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
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)
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*
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
DUDLEY GREEN ASSOCIATES – PRIVATE INVESTIGATION AGENCY
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
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 – 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.
‘Do you still love Henry, Ena?’
‘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.’
‘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.’
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 – 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?
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 – 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.
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.
‘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 – 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.’
THE 9:45 TO BLETCHLEY – Book 4 in The Dudley Sisters Saga
The 9:45 To Bletchley: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GEVW3Z8/
In the midst of the Second World War, and charged with taking vital equipment via the 9:45 train, Ena Dudley makes regular trips to Bletchley Park, until on one occasion she is robbed. When those she cares about are accused of being involved, she investigates, not knowing whom she can trust. While trying to clear her name, Ena falls in love.
Excerpt from Chapter Seven
A squally March wind gusted along the platform of Rugby’s railway station. Ena turned her back on it, dropped her head, and peered under the brim of her hat. What had begun as drizzle when she arrived at work that morning had turned into sheeting rain.
The railway tracks started to whine and Ena looked to the north. A black steam engine blundered into view, its brakes screeching as it slowed down before coming into the station. She looked across the concourse to the ticket office. Mr Silcott was next in the queue. She watched him bend down and speak into the round porthole in the glass window. Above him the clock said 9:40. They would make the 9:45 to Bletchley.
Ena stepped back from the platform’s edge as the hissing train clunked to a halt. Before steam from its engine engulfed her, she looked at the ticket office again, Mr Silcott wasn’t there. She scanned the concourse, looked up and down the platform, he was nowhere to be seen.
The reinforced suitcase containing her work was heavy. She swapped it from her right hand to her left and rolled her right shoulder. Going to Bletchley Park with the boss was important. And thinking about her work; the rotors and the complicated wiring, the casing on the X-board that only she was trusted to fit, made her feel important. Nervous too. Her stomach was doing cartwheels. She wished Mr Silcott would hurry up.
Ena swapped the suitcase back to her right hand, looked through the steam and rain, and there he was. In his camel coloured overcoat and brown trilby – Mr Silcott was coming out of the Gentlemen’s lavatory.
‘Here we are, miss,’ the station porter said, opening the door of the carriage. ‘Can I take your case?’
‘No thank you, I can manage.’ Ena hitched the string of her gasmask box further onto her shoulder and, holding her handbag in one hand, the suitcase of work in the other, struggled up the steps.
Standing in the doorway of the train, she saw Mr Silcott running across the platform. She needed to attract his attention so, putting the case down gently, she waved out of the window. He didn’t see her. Shielding his face with one hand and holding the brim of his hat with the other, he turned his back to the wind, wrenched open the door at the other end of the carriage and disappeared inside.
Ena picked up the suitcase and heaved it along the narrow corridor, resting it every now and then on her knees to peer through the glass in the doors. In the last compartment she spotted Mr Silcott sitting by the window reading his newspaper.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Ena pulled open the door. ‘Thank goodness I’ve found you.’ Hauling the suitcase into the compartment she stood it down beneath the window, flung off her handbag and gasmask and, exhaling loudly, dropped onto the nearest seat. ‘Oh!’
The man looked up from his newspaper, his fair eyebrows raised with surprise. ‘Hello.’
‘Hello?’ Ena felt her cheeks blush with embarrassment. The man sitting opposite her was not her boss. Ena studied his face. His square jaw, blond hair and pale grey-blue eyes looked familiar. ‘Excuse me, have we met?’
‘Yes, some time ago. You were with a fair-haired young woman. I was going to my company’s head office in Bletchley.’
The only female Ena had travelled to Bletchley with was Freda. She traced back in her mind the times she and Freda had travelled to Bletchley. Then she remembered him talking to Freda. Distracted, concerned about Mr Silcott, Ena nodded.
‘You look worried; is there anything I can do to help?’
‘No, it’s all right. I saw my boss get on the train at this end of the carriage and, as this compartment is the nearest one to the door, I thought he would be in here.’
‘What does your boss look like?’
There was something about the man that Ena didn’t like, but she needed to know if he’d seen Mr Silcott. ‘He’s in his mid-fifties, about five feet ten inches tall. black hair with grey in it, and he’s wearing a camel overcoat and brown trilby.’
The man shook his head. ‘Sorry.’
Ena blew out her cheeks. ‘He’s got my ticket. I’d better go and find him.’
‘If you want to leave your case here while you look for him. I’ll keep my eye on it for you–’
‘I can’t do that. Thank you anyway,’ she said, picking up her belongings. Ena walked the short distance back to the next compartment. Mr Silcott wasn’t in there, or the next. She described him to everyone she met. No one had seen him.
CHINA BLUE – Book 3 in The Dudley Sisters’ Saga http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00XD85NQW/
At the beginning of World War Two, Claire Dudley joins the WAAF. She excels in languages and is recruited by the Special Operations Executive to work in German occupied France with Captain Alain Mitchell, of the RCAF, and the French Resistance. Against SOE rules Claire falls in love. The affair has to be kept secret. Even after her lover is taken by the Gestapo, Claire cannot tell anyone they are more than comrades. As the war reaches its climax, Claire fears she will never again see the man she loves.
An excerpt from China Blue. Chapter Thirteen.
Café La Ronde was packed with Germans. Claire looked around. Alain wasn’t there. The clock above the counter said five to twelve. She asked for a cup of coffee and found a table for two with a good view of the door. She would see Alain when he came in.
The waiter arrived and placed a cup of coffee and a small dish in front of her. Claire dropped a couple of coins into the dish and lifted the cup without taking her eyes off the door. She looked at the clock again. Ten minutes past twelve, Alain was late.
Suddenly several customers jumped up, left their seats, and ran to the window. Claire took her basket and joined them. Half a dozen German soldiers had surrounded a man demanding to know who he was. ‘Damn bullies,’ she said under her breath. A staff car screeched to a halt in front of the café, blocking the view.
Several men cursed and a couple went outside to see more clearly what was going on. Claire followed. A soldier ran to the car and opened the back door. A tall hard-faced captain with skeletal features and small piercing eyes, wearing the dark field green uniform of the Waffen SS – the death mask on his peaked hat highly polished – stepped from it and strode across to the pack of grey uniforms. A corporal broke the circle to let the SS officer in, and Claire gasped. The recipient of the German soldier’s victimization was Alain.
‘Halt!’ the SS officer shouted.
The soldiers did as ordered and moved away. With a sardonic lopsided smirk, the SS officer ordered Alain to produce his identity papers. Alain put his hand inside his jacket and the officer drew his gun. Alain put the offending hand in the air and held his jacket open with the other. The officer nodded sharply to one of the soldiers, who snatched Alain’s papers roughly. The soldier handed the folded document to his superior.
‘I’m afraid,’ Alain said, ‘there has been a mistake. I’m–’
‘Silence!’ the captain shouted. Alain stopped speaking immediately and bowed his head. The SS officer circled him, hitting the palm of his black leather-gloved hand with his truncheon. ‘English pig!’
‘No.’ Alain straightened. ‘I’m–’
‘I said silence!’ Snarling, the officer raised the truncheon and brought it down on Alain’s left shoulder. The force of the blow sent Alain sprawling to his knees. ‘Get up!’ the German shouted. Alain stumbled to his feet and the officer brought the truncheon down again, this time sideways across his face. Alain’s cheek split open on impact and Claire saw him wince as he fell to the ground. Blood gushed from the wound, but the brave Canadian said nothing.
The officer flicked his hand at two soldiers. ‘Take him to headquarters.’
Both clicked their heels. ‘Hauptsturmführer!’ they said as one, and hauled Alain to his feet.
The commotion had brought people out of their houses and shops. Inquisitive at first, they stayed to watch the sport. Elbowing her way to the front of the crowd, Claire caught Alain’s eye. The lines on his forehead deepened when he saw her and he shook his head. Tears filled her eyes as she pushed her way towards him.
‘No!’ he shouted. Struggling, he continued, ‘Leave me! Go!’
Claire stopped. Alain was shouting to her, telling her to leave. But because he was being dragged away by German soldiers they assumed he was shouting at them and punched him in the stomach. He doubled over. Claire screamed. She had caused her brave lover to be hurt again.
. She could see the SS officer’s black Mercedes. She pushed through the oncoming tide of people and there he was, getting into his car. She broke away from the crow and raised her arm. But before she had time to attract his attention, someone grabbed her from behind and pulled her back into the throng. She struggled to free herself, twisting and kicking. ‘Now, now, my little tiger of a wife!’ she heard a familiar voice say. ‘Why so passionate about a stranger? Save your passion for me in our bed.’
Several men nearby began to laugh. Claire glared at them. ‘Ouch! Very well, husband,’ she shouted. ‘Not so tight, you’re hurting me.’
Frédéric Belland relaxed his grip. ‘Shush, Claire. It is too late. You can do nothing to help Alain now.’ Tears streaming down her face, Claire let Frédéric lead her away. At the end of the road she looked back. Alain and the Germans were gone. The crowd had dispersed. The square was empty.
APPLAUSE. Margot Dudley’s story and book two in the Dudley Sisters Saga.
‘Look out! Stop!’
Margaret didn’t look. She didn’t stop until she was pushed into a doorway. ‘What–?’ was all she had time to say before her body slammed into the door. With the wind knocked out of her, Margaret gasped for breath. She struggled beneath the body of a man twice her size until she found a pocket of air, and inhaled deeply. A combination of sweat and brick dust filled her nostrils. Her mouth snatched for air and she began to choke. Her captor didn’t relax his grip. He held her tightly as tiles from the roof of the once quaint Jardin Café on Maiden Lane, in London’s Covent Garden, crashed onto the pavement where Margaret had been standing seconds before.
The cracking, splintering sound of snapping slates gave way to a heavier, duller sound like rolling thunder. With a vice-like grip, the man shielding Margaret took hold of her wrist and threw himself at the door they were leaning on. The door groaned, and the wood splintered at the side of the antiquated brass keyhole, but it didn’t give way. Still holding her, the man lunged again. This time there was a loud crack and the lock buckled beneath his powerful body. The door burst open, propelling Margaret through its gaping entrance as the chimney from the café’s roof crashed to the ground, missing them by inches.
Frightened for her life, Margaret stumbled into the darkness, lost her footing, and slid bottom-first down a flight of stone steps. The strap on her handbag snapped and the bag flew through the air, scattering its contents over the ancient flagstones. With the cardboard box of her gas mask digging into her ribs, Margaret came to a halt beneath a huge wooden cross.
Dazed and bruised, she looked around. She could see by the beam of daylight shining into the small vestibule that she was in the entrance of a church. She could hardly believe her eyes. She had walked down Maiden Lane a dozen times before; she’d had tea in the café, bought postcards from the bookshop opposite to send home, but she had never seen a church. Now she was sitting at the bottom of a flight of steps looking up at a soulful figure of Jesus on the Cross.
‘Have you had enough of life, young woman?’ the burly workman bellowed from inside the door at the top of the steps.
‘What do you mean?’ Margaret said, coughing and spluttering.
‘That was a bloody stupid thing to do.’
‘You’re the stupid one, for pushing me down these stairs. I could have broken my neck.’ She put her hand up to shield her eyes and peered at him through swirling brick dust.
‘Didn’t you see that bloody great big sign sayin’ No Entry?’
‘I didn’t have time to look.’ Margaret put on her best voice, emphasising the aitch in have. ‘I was on my way to a very important job interview and didn’t want to be late,’ she said, in an attempt to justify her stupidity while biting back her tears.
‘You could’ve been killed, never mind late!’ the man hollered, and he stormed off.
‘I’m sorry!’ Margaret shouted after him, but he had gone. She could have been killed, and so could he. The workman had put his life at risk to save her and she hadn’t even thanked him. As the reality of the danger she’d put them both in hit her, tears welled up in her eyes. She looked up at the figure of Jesus on the Cross. Engraved above his head were the letters INRI – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. At his feet was a brass plaque with the words Welcome to the Church of St. Saviour. Margaret burst into tears.
On grazed hands and knees, Margaret picked up her comb, lipstick and powder compact, which now had a cracked mirror and was covered in brick dust. Returning them to her handbag, she sat back on her heels and looked at her hands. How can I go to a job interview looking like this? she thought. But if I don’t go, the builder who saved my life would have risked his life for nothing. And what would Anton Goldman say? I’ve pestered him to get me the interview for more than six months.
‘Anyone would think you don’t want this job in the theatre,’ she said to herself. She did want it. She wanted it badly. Getting a job as an usherette was only the beginning. One day she was going to be an actress and sing and dance in a West End show. It was what she had dreamed of all her life. She was going to be famous and she wasn’t going to let a bit of muck, or a few cuts and bruises, stop her.