Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)

BOOK: Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)
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D
EATH IN AN
I
VORY
T
OWER

A DOTSY LAMB TRAVEL MYSTERY

D
EATH IN AN
I
VORY
T
OWER

M
ARIA
H
UDGINS

FIVE STAR
A part of Gale, Cengage Learning

Copyright © 2014 by Maria Hudgins.

Five Star™ Publishing, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.

No part of this work covered by the copyright herein may be reproduced, transmitted, stored, or used in any form or by any means graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, scanning, digitizing, taping, Web distribution, information networks, or information storage and retrieval systems, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

The publisher bears no responsibility for the quality of information provided through author or third-party Web sites and does not have any control over, nor assume any responsibility for, information contained in these sites. Providing these sites should not be construed as an endorsement or approval by the publisher of these organizations or of the positions they may take on various issues.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Hudgins, Maria.

Death in an ivory tower : a Dotsy Lamb travel mystery / Maria Hudgins. — First edition.

    pages cm

ISBN 978-1-4328-2864-6 (hardcover) — ISBN 1-4328-2864-9 (hardcover)

eISBN-13: 978-1-4328-2860-8 eISBN-10: 1-4328-2860-6

1. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3608.U326D33 2014

813′.6—dc23                               2014003149

First Edition. First Printing: June 2014

This title is available as an e-book.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4328-2860-8 ISBN-10: 1-4328-2860-6

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Printed in the United States of America
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  18  17  16  15  14

For Elizabeth and Nate Newton

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many great mysteries have been set in Oxford, UK, in the university or in the town that surrounds it, and like many writers before me I’ve taken the liberty of inventing a college that doesn’t exist. Oxford University consists of some forty autonomous colleges scattered about the town amid shops, restaurants, and churches such as you’d find in any town.

I call my college St. Ormond’s and I’ve been deliberately vague about exactly where it is. There is, for instance, no Cobbler’s Lane and no Sycamore Lane. But the main thoroughfares, such as the High and Broad Street, are real, since any lover of Oxford would cringe at my renaming them. Major landmarks, like the “Emperors’ Heads” and Blackwell’s Bookshop, are not disguised. If any reader familiar with the town notices a similarity between my fictitious college and Jesus College, Oxford, it may be because I stayed there one summer while attending the St. Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Weekend. I chose Jesus College because its oldest halls date to the Elizabethan period, and because it had the atmosphere I was looking for as a setting for this story. I’m grateful to the porters of Jesus College for taking me to some parts of the school normally closed to visitors. But beyond the arrangement of the quads and the incredible flower-beds, any resemblance between St. Ormond’s and Jesus or any other Oxford college is coincidental.

I’d like to thank my friend Brian Smith for his help with the technical aspects of an insulin regimen. I’m also grateful to Dr. Donna Forrest for her plot suggestions and her help with the details of gunshot wound surgery and recovery.

As always, I thank my dogs, Holly and Hamilton, for keeping me company while I wrote this story and my Sisters in Crime friends for their patience and help.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Dotsy Lamb—
Ancient and medieval history teacher from Staunton, Virginia. At sixty-something, she’s determined to complete her PhD at the University of Virginia.

Lettie Osgood—
Dotsy’s lifelong best friend from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She’s come to Oxford, UK, to babysit her grandchildren while her daughter, a physician, works at a local hospital.

Larry Roberts—
European history teacher at the University of Virginia and Dotsy’s major professor. He’s returned to his alma mater, Oxford, with anticipation and more than a little trepidation.

Bram Fitzwaring—
A big, rough-hewn, New Ager from Glastonbury. He believes King Arthur was a real person and he’s determined to prove it.

Mignon Beaulieu—
Bram Fitzwaring’s companion, also from Glastonbury. She supports Fitzwaring, one hundred percent.

Keith Bunsen—
A don of St. Ormond’s College, Oxford. His research may improve the lives of those living with diabetes.

Harold Wetmore—
Master of St. Ormond’s College, he’s an authority on early English history but otherwise a stereotypical absentminded professor.

Daphne Wetmore—
Harold’s wife and the one who does the donkey work at St. Ormond’s.

Georgina Wetmore—
Harold and Daphne’s niece. Beautiful, blond, and twenty years old, she’s a third-year student at

another Oxford college.

Robin Morris—
A director at Oxford’s renowned Bodleian Library. Along with Dotsy, Larry, Harold, and others, he’s participating in the summer conference at St. Ormond’s.

Claudia Moss—
From the British Museum in London, she’s presenting a paper at the conference and having a bit of extra fun while she’s at it.

John Fish—
A man of indeterminate age who leads Oxford Ghost Tours at night and prowls the streets by day.

Dr. Lindsey Scoggin—
Lettie Osgood’s daughter. She lives in Virginia, but she’s spending the summer in Oxford on a physician exchange program.

Claire and Caleb Scoggin—
Lindsey’s children, aged seven and five. In spite of their precarious situation, they steal Dotsy’s heart.

Dr. St. Giles Bell—
Handsome, sexy, neurologist and new boyfriend of Lindsey Scoggin. He’s a widower, some say by his own design. His nerve-tissue research involves oysters, mice, and a particularly potent neurotoxin.

Lord and Lady Attwood—
Anthea, Lady Attwood, is Daphne Wetmore’s sister. The Attwoods spend as much time on the front pages of the tabloids as they do in their Oxfordshire mansion.

Simon McAlister—
Owner of The Green Man, a shop catering to the New Agers of Oxford. His large circle of friends includes both town and gown.

Bumps McAlister—
An actress and the wife of Simon. Her roles range from Shakespeare to—well—practical jokes.

Chief Inspector Child—
Thames Valley Police. Inspector Morse, he ain’t.

Detective Sergeant Gunn—
Chief Inspector Child’s associate.

Pete—
Audiovisual man for conference attendees.

Also, various porters, servers, scouts (housekeeping staff) and gardeners of St. Ormond’s.

C
HAPTER
O
NE

The card read, “Six-thirty for seven,” the British way of saying, “Drinks between six-thirty and seven. Dinner at seven sharp.” My watch said 6:42, and the next eighteen minutes loomed eternal. I studied the shabby but genuine Persian carpet on the oak floor in the Master’s Lodgings. Concentrating hard to drown out Larry Roberts’s voice, which was blaming me for the presence of two people he thought should not be here, I tried to decide which was older, the carpet or the floor. In Oxford, one is perpetually agape at the antiquity of almost everything.

“Who wrote who first? You or him?” Larry’s volume was barely above a whisper, but the force of his breath lifted the hair on my forehead.

I mentally swept his words under the corner of the Persian carpet.

The occasion was a conference for history scholars, among whose numbers I presume to count myself. Entitled “The Lingering Effects of the King Arthur Tales on Life in Elizabethan England,” my own connection to the subject of the conference was tenuous at best. My nearly finished dissertation under the tutelage of the aforementioned Larry dealt with the sources available to Shakespeare when he wrote
Macbeth.

Oh, God. Did I just say
aforementioned
? I’ve been hanging around these folks too long. In real life, I’m Dotsy Lamb, Virginian, mother of five grown children, divorced wife of the nouveau riche but alcoholic Chet Lamb, teacher of ancient and medieval history at a small Virginia college, and—for the moment at least—doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia. This last position depended on my strength in holding my tongue until I could break free of Larry.

I studied the silhouettes of Bram Fitzwaring and Mignon Beaulieu, hazy in the slanting afternoon light from a tall mullioned window. Bram sported a long single braid, hanging well below his waist. It had to be his real hair and, given that braiding shortens the apparent length of hair, when unbraided must have fallen to his knees. He wore a caftan of rough wool in a sort of mud color, baggy cotton trousers, and sandals. His sandals had thick rubber soles and bungee cord ties. I’d seen similar footwear in the L.L.Bean catalog.

His companion, Mignon, whose name sounded French but who spoke with a Welsh accent, wore her auburn hair in a braid as well, but instead of stretching back from a receding hairline as Bram’s did, much of it escaped to form an unruly cloud around her face and neck. Her ankle-length, midnight blue dress of crushed velvet topped a pair of rubber-soled sandals identical to Bram’s but a few sizes smaller.

They both held their wine glasses as if they’d be more comfortable with ale mugs. They’d arrived today from Glastonbury, a town in Somerset whose ruined abbey was famous for its alleged connections to King Arthur. Some believed Glastonbury was the fabled Isle of Avalon. Glastonbury attracted New Age types and assorted nut cases, as Larry had informed me. I wish I’d known that when I told Bram Fitzwaring, by email, that he should apply to attend the conference. I assured him that his credentials, as listed by him and accepted by me without question, would certainly enhance our understanding of the mythical king. But here he was, sipping Chablis with Oxford scholars, like a dusty thistle in a bed of primroses. A guffaw from Mignon, too loud for the circumstances, cut through Larry’s monotonous attack on my left ear.

I tried to remember exactly how the correspondence between Fitzwaring and me had proceeded. I had to get my story straight because I knew Larry would keep harping on it for the duration of the conference. Fitzwaring had emailed Larry’s office first, citing his interest in the conference. No, that wasn’t it. Larry had asked me to scare up some more attendees, and I had found Bram Fitzwaring’s name on a website that dealt with early Arthuriana. I emailed him first. Would I have done that? That doesn’t sound like something I’d do. Oh, hell, I was so stressed out all this spring I might have done anything.

BOOK: Death in an Ivory Tower (Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries)
6.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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