Hunter’s Chase by Val Penny

The first of the Edinburgh Crime Series

Gripped from the first page by this action-packed crime thriller.

5.0 out of 5 stars 

Gripped from the first page by this action-packed crime thriller.

My review on 23 August 2022

“I was gripped from the first page by this action-packed crime thriller. When a new supply of cocaine hits the streets of Edinburgh, DI Hunter Wilson and his team of detectives pull out all the stops to find the supplier. Soon their attention is transferred to murder when a dead body is found on a golf course – and, as the book goes on, there is a great deal more for Hunter and his team to do. Hunter’s Chase is a great start to the Hunter series. It has everything to keep a reader turning the pages. The characters – villains as well as cops – are memorable and easy to relate to. I enjoyed reading about their lives, and what had brought them to this point in time. Hunter’s Chase is a cracking crime thriller with wit and humour as well as edge-of-the-seat suspense and danger. If you like cleverly written twists and turns, I highly recommend you read, Hunter’s Chase.”

*****

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in the DI Wilson Crime series.

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer.

Author Val Penny

More great crime thrillers by Val Penny – The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries and The Jane Renwick Thrillers. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=val+penny+books&crid=2U7JS4ZL2FGT9&sprefix=Val+Penny

+%2Caps%2C115&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_3_10

SHADOW SLEEPER – by Madalyn Morgan

SHADOW SLEEPER

Dudley Green Associates
Private Investigation Agency
Book 2

Sick of working amidst the lies and bureaucracy at the Home Office Ena Green, nee Dudley, resigns and starts her own investigating agency where she is later joined by her old work colleague, Artie Mallory.

During 1960, Rupert Highsmith, lover of Ena’s associate Artie Mallory, receives anonymous letters and compromising photographs taken twenty-four years earlier in Berlin. While researching the parentage of a young woman claiming to be the daughter of Ena’s friend, Priscilla Galbraith, Highsmith is almost killed in a hit and run. The investigation takes Ena to Shetland where she learns that the would-be assassin of Highsmith (and PM Stanley Baldwin in 1936) is dead.

Who wants to kill Rupert Highsmith, and more importantly, why? Who took the compromising photographs in 1936? And is the girl who says she’s Priscilla’s daughter the child that was stolen nineteen years ago?

Shadow Sleeper has featured on Val Penny’s Blog: https://www.valpenny.com/post/an-interview-with-madalyn-morgan

Shadow Sleeper – Book 10 in The Dudley Sisters’ Saga and book 2 in Ena Green, nee Dudley’s Private Investigation Series. It is on Amazon, in paperback, Kindle and KindleUnlimited.

February 25th 2021 – my garden in the snow

There are dozens of little birds: a variety of tits, sparrows, blackbirds and finches in the hawthorn tree. While I dug snow from their usual feeding places they gathered and, sending out invitations to their neighbours via a chorus of birdsong, they watched me. Only a blackbird came down to check I was laying the food out correctly. Seeing that I was, he stayed with me and tucked in. The rest of the inhabitants of number 1, Hawthorn Tree, are not as adventurous today.

February 25th 2021

Today I was interviewed on author Val Penny’s wonderful new Blog. Link is below. Check it out.

https://www.valpenny.com/post/an-interview-with-madalyn-morgan

An Interview with Madalyn Morgan

https://www.valpenny.com/post/an-interview-with-madalyn-morgan?fbclid=IwAR2yJTvItt_cY8fECMizJymDlU0rh_tBhUG2aF2EcMiF5FhvZXsNX-GRHXc

I’m excited that my last novel Old Cases New Colours a thriller/detective story set in 1960, is being auctioned by Children In Read for Children In Need. Also, the highest bidder will have a character named after them in the book I’m currently writing, Shadow Sleeper, (book 4 in the Ena Dudley Series).

Old Cases New Colours: Blog Tour – Rachel’s Random Resources, Reviews.

UK  – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

Jess Bookish Life Reader | Writer | Blogger

Old Cases, New Colours“, written by Madalyn Morgan, is a Historical Thriller, the a book part of the Dudley Green Investigation series, that was published on 25th March 2021. https://jessbookishlife.wordpress.com

My Review

A genre I love is Historical Fiction, it’s not just the romances (although those are close to my heart). History is vast and the creativity the authors, in that genre have, is amazing. This book is a Historical, yes… but it’s also a thriller. And that just makes it exciting in a different way.

In this book we follow Ena Dudley, and although I have only read one book connected to this one (Chasing Ghosts), it was fine because it can be read as a standalone. And let me tell you I liked this book a lot.

Ena is a fascinating character. She is setting up her business: a private investigation agency; and that’s an element, not just in the character but also in the story, that I loved. It opens up so many questions about the world of the PI and women in that business.

The characters felt real which in a Historical setting I believe is very important. I could connect with Ena and ended up rooting for her and wanted to see what she would do next and how the other characters would act too.

As I read the book, I was very focus. I was looking forward to learning the outcome of the case. The book also had a good flow to it and it wasn’t difficult to understand or follow what was happening. I felt like I was in that context and learning about the society and Ena.

Overall, I can imagine so many other books following other cases, and I’m very curious to  know what else is going to happen next in the A Dudley Green Investigation series.

Ginger Book Geek‘Old Cases New Colours’ by Madalyn Morgan – gingerbookgeek (wordpress.com)

My Review

When I agreed to take part in the blog your for ‘Old Cases New Colours’ I hadn’t realised that it was the ninth book in ‘The Dudley Sisters’ series.  It doesn’t make any difference as the book reads perfectly well as a standalone.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Old Cases New Colours’ but more about that in a bit.

I was drawn into this story from the very start.  The synopsis intrigued me and I just had to read more.  To say that reading ‘Old Cases New Colours’ became addictive is a huge understatement.  I initially picked the book up only intending to read a couple of chapters to fill in half an hour but I took to the characters so well and became so wrapped up in the story that I read a lot more than I had originally intended.  My Kindle wasn’t exactly glued to my hand but it might as well have been because it travelled everywhere with me.  I couldn’t bear to miss a single second of the story.  I seemed to gallop through the story at a rate of knots and at one point the pages were turning so quickly that the page numbers became a blur.  I found ‘Old Cases New Colours’ to be a gripping read, which held my attention from start to finish and kept me guessing.

‘Old Cases New Colours’ is well written.  I loved the characters, I loved the storylines and I loved where the story was set.  Madalyn certainly knows how to grab your attention and draw you into what proves to be a compelling story.  The story tootled along at a gentle pace which suited the story.  I loved the way in which Madalyn created a certain amount of tension and the way in which she weaved twists and turns into the story.  I felt as though I was part of the story and that’s thanks to Madalyn’s very vivid and realistic storytelling.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Old Cases New Colours’ and I would recommend it to other readers.  I will certainly be reading more of Madalyn’s work in the future.  The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a very well deserved 5* out of 5*

ramblingmads

My thoughts:

This was a really fun read, it reminded me of a lot of mystery novels with a slight tongue in cheek humour – and they’re always enjoyable.

The characters are strongly drawn and Ena in particular is fascinating and I was rooting for her to solve all of her cases and get the agency up and running. She felt very modern but also of her time – a tricky thing to pull off.

The plot bubbled along nicely, and the supporting characters were entertaining – especially the wealthy Priscilla, forever pinching things and pretending to run out on her restaurant bills.

Some Vivid Colours and Intriguing New Cases

 / PAJNEWMAN

https://pajnewman.com/2021/03/29/some-vivid-colours-and-intriguing-new-cases/comment-page-1/

A lovely little novel for anyone interested in the murky world of London before it began to swing, Madalyn Morgan’s Old Cases, New Colours is positively rooted in its setting.

London here is greys and browns and people not delivering the new office furniture in time. It is a city where people keep petty cash in biscuit tins under the sink and have to cash in both their money and their husband’s to open a detective agency.

Morgan peppers her cast with the sort of bounders, dolly girls and loyal young men from GCHQ which one might expect in a novel of this sort and the plot bounces along pleasingly.

If you were a fan of Channel 4’s television programme Traitors, you like your crime on the hard edged side of cozy and a nice soupcon of espionage mixed into the broth, then you should definitely be uncovering some Old Cases, New Colours.

Purchase Links

UK  – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

The Divine write

My thoughts – This is the first book I have read in the Dudley Sisters series. The series is set in the 1960’s and finds Ena embarking on opening her own business. A big thing for a woman, at that time, but this is a detective agency. With her background it is the perfect occupation, and is a great as a vehicle for the story.

The agency certainly sees her meet a wide variety of characters and the problems they bring to her to solve. Her life is about to get more difficult when she is called to be a prosecution witness, at the Old Bailey.

Even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, you can jump straight into this one. It is well written and I really liked the characters. I will definitely be reading more from this series.

Jessica Belmont

Review:

Old Cases, New Colours by Madalyn Morgan is the ninth book in The Dudly Sisters series but works great as a standalone. It was quite an addictive read!

I really took to the characters. I’m very impressed with thus author’s ability to create characters that drew me into the story and kept me invested.

The plot was very compelling. The tension and twists and turns were so interesting to read. This author’s writingnstyle is very vivid. I loved it.

I enjoyed Old Cases, New Colours very much. Well written, with excellent characters. I recommend giving this one a read!

Posted by Sharon Beyond The Books Book CrimeDetectiveFiction

I loved the characters in this book. Ena was a modern woman of her time with setting her own business up and ploughing on. A mystery story with a bit of that good old humour that always keeps us going. I found it funny, chuckled a few times reading this I tell you. There are enough colourful characters to entertain us as we go along as well!

Ena ends up with a variety of cases that include an Art Gallery, nursing home and more, they do have you sat on the edge of your seat with your heart almost in your mouth while you silently hope for them to solve the cases. There is also an old case that needs clearing up as well, Ena has more than enough to keep her busy for the foreseeable future, that’s for sure.

Great read and one I am happy I didn’t miss out on, and I have plenty of books to make me chuckle when I have a chance to catch up with Ena and Artie.

the.b00kreader

Mini Review
Crime, Historical Fiction and a Thriller all in one? Yep, you already have my heart.
This book did not dissappoint! Although book 9 in a series (which I didn’t know😭🤣) it is easily read as a standalone and quite easy to understand. The pacing is swift yet easy, drawing readers into the story yet only revealing pieces of information at once to keep them hooked.

I loved the character of Ena Dudley and am definitely considering reading previous books in this series!

Highly recommend!
4/5✨

Blogger Anne Williams – Old Cases, New Colours (A Dudley Green Investigation) by Madalyn Morgan @ActScribblerDJ @rararesources #blogtour #guestpost #historicalthriller – Being Anne… Review to come

Old Cases New Colours

DUDLEY GREEN ASSOCIATES – PRIVATE INVESTIGATION AGENCY

Book Blurb

Sick of working in a world of spies and bureaucracy, Ena Green, nee Dudley, leaves the Home Office and starts her own investigating agency. Working for herself she can choose which investigations to take and, more importantly, which to turn down. While working on two investigations, Ena is called as a prosecution witness in the Old Bailey trial of a cold-blooded killer who she exposed as a spy the year before.

Extract from Chapter Two

‘Hello?’    

            Hearing a male voice in what she thought was a locked office, Ena looked up. ‘Ouch!’ She had forgotten the cutlery drawer in the kitchen cabinet was open. ‘Artie?’

     Artie Mallory, her colleague from their days working together on cold cases, sounded as surprised to see her as she was to see him. ‘What are you doing?’

    ‘Cleaning. What does it look like?’ Ena touched the top of her head where an egg-like swelling had already begun to form. Thankfully, no traces of blood were evident on her hand, meaning she hadn’t cut her head.

     ‘I thought you were going to rent offices above the coffee bar in Maiden Lane. I went in there and the chap behind the counter said you’d decided against working upstairs so I popped into the theatre and the stage doorman showed me your advert in The Times.’

            ‘It’s been in The Times for two days. It’s in The Lady too. Neither ads have brought in any business.’

     Artie looked around the empty office. ‘I’d say that’s a good thing. You’re not ready for business yet.’

     ‘I should have been. The Home Office did everything at a snail’s pace. The paperwork took an age as everything was tied up in red tape. Then, when everything appeared to be going to plan, the furniture people let me down.  Anyway, we’re back on track now.’

     ‘You and Henry?’

     ‘No, just me. Henry’s at GCHQ.’ Ena dropped the cloth she’d been cleaning the cupboards with into the bucket, dried her hands and put on the kettle. ‘Which begs the question, why aren’t you there?’

     ‘I’ve resigned,’ Artie announced with an air of grandeur, giving a wide berth to the area in the middle of the room, where the dead body of Helen Crowther, the mole at MI5, had been found the previous year. 

     As the kettle began to whistle, Ena looked over her shoulder to ask Artie if he wanted tea or coffee. She laughed. ‘I scrubbed the floor within an inch of its lino-ed life before the new carpet went down. There was nothing to see anyway.’

     ‘I know. It’s just the thought…’ He gave a dramatic shiver. ‘You’re not really going to work in here are you?’

     ‘Why not?’ Ena carried two mugs of steaming coffee into the office and put them on the windowsill. Side-stepping the middle of the room, Artie joined her. Ena laughed again. ‘So,’ she said, taking a sip of her coffee, ‘to what do I owe the pleasure?’

     Artie dropped his gaze and then looked up at her shyly. ‘I’m looking for a job and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather work with than you, Ena. Since you’re the Dudley, and Henry is the Green, I was hoping I could be the Associate.’

     ‘Henry’s only a sleeping partner and it would be fun to work with you again–’

     ‘So I’ve got the job?’

     ‘No, Artie, I’m sorry. If I could afford an associate, you’d be the first person I’d ask, but I just don’t have the money to employ anyone at the moment.’ 

     Artie sighed heavily. ‘I understand.’

     ‘I don’t think you do,’ Ena replied. ‘Every penny The Home Office gave me when -’ Ena put up her hands and made quotation signs with her forefingers – ‘I was made redundant, and most of Henry’s golden handshake when he left MI5, has gone into buying this place and the flat above. I don’t have a bean left. I couldn’t pay you a salary, Artie. Not at the moment, anyway. Stick it out at GCHQ for a little while longer and as soon as I get some work – and I’m paid for it – we’ll talk again. Just give me six months to get on my feet.’

     Artie’s mouth fell open. ‘Six months? I’d be a shadow of myself by then. That is if I don’t die of exhaustion first.’

     Ena put her hand on her old colleague’s arm. ‘Is Highsmith that bad?’

     ‘Ye-es!  Rupert doesn’t need an assistant, he needs an errand boy,’ Artie said. ‘He treats me like he’s the Head Boy of a public school and I’m his Fag. Character building, he calls it. A way of getting to know each other. Huh! I told him, I said, Rupert, I am thirty-eight years old! I am not an eleven-year-old child living away from home for the first time.’ 

     ‘You’re talking in the past tense. Artie, have you resigned?’

     ‘I would have, but he got in first and let me go. He got accounts to pay me until the end of the month though.’

     ‘That was good of him.’

     ‘I’ve earned every penny and more.’

     Ena laughed. She knew Rupert Highsmith well. She had crossed swords with him on several occasions in the past. ‘I’m sure you have.’

     ‘He insists we remain friends. No hard feelings and all that,’ Artie scoffed. ‘I’m not sure Highsmith knows the meaning of the word, ‘friend.’ Still, whatever we are, we’re meeting for a drink tonight.’

     ‘Is there any chance Highsmith will give you your job back?’

     ‘No.’ Artie grinned. ‘I kind of implied I was coming to work with you.’

     Ena blew out her cheeks. ‘Oh, Artie! It would be lovely, but…’

     ‘We worked well together before. And, you said on the day Highsmith offered me the job at GCHQ that if I changed my mind–’ 

     ‘I did, and I meant it.’ Artie’s face lit up. ‘But, as I said, I can’t afford to take you on at the moment. Not you, not anyone.’ Artie looked downcast and absent-mindedly stirred his cooling coffee. ‘As soon as I can afford an associate, I’ll let you know, I promise you, Artie.’

     Her old colleague sighed. ‘I suppose I’d better let you get on,’ he said, making no attempt to leave.

     Banging in the flat above the office resumed. ‘I tell you what. I’ve done enough cleaning for one day.’ Ena looked at her watch. ‘It’s half-past eleven. Let’s get out of here. I need to show my face upstairs and say hello to the builders. Why don’t you come up with me and tell me what you think of the work they’ve done so far. The office furniture’s being delivered this afternoon, sometime after one, which gives us plenty of time to go to Café Romano at the top of Mercer Street and have a coffee and a sandwich. Fancy something to eat?’

     ‘I am hungry…’

     ‘It’s a date then. Give me five minutes to get changed.’ Ena pulled off the scarf she had tied around her head like a turban to keep her hair clean and out of her eyes and shook her hair out. 

She Casts A Long Shadow. An Ena Green, nee Dudley, story and stand-alone sequel to There Is No Going Home.

She Casts A Long Shadow – Book 8 – A stand-alone sequel to There Is No Going Home https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B089JDCR8D/

Preparing to expose a colleague of her husband Henry, as the mole at MI5, Henry is abducted by Special Branch and Ena is thrown into a murder case.

     All the evidence points to Henry having killed the mole, which tells Ena Henry is being framed. Close to finding out the truth, Ena is suspended from her job at the Home Office and the investigation is blocked by Special Branch.

     Help comes from an untrustworthy character. A deal is agreed: A ticket to Austria in return for the names of the mole’s associates, evidence to solve two of Ena’s cold cases, and the proof that Henry is innocent of murder. The catch? Ena accompanies the character to Austria as insurance.

An excerpt from She Casts A Long Shadow. Opening lines of Chapter One.

‘Do you still love Henry, Ena?’

     ‘What?’

     ‘Do you still love your husband?’ Ena’s sister, Bess, asked.

     Ena blinked back her tears. ‘Of course, I do.’

     ‘Then what’s the matter? I can see you’re not happy.’

     Before Ena could reply, the door swung open and Henry appeared. He reached for the light switch, flicked it up and the lights went out. Behind him the stout figure of Foxden Hotel’s chef – his moonlike face eerily lit by a dozen flickering candles on a birthday cake – sashayed into the room to a round of applause.

     Ena, grateful that the chef’s arrival had given her time to control her emotions, nudged Bess. ‘If he doesn’t put that cake down soon the candles will burn out and the icing will be covered in wax.’

     Bess laughed. ‘It will. Chef can be an awkward old so-and-so and his ego expands with his girth, but so does his popularity. He’s worth his weight in candles.’

     The chef eventually arrived at the table of the middle-aged woman celebrating her birthday. He put down the cake, the woman blew out the few candles that were still alight and everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ When the chef turned to leave, Henry switched the lights back on.

     Having played the part of lighting assistant, Ena expected her husband to return to his seat next to her. She looked across the room. He was standing in the corridor with his back to the door. She could tell by the way he lifted and dropped his shoulders that he was talking to someone. She waited for the person to come into view. They didn’t. Henry turned and looked at her. She smiled and beckoned him, but he looked away.

     Ena drank what was left of her wine and banged the glass down with a thump. ‘We’ve grown apart,’ she said, bitterness overtaking the sadness she felt. She looked back at Henry. He had gone.  

‘Have you seen Henry?’ Ena asked Frank, her brother-in-law.

     ‘Just before he left.’

     ‘Left?’

     ‘Yes.’ Frank looked from Bess to Ena. ‘I thought you knew.’

     ‘No, I didn’t.’ Ena leapt out of her chair and grabbed her handbag from under the table. ‘How long ago did he leave?’

     ‘I’m not sure, ten minutes ago, perhaps a little longer. He came into reception from the direction of the dining room, so I assumed he’d been in here and told you he was leaving.’

     ‘He didn’t tell me he was leaving because he didn’t come in here. The last I saw of him he was talking to someone in the corridor.’

     ‘Probably the men he left with.’

     ‘Men? What men?’

     ‘Colleagues. He said they needed his help with something back in London.’

     Spooks from Leconfield House, Ena thought. Don’t they ever have a bloody day off?‘Henry’s colleagues coming all the way from London on Boxing Night can only mean something important has happened.’

     ‘I assumed they were his colleagues. They were big blokes.’

     ‘Could they have been military men?’ Ena asked.

     ‘It’s possible. I thought he’d been in there with you and you’d know who they were.’ Frank dropped onto the chair next to Bess. ‘I’m sorry, Ena.’

     ‘Don’t be. Henry wouldn’t have told you who they were, anyway.’ Ena lifted her bag onto her shoulder and looked at her wristwatch. ‘Ten minutes ago, you said?’

     ‘Or longer,’ Frank said, as Ena made for the door. ‘They’ll be long gone now, love.’

     ‘Ena, wait for me!’ Bess jumped up and followed Ena out of the restaurant.

     ‘If Chef hadn’t spent so long pontificating before bringing that damned birthday cake in, Henry would have been with us when his so-called colleagues turned up.’ Ena turned to cross the marble hall and was met by the receptionist. She kept walking.

     ‘Henry asked me to tell you he’s been called back to London.’

     ‘I know.’

     The receptionist, trying to keep up with Ena pulled a ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ face.

     ‘Did he say why, or tell you who the men were?’ Ena asked, without slowing her pace.

     ‘He didn’t say why, only that the men were from a branch of the company he worked for.’

     ‘A branch?’ Ena’s stomach lurched, but she didn’t stop. What was so important that Special Branch needed to send two men up to Foxden during the Christmas holiday to take Henry back to London? What the hell did they want with him?

There Is No Going Home. An Ena Green, nee Dudley, story and stand-alone sequel to The 9:45 To Bletchley

There Is No Going Home – Book 7 – A stand-alone sequel to The 9:45 To Bletchley https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1073705897/

London, 1958, Ena recognises a woman who she exposed as a spy in WW2. Ena’s husband, Henry, an agent with MI5, argues that it cannot be the woman because they went to her funeral twelve years before.

     Ena, now head of the Home Office cold case department, starts an investigation. There are no files. It is as if the woman never existed. Suddenly colleagues who are helping Ena with the case mysteriously die… and Ena herself is almost killed in a hit-and-run.

     The case breaks when Ena finds important documents from 1936 Berlin that prove not only did the spy exist, but someone above suspicion who worked with her then, still works with her now.

     Fearing for her life, there is only one person Ena can trust… or can she?

An excerpt from There Is No Going Home. Opening lines of Chapter One.

Ena dived to the floor, pulled off an earring and threw it behind the jewellery counter.

     ‘May I help you, madam?’

     From being on all fours, Ena rocked back on her heels. She poked her head above the glass display cabinet and scanned the room. The woman she had successfully avoided was striding across the ground floor of Selfridges department store towards the door leading to Oxford Street.

     ‘I dropped my earring,’ Ena said, looking up at the sharp features of the middle-aged shop assistant standing over her.

     ‘Is this it?’ The woman bent down and picked up a white plastic earring between her forefinger and thumb. Holding it at arm’s-length, as if she feared she would catch something from it, she dropped the bauble into the palm of Ena’s outstretched hand.

     ‘Thank you.’ Getting to her feet Ena glanced over the assistant’s right shoulder to where seconds before she had seen the woman. She had gone.

     ‘Customers are not allowed on this side of the counter,’ the assistant said, her lips a thin red line, her eyes emotionless. ‘If you don’t mind…’ Like a policeman directing traffic, the snooty shop assistant waved Ena to the front of the counter.

     ‘Sorry.’ Ena sidestepped the woman and headed briskly for the exit.

     She emerged out of the cool store into the warm still air of late summer, put her hands up to shade her eyes from the bright sunshine and froze. She spun round and pretended to give the window display serious attention. The woman she had avoided in the store was standing a few feet away from her talking to a middle-aged man. Ena strained to see what the man looked like in the reflection of the shop window. Taller than the woman by several inches, he wore a lightweight suit in a brown herringbone weave. An attaché case hung from his right hand and a camel-coloured overcoat was draped over his arm. He had not bought his clothes off the peg at Burtons, Ena thought. His suit and coat were bespoke. They had been tailored for him in Savile Row, she would put money on it.

     Trying to get a look at the man’s face beneath his brown trilby, Ena edged along the window to where a display of ladies’ swimsuits and two-piece bathing costumes were being replaced by autumn jackets and raincoats. As she moved, the man moved. He leaned forward until his face was almost touching the woman’s face and said something that made her laugh. She pointed to Selfridges’ door, then she kissed her fingers and transferred the kiss to his lips. The man smiled, shrugged, and looked north in the direction of Oxford Circus. Ena could see even less of him now. The woman’s reflection wasn’t as clear from this angle either. Not that it needed to be. Her posture, the way she walked, laughed, and the forthright way in which she had spoken to the man, were all too familiar. She looked different. But then she was fourteen years older, as was Ena, there was no mystery there. That the woman was standing behind her was the mystery. Feigning interest in the curling battlements of a cardboard sandcastle as it was being dismantled, Ena was able to observe the woman more closely.

    Elegant in a powder blue costume, the skirt hugging her slender figure came to just below her knees. The short box jacket was the height of fashion. The collar and cuffs were piped with navy blue silk and to complete the ensemble the woman carried a navy-blue handbag, wore matching high heeled court shoes, and sported a white wide-brimmed hat on perfectly coiffed blonde hair. ‘Bleached,’ Ena said, under her breath. She had been a brunette when Ena knew her. She smiled. Brown hair or blonde, Ena would know her anywhere.  

     Keeping an eye on the couple, Ena sauntered past a display of dresses and coats to the corner of the building. Within reach of the side entrance, she turned and quickly slipped through the door. Unseen she walked to the front of the shop and stood behind two young female window-dressers dismembering mannequins. The interior of the shop was as dark as the outside was light. Ena could see the couple clearly without them seeing her.

     There was no doubt about it. The woman Ena was told had taken her own life in the winter of 1946 was alive and standing yards away from her, separated only by a glass window.

Chasing Ghosts. A Claire Dudley story and stand-alone sequel to China Blue.

CHASING GHOSTS – Book 6 – A stand-alone sequel to China Blue. : https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07D42HP1Q/

It is 1949. After receiving treatment for shell shock in Canada, Claire’s husband disappears. Has Mitch left her for the woman he talks about in his sleep? Or is he on the run from accusations of wartime treachery? Claire goes to France in search of the truth, aided by old friends from the Resistance.

An excerpt from Chasing Ghosts. Chapter Twenty-Seven

The interior of Le Restaurant du Parc was dimly lit. It would have been bright and airy during the day because it faced south-south-west, but not at night. At night it was exactly the kind of place for a secret rendezvous, a clandestine meeting. And Claire should know, she’d had enough of them during her time with the Resistance in the war. She made for a booth at the back of the room and sat down. She looked around. She had a good view of the door. She watched a waiter lighting candles on the tables. Romantic, she thought, and tried to swallow the ache she felt in her throat.

     ‘… Madame?’

     ‘What? I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘I was miles away.’ She glanced at the menu. It said at the top in bold letters Evening Menu after seven o’clock. Her stomach was churning. She didn’t think she’d be able to eat anything, but it was gone seven, so she couldn’t order a drink on its own, she had to order food too. ‘I’m expecting a friend,’ she lied, ‘we’ll order dinner when he arrives.’

     ‘Would you like anything to drink while you wait? An aperitif perhaps?’

     ‘Thank you. A dry martini.’

     The waiter lit the candle in the middle of the table, bowed, and made his way around a cluster of neat tables-for-two to the bar.

     Someone had left a copy of Le Figaro on the seat next to her. She picked it up and leaned back in her seat. The only news reported of any interest to Claire was the death of the former French president Albert Lebrun, who had died in Paris after a prolonged illness. When Nazi Germany invaded France in May 1940, and took Paris a month later, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud lost a cabinet vote and resigned, as did President Lebrun. He made the biggest mistake of his political career, Claire thought, appointing Marshal Pétain as his replacement.

     She folded the newspaper, dropped it back onto the seat, and glanced around the room. Something had changed. She looked again, this time more slowly. A woman that she hadn’t seen the last time she looked was sitting on her own at a table by the window. The waiter, all smiles, waltzed over to attend to her. Then, turning his back on the room and blocking Claire’s view, he took the woman’s coat. By the fuss the waiter was making the woman was a regular diner at Le Restaurant du Parc.  

     The waiter bowed again, and gaily zig-zagged his way through the tables to coat hooks on the far wall. Claire turned her attention back to the woman. Her elbows were on the table, her hands were clasped in front of her, and she was gazing out of the window. Her pose was elegant. Seconds later she brought her focus back to the restaurant’s interior. She was strikingly beautiful. Her dark hair framed her small face. She looked elfin-like with large brown eyes and full red lips. If this woman was Eleanor Cheval, aka Simone, it was no wonder Alain had fallen in love with her.

     The little Claire could see of the woman’s clothes she was sophisticated, stylish. She wore a light grey woollen jacket, edged in darker grey silk. The jacket had fashionably wide lapels and was cut low with a single button at the waist. Beneath it a high-necked silk blouse in a darker shade of grey and a double string of cream pearls, a flattering contrast to her smooth olive skin. The way the woman was sitting Claire could see the blouse fitted snugly over small breasts. She was what Parisians call, très chic.

      Claire looked away from the woman when the restaurant’s door opened. Her heart almost stopped. Mitch stood just inside the entrance. Claire slid down in her seat, lifted the menu up to cover her face and pretended to read. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the waiter take Mitch’s coat and show him to the table where the elegant woman was sitting. The waiter pulled out a chair, but Mitch didn’t sit. Instead, he stood at the woman’s side and looked at her for what seemed to Claire like an age. Then he leaned forward and kissed the woman on the cheek. Claire looked way.

     Claire took enough money from her purse to cover the cost of the food and drink got up quietly and went to the toilet. Instead of using the facility she strolled past it. And, as she had done many times during the war, she opened the back door and walked out into the night.

Foxden Hotel a stand-alone sequel to Foxden Acres. The Dudley sisters celebrate New Year 1948 with devastating consequences.

 FOXDEN HOTEL – Book 5 – A stand-alone sequel to Foxden Acres. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LDYD2D/

The fifth novel is a story of intrigue and secrets, threats and blackmail, romance, happiness and love. Foxden Hotel brings the Dudley sisters together along with their husbands and friends to celebrate the opening of the hotel on New Year’s Eve 1948 (ten years after Foxden Acres opened on New Year’s Eve 1938).

     As the countdown to 1949 begins, a terrifyingly familiar voice from Bess’s past rasps a New Year’s message in her ear. Bess turns, a camera bulb flashes – and the man has gone.

    The uninvited guest, an enemy from the war years, threatens to expose a secret from Bess’s past that will ruin her happiness and the new life she has worked so hard to create. Bess’s husband, Frank, throws the man out, but Bess and her sister Margot follow him. Is that the last they will see of him? Or will he show up again when they least expect?

An excerpt from Foxden Hotel. Opening lines of Chapter One

‘Happy New Year, Bess!’

      A voice, as hard as granite and terrifyingly similar to one from Bess’s past, sent panic searing through her body. She spun round. A camera bulb flashed, temporarily blinding her. She stumbled backwards. Someone grabbed her hand, the lights dimmed, Big Ben began to chime, and the party goers started the countdown to 1949. “Ten! Nine! Eight!–”

      ‘Happy New Year!’ Bess’s sisters shouted above the chanting, kissing her and then each other.

      ‘What is it, Bess?’ Margot was the last of her sisters to greet her. ‘You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.’

      ‘I have. Or rather, I’ve just heard one.’ Bess put on a smile and waved across the room to her husband, Frank, who had been in charge of tuning the wireless for the run-up to midnight. Happy New Year, darling, she mouthed. Frank raised his arm to wave, but Bess’s two youngest sisters, Claire and Ena, had arrived at his side and were smothering him in kisses.

      ‘Come with me. I want you to look at someone and tell me if you’ve seen him before.’ Taking Margot by the hand, Bess led her around the ballroom searching for the face that she felt sure would match the menacing voice that rasped the New Year message in her ear. ‘He isn’t here. He must be in the public bar.’

      The public bar, which was open to non-residents as well as guests of the Foxden Hotel, was opposite the ballroom. Bess and Margot made their way across the hotel’s elegant marble hall and past the traditional Christmas tree. The hall was bustling with people. Those staying in the hotel were making their way up the sweeping staircase to their rooms, others were putting on coats and hats and preparing to leave, and some were still celebrating – shaking hands and kissing each other.

      ‘Happy New Year, Bess!’ someone shouted. And ‘A great party, Bess!’ called someone else, raising their glass. Unable to find her voice to return the greeting, or even to say thank you, Bess forced herself to smile as she edged her way through the jubilant throng.    

     The door to the public bar stood open. From the entrance, Bess’s attention was drawn to two men leaning against the bar, arguing. One of the men, in his mid-thirties with a broad face, cold grey eyes, and blonde greased-back hair, was holding the hand of a pretty girl with fair shoulder-length hair. Observing him nervously with big blue eyes, the girl looked as if she was in her late teens, early twenties. The other man – middle-aged with a square jaw, sharp features and receding grey hair – had a protective arm around the young girl’s shoulders.

     Bess began to tremble; her legs felt weak. Without taking her eyes off the younger of the two men, she gripped the doorframe with one hand, seizing Margot’s hand with the other.   Margot followed Bess’s gaze. ‘Dave Sutherland!’ she gasped. ‘His hair is longer and the stupid Hitler-style moustache has gone, but that Nazi monster is Dave Sutherland.’ She beckoned the newspaper photographer. ‘Any chance of you taking a picture of those two men?’

     The photographer winked. ‘It would be my pleasure.’ A second later he was standing next to them at the bar.

     Distracted by the exploding flash bulb, the two men turned from each other and faced the photographer. Sutherland’s nostrils flared with anger. The older man put his hands up in an attempt to hide his face. He was too late.

     ‘Give me that camera,’ Sutherland slurred. The photographer stepped back. ‘If you know what’s good for you, you’ll hand it over.’ Sutherland took a swing at the photographer, but the photographer reacted quickly and stepped back again. Sutherland overreached, lost his balance, and fell to his knees.

     Bess let go of Margot’s hand and pushed herself off the doorframe. ‘And if you know what’s good for you,’ she said, looking down at Sutherland as he scrambled to his feet, ‘you’ll leave my hotel.’

     Sutherland turned at the sound of Bess’s voice, an evil grin on his face. ‘Your hotel, is it? Well, well, well, haven’t you done well for yourself,’ he smirked, pulling on the sleeves of his jacket and doing his drunken best to regain his composure. ‘Do your fancy friends know what you got up to in London, Bess?’ Sutherland said loudly, surveying the crowd. ‘No? Perhaps I should tell them.’

     Bess felt sick. Fearing the consequences if Sutherland opened his drunken mouth, she turned to the barman. ‘Close the bar, Simon.’