Today I have the pleasure of sharing an extract from Death In Dulwich by Alice Castle as part of the blog tour. This sounds really good and I’m quite disappointed I’ve not had the chance to read this yet.
Thirty-something single mum, Beth Haldane, has her hands full – with a bouncy young son, a haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own, and bills to pay. She loves her little home in plush London suburb Dulwich, but life here doesn’t come cheap.
She is thrilled to land the post of archivist at top local school, Wyatt’s, though she secretly fears she’s not up to the job. But even Beth couldn’t have imagined how badly things could go, until she discovers a hideous crime and finds herself prime suspect.
Setting out to clear her name, Beth encounters a cast of characters who will follow her through the London Murder Mystery series, proving along the way that the nicest places can hide the nastiest secrets.
Beth Haldane peered anxiously into the hall mirror, on tiptoes as usual. She wasn’t after perfection. There was no time for anything fancier than the speediest swipe of make-up. She had to get her son Ben off to school, and then get herself – yikes – to her first day in her new job. She waved the mascara wand and hoped for some magic. There. The intelligent grey eyes staring back betrayed not a single jitter. Though the rest of it, she thought a tad harshly, you could easily have met hanging over a stable door. True, she had the uncompromising thick dark fringe of a Shetland pony, and a pensive oval of a face. And, indeed, the sturdy build and short stature that so often goes with the breed. But if she did have an equine air, it was that of the prettiest little pony that ever stole the show from a prancing white stallion. A nimble brain and sparkling eyes were scant comfort when you longed for legs up to there and a well-behaved mane. But Beth was happy enough in her hide. She smiled at herself encouragingly, and tucked a clump of fringe tidily behind her ear. Inexorably, it sprang back. Giving up, she took a deep breath. ‘Ben! School! We’re leaving NOW.’ She rattled the front door chain off and clicked the lock decisively; today she absolutely meant business. In seconds, the tiny house was shaking as nine-year-old Ben thundered down the stairs, one small beloved boy rivalling the din of a tank battalion on ops. She shut the door on the chaos of breakfast dishes, books, Lego, and odd socks. Normally, everything would have been left pin-neat, but getting to her work debut on time was top priority. It would have been nice if someone had been around to wish her luck. Ben knew about the job, of course, but if he thought about it at all, it was as an eccentric hobby to fill her hours while he got on with the really important stuff at school. She looked back wistfully at the house – then noticed their black and white cat, Magpie, in the window. Was it her imagination, or did Magpie twitch her tail? She’d decided to take that as a little good luck wish, when the cat stared right at her, shot up onto her hind legs and started clawing at the window – almost as if she were trying to get Beth to come straight back home again. Beth felt a moment of pure dread. Magpie had never done that before. What on earth did it mean? Maybe she shouldn’t have changed her to that dry cat food? But there was no time to worry about that now. The morning sun slanted generously onto window boxes of purple and yellow primulas as they turned into Dulwich Village. It had rained overnight and the street looked as though it had been through the express rinse cycle of some celestial washing machine, windows sparkling, pavements pristine. As they passed Bartley’s, the florist on the corner, Beth breathed in deeply to catch a waft of the early hothouse hyacinths, fat stems crammed into black buckets, alongside acid yellow daffodils and supermodel-spindly catkins. Five minutes more and they were at the charming Hansel and Gretel redbrick building, criss-crossed with yellow London stock brick, which was Ben’s school – the Dulwich Village Primary. She left him at the gates, as boy protocol demanded. Gone were the days when she could accompany him into the classroom, even hang up his coat and settle him at his desk. Now, every morning, she felt a pang at the thought that it might be the last time he’d deign to hold her hand as they walked along. Many of his friends took off on their scooters and were at school before their mothers had time to fire up their huge 4×4 cars.
The mummies still turned up at the school gates – but that was just to chat, and deliver forgotten sports kits, packed lunches, and instruments. There was no need to chide a child for forgetfulness if you had time on your hands. Even the women who did work seemed to play at it, like suburban Marie Antoinette’s. Beth knew she shouldn’t be bitter, but it was hard not to resent her situation. She sometimes felt she was the only woman in Dulwich who had to pay her own credit card bill. Which was probably why she always left the card at home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alice Castle had a long career as a feature writer on national newspapers including the Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph before becoming a novelist. After a day writing about her prime suspects, she loves nothing better than curling up with a murder mystery at night. Alice grew up in south London and, after a brief stint in Brussels (where her first novel, Hot Chocolate, is set) she is back where she belongs, dreaming up more adventures for her heroine, amateur detective and single mum Beth Haldane. She is married with two children, two stepchildren and two cats, and writes about parenting on her mummy blog, DD’s Diary http://www.dulwichdivorcee.com. Her latest book, Death in Dulwich, is being published in September 2017 by Crooked Cat Books.
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