Today I join Jan Edwards on tour with an extract from her latest novel In Her Defence. It’s book two in the series featuring Bunch Courtney and is set against a backdrop of an escalating war in 1940.
I do hope you enjoy!
[ About the Book ]
Bunch Courtney’s hopes for a quiet market-day lunch with her sister are shattered when a Dutch refugee dies a horribly painful death before their eyes. A few days later Bunch receives a letter from her old friend Cecile saying that her father, Professor Benoir, has been murdered in an eerily similar fashion.
Two deaths by poisoning in a single week. Is this a coincidence? Bunch does not believe that any more than Chief Inspector William Wright.
Set against a backdrop of escalating war and the massed internments of 1940, the pair are drawn together in a race to prevent the murderer from striking again.
[ Extract ]
Bunch Courtney leaned against the top rail of the stock pen, enjoying the sensation of unseasonably warm May sunshine on her back, and perused the pair of Jersey heifers she had purchased at auction. The cows stared back with their soft-doe eyes and quietly continued their munching.
When a trio of fighter planes swooped across a clear sky it was Bunch who broke that peaceable contact, shielding her eyes against the sun to watch the aircraft dwindle into the distance. ‘Fourth flight we’ve seen in under an hour. Something’s up’, she said. ‘Were those Hurricanes or Spits? What do you think?’
Roger raised his head hopefully and thumped his tail in the dust, and she reached down to scritch the top of the dog’s head, finding comfort in the gesture. The planes were a dark reminder of what lay a mere hundred miles to the south; Bunch offered up a silent prayer of thanks for the English Channel. She wondered for how much longer market days could possibly survive. Or anything else for that matter, she thought. No, I refuse to even contemplate the possibilities. She stretched across the rail to give her Jersey maids a final pat and pushed away from the barrier. There was a lunch appointment to keep and she was already late.
A few minutes later she stepped into the dim oak-panelled confines of The Marquis Inn’s saloon bar, where the smell of roasting meat and Friday fish, mingling with the ever-present pall of smoke and beer fumes, closed in around her. Every white-clothed table was occupied and she searched the room for her luncheon partners without success until Daphne waved to her from within one of the window bays that overlooked the market. Daphne was grinning at Bunch, as she wove her way toward the table, tapping at her watch.
The perfect English rose in her red and blue florals. And Mother would love that spiffy little pillbox hat. Bunch adored her sister but was constantly aware of how unalike they were. She was the sporty, tall brunette; her sister the golden blonde, slight and delicate despite her pregnancy. Bunch leaned down to kiss her sister on the cheek. ‘Yes I know, I’m late as always. Hello Dodo, you’re looking well. Positively blooming.’
‘Thank you Rose, darling. So glad to see you. We were beginning to think you’d forgotten us.’
Bertram Tinsley got to his feet and pulled out Bunch’s chair. ‘Good to see you, Rose.’
‘Thank you, Barty.’ Bunch nodded to Dodo’s father-in-law as she slid into her seat and laid her slouch hat on the vacant chair beside her.
‘My pleasure.’ Barty took a mouthful of beer as he settled back down, wiping his extravagant moustaches carefully with a napkin. ‘Good auction?’ he asked.
‘Excellent, thank you.’ Bunch waved Roger beneath the table out of harm’s way. She took a sip from her schooner of sherry that was over-sweet and did nothing to quench her thirst. She wished it was a beer but, knowing how the old-fashioned Tinsley disapproved of ladies with pint pots in their fists, she said nothing and poured herself a glass of water.
‘Busy out there today,’ Barty continued. ‘You’d think with everything going on people would be terribly cautious about being out and about.’
‘They are trying very hard not to consider the alternatives,’ Bunch replied.
A roar of good-humoured jeering attracted their attention toward the bar and the gaggle of Canadians gathering there.
‘Damned bad form. Should be in the four-ale bar if they want to kick-up.’ Barty glowered in their direction. ‘No discipline.’
‘They’re very young,’ Bunch replied. ‘And a long way from home.’
Barty grumbled some retort but Bunch had ceased listening.
A young woman seated alone, just a few feet away from the raucous drinkers, had caught her attention. A sturdy girl in her early twenties with light-brown hair scraped up beneath a red hat. Her clothes were worn though of good quality, and plainly not English by their cut. Whether it was her obviously foreign air or that she leaned on the bar top with her head in her hands that made her a source of curiosity, the girl had attracted attention from others in the room. Some were inquisitive glances, a few of them lecherous, others hostile in varying degrees, each seeing what they wanted to see in a woman drinking alone. For Bunch, it was the way she wore her sadness like a halo. Obviously ill at ease, perhaps even in pain from the way she stared fixedly into her half-pint of pale ale, oblivious to the noise and bustle all around her.
Lost, Bunch thought. That’s the only word for her. Probably waiting for somebody who never turned up. And she’s so obviously unwell. Poor little wretch.
Then the crowd shifted and Bunch’s attention drifted back to Dodo and Barty. Her sister was, as she had already observed, positively blooming.
Hardly surprising, she thought. With all the stiff upper lip in the world, one doesn’t lose one’s wife, son and reputation without some kind of change.
The trio chatted on about this and that for some minutes and had placed their orders for lunch when a sharp cry sliced across from the bar. A strangely liquid shriek. As though, Bunch thought, someone was crying from beneath water. Bunch swivelled in time to see the young woman snap forward, with both arms clutched around her midriff, making no attempt to save herself from crashing to the floor where she writhed, screaming for help in English and some other language that was Germanic to Bunch’s ears, yet not the German she recognised.
The room broke into panic as diners rose to their feet. Some rushed toward the girl and as many backed rapidly away. Bunch was forced to elbow her way through the gathered watchers, to where the girl flailed at their centre, uttering wordless sounds on a tide of vomit and foam.
Purchase Links ~ AMAZON (PAPER AND KINDLE) US / UK/ AU
Jan was born in Sussex, currently living in North Staffordshire. In addition to being a writer she is also a Reiki Master Teacher and Meditational Healer. Jan is available for interviews and appearances.
Other books by Jan Edwards: Winter Downs:Bunch Courtney Investigation #1; Sussex Tales; Fables & Fabrications; Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties; Olive Hawthorne: Daemons of Devils End (book and script team for Dr Who DVD)
Blog ~ https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/
Twitter ~ @Jancoledwards