SPECIAL, PRE-PUBLICATION BOOK GIVEAWAY!
On 29th September 2017 the fourth book in the WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery series – THE CASE OF THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR – will be published in hardcover in the UK. It won’t be published in the USA and Canada until January 2018. Today you can WIN an early copy of the book.
A short excerpt follows (from chapter two) and I hope you enjoy it. (NOTE: The answer to my question below is in the excerpt!)
Leave a comment below telling me the name of the person you suspect is the "UNSUITABLE SUITOR" in the title of the book to stand a chance of having your name plucked from the metaphorical hat to win a signed copy of the book – just as soon as I have one to sign! Comments to be left by midnight Eastern on Saturday 23rd September. Open to all - wherever in the world you live :-)
Carol had just finished in the bathroom when her phone rang in her dressing-gown pocket. With her wriggling infant son Albert clamped to her side with one arm, she answered without checking the caller’s number and was surprised to hear the voice of Tudor Evans, landlord of the Lamb and Flag pub, hissing at her.
‘Is that you, Carol?’
‘Yes, it is. Are you alright, Tudor?’
‘No, I’m not. It’s an emergency.’ The man sounded rattled. ‘Can you come over to see me? Right now?’
‘It’s before eight on a Saturday morning, Tudor. What’s the matter?’
‘Annie’s involved. It’s urgent.’
Carol’s tummy flipped. ‘Is she alright? Are you alright? Have you phoned – what, an ambulance?’ As she spoke, Carol’s mind raced through a list of potentially catastrophic events involving Annie; it seemed endless.
‘It’s not that sort of emergency. But I really need to talk to you. Now.’
Carol looked into Albert’s cornflower eyes and replied, ‘Just let me get dressed and make sure David’s awake enough to cope with Albert, and I’ll come over to the pub in fifteen minutes. Alright?’
Tudor sounded panicked as he responded, ‘OK. But if you can get here faster, don’t hang about, just come. The side door is open.’ Then he was gone.
Carol woke her husband and placed Albert on the bed so he could be cuddled and protected. He immediately poked his tiny fingers up David’s nose, which Carol noticed was helping her poor spouse come-to rather more quickly that he’d have liked. As she pulled on one of her trusty full-length, jersey-cotton dresses, she explained that she had to rush out unexpectedly. David was too befuddled to argue, or to even seek more detailed information.
The grassy heart of bucolic Anwen-by-Wye should have been green, but a fortnight of surprisingly dry and sunny weather had bleached it to the color of straw. As she rushed across the cement-like turf, Carol tried to stop herself imagining horrific scenarios involving her long-time friend and now colleague, Annie Parker, but couldn’t.
When she walked into the deserted pub Tudor was hovering beside the bar. He beamed with relief as he welcomed her. ‘Good of you to come, Carol. Will you take coffee here at the bar with me?’
Carol couldn’t for the life of her work out what was going on, everything looked quite normal, except Tudor, who seemed to be vibrating. Annie was nowhere to be seen. ‘Where is she? What’s the matter?’ she asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
‘She’s not here, not right now. But like I said, it’s about Annie.’ Tudor handed her a coffee.
Carol wriggled onto a barstool and took the steaming mug. She allowed herself to relax just a little, but couldn’t help feeling a bit cross with Tudor.
‘You know she’s been seeing this bloke, Huw Hughes?’ the landlord began. Carol shook her head, shocked; she had no inkling of any such thing. ‘Well she has been, for about a month, I reckon – all on the QT, because they don’t want any gossip in the village, I expect. I wouldn’t usually say anything – she’s a grown up after all, and more than entitled to spend time with whomever she pleases. But I had a bit of a shock last night. I had a conversation with Huw here at the pub and . . . well, it’s given me cause for concern. I think Huw is plotting to kill Annie.’
‘You think what? Annie’s life is in danger?’
‘I do. I think it’s just a matter of time. He’s got it in for her, he has.’ Tudor’s expression was grim.
Carol slurped her coffee as though her life depended upon it; she certainly suspected her sanity might. She put down the mug before she replied, ‘Let me get this straight – you’re telling me that Annie Parker – my Annie Parker – is secretly carrying on with some bloke who I’ve never so much as heard of, and has been doing so for some time?’ Tudor nodded. ‘So – if she’s seeing this chap, why do you think he wants to kill her? Sorry, Tudor, you’ve lost me. Can you explain more clearly?’
‘Right, give me a minute, let me get it straight. I had it all worked out – what I’d say to you – and now it’s gone.’
As Tudor finished his coffee, and poured himself another, Carol silently acknowledged to herself that she and Annie had spent hardly any time together since Albert’s arrival more than four months earlier, so she had to contemplate the idea that the woman she had thought of as her best friend for more than a decade and a half was no longer an open book to her. Not so very long ago Carol would have been the first to know about a momentous development like a new man in the life of her ultra-single friend. But now? Maybe they’d drifted apart more than just a little. At that realization, Carol felt something akin to a tiny bereavement. It wasn’t pleasant. When Tudor cleared his throat in a somewhat formal manner, she realized she had to maintain her focus.
‘Huw Hughes has been coming into the pub, off and on, for a couple of months. He’s originally from here – Anwen-by-Wye itself, not just the general area – and he went away to work and so forth. He’s come back to “semi-retire”. Bought himself one of those big houses out on the executive estate, he has.’ Tudor rolled his eyes. ‘Horrible place that – it’s a blight on the landscape and the community; something should be done to prevent any more farmers from selling off land to allow for “much needed housing” in the area. “Much needed housing” my eye! Only millionaires can afford those brick-built monstrosities. Spoiling a perfectly lovely hillside, they are.’
Carol slurped patiently, hoping Tudor would get to the point soon. ‘And?’ she prompted.
‘Right. Yes. Last night. He was in, as usual. I think he’d just dropped Annie off at her cottage with his car and he came in for a pint. Stood right where you are now and as good as told me he’s about to ask her to marry him, then asked what did I think.’
Carol was amazed. ‘You’re kidding?’
‘I am not. Serious as the plague, I am. So I say it all sounds a bit quick to me – which I think it is – and he says the best way to pluck ’em, is when they’re in the first flush of love. “Pluck ’em”! Just like that he said it. Highly inappropriate I call that.’
Carol could guess Tudor’s internally edited response to such a comment would have been much stronger; pretty much everyone in the village knew he’d been sweet on Annie since her arrival – everyone except Annie, of course
‘Who exactly is this bloke?’
Tudor sagged. ‘Huw? I thought he’d be an asset to the Anwen Allcomers croquet team, so I asked him to join. I didn’t spot that he was so smarmy until we started our meetings. Never crossed my mind he’d end up pursuing Annie. And that’s the other thing he told me last night that’s got me really worried; three wives he’s had. Three. And every one of them dead. I didn’t like the way he said it.’
Carol restricted herself to a quiet, ‘Uh-huh,’ realizing Tudor hadn’t finished.
‘There’s something “off” about him, Carol. I know he gets my goat with all his boasting about how he’s done this and that, here, there and everywhere. Been all over the world he has, if you believe half of what he says. I’m trying to not let that color my opinion of him. But, I mean, three dead wives? There’s got to be something wrong with that, hasn’t there? And now he’s got his sights set on Annie. She’s in danger, I tell you.’
Carol shrugged as nonchalantly as she could.
Tudor pressed on. ‘I think he’s one of those blokes who goes around marrying women for their money, then bumping them off. And I don’t want that happening to Annie. You’ve got to help.’
Carol decided it was time to try to rein-in Tudor. ‘How, exactly?’
‘See, what I was hoping was that you could find out a bit more about him. He’s got a website for his business, that much I know, but nobody puts anything bad about themselves on their own website, do they? Can you help? Please? We’ve got to save Annie, from herself and from Huw Hughes.’
Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#4, The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor will be released in hardcover in the UK in September 2017 and in the USA & Canada on January 1st 2018). You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: http://cathyace.com/