At the request of his father, Pendragon and Pruitt travel to the town of Dalwich, where a gruesome crime has desecrated the hallowed halls of Whitmore Abbey. The abbott has been slaughtered in his cell with multiple stab wounds and his tongue cut out. Although Father Demetris, the local bishop's associate, has faith that the killer must be an outsider from the village, Pendragon considers no man above suspicion--including the brooding brothers of the order.
But before Pendragon and Pruitt can make much progress in their investigation, a second corpse is found--a barmaid who has been mutilated in the same way as the monk. Now they must determine if there is a connection between the butchered Benedictine and the victim from the village. Whether the killer comes from within the walls of Whitmore Abbey or without, it will be up to Pendragon and Pruitt to illuminate--and unravel--a deadly mystery before more lives are lost…
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The Dalwich Desecration
A Colin Pendragon Mystery
By GREGORY HARRIS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Gregory Harris
All rights reserved.
Even with my head buried deep inside the large armoire in the second bedroom of our flat, I could still manage to hear Colin railing at poor Maurice Evans. The good man had only just received the nod from Scotland Yard that morning informing him that he had been chosen to transitionally replace his former superior, the late Inspector Emmett Varcoe. This meant that, for the time being, Mr. Evans had earned the wholly convoluted title of "Acting Inspector." It had apparently been determined that, while he might not yet be good enough to actually be the inspector, it was perfectly appropriate to have him carry all the duties and responsibilities therein. Which is what had brought him to our Kensington flat to suffer Colin's diatribes mere hours after the announcement of his novel sort of non-promotion. I only hoped that his paycheck had been adjusted to properly reflect the newly won hazards he now faced.
"... careless misstep ..." I heard Colin scolding in between the sound of discordantly clanking metal, alerting me to the fact that he was hefting his dumbbells about even as he upbraided poor Mr. Evans. I knew it to be less an attempt to improve his physique than to assuage his own frustrations at having allowed Charlotte Hutton to slip away before he could prove her complicity in our last case. For though she had appeared to remain above reproach throughout our investigation, she had, in the end, proved to be the mastermind behind the murder of five men and her own young son in a cruel plot to appropriate extraordinary sums for herself. And one of those men killed was Maurice Evans's superior, Inspector Varcoe.
Seizing the pair of boots I had been fumbling for, I stood up and tossed them on the bed next to the nearly filled trunk just in time to hear Acting Inspector Evans say something about cooperation. The word made me cringe as it was our uncharacteristic cooperation with the Yard that had led to the shooting death of Inspector Varcoe. It also levied the first black mark on Colin's otherwise unblemished record for resolving cases. So I was not the least surprised when I heard Colin rapidly fire back something about "incompetence," "foolhardy," and "bloody disgraceful." What I did not know was whether he was referring to the unfortunate Inspector Varcoe, Maurice Evans himself, or the whole of Scotland Yard.
I eyed the trunk, taunting me from atop the bed, and knew I would have to come back to it. Never mind that we had been summoned without delay to the small Sussex town of Dalwich to investigate the mutilation and murder of the abbot there. I could tell that if I didn't quickly intervene between Colin and Mr. Evans, we were bound to end up at cross-purposes with the Yard again. Giving the trunk a final guilty look, I headed out to our parlor at the front of the flat.
"... utmost respect for you and Inspector Varcoe ..." Colin was carrying on without a great deal of conviction. "But the two of you, in fact, the whole of your blasted Yard, failed to fulfill the expectations placed upon you by your constituency."
"My constituency ...?!" Acting Inspector Evans sallied back as I came into the room, the poor man appearing as perturbed as I knew Colin to be. "It isn't as if we are elected officials. We aren't the Parliament, you know. Most of us are just trying to earn our way to a decent pension before our knees give out."
"And that," Colin groused, "is the first honest thing you have said this morning." He was sitting on my hard-backed desk chair curling his dumbbells as though trying to fan a fire. The poor seat shuddered and groaned as he raised and lowered the metal plates with smooth fluidity, his muscles bulging against his damp undershirt in an obvious attempt to cow Mr. Evans.
"You will forgive our informality," I muttered even though I was properly clothed. "And if you break my chair," I said to Colin, "I shall be quite bloody well peeved." I glanced back at Mr. Evans and was pleased to find him biting back a grin as I sat down across from him. "Has he even offered you any tea?"
"Stop being nice to him when I'm trying to make a point," Colin protested as he began swinging the dumbbells behind his head in a further display of his irrefutable upper-body strength.
"I'm certain your point is already well made. I heard most of it myself from the back room. Besides, I don't know why you think he deserves your grief, it's not like he was in charge of the Connicle investigation. Even now he's only managed to boost himself into some transitory sort of hinterland. Acting Inspector, isn't it ...?" I ribbed.
"Well, I'll not take the blame for Charlotte Hutton's disappearance." Colin continued to carry on as he dropped his dumbbells onto the floor and popped out of the chair. "Can we please get some fresh tea up here, Mrs. Behmoth?" he called down the stairs as he toweled his face and arms and stalked over to the fireplace. "Your Yard lost track of her, which allowed her to siphon those funds into Swiss accounts that we can't get a bloody read on. And that has left a stain on my reputation." Just saying those words caused his brow to cave in, his annoyance as fresh as if the event had just happened a moment before. "So, now I am left to set this Hutton business to rights when Ethan and I must leave in two hours' time to investigate this ghastly slaying of an abbot. A case, I might add, that my father has personally asked me to undertake." He turned away and stared into the fire, shaking his head from side to side.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Pendragon. I only came because I thought we could work together against Mrs. Hutton. To set that case to rights. Perhaps I was being foolish."
I was stunned by Maurice Evans's smoothness as he stared at Colin's back with grave earnestness, and wondered where he had learned to be so polished. "Work together ...?" Colin scoffed as he turned back around and glared at Mr. Evans, though I could see that he was enticed by the man's diffident words. "Your Yard has already dragged me into its mire, and given that we have to leave town I don't see as I have much choice." He swept one of his pistols off the mantel and began quickly disassembling it. "So, tell me, what in the ruddy hell is your Yard doing to locate Mrs. Hutton?"
"Well, ain't that a fine way a speakin' ta comp'ny," Mrs. Behmoth blurted as she reached the landing with a fresh pot of hot water and a plate of biscuits. "'E sure as shite ain't got the silver tongue of 'is father," she added as she moved to the table and refilled the teapot with the water from her tray before setting the plate of biscuits down.
Mr. Evans snickered and I found I could barely stop myself from doing the same. "I like to think that every man has his own good qualities," he managed to say after a moment.
"The only good qualities they got is the ones the women who bring 'em up give 'em." She turned and headed back to the stairs.
"Such insight," Colin snapped at her, the pieces of the pistol he'd been working on spread out on the mantel beside him. "Thank you so much."
Mrs. Behmoth stared back from the landing, the tea tray hanging from one hand and the empty water pot in her other, her eyes fixed on Colin. "Yer welcome," she fired back before trundling off down the stairs.
Colin's expression soured as he quickly reassembled the pistol and came over to his chair to sit down. "I feel like she just took credit for the whole of my upbringing. Not that there isn't a fair amount of truth to it," he grumbled as he shoved the pistol beneath his seat cushion and leaned forward to pour us all more tea, fixing his gaze on Mr. Evans. "Ethan and I will indeed help you solve the disappearance of Mrs. Hutton and bring that ghastly woman to justice, but we will expect your lot to do your part."
A lopsided smile swept across Mr. Evans's face. "It will be an honor to have your aid," he answered at once, and I knew he meant it. "I shall propose the arrangement to my superiors at once. I am certain they will be as grateful as I am."
"And just how do you propose that we begin to hunt for this woman?"
Mr. Evans appeared to ponder the question a moment, but as he did so I caught the glimpse of a thought already well formed and knew he had come here with a specific idea in mind. "Well ... ," he started to say, his tone a touch too solemn, "we are going to need someone to speak with the Swiss authorities. The only way I can conceive of flushing Mrs. Hutton out is to allow the Yard some latitude in accessing her accounts at Credit Suisse, which is the last place her financial maneuverings led us."
"But that will require a trip to Geneva," I spoke up. "We can't possibly do that now."
"Zurich, actually," Mr. Evans corrected, tossing me a pointed look that momentarily confused me. "Credit Suisse is headquartered in Zurich. It is easier to get to than Geneva, but perhaps a visit would not be required at all...." He let his voice trail off and that was when I realized what he was up to. It wasn't Colin's help he was seeking, it was that of his father.
"I haven't the time to go to Zurich now," Colin reiterated with a frown, and I rather pitied Mr. Evans in that moment because I knew Colin would never arrive at the conclusion he was seeking. "Really, Mr. Evans, isn't that a task better handled by the Yard?"
"I'm afraid you give the Yard too much credit, Mr. Pendragon."
"Oh ... I hardly think you can accuse me of that," Colin shot back.
"What you are really looking for," I cut in, anxious to lead Colin to the heart of the request, "is something of a more ... diplomatic assist. Isn't that it?"
"Precisely." Mr. Evans practically crowed his relief. "A point of entrée with the Swiss authorities to get us started. And after that" — he smiled with an eagerness that I found disconcerting — "the two of you would be like a part of the Scotland Yard team itself."
"I don't fancy being an actual part of your team." Colin dismissed the idea as he went back to sipping his tea.
"It's just a turn of phrase," Mr. Evans delicately backtracked, waving a hand through the air, his gray eyes alive with equal parts desperation and determination. "I meant more like an adjunct of the Yard. A critical one. Like the head. You'd be like the head of Scotland Yard with access to all of the Yard's resources and information, but you wouldn't actually be part of the Yard. You'd be above it. Like ... the head ..." Poor Mr. Evans finally ran out of steam with a look that bordered on embarrassment.
"Do you hear yourself?" Colin asked, one eyebrow arcing skyward.
Mr. Evans shook his head and rubbed his brow before looking back at us. "I don't need to. I've been practicing this folly for two days."
It was enough to get Colin to crack a smile. "You are a cheeky one, Maurice Evans," he muttered. "Better that you should just come right out and say what you mean. That works best for me."
"Oh ..." I cut in with a chuckle, "I'm afraid there is an endless parade of victims of your unabashed forthrightness who would disagree." I turned back to Mr. Evans. "Better you should continue your folly."
Colin slid a look of mock offense to me as he set his teacup down before settling his gaze on the acting inspector. "I suppose Mr. Pruitt is not wrong. I am hardly the man to convince a government, a corporate institution, or even a canine to alter its ways. I simply haven't the patience for it. As Mrs. Behmoth so willingly pointed out, I may be a diplomat's son, but I am not a diplomat. Which leads us to the true purpose of your visit here this morning...."
"I was trying so hard to be discreet," Maurice Evans lamented.
"A sorry waste," Colin repeated. "Mr. Pruitt and I will stop by my father's estate on our way to Victoria Station. He is bound to know at least one or two of the Swiss Federal Council members. I shall ask him to lend us a hand in getting some information about Mrs. Hutton's accounts at the bank. If anyone can do it ..." He did not need to finish the sentiment as he polished off his tea. "But as I said before, I will insist that you and your Yard do your own diligence while we are away. I find it impossible to believe that there are not some channels of diplomacy already open between your lot and the Swiss Department of Justice and Police. I shall expect you to needle the appropriate conduits to get whatever you can. Don't expect me to settle this Hutton affair and share the accolades with you Yarders unless they are well earned."
"I would not accept it any other way," Maurice Evans answered at once. "You have my word that I will be doing whatever I can to help prod the Swiss authorities while the two of you are gone. It is the least of what I owe Inspector Varcoe."
Colin flinched slightly, but I don't believe Mr. Evans caught sight of it. "Of course," was all he said.
"And just what is this case you're off to investigate?" Mr. Evans asked.
"The abbot of a small monastery was found stabbed to death in his room two mornings ago. An extraordinarily blood-soaked scene from what little we have heard. But most disturbingly we are told that his tongue was cut right out of his head. It has never been found."
"How awful," Mr. Evans gasped. "That's a hell of a way to silence a man."
"But who the bloody hell would kill a monk?" He looked from Colin to me, the very thought of the repugnant deed wholly evident on his face.
"Who," Colin repeated, "and why ...?" He yanked out his pocket watch and gave it a quick glance. "I'm afraid we haven't the time to deliberate it as we really must be going if we are to stop by my father's on our way to the station."
"I just need a minute...." I bolted up, abruptly reminded of the yawing trunk still waiting for me to finish with it. I did not miss Colin's cocked eyebrow as I hurried past him, nor his last directions to Mr. Evans as he led him downstairs.
"You will send me a telegram if you should learn or hear anything while we are away," he was instructing Mr. Evans, "and you will not make a move on Mrs. Hutton unless I am right beside you. I shall have your word on both things."
I did not hear Maurice Evans's reply. But then I didn't need to.CHAPTER 2
The cell — for that was how the priest had referred to it — was small, sparse, windowless, and scrupulously clean. The very sight of it was both astonishing and disheartening. I could not believe how austere a place it was — though I could not now recollect what else I had expected to find in a monastery — and as I scanned my eyes around the pristine little space I appreciated Colin's distress at discovering that the monks had taken it upon themselves to obliterate all signs of the horrendous murder that had taken place here only sixty hours before. The harsh tang of lemon and lye was the sole remnant of something gone awry, though for all I knew this was the standard by which this monastery maintained itself, assuming the brotherhood believed the old adage of cleanliness and godliness.
"The only crime that I can see," Colin said, his voice taut with displeasure as the three of us stared into the cell, "is that you have allowed the scene of this assassination to be so completely eradicated. And this when you say you have kept the room locked since the morning of the murder. I am ..." He shook his head and did not bother to finish his thought, which seemed the best course of action given that we were speaking to a cleric.
"Oh no, Mr. Pendragon." Father Nolan Demetris quickly spoke up. "It was not me. I wasn't here on Tuesday. I live in Chichester and serve under Bishop Fencourt at the cathedral there. I only arrived myself this morning once we had gotten word that you and Mr. Pruitt were coming. The bishop sent me to ensure that the two of you get acclimated and access to everything you require." He hesitated before clearing his throat. "Most of the brothers here are not used to dealing with people from outside, you understand."
Colin turned to the dark-haired priest with a scowl. "Then who was it who purged this cell, and whyever was it done?"
Excerpted from The Dalwich Desecration by GREGORY HARRIS. Copyright © 2016 Gregory Harris. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a rule this series is good, but this one was the worst so far. Questioning the Bible without any proof and one death not even accounted for after much was made of it. More attention needs to be paid to finishing the current book than rushing to get to the next one so as to finish the alphabet.
I can not wait until the next in the series. What great story telling.
4 stars! The 4th installment in the Colin Pendragon series! Colin Pendragon, not one to ever admit defeat while investigating a case (as he has never lost one before), refuses to admit defeat now, determined if need be, to follow the devious Mrs. Hutton all the way to Switzerland where she has apparently eluded him in her escape. Determined, even so far as to enlist the assistance of his Diplomat father. However, Colin's father arrives with a pressing matter of his own that will put further delay in Colin attaining his goal to clear his reputation and solving his open case. A brutal murder in a monastery in a small village outside of London has occurred, and Colin Pendragon and Ethan are called upon personally by the Bishop to investigate. Not a hospitable group these monks, taking umbrage with his drilling questions and apparent disregard of all things pious in their secret assembly. While applying his craft another murder occurs in the village, a very popular bar maid is also found murdered in exactly the same manner, or is it? No one is above suspicion and Colin is determined that he will get his answers!
This is the first Colin Pendragon Mystery I have ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it --- the characters were most interesting and a tad unusual. The historic times of the novel seemed to be in time with what was going on and very interesting. The plot was well formed, the story well written and well worth the read! Quite entertaining, fun and easy to read!
I enjoyed this story so much, I believe this is my favorite of Mr. Harris's books so far. I loved the setting, and that each character was so well and succinctly drawn. I am most impressed with the beautifully descriptive writing, the volumes of information contained in each word tell a small story in themselves. I also loved the Biblical history; as I continue on my own journey of faith, learning more about the author's journey and thoughts as contained in Ethan's and Colin's experiences leads me to more clearly see the Lord's presence in my life and the lives of others today. A very intriguing experience, I was sorry to see it end.