It is a great pleasure to host an extract from A Death in Mayfair, the latest DCI Frank Merlin novel from Mark Ellis. I thoroughly enjoyed book 3 in this detective series, Merlin At War (Review HERE) and will have my review of A Death in Mayfair in the next week or two. But today, as my stop on the blog tour, I have a sneak preview from inside the covers with a special extract to share with you all.
I stated in my review of Merlin At War, that Mark Ellis had written an exciting novel full of nostalgic imagery, with an intriguing story at it’s core and I look forward to the same with A Death in Mayfair
This really is an ace series folks!
[ About the Book ]
Japanese planes swoop down and attack Pearl Harbour. America enters the war and Britain no longer stands alone against Hitler. But conditions on the home front remain bleak, and for Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin, life is as arduous as ever.
He is diverted from his tenacious campaign against London’s organised criminal gangs by the violent deaths of two young women in the centre of the city.
Merlin investigates and encounters fraudulent film moguls, dissipated movie stars, mad Satanists, and brutal gangsters amongst others as he and his team battle to uncover the connections and search out the truth.
[ Extract ]
It was teatime on a bleak autumn day. The cold, the solitude, and the relentless soughing of the wind in the trees were wearing the young woman’s nerves down. And she was afraid. Her eyes darted nervously back and forth between the front door and the solitary window on the other side of the room. The lamplight ebbed and flowed. She was in a part of the deep countryside where electrical power was unpredictable. The Jane Austen she’d been reading had been set aside. She was just sitting. Sitting and waiting. A flash of lightning illuminated the room and put her heart in her mouth. She hurried over to the door to check yet again that it was securely locked.
The wood fire had almost gone out. There were more logs in a shed behind the cottage but she couldn’t contemplate going outside. Thunder rolled and there was another flash of lightning. She thought she saw a figure outlined in the yard. A third flash confirmed someone was there. A man was approaching the door. She waited with bated breath for a knock, but none came. Then a fist exploded through the glass of the window. The fist held a knife. She screamed.
“And cut it! Wonderful Jean, darling. And you Michael. And very well done effects. We’ll take a little break there. Back in fifteen everybody.”
An elegant middle-aged man appeared from behind the cottage wall and crossed the film set to his co-star. “Very good scream, darling. Am I really so frightening?” Jean Parker, a striking blonde with large oval green eyes and a small but full-lipped mouth laughed. Her laughter had a certain musicality to it. It was one of the many things Michael Adair found attractive in her.“You are a terrifying ogre, Mr Adair. Or so I understand from the script.”
Adair leaned towards her and kissed her on both cheeks.
“None of that, please. You’re going to cause extra work for make-up.” Emil Kaplan, the director, waved an admonishing finger then sat down in the canvas chair bearing his name and wiped his perspiring forehead with a handkerchief. He reached into his jacket pocket and took out a hip flask. “Drink you two?”
“Too early for me, Emil” said the actress.
“I’ll take one, old chap.” Adair took a swig and then another. “Very nice too. Talisker if I’m not mistaken?”
“Special Reserve 1931. I’m down to my last case.” “You poor darling.” Jean Parker sat on the left of the
director and Adair on the right. She yawned. It was only nine thirty but they’d already been on set for three hours. “Will it be another early start on Monday?”
“Afraid so, my dear. You know Victor’s desperate to get the film in ze can as soon as possible.” Kaplan had almost eliminated all signs of his Hungarian accent during the thirteen years he had worked in England. He looked, dressed and sounded as if he had been to Eton and Cambridge. There was, still, the very occasional slip.
Adair crossed his legs. “I don’t believe I’m in the first scene you have scheduled for Monday morning, old chap.”
“Quite right, Michael. You can come in at nine.”
“So kind.” Adair produced a cigarette case and lit up. As he did so he glanced at his reflection in the polished silver cover. He had been a preposterously good-looking young man, with high cheekbones, soft large brown eyes and a strong cleft chin. He was now 42 and ageing well, with only the odd wrinkle here or there bearing witness to a hedonistic and pampered film star’s life. As his eyes moved on to the exquisite face of his co-star and lover there was a loud bang from the rear of the studio. He turned to see a flurry of technicians congregating around a lighting gantry which had collapsed to the ground. An angry male voice roared out from the gloom. “Watch out, for goddam sake. That’s expensive equipment. Not to mention you might have killed someone.”
The culprit, a young stagehand, slunk away and the owner of the voice bustled out of the shadows and towards the set. Clouds of cigar smoke accompanied him.
“So there you all are. How goes it?”
Unlike Kaplan, Victor Goldsmith could never be mistaken for an Englishman. His accented voice however had an assuredness and charm which was very British, the fruit of many years spent in the company of the English-monied and aristocratic classes.
“Are we still on schedule, Emil?”
Kaplan rose to shake his boss’s hand. “Almost, Victor. We have a couple of days to make up but ‘Murder at Midnight’ should be wrapped before Christmas as you wish.”
Adair rose languidly from his chair. “Are we still going with that title, Victor. It has always seemed a little banal to me.”
“Banal?” Goldsmith pronounced it to rhyme with ‘ale’. “You always are one for the fancy words, aren’t you Michael? Well, yes, I like the title ‘banal’ or not. Titles with ‘murder’ or ‘death’ in them usually do well in my experience, eh Emil? Besides, that was the title of the book on which the film is based, and the ‘banal’ title didn’t stop it being a runaway bestseller, now did it?”
Adair held his hands up defensively. “Sorry, Victor. Forget I said anything. You’re the boss after all.”
Goldsmith turned back to Kaplan. “I understand we are running over budget?”
“Only by about five per cent, Victor.”
“‘Only five per cent’ is a lot of money, Emil.” “Not in the same league as Swanton, though.” Goldsmith threw his hands in the air. “My God,
Swanton. Don’t remind me of him, Emil! That film went over by thirty per cent.”
“That was… unfortunate.”
Goldsmith glared. “Unfortunate! It was a bloody disaster.” He looked at Jean Parker and his features softened. “You are looking particularly wonderful today, my dear. Glowing indeed.”
“Why, thank you, good sir.”
[ About the Author ]
Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister. He is the creator of DCI Frank Merlin, an Anglo-Spanish police detective operating in World War 2 London. His books treat the reader to a vivid portrait of London during the war.
Mark grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. He has always been fascinated by the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs.
In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft and rape were rife and the Blitz provided scope for widespread looting.This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world. This is the world of DCI Frank Merlin.
Mark Ellis’ books regularly appear in the Kindle bestseller charts. He is a member of the Crime Writers Association (CWA). His most recent book, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018. A Death in Mayfair will be published in November 2019.
Twitter – @MarkEllis15