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Hazards in Hampshire by Emma Dakin
British Book Tour Mystery 1
Camel Press • October 15, 2019
Moving to a quiet English village should have been tranquil, but Claire Barclay learns that even an invitation to tea can be deadly. Who killed Mrs. Paulson, the president of the local Mystery Books Club? Was the motive for murder located in the archives of the book club? The members of the books club might have reason to want Mrs. Paulson’s out of the way. She had lived in the village all her life, been involved in many organizations and societies and knew many secrets of the villagers. Was one secret too dangerous for her to keep? She had been wealthy and left her money to a member of the club. Could the legatee have been impatient for her inheritance? Who cared enough to want her dead? Claire, an expert in solving problems in her job as a tour guide, decides to delve into the archives and into the lives of the villagers—and find out.
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I had expected my hostess at the tea party to be boring. I hadn’t expected her to be dead. When I first glimpsed her, I wasn’t sure if the body was my hostess. But she was the only person in the gazebo and she had asked me to meet her there. This must be Mrs. Paulson. I swallowed, tried to steady my breathing and looked for someone to ask. The street was screened by a trellis of roses, preventing me from seeing anyone passing by. I couldn’t hear anyone. There was no one to accept the
responsibly of dealing with this except me. Mrs. Paulson wasn’t a friend of mine.
I didn’t even remember her. She claimed she’d met me at a conference and sent an invitation to tea which arrived just as I was looking for an escape from my house. First thing that morning, I’d tried to fix the sink. I managed to shut off the water and attempted to loosen a nut put on by a plumber with sadistic intentions. It would not budge. I heard the letter box lid clang. Good. A distraction. I’d give up on the plumbing as an impossible task. I pushed to my feet, cracked my head on the slanted sink, but managed to stand straight in the tiny loo and deposit the useless wrench in the sink. Since I was back in England, it wasn’t a wrench, it was a spanner. Still useless.
I trailed my hand along the rail as I moved quickly down the stairs, admiring the warm brown wood someone carved many years ago. I smiled. It was all mine. After all my years of traveling, I was surprised to discover I was a nester at heart and passionate about owning a home.
The envelope I fished from the letter box was square, not the usual business style. Inside, I found an invitation to afternoon tea. Today. Afternoon tea? I hadn’t been to afternoon tea since I was a child.
“Mrs. Ernest Paulson requests the honour of your presence at her home……” I read the rest of the printed invitation quickly. The date and time, today at two, were written in elegant cursive as was a message on the bottom. “I look forward to pursuing our acquaintance started at the Crimefest in Bristol.”
Bristol. I couldn’t put a face to her name as there were numerous people who had milled around, chatting and asking questions at the conference. She must have been one of the attendees, living here in my new village. This was a chance to meet someone local. I’d go and leave my plumbing problems behind me.
I walked up her gravel walk, printed invitation with its written gracious message tucked in my rucksack. She lived in an attractive brick two-up-two-down cottage with wisteria rambling over the front porch and yellow roses almost covering the front paned windows. A bee hummed past my ear. It was a beautiful spot, a quintessential English village cottage and garden.
“Take the left-hand path to the gazebo,” the instructions had said. “I will serve tea there.”
Dutifully, I turned left and approached the charming octagonal gazebo. I could see a table laden with teapot, cups and saucers and a tier of goodies, but no Mrs. Paulson. As I approached the brick steps I saw a foot, Joseph Siegal shoe, mid-range expensive, then the ankle and finally a woman stretched out on the wooden floor.
“Mrs. Paulson?” I leaned over her. “What’s the matter?”
She was silent. A chaffinch twittered nearby and a brambling called its buzzerlike steady note. I could hear a car rumble past on the road. I touched her wrist.
No pulse. Every tour guide has to have a first-aid certificate, so I knew how to detect a pulse. I tried at the carotid artery. Again, no pulse. No respirations. Wide open blue eyes, glazed and immobile. Mrs. Paulson was definitely dead. Should I start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? I hesitated. Could I get her heart working? Should I compress her chest? Those glazed eyes told me not to try. She was dead. I shuddered. Think, Claire. A smack above the heart can sometimes re-start it. I’d try it. I punched her hard in the sternum. Her body rolled a little, but there was no response. I struck her chest twice more and could detect no difference. Not even a flutter from her pulse. Whoever Mrs. Paulson had been, she was gone.
About the Author
This is Emma Dakin’s first series, set in Britain the homeland of Emma’s grandparents. Emma channels her mother’s inherited English culture along with the attitudes and sayings of the modern Brits. She travels widely in England and at one point this May while travelling through the Yorkshire Moors she had all the tourists in a tour bus looking for a good place to hide a body. As Marion Crook, she has published many novels of adventure and mystery for young adult and middle grade readers as well as non-fiction for adults and young adults and non-fiction on social issues. Firmly in the cozy mystery genre now, and committed to absorbing the culture and changing world of Britain, she plans to enjoy the research and the writing of cozies.
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