Trick of the Mind, Cassandra Chan's third clever outing for these best friends, written in the classic tradition with a delightfully modern voice all its own, is a charming story that mystery lovers are sure to enjoy.
Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons has been shot twice, and even after the surgery he isn't out of the woods and may still be in danger because he can't remember how it all happened. While his colleagues dig into his personal life, his best friend, Phillip Bethancourt, focuses on his last case, the robbery of a collection of antique jewelry valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds. Although Phillip is a man of leisure---handsome, charismatic, and fantastically well off---he makes a point of tagging along on Jack's more interesting cases.
But this time it's different. Not only is it personal, but Phillip will have to fill in the blanks without Jack, and retracing his friend's steps may put him in the same line of fire.
"Chan pulls off an ending as surprising as it is fitting." - Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Cassandra Chan has published two novels, most recently Village Affairs, and several short stories featuring Gibbons and Bethancourt. She lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Cassandra Chan has published four novels, most recently Trick of the Mind and A Spider on the Stairs, and several short stories featuring Gibbons and Bethancourt. She lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
Trick of the Mind
By Cassandra Chan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Cassandra Chan
All rights reserved.
It was eleven o'clock when they finished dinner and spilled out into the Boulevard St. Germain in high spirits, Marla laughing and rather tipsy with the champagne she had drunk. The fine November rain was chilly and Phillip Bethancourt tucked his arm around his girlfriend while she demanded to know what the others were saying. Bethancourt, cocking an ear toward the rapid cross fire of French among their companions, answered, "They're still arguing about the nightclub. Let's get a taxi, shall we?"
In the end, three taxis were procured to transport the entire party to one or another of the several Parisian nightclubs under discussion. Bethancourt, gallantly ushering the ladies in, found himself separated from Marla when he finally slid into the back of the car and slammed shut the door. Jean-Louis, up front with the driver, was giving instructions, and Catrine was leaning forward to argue with him. Bethancourt settled back in his cramped corner, content to let the others decide their destination, and lit a cigarette while the taxi started off. In his pocket, his mobile phone began ringing and Bethancourt dug it out with some difficulty, given the tight confines of the backseat.
It proved to be Spencer Kendrick in one of the other taxis.
"Have you any idea where we're going?" he demanded.
"No," answered Bethancourt cheerfully.
"Well, ring me if we end up in different places."
"Righto," agreed Bethancourt, and rang off. Before attempting to return the phone to his pocket, he checked his messages, finding one left much earlier in the evening by his friend Jack Gibbons.
"Got an interesting one on," said Gibbons's voice. "I'd like to hear what you make of it. Ring me when you get a chance."
Eleven o'clock, reflected Bethancourt, meant ten in London, which in turn meant Gibbons should be at home, preparing for bed. Without much further thought, Bethancourt pressed the speed dial on his phone, half his attention on the conversation in the taxi, which still centered on the various merits of different clubs. Thus occupied, he started when the voice answering the phone was not that of his friend, but was instead the gravelly tones of Detective Chief Inspector Wallace Carmichael of New Scotland Yard. Unconsciously, Bethancourt sat up a little straighter.
"Sorry to trouble you, sir," he said at once. "It's Bethancourt here. I was just ringing Jack back, but I'm sure it can wait."
"Bethancourt?" said Carmichael. He sounded disappointed. "Where are you?"
"Paris, sir," answered Bethancourt, shifting to shield the phone from the sound of the nightclub discussion, which had suddenly increased in volume.
There was a slight pause while the chief inspector assimilated this.
"And you say Gibbons rang you earlier?" he asked.
"He left a message, sir. I've only just got it — I had hoped to catch him at home before he went to bed."
"Did he say anything? What time did he ring you?" demanded Carmichael.
Bethancourt was instantly uneasy. "It was about six thirty, sir," he replied. "And he only said he had an interesting case on and I should ring him back. Has something happened?"
"Too bloody right it has," growled Carmichael. "Sergeant Gibbons is on his way to hospital — he's been shot."
Someone was shouting at the taxi driver, and the car swerved suddenly, changing direction and toppling Bethancourt into the door. He clutched at the phone desperately.
"Bethancourt? Are you there?"
"Yes, sir," he managed. "Is Jack all right?"
"I don't know," said Carmichael, his voice angry. "He's still alive, at any rate, but they only found him half an hour ago. I'm just leaving for the hospital myself."
"I'll start back at once, sir," said Bethancourt. "If I leave now, I can be there by morning. The mobile number will reach me in the meantime."
The taxi was slowing; up ahead there were lights and people milling about on the sidewalk.
"I've got to ring off now," said Bethancourt. "I'll get under way as quick as I can."
It was raining in London, too. Carmichael tried to shield Gibbons's mobile as he gingerly pressed the off button with a gloved finger. Then he dropped it back into the plastic evidence bag, but hesitated as he started to hand it back to the scene-of-the-crime officer who had brought the ringing to his attention.
"Better keep it with you," he said. "If it rings again, answer it and let me know at once."
"Yes, sir," said the SOCKO, taking the bag. "You want the usual on it otherwise?"
Carmichael nodded curtly.
Bag in hand, the officer turned away and Carmichael surveyed the scene with an irate eye, cursing the rain under his breath. Beneath the bus shelter, two SOCKOs knelt, taking samples of the spreading bloodstain as fast as they could, trying to shield the pavement with their bodies. Other officers were scrutinizing the sidewalk and street, though there was really no chance any evidence would remain. They would probably not even be trying if the victim had not been a fellow officer.
In any case, there was certainly nothing left here for Carmichael to do. He walked briskly back to his car, banging the door closed and starting the engine up with a jerk.
"Why the devil hasn't O'Leary rung up?" he muttered as he pulled away from the curb. He fumbled with his mobile as he squinted through the windscreen; his night sight was not what it was, and the reflection of the city lights in the raindrops did not help matters.
"Sergeant O'Leary!" he barked when his call was answered. "What's happening?"
"I don't know, sir." Detective Sergeant Chris O'Leary sounded frustrated. "They've whisked him away somewhere and all I know for certain is that he's not gone into the operating theater yet."
"Why the hell not?"
"I've been trying to find out, sir, but the doctors haven't come back out yet."
"Have you got his things?" asked Carmichael desperately. "They undestood his belongings would be wanted as evidence, didn't they?"
"Yes, sir," replied O'Leary. "One of the nurses brought everything out in plastic bags and I've got it all safe. Hodges is on his way here to take it all back to the lab."
"Thank God," muttered Carmichael.
"Sir," said O'Leary, his voice suddenly urgent, "I'll ring you back. I see one of the doctors."
The line went dead and Carmichael cursed as he flung aside his phone and concentrated on getting to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Bethancourt was engaged in the same enterprise, only at a much greater distance.
"I need a car," he told Spencer Kendrick as they stood outside the nightclub in the drizzle. "If I leave straightaway, I can make one of the late-night ferries and be in London before dawn."
"Take the hire car," responded Kendrick. "I've got the keys here somewhere."
"Do you want me to come with you?" asked Marla, striving to appear quite sober and responsible, and partially succeeding.
In truth, Bethancourt did not. "No need," he assured her, rather touched not only by the offer, but also by the fact that she was standing out in the rain without complaint.
"You know," Kendrick said, producing the car keys at last, "if you waited and took the first flight in the morning, you'd only be an hour or two later. You're not gaining much time by driving all night."
Bethancourt shot him a dry look. "I really don't think I could endure several hours of enforced idleness," he said.
"Well, no, I can see that," admitted Kendrick, handing over the keys. "The car's in the hotel garage," he added.
"Cheers," said Bethancourt. He stowed the keys in his jacket pocket and turned to kiss Marla good-bye.
"Be careful," she murmured. "I hope Jack's all right."
So did Bethancourt. Back in the taxi, he checked his watch, although he knew he could not possibly ring Carmichael back so soon; the chief inspector would not even have reached the hospital yet. So he leaned back with a sigh, unaware of his fingers drumming a tattoo on the car's upholstery. He was charged with adrenaline but had nowhere to expend it, his mind racing in a fruitless effort to understand what had happened.
At the hotel, he packed his bag hastily, cramming the clothes in anyhow, while the hotel staff fetched the car and searched out a ferry timetable for him. He ordered a large espresso to take away and sipped at it while he took the lift down, still impatient and trying to keep a tight rein on himself until he could at last be on his way.
The rain had stopped by the time he started out at a quarter past midnight, though the weather report on the radio said it was coming down heavily in Pas de Calais. He had a long way to go before he got so far. Lighting a cigarette, he concentrated on maneuvering his way out of Paris until at last he reached the Autoroute du Nord and could push the Volvo into fifth gear.
The hospital emergency room was awash with plainclothes policemen. Detective Sergeant Chris O'Leary, black-haired and only a couple of years older than his wounded colleague, still stood guard over the polythene bags containing Gibbons's clothes and other belongings; apparently Hodges had not yet arrived to take them back to the forensics lab. Along the row of seats to O'Leary's left, Detective Inspector Hollings, who had been the first to respond to the call of an officer down in Walworth, sat with Detective Inspector Davies of the Arts Theft Division, for whom Gibbons had been working during the past few weeks. And hovering in the doorway, looking uneasy, was Detective Constable Jonathan Lemmy, Carmichael's own cross to bear during the current Scotland Yard rota.
Apart from Hollings, who had been on call, they were all dressed in casual clothing, but an air of officialdom seemed to cling to them, or perhaps it was the tension in their manner. Whatever the reason, the civilians in the waiting room had clustered together away from the policemen and from time to time cast curious glances toward them and their uniformed counterparts who stood guard at the doors.
O'Leary was the first to see Carmichael.
"Sir," he said urgently, crossing the room.
"What news?" asked Carmichael, lengthening his stride to meet the sergeant halfway. "Did you speak to the doctors?"
"Yes, sir," replied O'Leary. "I did try to ring you, sir."
"Never mind, Sergeant," said Carmichael impatiently. "What did they say? Is he still alive?"
O'Leary nodded, but his brow remained creased with anxiety. "They seem to think they can save him, though they haven't said as much," he replied. "He's not gone into surgery yet — they want to get him stabilized and his blood pressure up before they operate."
"How long will that take?" demanded Carmichael.
O'Leary spread his hands. "They didn't say. The surgeon," he added in an attempt to make up for this deficiency of information, "should be out to speak to us before they take him into OR."
Carmichael nodded brusquely. He knew he was taking his bad temper out on the sergeant, but at the moment he didn't care.
Hollings and Davies had risen and were waiting at his shoulder. He scowled and turned his attention to them.
"What case did you have him on, Davies?" he demanded.
Davies, a dapper man with a public-school accent, looked startled at Carmichael's accusatory tone, but was wise enough to reply mildly, "The Haverford robbery, Chief Inspector. Nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly nothing that could have led to this."
"Walworth isn't exactly the sort of neighborhood you'd look for clues about the Haverfords," put in Hollings and got the scowl transferred to himself for his trouble.
"Don't be an ass," snapped Carmichael. "Walworth is chock-full of stolen goods and people who fence them and you know it."
Hollings sighed. "Just trying to pour oil on troubled waters, sir."
"Keep your damned oil to yourself," muttered Carmichael, but he turned away as he said it so that the other men did not quite catch the words. No one asked him to repeat himself.
"Has anything turned up at the scene, sir?" ventured O'Leary.
"The bloody scene is washed out," said Carmichael, frustration and worry making his voice harsh. "The SOCKOs are salvaging what they can, but it won't be much."
Hollings cleared his throat. "I've put the local uniforms on to a house-to-house," he said. "And I've got DC Cummings down at Lambeth station — evidently there was a report of gunshots down there this evening, but they found nothing when they investigated."
Carmichael's eyebrows bristled. "And so they just toddled off to their beds with not a care in the world about the unexplained gunfire on their patch? Oh, that's brilliant, that is."
The others shifted uncomfortably.
"We're not yet certain what happened, sir," said Hollings. "I'm sure they did their best."
"Well, if their best didn't find the man who was bleeding to death on their patch, it obviously wasn't good enough, was it?"
Hollings sighed. "No, sir."
"Oh, never mind."
Carmichael turned away and tried to pull his thoughts together. Before this current rotation, Detective Sergeant Gibbons had been his blue-eyed boy, promoted to Sergeant unusually early, and Carmichael thought a lot of him. More than that, he liked the young man, and had come to admire the combination of intellect and hard work that had gained him his early promotion. Having him seriously wounded whilst under another officer's supervision was difficult for Carmichael to accept. He took a deep breath.
"Right then," he said. "We'll have to hope that when Gibbons comes to, he'll be able to identify his assailant. He was shot from the front, wasn't he?"
"Yes, sir," said Hollings. "At least, so the paramedics said. O'Leary here spoke to them when he arrived at the scene. They didn't beat him there by much."
"They were just examining him when I got there, sir," volunteered O'Leary. "I told you — he was shot in the stomach, they thought twice though they didn't rule out a third shot. The rain had washed a lot of the blood away, but from where we found his mobile phone, he had crawled a few yards before he passed out."
They were all silent, the searing picture of a bloody Sergeant Gibbons crawling on the pavement in the rain flashing into all their minds.
"I was wondering, sir," said Davies into the silence, his tone hesitant. "I was wondering about notifying Gibbons's people."
Carmichael was startled that he hadn't thought of this himself. He considered briefly, and then shook his head.
"There's nothing they can do," he said. "Aside, that is, from worrying themselves sick while they try to drive down here from Bedfordshire in the middle of the night. You're quite right to think of it, Davies, but I believe it would be kinder to send a car for them. With luck, we'll have better news to relay to them by the time it gets there ..."
His voice trailed off, and they all avoided each other's eyes. Then Carmichael's mobile began to ring, relieving the tension, and the others stepped back to give him privacy to answer it, though they all watched him with eagle eyes, trying to discern every scrap of information they could from his words and expressions.
Only O'Leary, however, knew the name that Carmichael repeated in surprise.
"Bethancourt?" he said.
The rented Volvo sped along the A1, past Saint-Denis, heading out into the night along the rain-slick pavement of the motorway. Bethancourt was normally an erratic driver, one more interested in what could be seen out of the car windows than in the road before him, but on this occasion he was fully concentrated on the highway and on putting as many miles behind him as quickly as possible. The traffic at this hour was not particularly heavy, even so close to Paris, and he was making excellent time, driving well past the limit allowed on the French motorways.
He checked his watch for the fifth time since he had set out, not wanting to ring Carmichael back before the chief inspector could reach the hospital and get some news of Gibbons's condition. Bethancourt had already allowed more than enough time for this, although he was not conscious of it. Deep down, he was dreading to hear his worst fears confirmed: that Gibbons had died.
"He must be there by now," he muttered to himself, and blindly reached for his mobile phone, lying on the passenger seat.
"Carmichael." The chief inspector answered at once, sounding distracted.
"It's Phillip Bethancourt, sir," said Bethancourt. "Is there any news about Jack?"
"Bethancourt?" Carmichael sounded surprised, as though he were trying to place the name. But in the next moment, a kinder tone came into his voice as he said, "He's still alive, lad. There's no real news yet — apparently they're trying to stabilize him before they take him in for surgery."
Bethancourt let out a long sigh of relief. "Thank you, sir," he said fervently. "I was rather afraid — well, never mind."
"We've all been worried," said Carmichael sympathetically. "We're just trying to sort out what happened here. You ring me a bit later and I may have more news."
"Thank you, sir," said Bethancourt. "Thank you very much. I'll do that."
Carmichael rang off and Bethancourt tossed the phone back into the passenger seat, very glad of this respite from his worst fears, even if it was only temporary.
He felt, he realized, guilty, as if he had let his friend down by being out of the country just when he was wanted. It was a wholly unreasonable feeling, but knowing that did not seem to improve his outlook.
Excerpted from Trick of the Mind by Cassandra Chan. Copyright © 2008 Cassandra Chan. 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.
Table of Contents
1 - The Night,
2 - The Morning,
3 - Rude Awakening,
4 - The Haverford Case,
5 - Kith and Kin,
6 - The Jewels,
7 - The Pennycook Case,
8 - The House in Southgate,
9 - A Pint After Work,
10 - Dead Ends,
11 - The Witness,
12 - A Relative Complication,
13 - Meeting of the Minds,
14 - Stained Evidence,
15 - Quaint Traditions,
16 - An Interview in Hospital,
17 - Gibbons's Notebook,
18 - Cautious Distrust,
19 - Tea with the Burdalls,
20 - On Hampstead Heath,
21 - The End of a Long Day,
22 - A Place For Lemmy,
23 - The Executor,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Trick of the Mind (2008) is Cassandra Chan's third book in her Gibbons and Bethancourt mystery series (preceded by their debut in The Young Widow (2005), and Village Affairs (2006)). This book starts with the unthinkable. Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons has been shot twice. Worse, no one knows why, least of all Jack who has no memory of the preceding events or the shooting itself. With mere fragments, Gibbons' best friend Philip Bethancourt and Chief Inspector Carmichael try to put together the events that led to this brutal attack. As the investigation leads to a seemingly unrelated jewel robbery and a dodgy London neighborhood, Bethancourt begins to wonder if any of the pieces will fall into place without Gibbons' own memories to connect things. Initially I was profoundly worried when I heard that Gibbons began this book by being shot. Was he being killed off? Would he go through the book in a coma? Would he be okay? (Gibbons is, incidentally, my favorite of the duo.) Upon actually reading the book, I was deeply relieved to have to these questions answered to my liking. Although Gibbons is necessarily on the sidelines for much of the action and investigation, he did play a key role. In fact, both Bethancourt and Carmichael spend a significant amount of time bemoaning Gibbons absence and the lack of his excellent investigative skills. After Bethancourt often taking the lead in the first two novels, it was nice to see Gibbons' role (and importance) acknowledged by the other characters. Although the case here is as intricate as in her earlier books, Chan spends a fair bit of time on characters here. Much of the novel offers a study of the friendship between her two protagonists--one that neither man is ashamed to admit is a close bond. Written in third person, this book also follows a lot of the characters around in the narrative. Almost anyone who has a piece of information about the shooting also gets a piece of the narrative. The structure is complex and fragmented, but works well with the general chaos of the first pages and the gaps in Gibbons' own memory. The design of this book is also different from earlier volumes in the series. The chapters here are shorter and always named (although not in a table of contents). The general span of the book also seems to take place over a shorter amount of time though that, to be fair, might be because of the urgency lent to the shooting case. These changes seem deliberate on Chan's part although I am still not sure to what end.
Happily, the two charming and intelligent sleuths, Gibbons and Bethancourt are back for a third time. This adventure takes us through the streets of London in what proves to be a true test of their friendship. As Gibbons lies in a hospital bed, the elegant and suave Bethancourt must attempt to recreate his friende's last conscious efforts to solve the case on which he was working. How well does he really know his friend and how he thinks? Can he decipher his notes and follow the trail he was pursuing when he was attacked? It's a real adventure and a great treat to tag along and see how he pieces together the clues, then tries to pick up where Gibbons left off....These two wonderful chracters are such a joy to spend time with, and in this story we get to see a little more of their pirvate and family lives, which makes it even more enjoyable. It's always a pleasure to spend time with them in town or country, and this is as much fun as ever!
Affluent Phillip Bethancourt congratulates his best friend New Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons on his transfer into The Arts Theft Division after working homicides. In fact the pair worked a couple of cases together (see THE YOUNG WIDOW and VILLAGE AFFAIRS). --- However, his accolades turn sour when someone shoots Jack. Phillip assumes the shooting of his friend is tied to his new police work most likely Jack's investigation into an antique jewelry robbery in which the detective sergeant was getting close to solving. As Jack slowly heals, Phillip quietly arranges with Police Detective Chief Inspector Carmichael to share information as the amateur sleuth makes inquires into who shot his friend and why. --- The key to this strong whodunit is that Jack is not running around town like a superhero, but instead is gradually recuperating from his wounds and is in no shape to search for clues instead the collaboration is refreshed by Jack¿s boss working with Bethancourt. The investigation is fun to follow and a final twist adds a great climax to the strong story line. Readers will appreciate the inquiries as Phillip escorts the audience on a rare tour of a part of London that seemingly never appears in literature. --- Harriet Klausner