By M J Porter
Book Title: Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery
Author: M J Porter
Publication Date: 14th April 2022
Publisher: M J Publishing
Page Length: 234 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
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Lady Merryweather has had a shocking year. Apprehended for the murder of her husband the year before, and only recently released, she hopes a trip away from London will allow her to grieve. The isolated, but much loved, Cragside Estate in North Northumberland, home of her friends, Lord and Lady Bradbury, holds special memories for her.
But, no sooner has she arrived than the body of one of the guests is found on the estate, and suspicion immediately turns on her. Perhaps, there are no friendships to be found here, after all.
Released, due to a lack of evidence, Lady Ella returns to Cragside only to discover a second murder has taken place in her absence, and one she can’t possibly have committed.
Quickly realising that these new murders must be related to that of her beloved husband, Lady Merryweather sets out to solve the crime, once and for all. But there are many who don’t want her to succeed, and as the number of murder victims increases, the possibility that she might well be the next victim, can’t be ignored.
Journey to the 1930s Cragside Estate, to a period house-party where no one is truly safe, and the estate is just as deadly as the people.
Description of murder scenes and bodies
Excerpt 3 – Our suspects begin to doubt one another
I consider who’ll speak first.
I’m unsurprised when it’s the rotund Mr Hector Alwinton.
“Well, it can’t be me, as you all know,” he pleads with the other members of our party from his place in front of the fire.
“And why is that?” Miss Rebecca Barlow surprises me by asking. She’s sitting as close to the fire as it’s possible to be, warming her knees and her hands. She doesn’t even look at Hector when she replies, although he’s so close to her. Miss Amelia Clarke seems unaware that anyone has spoken.
Hector’s mouth opens and then snaps shut, only to open again. He leans forward, or as far as he can over his protruding belly, and then takes a deep breath. I watch it fill his chest, the buttons on his evening shirt, straining at this extra pressure on them.
“I, of course, would be unable to overpower anyone in my pitiful state.” He motions down to his large stomach as he speaks. “And even if I could, I was with Lord and Lady Bradbury at the time of this second murder.”
“And what time did the second murder take place?” Rebecca Barlow probes. There’s no malice to her voice, but her intent is pointed. Perhaps the detective inspector should have asked her to assist him instead of me.
“I, well. Of course, it was sometime this afternoon. Since luncheon, when I last saw poor Mr Harrington-Featherington.”
“When did everyone else last see Mr Harrington-Featherington?” Rebecca doesn’t raise her head but asks the room in general. Her words sound almost bored.
“When did you last see Mr Harrington-Featherington?”
It’s Lady Bradbury who spits the question at Rebecca. The two are like cats circling one another before pouncing. Now, this I might like to see.
“I last saw him after luncheon. I was, here, in the library, with Miss Amelia Clarke and Hugh Bradbury. And you?”
“Well,” Margot splutters. “I really don’t recall, but I was with my husband and Mr Hector Alwinton immediately after luncheon and until we were once more brought together and told of Mr Harrington-Featherington’s death.” How Margot speaks of the dead man assures me that my assumptions about her feelings towards him are correct. She didn’t like him, and he didn’t like her. Watching them share meals, sat next to one another in my home nearly a year ago was a sight to see.
“So, you were with Mr Hector Alwinton and Lord Edmund Bradbury, and I was with Miss Amelia Clarke and Mr Hugh Bradbury. And, of course, Lady Ella Merryweather was at the police station. So who does that leave?”
Unknowingly, my eyes slide towards Lilian and Olive.
Lilian sits very neatly, one thin leg crossed over another. She seems insubstantial and entirely unable to kill another. Yet, I know better than to allow someone’s appearance to influence me. The kindest looking people can be the roughest: the roughest, the kindest. If I hadn’t known that before, then my incarceration at Holloway has reinforced the knowledge.
“I was out for a walk in the rain,” Miss Lilian Braithwaite announces. “I like to walk in the rain. The house felt quite stuffy and hot.”
“And you were alone?” I can’t get a word in edgeways to ask the questions. I’m secretly relieved. Sooner they think I’m angry with the Detective Inspector than attempting to help him, the more likely they are not to watch their words as carefully as they should.
“I wasn’t. I had the dogs with me.”
“Then you were alone other than with two canines?” Rebecca retorts.
“I was, yes.” Lilian confirms softly.
“And where did you walk?”
“To the old quarry, Cragend. It’s a tricky walk in the wet. I fell and scuffed my hands.” As though to prove the point, Lilian shows both of her hands. They have small cuts on the palm of them, where the implication must be pieces of gravel have pierced her skin.
“And you were gone all that time?”
“Yes. I returned when the Detective Inspector had already arrived.”
“And you, Miss Olive Mabel?” Rebecca lifts her head from the perusal of the fire, and her eyes alight on Olive, who has moved back to the heat of the fire, now that Aldcroft has left the room.
“I was resting, in my bed-chamber,” Olive states, her words ringing with finality.
“And you, Lord and Lady Sunderland? Where were you this afternoon?”
The two look affronted to be called to account by someone so beneath their notice. They share a look and then glower at Rebecca.
Rebecca ticks off on her fingers what she knows. “You weren’t in the library, as I was in there with Hugh Bradbury and Amelia Clarke, and you weren’t with Lord and Lady Bradbury and Hector Alwinton in the drawing-room, and you weren’t with Olive Mabel or Lilian Braithwaite.”
“No, we were in our bed-chamber as well. It was a late night and looked to be another one this evening.” “I thought it better to catch up on my sleep.” It’s Reginald who speaks.
“And did you sleep?”
“I did, yes.”
“Yes. Why?” and his forehead furrows, eyes disappearing beneath his eyebrows.
“So you don’t know what your wife was doing then? She might have slept, or she might not have done.”
“Now,” and Lord Sunderland looks bristly, like a hedgehog in his rage. I’m surprised he can show such anger. He’s such a calm soul, usually.
“Calm down, dear,” his wife consoles him. “I can assure you that I slept all afternoon as well. We’re not used to drinking heavily and staying up so late talking with much loved friends about such shocking events. We had another dear friend to mourn, and we believed justice was going to be achieved for poor Lady Carver.”
hose words make me doubt Lady Sunderland, although Rebecca seems to accept them quickly enough. I grimace, realising what Gwendoline implies with her statement. They were up all night talking about the fact I’d been led away in handcuffs. Again.
Universal Link: books2read.com/Cragside
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MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/MJ-Porter/e/B006N8K6X4/