A shocking death turns a homecoming into a nightmare.
It’s Easter 1970 in the seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, and for one family the first Easter of a new decade brings a shocking tragedy. Amateur sleuth and professional librarian, Janie Juke, is settling into motherhood and looking forward to spending time with her family. When her Aunt Jessica is due back from Rome after nine years travelling around Europe, she arrives back in town with a new Italian friend, Luigi, and the whole family soon get embroiled in a tangle of mystery and suspicion, with death and passion at the heart of the story.
As time runs out on Luigi as prime suspect for murder, Janie has to use all of her powers of deduction in the footsteps of her hero, Hercule Poirot, to uncover the facts. Why did Luigi come to Tamarisk Bay? What is the truth about his family?
As Luigi’s story unfolds, tragedy seems to haunt the past, present and unless Janie acts fast, possibly what is yet to come.
It’s Easter 1970 and Janie Juke is looking forward to her aunt’s homecoming. Jessica has been travelling around Europe for the last nine years and is now returning to Tamarisk Bay from Italy, with a friend in tow. Here we meet Jessica as they arrive at her brother’s house to be welcomed by an effusive niece…
Wednesday – the Chandler household, Tamarisk Bay
The notice on the front door announced that Philip Chandler’s physiotherapy practice was closed for the Easter weekend. A chance for a well-earned rest. The last few weeks had been eventful with the birth of his first grandchild, then the christening, and now the imminent arrival of his sister and her friend.
Janie had prepared the two spare rooms months ago, anticipating her aunt’s arrival in time for Christmas. The reasons for Jessica’s delay were vague and Philip was philosophical about it, which did little to counter his daughter’s disappointment.
‘I thought she’d be here for Michelle’s christening.’
‘I think your daughter has enough doting onlookers.’ The slight curl at either edge of Philip’s mouth gave him away, despite his attempt at a stern voice. ‘She’s already got me, Phyllis and Greg’s parents looking out for her. That’s a lot to cope with when you’re not even two months old.’
‘Alright, you win,’ Janie said, wrapping her arms around her dad.
‘Truth is,’ Philip continued, ‘if you’d had the excitement of seeing Jessica in December, you wouldn’t have it all to look forward to now, would you?’
‘You should have been a politician, or a salesman. Although your positive powers of persuasion are not entirely wasted.’
‘You mean I can persuade my patients to go forth and heal themselves?’
Charlie’s bark interrupted their conversation.
‘They’re here, dad. I’ll let them in.’ Janie pushed past Charlie, almost tripping herself up in her haste.
‘Stunning,’ Janie said, pulling her aunt close to her before pushing her away again to take a proper look. ‘You look so…European. I’m not sure what it is, something about the way you have your hair, or maybe it’s that beautiful silk scarf. Is it Italian?’
‘How about letting your aunt through the door before you quiz her on every aspect of her wardrobe.’ Philip waited for his sister to move towards him, holding his arms out. Instead she took both of his hands in hers, leaned forwards and kissed him on each cheek.
‘My favourite brother,’ she said, holding his face in her hands. ‘And where’s my bright-eyed teenage niece vanished to? Who is this beautiful grown-up with a pink bundle in her arms?’
‘You’re right about the grown-up part, being a mother certainly concentrates the mind. Not so sure about the rest. Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep might be a better description.’
‘And your friend, is he here with you?’ Philip asked.
Luigi stepped forward. He seemed unsure as to how to greet Philip and focused his gaze on Philip’s face. ‘Mr Chandler,’ he said.
Janie was used to her father’s blindness, but she could sense the discomfort of someone so fazed by it.
‘Welcome to Tamarisk Bay, Luigi,’ Philip said, ‘let’s go through to the sitting room. Janie, how about drinks for our visitors?’
The next hour was a flurry of chatter, with everyone talking at once, except for Luigi, who remained quiet.
‘Phil, that beard makes you look quite distinguished, although I can see the odd grey hair.’ Jessica ran her fingers over Philip’s face.
‘It makes life easier. Daily shaving can be tricky, even a little dangerous on occasion.’
‘The grey hairs might be my fault,’ Janie said. ‘We’ve had a roller coaster time of it this past year, haven’t we, dad?’
‘Roller coaster rides must suit you,’ Jessica said, ‘It’s not even two months since you gave birth and you look so laid back, like you’ve been a mum forever. Give the little one to me and let me take a proper look at her.’ Jessica took Michelle in her arms and ran her fingers gently over her face. ‘She’s got your eyes and maybe your nose, although babies’ noses are always just little buttons.’ She touched the tip of Michelle’s nose and she immediately responded with a little sneeze.
‘Bless you,’ Janie and Philip said in unison.
‘But I’m guessing she has her dad’s chin,’ Jessica said, continuing to gaze at her great-niece.
‘You’re right about that, she’s got Greg’s dimple. He’ll be chuffed you noticed it. He’s such a star, he loves being a dad. He even helps me out with some of the night feeds.’
‘Janie values her independence,’ Philip said.
‘Must take after her aunt,’ Jessica said, laughing.
Isabella Muir is the author of Janie Juke series of crime mysteries – all set in Sussex.
The Tapestry Bag is the first in the series, followed by Lost Property. Now – The Invisible Case – the latest in the series is available for pre-order from Amazon.
The Janie Juke Mysteries are set in Sussex in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian with a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.
Isabella has also published Ivory Vellum – a collection of short stories.
She has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.
Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.
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