The third elf climbed aboard just as the steam train was pulling away from Morbay station. He took a seat at the rear of the carriage but the other two elves ignored him, which suited him fine. Santa was the sole focus of his interest.
The third elf had made it his business to learn all Santa’s secrets and from where he was sitting he could see the big man’s right arm delve into the pocket of his scarlet robe to take out his hip flask.
The outside of the train was hung with coloured lights and from the other side of the river, it looked like a fast-moving streak of brilliance against the evening sky. A treat for the children. It chugged towards Tradmouth, allowing Santa and his elves a brief interlude of peace before the children were let loose by their adoring parents; prodding, asking stupid questions about reindeer and demanding expensive presents.
Hidden from his fellow elves by the high carriage seat, the third elf listened in to their conversation. One had auditioned successfully for a small part in a new TV detective series called Inspector Morse, while the other had bagged a minor role in the pantomime opening in Plymouth on Boxing Day. The third elf could sense the second’s envy at the mention of TV work, but he himself had no time for jealousy. He had a job to do. Not long now and it would be over.
The first elf’s name was Julian Pigge (with an e) but at the start of his career he’d changed it to Julian Hapway, which he thought would sound better when he finally made the big time. As he adjusted his pointed ears, he noticed the second elf, Charlie Verte, watching sympathetically. They were both a little too tall for their costumes and the short tunics and close-fitting green tights had the potential to cause them considerable embarrassment. But this was a one off engagement, just for the launch of Tradmouth’s Christmas festivities, so they’d both resigned themselves to the indignity.
Their role that evening was to smile and wave at the crowds from the rear of Santa’s sleigh as the parade wound its way down the waterfront. Then they had to marshal the children into an orderly queue to await their audience with Santa. However, Julian and Charlie both knew that their main challenge would be keeping Santa off the booze.
Neither of them knew the third elf, who’d turned up to fill in for Damian at the last moment. All they knew was that his name was Jack and that he had some connection with the local theatre. Apart from that, he was a man of mystery and they chose to ignore him.
Charlie watched Julian gazing out of the carriage window at the festive lights of Tradmouth on the opposite bank and felt a stab of envy. Julian had landed a TV role, albeit a small one, while he would be labouring every night on the pantomime stage. But all he needed was luck and one day his performance as an elf would be a distant memory.
Santa, alias Elias Melcrew, had seen it all in his time. He was fond of reminding his attendant elves that he’d acted with Gielgud, careful not to mention that he’d only had a walk on part as a soldier. And of course he’d failed to reveal that his career’s downward trajectory had begun during that particular Stratford production after a misunderstanding with the wardrobe mistress. These days he was grateful for the crumbs of his calling; a brief appearance as a corpse in a TV crime drama or two lines as a butler in provincial productions Naturally the role of Santa was beneath him but the organisers were paying well and, hopefully, he wouldn’t have to tolerate the little brats for too long.
The thought of children made him reach into his pocket for his hip flask again. Just something to keep out the cold.
When Santa’s party left the train the third elf hung back, keeping well apart from the others. He had no wish to draw attention to himself, which was difficult for a grown man dressed in a pointed hat and ridiculous false ears.
He trailed behind the others as they followed Santa to the ferry. Emboldened by the contents of his hip flask, Santa was on good form, waving to the crowd assembled at the little station. The waiting ferry was strung with coloured lights for the occasion and as they climbed on board, the third elf watched him. Santa would be the centre of attention once they reached the opposite bank so he had to seize his chance.
THE PRESENT DAY
Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson pressed his phone to his ear. It was a bad line and his colleagues in the CID office were chatting, making plans for the annual Christmas do.
‘You’ve found a skeleton?’ At first Wesley wondered whether he’d misheard. However, his friend Dr Neil Watson was an archaeologist and finding human remains wasn’t unknown in his line of work.
‘Body in a trunk. Just up your street. Someone from the local nick’s coming over to have a look but I thought I’d better let you know.’
‘Where did you find it?’
‘A Victorian terrace is being demolished to make way for a block of flats. It’s not far from the abbey so my team was called in to do a site assessment. We found it in an old fashioned trunk hidden away in one of the cellars; looks like it’s been there years.’
‘So it might be more than seventy years old and not be our problem?’ Wesley said hopefully. Christmas was coming and the last thing he needed was a major murder investigation.
‘Sorry, Wes, the clothing’s well preserved – man-made fibre.’ He paused. ‘And our corpse appears to be dressed as an elf.’
Wesley’s boss, DCI Gerry Heffernan, was someone who saw the funny side of many situations and the discovery of a dead elf in the run up to Christmas brought out the quips in the Liverpool accent he’d never managed to lose, despite living in Devon for many years.
‘Santa’s going to be short-handed this year. Bet you’ll find that he was gored by a reindeer. I fancy Rudolph for it myself.’
Wesley tried his best to maintain a solemn expression as he watched the pathologist go about his business under the harsh portable lights. The cellar smelled dank and there was mould on the walls.
‘What do we know about this house?’ Gerry asked, suddenly serious.
‘According to the neighbours over the road, it used to be a theatrical guesthouse,’ said Wesley. ‘Apparently the landlady was a chorus girl and when she retired she opened the place as a boarding house for visiting actors from local theatres. A few years ago she sold the property to the developer who was buying up the whole terrace and she moved to a retirement apartment on the seafront. We’ve got her address.
‘Then I vote we get over there and ask her why there’s a dead elf in her cellar.’ Gerry turned to the pathologist, Dr Bowman, who’d just completed his examination of the remains. The two men were old friends, having worked together for so long. ‘Well, Colin, what did he die of? I assume it’s a he?’
‘As far as I can tell,’ the pathologist replied. ‘My initial impression is that he died from a head injury.’
Colin Bowman considered the question for a few moments. ‘It’s possible. But there are also several unhealed fractures so the injuries could be consistent with a fall. I’ll be able to tell you more when I’ve got him back to the mortuary. By the way, there’s a label in the costume – a theatrical costumiers. And there’s a holdall in the trunk with him.’ The doctor paused, as if he was about to make a dramatic revelation. ‘I had a look inside and found clothes and ID. Our dead elf’s name – if the wallet belonged to him – was Damian Smith.’
While the team were trying to discover all they could about the victim, Wesley and Gerry decided to pay a visit to the former theatrical landlady, Mrs Alicia Marchalsea.
Mrs Marchalsea seemed delighted to see them and insisted they call her Alicia. ‘How exciting to be playing host to two handsome policemen. Reminds me of the Morbay Players’ last production of Murder by Lamplight,’ she said with a giggle after inviting them to sit. She produced weak tea and stale mince pies. Wesley and Gerry consumed them out of politeness.
‘Now, how can I help you?’
Wesley caught Gerry’s eye. This was a woman with a clear conscience – unless she was a remarkably good actress.
When Wesley explained the reason for their visit she looked puzzled. ‘Oh I never went in that cellar. It was frightfully damp and my dear late hubby said it was best to abandon it. There was no point in storing anything down there and we’d had all the utility meters moved to the little cupboard by the front door so we bolted the cellar door and forgot all about it. The house has been empty for a while so a vagrant must have found his way in there somehow and passed away.’ She looked at Wesley hopefully and fluttered her eyelashes.
‘Did you know Damian Smith. He might have had a role as an elf. Pantomime, perhaps.’
Mrs Marchalsea stood up and walked over to a large sideboard at the far end of the room. She must have been in her late seventies, or even older, but she still had the spry look of a former dancer. She returned to the two detectives and handed Wesley a thick, leather bound book. He opened it and found it was a guest book filled with signatures and comments dating back to the late nineteen seventies.
‘I insisted that all my ladies and gentlemen sign it when they arrived and put the name of the production they were in. Some of them went on to become quite famous, you know,’ she added with pride.
Wesley began to flick through the pages, searching for one name in particular. Eventually he found what he was looking for. Damian Smith. Tradmouth Festive Launch. There were three other names beneath his, taking part in the same event; Julian Hapway, Charlie Verte and Elias Melcrew. He passed it to Gerry who raised his eyebrows.
‘I know that name – Julian Hapway. He starred in that thriller on ITV last year. Played the detective. He must be in his late fifties so he’d have been a young lad then, probably straight out of drama school.’
‘Do you remember them, Mrs Marchalsea?’ Wesley asked.
‘Now, Inspector, don’t be so naughty. I’ve told you to call me Alicia.’ There was a brief period of silence while she closed her eyes in concentration.
Eventually she opened them and a look of triumph appeared on her face. ‘Of course. Damian was the young man that went off without paying. I remember because it was the only time that happened. The other boys with him were charming and Julian Hapway came back the following Christmas to play Buttons in Cinderella at the Empire. I always knew he’d go far. Look, he signed his name again – such a nice boy,’ she said fondly. ‘As I recall on that occasion they were working with Elias Melcrew.’ She shook her head. ‘He drowned, you know. Terrible business. They all returned from Tradmouth after their . . . performance and he went off for a drink. Anyway, later that night he fell off the pier – they said he lost his footing. The organiser paid his bill,’ she added. ‘But they didn’t pay Damian’s even though I complained.’
‘What exactly were they all doing at the Tradmouth Festive Launch?’ Wesley asked.
‘Oh, didn’t I say? Elias Melcrew was Santa and the boys were his elves.’ She paused for a few moments. ‘I hate to speak ill of the dead.’
‘Go on, love,’ said Gerry, leaning forward. ‘Nobody’s going to know but us.’
‘Very well. Elias was a big drinker. He was charming when he was sober but as soon as he had a drink he could get nasty, if you know what I mean. I suspect he fell off the pier because he’d had a few too many.’ She looked Wesley in the eye. ‘Why are you asking all these questions? Surely the poor person you found in the cellar can’t have anything to do with me or my guests.’
It was time to put her straight. ‘We believe the body found in the cellar was that of Damian Smith.’
Her hand went up to her mouth. ‘Oh dear. But how on earth did he get locked in the cellar? All his things were gone so I thought. . .’
‘His belongings were found in a trunk along with his body. He didn’t run off without paying his bill after all.’
For once Mrs Marchalsea was lost for words.
‘I’m afraid we’re treating his death as suspicious. Is there anyone you know who can tell us more about him and his fellow . . . elves?’
‘Glenda lives on the ground floor. She used to conduct auditions at the Empire so she might know something. You’ll have another mince pie.’
They thanked Mrs Marchalsea and made their escape.
Glenda was a large woman with long grey hair, fond of floaty skirts and brightly coloured scarves, and luckily she was the sort of witness every detective dreams of. It might have been more than three decades ago but she remembered Santa and his elves all right. Santa had fallen off the pier and one of the elves had vanished into thin air so it was hard to forget.
After providing the name of Julian Hapway’s agent, she told them that the other boy, Charlie Verte had moved to Australia where he had a major role in a soap opera. Both boys had done well for themselves, she said with pride, as though she’d played a part in their success. As for Damian Smith, she couldn’t recall much about him and she never came across him again, which was hardly surprising if he’d been lying dead in a cellar for the past few decades.
‘I’ve got something you might find useful,’ she said before leaving them alone for what seemed like an age. Eventually she returned with a large photograph album which she placed on the coffee table in front of Wesley. I’ve kept pictures of everyone I auditioned over the years. They’re in date order. Those elves you were asking about should be amongst them’
When Wesley found the right date he felt a thrill of anticipation. Sure enough he recognised a considerably younger Julian Hapway, but his colleague, Charlie Verte’s face, wasn’t familiar. Elias Melcrew looked like the archetypal Santa with his red nose and chubby cheeks, although the knowledge that the red nose was caused by drink rather ruined the illusion. But Wesley and Gerry were more interested in the third elf, Damian Smith. The photograph showed an earnest young man with slick fair hair – handsome in a bland sort of way; the kind of face that was easy to forget.
‘What can you tell us about Damian Smith?’ Wesley asked.
Glenda folded her arms. ‘Everyone assumed he’d done a moonlight flit the night before the Festive Launch. Went off without a by your leave. We thought it was such bad manners not to let anyone know and at the time I certainly wouldn’t have engaged him again if he’d come back with his tail between his legs.’ Her expression suddenly changed. ‘Of course if I’d known . . .’
‘So you were an elf short?’
‘Luckily one of the ASMs from the Empire volunteered to step in; he was very keen to do it. Damian vanished with his costume but luckily there was a spare.’
‘What was the replacement’s name?’
‘Jack Davis. He was living with an aunt in Morbay and I remember him saying his sister hadn’t been well – she’d had some sort of accident. I felt sorry for him to tell you the truth. He wanted to be an actor. I thought I was doing him a favour.’
‘Is he still around?’
‘As I recall, he left for London soon after Christmas – didn’t stay on to work backstage at the panto because he got a job in a West End theatre; behind the scenes again, I think.’ She looked down at the book. ‘Everything was done in such a panic that Christmas that I never got round to taking his photograph, I’m afraid.’
‘Can you remember anything about him?’
‘Not really. The organisers of the Festive Launch seemed satisfied. The main problem was the missing costume Damian went off with.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘And as if that wasn’t enough, when Jack returned the spare costume there was a piece missing, so the firm we hired it from wasn’t too pleased. But apart from that, everything was hunky dory.’
‘Do you know where Jack is now?’
Glenda shook her head. ‘Like I said, he went to London; said he’d got himself an agent. The other boys might remember more. Charlie’s the other side of the world but Julian’s shooting a film up on Dartmoor at the moment. He came to see me last week. It’s so nice that he remembers old Glenda who gave him his first break.’
Wesley and Gerry knew that their next task was to speak to the former elf who’d risen to stardom.
The post mortem was inconclusive. Colin concluded that Damien Smith’s injuries were probably caused by a fall, but it was impossible to tell whether it had been accidental or deliberate. But if he’d died by accident, why had someone taken so much trouble to hide his body and possessions?
A few enquiries by the team came up with the location where Julian Hapway was filming, his presence causing much excitement for the locals.
When they reached their destination, a stone farmhouse in the middle of the moor, they found the place surrounded by large vehicles; technical vans, catering vans and huge caravans serving as dressing rooms. And somewhere amongst it all was Julian Hapway, the lead actor.
By good fortune they found him in his dressing room; a spacious and luxurious mobile home, better appointed than many houses Wesley had visited in the course of his investigations. He recognised Hapway at once, although he looked smaller in real life than he did on the screen. The actor greeted them with well-practised charm and invited them to sit.
‘I wasn’t expecting a visit from the police. Hope I haven’t done anything wrong.’ He sounded confident – but Wesley reminded himself that he was an accomplished actor.
When they told Hapway about the discovery in the cellar and the probable identity of the corpse, he seemed horrified. ‘That’s terrible. But I don’t see how I can help. If it is Damian you’ve found in that cellar I’ve no idea how he got there.’
‘Do you remember staying at Mrs Marchalsea’s theatrical guesthouse in December 1986? You were playing one of Santa’s elves.’
Wesley suspected the actor was blushing behind his layer of makeup. ‘Oh dear. I remember,’ he said with a nervous laugh. ‘The indignities you endure when you’re getting your feet on the slippery ladder that’s the acting profession. I’ve never forgotten those green tights. Me and Charlie laughed about them – that’s Charlie Verte; he’s in Australia now.’
‘So we’ve been told. You remember Damian Smith?’
‘Charlie and I never had much to do with him. He kept himself to himself and then he walked out. He never turned up for breakfast on the morning of our engagement and his things had gone from his room. Glenda was furious. She had to find a replacement at short notice.’
‘Was that his name? I don’t remember much about him . . . although I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere recently.’
‘Where?’ Gerry leaned forward eagerly.
He gave an apologetic shrug. ‘Sorry. I meet so many people.’
‘Can you tell us what happened on the evening before Damian went missing?’
Julian frowned, making a great effort to remember. Then he began to speak slowly, as though the mists of time were clearing. ‘We were in Charlie’s room having a drink, careful not to let Elias know we had a bottle or he would have swiped the lot.’ He scratched his head. ‘Elias went out to some pub or other, as I remember, and he got back around one in the morning. He had to knock on the door to be let in and woke us up. Ma Marchalsea wasn’t pleased. Elias was playing Santa but he was an old soak. In fact he fell off the pier in Morbay the following night. Drunk, no doubt.’
‘What about Damian? You didn’t invite him to join you in Charlie’s room?’
Julian shook his head. ‘We got the impression he didn’t want to socialise and I presume he stayed in his own room that evening.’ He thought for a moment. ‘I remember hearing raised voices on the stairs but we didn’t think anything of it at the time. We had our music on quite loud so we couldn’t hear much but I’m sure it was two men and one of them sounded like Damian. I didn’t recognise the other voice, I’m afraid. Sorry I can’t help you and I doubt if Charlie would be able to either. Or Ma Marchalsea; she was out that night. Came back around eleven.’
‘These voices you heard – what time was it?’
‘Must have been around ten.’
‘It wasn’t Elias?’
‘Oh no, we’d have recognised his voice. Sonorous; an actor of the old school. Besides, as I said, he was out getting sozzled.’
‘Did Damian have any enemies? Anyone he was trying to avoid?’
‘No idea. Didn’t know him that well.’
‘What about the elf who replaced Damian – Jack Davis?’
‘Like I said, I can’t tell you much about him. We never saw him again after we’d done the launch.’
‘And you can’t remember where you’ve seen him recently?’
Julian screwed up his eyes and sat there for a few moments, as though he was meditating. Then he opened his eyes again, a look of triumph on his face. ‘I’ve just remembered. He was on TV, advertising stair lifts on the some cable channel. I never forget a face and I’m sure it was him.’
A young woman poked her head round the door and told Julian he was needed, a signal for them to depart. And as they were driving back over Dartmoor, Wesley had a feeling that their journey hadn’t been entirely wasted.
It took three days for the team to track down Jack Davis, a bit-part actor who lived in a London bedsit, at the opposite end of the professional spectrum to Julian Hapway.
They traced him through his agent and when Wesley called his number, Davis sounded guarded. He knew nothing about Damian Smith and he hardly remembered the small gig he’d done decades ago. He was travelling abroad the following day so an interview wasn’t convenient.
The man’s evasive manner made Wesley keen to discover more about him. And he told Gerry it wouldn’t do any harm to delve deeper into Elias Melcrew’s past either. According to the records they’d found, he’d died a few hours after he’d played Santa so a connection couldn’t be ruled out.
After asking one of the young detective constables to find out more, Wesley retired to his desk to think. Had Damian Smith died during the argument Julian overheard and had someone taken advantage of Mrs Marchalsea’s absence that evening to hide his body in the cellar? And what about Jack Davis, the unknown young theatre employee with acting ambitions who’d volunteered to take his place? According to Glenda, he’d been eager to take on the role. But had he been keen enough to get rid of Damian? Wesley knew that stranger things had happened.
That afternoon he was surprised to receive a call from Glenda. She sounded excited and breathless, as though she’d run to the phone to impart urgent news.
‘I thought you’d like to know that I’ve just seen Jack Davis on the promenade. I tried to speak to him but he hurried away. Didn’t acknowledge me at all.’
‘When we spoke to him he said he was going abroad. Are you sure it was him?’
‘Oh yes. The years haven’t been kind to him but I recognised him alright. I took a photo. I can send it over. Proof.’
She kept her word and five minutes later, Wesley and Gerry were staring at the image of a balding man in late middle age with sagging jowls and a paunch. If this was the third elf, Glenda was right – time had taken its toll.
A young DC came rushing up to them. ‘I don’t know whether this is important, sir, but Elias Melcrew was involved in a road traffic accident in 1984. A thirteen-year-old girl was seriously injured in Morbay. Melcrew was convicted of drink driving but swore that the girl stepped into the road and he couldn’t avoid hitting her. Somehow he was believed.’ The DC sounded sceptical. ‘The report says he was an actor. Must have put up a good performance ‘cause he got away with a fine and a year’s driving ban. The press reports say that he was in good spirits when he left court,’ she added meaningfully.
‘What was the girl’s name?’
The DC consulted the file in his hand. ‘Helen Davis.’
‘Glenda told us that Jack’s sister had had an accident. Davis isn’t an unusual name but I don’t believe in coincidences.’
‘Let’s have a closer look at Melcrew’s drowning. It might not have been the accident everyone thought it was.’
Half an hour later they had their answer. Nobody had seen Elias Melcrew fall into the water. He had a large quantity of alcohol in his bloodstream, so a sighting of two shadowy figures on the pier shortly before the relevant time was dismissed as unimportant, as was the fact that a strangely shaped piece of plastic was found caught up in his clothing when his body was pulled out of the water. The other news was that Helen Davis was still living in the area. And Wesley intended to pay her a visit.
Helen Davis lived in a specially adapted bungalow on the edge of the resort and she still bore the marks of the ordeal she’d suffered all those years ago. Her face was badly scarred and she used a wheelchair.
‘We’re sorry to bother you, Ms Davis,’ said Wesley. ‘Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?’
Helen glanced towards the front room door and a few seconds later a man emerged, hovering protectively as though he was ready to defend her from unwanted intrusion. Wesley had seen Glenda’s photograph and he recognised the man at once.
‘What do you want?’ There was a note of aggression in the question.
‘It’s OK, Jack. They’re policemen.’ Helen sounded nervous.
‘Jack Davis, I presume?’ said Gerry.
‘Why are you here bothering my sister?’
‘It’s you we wanted to talk to, Mr Davis. You told us you were going abroad.’
‘My plans changed.’
‘Well, now we’re here we’d like to ask you about elves.’
The man’s eyes widened for a second. Then he bowed his head. ‘You’d better come through.’
They followed him into the kitchen where he sat down at the table wearing the expression Wesley had seen on many suspects in the interview room back at the station.
‘Why did you kill Damian Smith?’ Wesley asked gently.
After a long silence, he spoke in a whisper. ‘I didn’t kill him. It was an accident.’
‘I only wanted to swap places with Damian. That’s all. You’ve seen what Melcrew did to Helen. I had this idea of getting close to him and pushing him off the ferry while we were going over the river. He was always drunk and it wouldn’t have been hard. But on the night there were too many people about and the other two elves didn’t let him out of their sight. They were mates so I thought they’d go off together for a chat or a crafty fag but they didn’t.’
The picture was becoming clearer but Wesley needed to know exactly what happened on that December day back in 1986.
‘To carry out your plan you needed the third elf, Damian Smith, out of the way?’ ‘When I found out Melcrew was playing Santa I tried to persuade Damian to swap with me but he refused; said he needed the money. I went to his digs to have another go but he was already trying on his costume and he told me to get lost. We ended up having a row on the landing.’ He hesitated. ‘Then he began to walk away and he lost his footing at the top of the stairs. He took a terrible tumble and he must have hit his head on the way down because when I got to him he wasn’t breathing and there was nothing I could do. Nobody saw what happened and I had a dead body on my hands. I was scared that I’d be accused of killing him so I panicked. I dragged him into the cellar then I grabbed his things from his room, hoping everyone would think he’d decided to do a runner. My uncle’s a handyman and before I went to drama college I’d earned a bit of cash by helping him. He did some work in that cellar – moving things out because it was so damp. I knew there was an old trunk down there so . . .’ He paused. ‘I’d heard Glenda say they’d sent an extra costume and I knew the third elf wouldn’t turn up, so I went to her and asked if I could fill in. She said yes.’
‘But you never got a chance to kill Melcrew?’
‘That’s right. It never happened.’
‘Two people were seen on the pier the night Melcrew drowned. That was you, wasn’t it?’
Jack Davis bowed his head. And when he looked up Wesley saw defiance in his eyes. ‘Do you know he actually laughed when he came out of court? He laughed at what he’d done to my sister and there he was playing Santa. Damian died by accident and I admit to hiding his body but you can’t prove I had anything to do with Elias Melcrew’s death. A drunken man fell off a pier. End of story.’
Wesley and Gerry looked out of the CID office window at the scene below. Brightly coloured lights swung between the lampposts in the chilly breeze and crowds milled around as the band played carols. Christmas had come to Tradmouth and Santa’s latest incarnation was making his way down the esplanade on his motorised sleigh, attended by his elves. It was the same every year.
‘What’ll happen to Jack Davis?’ Wesley asked as they watched.
‘He’s pleading guilty to concealing Damian’s body but that’s all. The post mortem backed up his version of events and he’s right about us having no evidence to connect him with Elias Melcrew’s death. It looks like the elf got away with it.’
‘That’s elves for you.’
The phone on Wesley’s desk began to ring and he ambled across the office to answer it. A few moments later he returned to join Gerry with a wide grin on his face.
‘That was Morbay police station. I asked them for details of the oddly shaped piece of plastic caught up in Melcrew’s clothing. Someone dug out the file and you’ll never guess what it was.’
‘Don’t keep us in suspense, Wes.’
‘The file said it looked like a large ear – pointed. Then I called Glenda to ask her which bit had been missing from Jack’s costume.’
‘Shall we pay Jack Davis another visit?’ said Gerry, reaching for his coat.
‘Why not?’ Wesley replied.
The brand new mystery in the bestselling DI Wesley Peterson crime series!
'A beguiling author who interweaves past and present' The Times
On a summer evening, Robert and Greta Gerdner are shot dead at their home in the Devon countryside.
DI Wesley Peterson suspects the execution-style murders might be linked to Robert's past police career - until Robert's name is found on a list of people who've been sent tickets anonymously for a tour of Darkhole Grange, a former asylum on Dartmoor.
Wesley discovers that other names on the list have also died in mysterious circumstances and, as he is drawn into the chilling history of the asylum, he becomes convinced that it holds the key to the case.
When his friend, archaeologist Neil Watson, finds the skeleton of a woman buried in a sealed chamber dating back to the fifteenth century at his nearby dig, Wesley wonders whether there might be a connection between the ancient cell and the tragic events at Darkhole Grange.
With the clock ticking, Wesley must solve the puzzle, before the next person on the list meets a terrible end . . .
Whether you've read the whole series, or are discovering Kate Ellis's DI Wesley Peterson novels for the first time, this is the perfect page-turner if you love reading Ann Cleeves and Elly Griffiths.
PRAISE FOR KATE ELLIS:
'Clever plotting hides a powerful story of loss, malice and deception' Ann Cleeves
'The chilling plot will keep you spooked and thrilled to the end' Closer
'A fine storyteller, weaving the past and present in a way that makes you want to read on' Peterborough Evening Telegraph