Synopses & Reviews
Snow fell on Swainsdale for the first time that year a few days before Christmas. Out in the date, among the more remote farms and hamlets, the locals would be cursing. A heavy snowfall could mean lost sheep and blocked roads. In past years, some places had been cut off for as long as five weeks. But in Eastvale, most of those crossing the market square on the evening of December 22 felt a surge of joy as the fat flakes drifted down, glistening in the gaslight as they fell, to form a lumpy white carpet over the cobble-stones.
Detective Constable Susan Gay paused on her way back to the station from Joplin's newsagents. Outside the Norman church stood a tall Christmas tree, a gift from the Norwegian town with which Eastvale was twinned. The lights winked on and off, and its tapered branches bent under the weight of half an inch of snow. In front of the tree, a group of children in red choir-gowns stood singing "Once in Royal David's City." Their alto voices, fragile but clear, seemed especially fitting on such a beautiful winter's evening.
Susan tilted her head back and let the snowflakes melt on her eyelids. Two weeks ago she would not have allowed herself to do something so spontaneous and frivolous. But now that she was Detective Constable Gay, she could afford to relax a little. She had finished with courses and exams, at least until she tried for sergeant. Now there would be no more arguing with David Craig over who made the coffee. There would be no more walking the beat, either, and no more traffic duty on market day.
The music followed her as she headed back to the station: "And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone."
Directly in frontof her, the new blue lamp hung like a shop-sign over the doorway of the Tudor-fronted Police station. In an attempt to change the public image of the force, tarnished by race riots, sex scandals and accusations of highlevel corruption, the government had looked to the past: more specifically, to the fifties. The lamp was straight out of "Dixon of Dock Green." Susan had never actually seen the program, but she understood the basic idea. The image of the kindly old copper on the beat had caused many a laugh around Eastvale Regional Headquarters. Would that life were as simple as that, they all said.
Her second day on the job and all was well. She pushed open the door and headed for the stairs. Upstairs! The inner sanctum of the CID. She had envied them all for so long--Gristhorpe, Banks, Richmond, even Hatchley--when she had brought coffee or messages, or stood by taking notes while they interrogated female suspects. No longer. She was one of them now, and she was about to show them that a woman could do the job every bit as well as a man, if not better.
She didn't have her own office; only Banks and Gristhorpe were allowed such luxuries. The hutch she shared with Richmond would have to do. It looked over the car-park out back, not the market square, but at least she had a desk, rickety though it was, and a filing cabinet of her own. She had inherited them from Sergeant Hatchley, now exiled to the coast, and the first thing she had had to do was rip down the nude pin-ups from the cork bulletin board above his desk. How anybody could work with those bloated mammaries hanging over them was beyond her.
About forty minutes later, after she had poured herself a cup of coffee to keep herawake while she studied the latest regional crime reports, the phone rang. It was Sergeant Rowe calling from the front desk.
"Someone just phoned in to report a murder," he said.
Susan felt the adrenalin flow. She grasped the receiver tighter. "Where?"
"Oakwood Mews. You know, those tarted-up bijou terraces back of King Street."
"Not much. It was a neighbor that called. Said the woman next door went rushing into the street screaming. She took her in but couldn't get much sense out of her except that her friend had been murdered."
"Did the neighbor take a look for herself?"
"No. She said she thought she'd better call us right away."
"Can you send PC Tolliver down there?" Susan asked. "Tell him to check out the scene without touching anything. And tell him to stay by the door and not let anyone in till we get there."
"Aye," said Rowe, "but shouldn't ---"
"What's the number?"
Susan hung up. Her heart beat fast. Nothing had happened in Eastvale for months--and now, only her second day on the new job, a murder. And she was the only member of the CID on duty that evening. Calm down, she told herself, follow procedure, do it right. She reached for her coat, still damp with snow, then hurried out the back way to the car-park. Shivering, she swept the snow off the windscreen of her red Golf and drove off as fast as the bad weather allowed.
"Four and twenty virgins
Came down from Inverness,
And when the ball was over
There were four and twenty less.
"I think Jim's a bit pissed," Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks leaned over and said to his wife, Sandra.
Sandra nodded. In a comer of the EastvaleRugby Club banquet room, by the Christmas tree, Detective Sergeant Jim Hatchley stood with a group of cronies, all as big and brawny as himself. They looked like a parody of a group of carolsingers, Banks thought, each with a foaming pint in his hand. As they sang, they swayed. The other guests stood by the bar or sat at tables chatting over the noise. Carol Hatchley--né e Ellis--the sergeant's blushing bride, sat beside her mother and fumed. The couple had just changed out of their wedding clothes into less formal attire in readiness for their honeymoon, but Hatchley, true to form, had insisted on just one more pint before they left. That one had quickly turned into two, then three....
After delving into a forbidden love affair, the beautiful Caroline is brutally stabbed to death three days before Christmas, just as the picturesque Yorkshire Village is dressed in its holiday finest. Chief Inspector Alan Banks is eager to absolve the innocent. But that will have to wait until this troubling mystery is resolved.
A picturesque Yorkshire village is dressed in its finest for the upcoming Noel. But one of its residents will not be celebrating this holiday.
Chief Inspector Alan Banks knows that secrecy can sometimes prove fatal'and secrets were the driving force behind Caroline Hartley's life…and death. She was a beautiful enigma, brutally stabbed in her own home three days prior to Christmas. Leaving her past behind for a forbidden love affair, she mystified more than a few. And now she is dead, clothed only in her unshared mysteries and her blood. In this season of giving and forgiving, Banks is eager to absolve the innocent of their sins. But that must wait until the many facets of a perplexing puzzle are exposed and the dark circle of his investigation finally closes…and when a killer makes the next move.
About the Author
One of the world's most popular and acclaimed writers, Peter Robinson grew up in the United Kingdom, and now divides his time between Toronto and England. The bestselling, award-winning author of twenty-two books in the Inspector Banks series, he has also written two short-story collections and three standalone novels. Among his many honors and prizes are the Edgar Award, the CWA (UK) Dagger in the Library Award, France's Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, Sweden's Martin Beck Award, and the Danish Palle Rosenkrantz award.