The Case of the Black Pearl: A stylish new mystery series set in the South of France

The Case of the Black Pearl: A stylish new mystery series set in the South of France

by Lin Anderson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847515155
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Series: A Patrick de Courvoisier Mystery Series , #1
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,164,969
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.75(h) x (d)

About the Author

Lin Anderson is the author of eight crime novels featuring Glasgow-based forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod. She is co-founder of Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s first crime writing festival. Born in Greenock of Scottish and Irish parents, she now lives in Edinburgh.

Read an Excerpt

The Case of the Black Pearl

A Patrick de Courvoisier mystery


By Lin Anderson

Severn House Publishers Ltd.

Copyright © 2014 Lin Anderson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84751-515-5


CHAPTER 1

The Heavenly Princess floated on a midnight sea, her layered decks painted silver by a full moon. Designed as a luxury home for the mobile rich, she was equipped with a helipad, a forty-two-foot motor yacht, and a decompression chamber for those who liked to take risks while diving. For those who sought relaxation, the Princess boasted a waterfall that tumbled over the aft lip of the sky deck into a large Jacuzzi.

Currently, the view north from the sky deck was of the city of Cannes, playground for the rich, and currently host to the most famous film festival in the world. Being too large to tie up at the main jetty, the Princess was normally anchored in the west bay, although tonight she had moved a little nearer to the island of Sainte Marguerite, whose colourfully lit medieval fort had been used in a scene from the movie The Black Pearl, a thriller involving yachts, jewels and death, which had been shown at the festival.

Having a party on board therefore required ferrying the cast to and from the harbour, along with film stars attending the festival, international journalists, beautiful young actresses and the rich older men who intended bedding them.

One such actress now stood on the sky deck, the tinkle of the waterfall masking the chat and music that drifted up from below. It was Angele Valette, star of The Black Pearl.

A little over five feet five inches tall, her body was slim but curvaceous. Wearing an indigo gown, her hair spun gold, she appeared to embody the moonlit sky above her. Around her neck hung the other star of the movie, the pearl itself. She fingered its warm smooth surface as she waited, martini glass in hand, looking towards the sheer wall of rock on which the brightly lit fort stood.

Hearing a footstep she turned, searching the shadows, but whoever she sought did not appear. She drank the martini in one gulp and placed the delicately stemmed glass on a table next to the Jacuzzi. As she did so she caught the sound of an engine and, scanning the water, spotted the beam of a motor boat, heralding the approach of another group of festival attendees, looking to party among the rich and famous. While she watched them board below, she heard someone call her name softly from the shadows.

She turned as the figure of a man came into view. Moonlight glistened on the dark hair, aquiline nose and square-cut jaw of her handsome co-star, American Conor Musso, his Italian-Irish ancestry obvious in the bright-blue eyes and olive skin.

'What are you doing up here? Everyone is looking for you. They want to see the pearl.' Conor looked flushed under his tan.

'I was too hot. I needed some air,' she said in accented English. Conor joined her at the rail, standing close enough for Angele to catch the astringent scent of his cologne.

He slid his arm about her shoulders, drawing her to him. 'They want to see you too,' he said in a husky voice, moving his other hand to touch her breast.

She slapped him away and turned her attention back to the water.

When he spoke, his voice was petulant. 'Chapayev wants you downstairs. Now.' He turned and walked away.

Angele did not move. Let the fat little Russian wait. The movie had shown to great reviews. He had served his purpose. She no longer had to dance to his tune. She leaned over the rail, dangling the pearl above the dark glistening water, and smiled. She would soon be free. Free of Conor Musso and his busy hands, free of Chapayev and his flabby body and small mean eyes. Contemplating her freedom, Angele did not hear the soft nudge of a dinghy against the opposite side of the yacht.

By the time she turned, the figure was already behind her.

CHAPTER 2

The woman paused to check the name on yet another yacht moored along the quai. Taller than the average movie star hopeful, with shoulder-length dark hair and long slim legs showing discreetly below a stylish blue dress, she was striking and classy. And, Patrick suspected, bringing trouble his way.

The thought pleased him.

Things had been quiet since March, when he'd dealt with a Swedish national who'd attempted to leave without paying six months' rent on one of Chevalier's properties at the top of Le Suquet, just next to the church and with a view to die for.

Since then, Patrick had spent his time doing repair work on his boat, Les Trois Soeurs, climbing in the Estérel Mountains, reading and indulging his desire to take risks at the nearby casino. By May he'd had enough of the quiet life and was looking for a challenge.

It appeared his prayers had been answered.

Having reached his boat, the lady was scrutinizing its name. The Three Sisters was not the usual type of yacht moored in the old port. A former French gunboat, heavy hulled, she stood out like a French bulldog among a line of poodles, or at least that's what he liked to think.

His visitor had decided she'd found what she sought and was looking up at him, Patrick de Courvoisier, seated on the upper deck, reading, or pretending to. Lying across his feet, Oscar, an actual French bulldog, snorted in his sleep as though he knew and disapproved of what was about to happen. Patrick wondered if the dog might be right. But there was something about trouble – a scent as enticing as his favourite dish at Le Pistou on the nearby Rue Félix Faure – that he could not resist.

'Monsieur de Courvoisier?' She observed him quizzically, although it may have been the sun in her eyes.

Patrick often made a decision on voice alone. If he agreed to work for someone, he had to be prepared to listen to them pouring out their troubles, pleading, lying, arguing, complaining and sometimes refusing to pay.

Her voice reminded him of a cocktail served up in the Irish bar across the road. The cocktail contained, or so he'd been told, Bailey's liqueur, chocolate milk and whipped cream. It was entitled, in the understated way of the Irish, an Orgasm.

Patrick stirred himself and answered the luscious voice.

'C'est moi.'

Her rendition of his name had suggested French or at least someone whose pronunciation hadn't been learned from a phrasebook or at school. Now he waited as she decided whether he was French or had simply acquired the name from a French branch of the family. She chose correctly, which impressed and offended Patrick at the same time.

'May I come on board?' she said in lightly accented English.

'Be my guest.'

He lowered the walkway.

She hesitated for a moment. Having found him, she was entertaining second thoughts. Patrick wondered if the story he was about to be told was in the process of being re-written.

Oscar roused himself and stood up, observing the attractive intruder with a baleful eye. When he gave a low growl, she responded by offering him a hand to sniff, which showed courage, as she wasn't to know that Oscar was far less threatening than he sounded.

Patrick waved her to the second chair under the awning, picking up her fragrance as she brushed past. Then a thought struck him.

'Or you might prefer to sit inside?'

Her relief, although masked, was tangible. Patrick indicated the open cabin door, and that she should go in first. He dipped his head and followed her down the steps into the instant gloom of the dark wooden interior.

He'd bought Les Trois Soeurs from a French couple who'd lived on board for half their married lives. Intensely private, they'd discouraged visitors, preferring to meet their friends at one of the numerous restaurants and café-bars that lined Le Vieux Port. Patrick had been permitted to board only after he'd declared his intention of buying Les Trois Soeurs, even if he never saw inside her, endearing himself to the female half of the couple, Madame Blanc.

The moment he'd stepped aboard, he'd felt at home. Madame Blanc had stayed true to the masculine interior, her only feminine touch being the addition of a couple of colourful cushions. The polished wood, clean lines and a galley he could cook in all pleased him. The double bedroom was more than fit for purpose – and then came the surprise. Madame had asked him to follow her through the old engine room towards the stern, where she'd opened a door to reveal the pièce de résistance: a sunken mahogany bath.

His reaction and delight had brought a small smile to her stern countenance.

It was a surprise Patrick had often used on visitors that he, too, wished to impress.

At this moment, his visitor was viewing the cabin discreetly. He formed the impression that she rather liked what she saw.

'May I offer you a drink?' Patrick said.

Again the slight hesitation, or perhaps she was internally translating his request into French. Her reply in English, when it came, surprised him.

'A Bloody Mary, if you have the ingredients?'

He smiled an 'of course' and extracted a bottle from the display on the bar.

'Russian vodka?' he said.

'Please.'

He extracted ice from the small freezer compartment and dropped it into a long glass. Choosing Stoli Gold, he added a good measure, some tomato juice and a dash of Tabasco.

When he handed it over, she thanked him, then took time to taste the mix before indicating that it was good. At close quarters her eyes were blue with a violet tinge. Patrick thought that he had never seen eyes quite that colour before. Eventually she spoke.

'I believe you are known as Le Limier?'

'Some call me the fixer; others use less flattering terms.'

By her look of acknowledgement she'd heard a few.

'I need you to ...' She hesitated, searching for the right words. 'To fix something for me.'

'Something other than a Bloody Mary?'

She smiled and the effect was dazzling, even out of the sun. He was on dangerous ground. A beautiful woman was a thing to behold, but distracting to do business with.

'My name is Camille Ager.'

She held out her hand. It was slim and fine boned and cold to his touch from the iced glass.

Patrick waved her to a seat. She settled herself, took another mouthful, then placed the glass on the table. All of this was done slowly and deliberately, as though to compose herself before she spoke.

'I have been told I can trust you.' She eyed him candidly.

'May I ask by whom?'

'Does it matter?'

'It does.'

'Monsieur Paul Chevalier,' she conceded.

Paul Chevalier, or Le Chevalier as he was affectionately known among residents of Le Suquet, was a man Patrick held in high regard.

'And how do you know Le Chevalier?' he asked.

She wasn't sure of her answer and he anticipated why. If her dealings with Chevalier had been about his real-estate business, and therefore above the legal radar, it would be easy. If the connection was of an altogether different nature, her explanation might prove more difficult.

'We share ...' She hesitated. 'A mutual acquaintance.'

Patrick waited.

'In Brigitte Lacroix.'

Now this was a surprise. As he'd viewed her approach along the quai, Patrick hadn't thought for a moment that she might be one of Brigitte's girls. Patrick studied his visitor in a little more detail. The women who worked for Brigitte were highly intelligent, well educated and stunningly beautiful. Camille Ager was all of these.

As though in answer to his unspoken question, she said, 'I do not work for Madame Lacroix, but I have a friend who does.'

Brigitte Lacroix was mistress of Hibiscus, the premier escort agency on the Côte d'Azur. Becoming one of Brigitte's girls was more difficult, it was said, than gaining a place at the prestigious Sorbonne. Those who passed the entry requirements could look forward to five years' work, after which they could comfortably retire on the proceeds, if they had not already married a rich client.

Brigitte, like Le Chevalier, had been born and raised in Le Suquet. She knew its inhabitants and their secrets as thoroughly as she knew the intimate desires of her well-heeled clientele. If Brigitte had sent Camille to Le Chevalier, then she'd assumed he would send her here to Patrick.

'How can I help you?' Patrick said.

She released the breath she'd been holding. She had been more nervous, Patrick realized, than she'd shown.

'I have a younger half-sister. Her name is Angele Valette.' She paused to clear an emotional catch in her throat. 'She is in a great deal of trouble, Monsieur de Courvoisier.' The story turned out to be anything but pretty, unlike the girl in the photograph Camille handed him. It was a press shot taken on the steps of the red carpet. The midnight-blue dress Angele wore accentuated her slim body and elegant white neck.

'The dress is the exact colour of the black pearl from the movie. It was made especially for the film,' Camille said, her voice breaking.

Angele resembled her name. Transparently beautiful, her eyes widened by the flash of cameras, she looked stunned to find herself dropped from heaven into a mad world.

'Who is the man with her?' Patrick said.

'Conor Musso, her co-star. An American.'

Dark-haired, tanned and handsome, the guy looked every inch a movie star. Patrick wondered if he could act.

'And the one standing behind?'

'Sergio Gramesci, the Italian director of The Black Pearl.'

'Should I have heard of him?' Patrick asked.

She shook her head. 'The Black Pearl is his first movie. Until now he has worked in Italian TV soaps.'

Slightly out of shot stood a shorter, broader figure.

'That is Vasily Chapayev, a Russian entrepreneur – according to Angele, the money behind the movie,' Camille told him. 'Angele thought it was Italian backed when she took the part. She never found out about Chapayev until he turned up on set.'

'And that worried her?'

'Not at first. It is the producer who must worry about the money side of things.' Camille took in his blank expression. 'You know nothing about how films are made, monsieur?'

He shook his head.

'It takes a great deal of money to fund even a bad movie.'

'And The Black Pearl is a bad movie?'

Camille gave a Gallic shrug. 'It contains a lot of sex and some violence. It will make money; if not in cinemas, then on DVD.'

'And what did Angele think of it?'

'She was excited by the chance to star in a movie. And when she learned Chapayev was launching the film at Cannes, she was ecstatic. It was all she ever dreamed of.' Camille reached for her glass, took a swift drink and composed herself before continuing. 'Two nights ago, Angele called to tell me that Chapayev was holding the launch party on the Heavenly Princess. He'd invited a number of film people, including some from Hollywood. Angele was so excited. She texted me from the yacht about midnight to say she was having a wonderful time. That's the last I heard from her.'

'Have you spoken to anyone else about this?'

'I tried asking Sergio where Angele was. He fobbed me off, but he sounded angry.' She halted as if afraid to say what she was thinking.

'Why do you think he was angry?' Patrick asked.

'Without Angele they cannot promote the film.'

'Is that all?'

As she composed herself, Patrick decided he'd at last reached the real reason for her underlying fear.

'Angele was wearing the black pearl when she disappeared,' Camille said quietly.

Her violet-tinged eyes met his own.

'And you think your sister may have stolen the pearl?'

'I do not know, monsieur.' Camille's hand, when she touched his, was ice cold. 'But I fear if she has, then Chapayev may kill her to get it back.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Case of the Black Pearl by Lin Anderson. Copyright © 2014 Lin Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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