making their investigation that much harder and leaving the dedicated cop feeling déjà vu as he wonders if he will fail again. The latest Mitchell and Markby novel is a delightful village mystery. The story line contains a strong who-done-it and an insightful look at a decaying hamlet especially the surly townsfolk and their detest of the new money brought in by outsiders. The two wonderful heroes augment the enjoyable plot, especially Alan¿s memories of that case that still disturbs him. Ann Granger provides her usual, a wonderful village cozy that is a treat for sub-genre fans. Harriet Klausner