A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.
Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters. Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying-guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all. And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.
Writers in the family & precarious family finances
Margaret Fyttleton aka Mother, who writes dull books about heroines of women’s suffrage, as well as far more profitable sentimental romances about hard-up young women who invariably marry into the peerage. Margaret is reclusive and the family prefer to keep it that way.
I forged a letter from Mother to the bank, and Granny and I arranged for the lodgers’ potential rent money to be paid into an account we had already set up in Granny’s name, when Papa died. Mother has no interest in money apart from its power to buy books, so a sum each month goes into her own account and the rest of it, including her writing income, goes into what we privately call the Family Fighting Fund. Mother rarely engages with the outside world as she lives on a higher plane than the rest of us, which suits us very well. She has no common sense when it comes to money so God forbid she should ever find out what we’re up to!
Granny has a small private income, her sole inheritance from her parents, and twenty pounds a year that was all Grandpapa was able to leave her. That goes into the pot and I contribute as well with our latest source of income, the money I earn from writing adventure serials for boys’ magazines and annuals. This is a deadly secret known only to my sisters and grandmother.
It came about like this. When Bertie was at boarding-school he and I used to send each other parodies of Boys’ Own adventure stories, but a year or so ago I decided to submit them to a magazine. I rewrote them as yarns that might appeal to boys and young men at the Front and was delighted when they paid me. Wondering whether I could find a second income for my stories I contacted Mother’s publisher, using her name; we’re all expert forgers, the Fyttleton girls. Writing as Mother, I explained that Lt Jasper Crombie was a young relative, and would her publisher consider reissuing the stories as books? Happily, her publisher snapped up the stories and the first of Lt Crombie’s efforts had already come out as a short novel last October. The second one, serialised last summer, was due out at the end of April, and I was now three-quarters of the way through the third, which was being serialised as I wrote.
I felt under no compulsion to inform the magazine editor or Mother’s publisher that Jasper and Crombie were two of our hens. They had been named after gamekeepers at our grandmother’s childhood home, a crumbling castle not far from the northern coast of Aberdeenshire. So far, the hens have never complained about their masculine names and Granny had fond memories of the keepers who had taught her the excellent poaching skills that provide us with meat and keep down the rabbits in the park at the Hall. (She had acquired the skills deemed essential for a daughter of the nobility from her mother’s elderly governess who, crippled with rheumatism, had been pensioned off to live at the castle. Sadly, Granny’s shyness was a hindrance in Polite Society so her poaching skills have proved far more useful in our straitened circumstances.)
As soon as Granny and I had the family finances completely under our control, we knew where we stood, and very worrying it was too. It was a good job we had no idea that our lives were soon to be further complicated by murder.
‘I love it. A delightfully unusual mystery with wonderful characterisation and historical detail.’ – LESLEY COOKMAN BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE LIBBY SARJEANT MYSTERY SERIES
Nicola Slade lives in Hampshire where she writes historical and contemporary mysteries and women’s fiction. While her three children were growing up she wrote stories for children and for women’s magazines before her first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published in 2005. Among other jobs, Nicola has been an antiques dealer and a Brown Owl! She loves travelling and at one time, lived in Egypt for a year. The Convalescent Corpse is Nicola’s 9th novel. Nicola is also a member of a crime writers’ panel, The Deadly Dames https://www.facebook.com/DeadlyDames/
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