Authors: J. M. Gregson
Table of Contents
Lambert and Hook Mysteries
GIRL GONE MISSING
AN UNSUITABLE DEATH
AN ACADEMIC DEATH
DEATH ON THE ELEVENTH HOLE
TOO MUCH OF WATER
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN
A GOOD WALK SPOILED
IN VINO VERITAS
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Detective Inspector Peach Mysteries
WHO SAW HIM DIE?
MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD
TO KILL A WIFE
A TURBULENT PRIEST
THE LANCASHIRE LEOPARD
A LITTLE LEARNING
MURDER AT THE LODGE
WAGES OF SIN
REMAINS TO BE SEEN
ONLY A GAME
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2003 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2003 by J. M. Gregson
This eBook edition first published in 2012 by Severn Select an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
The right of J. M. Gregson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Gregson, J. M. (James Michael)
1.Lambert, Superintendent John (Fictitious character) - Fiction
2.Hook, Sergeant Bert (Fictitious character) - Fiction
3.Police - England - Gloucestershire - Fiction
4.Cheltenham (England) - Fiction
5.Detective and mystery stories
ISBN-13 978-1-4483-0056-3 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
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To Peter Landau and David Every â
two very successful head teachers, who are otherwise
quite unlike the one in this book!
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden . . .
heltenham is one of the finest spa towns in Europe. It has a wealth of Regency terraces lining elegant squares, crescents and open spaces. George III, that inveterate frequenter of spas, visited the town in 1788 and set his seal of approval upon it.
It is not at all the sort of place you would identify with violent death.
For the British, the name of Cheltenham conjures up echoes of the Empire in retirement. It was when military officers and colonial administrators returning from the tropics discovered the beneficial effects of the mineral waters that the elegant new town was established. Between 1800 and 1840, the discernment and good taste of people steeped in a classical culture achieved its architectural fulfilment amidst the wide streets and tree-shaded open spaces of the new town.
This has always been a place for civilized debate, not an arena for the knife and the bullet.
Yet there is another Cheltenham beyond the Regency ironwork balconies and verandas, beyond the elegance of Lansdown Place and Montpellier Walk. The ubiquitous motor car has made its inevitable and relentless impact. The town is intersected by the A40 and five radiating major routes, so that it is now one of the most frustrating places in which to drive and one of the most difficult in which to park.
Perhaps it is better communications which have brought some very undesirable people into this cultivated town.
Yet road and rail have brought new sources of employment to an ancient part of England. The town is one of the few in the country where manufacturing industry, varying from thermostatic valves to watches and clocks, is thriving in the new century. Its festivals of music and literature bring creative forces into the town, but Cheltenham is probably more famous for the racecourse on its northern side, which brings an influx of visitors, most but not all of them welcome, into the ancient spa town.
The educational facilities of the town reflect similar contrasts and tensions between tradition and modernity. On the Bath Road are two schools which enjoy a national fame. The Cheltenham College for Boys, built between 1841 and 1843 in early Gothic Revival style, thrived as a public school for the sons of Indian Army officers. Nearby is the Cheltenham Ladies' College, founded by Miss Beale, an ardent Victorian champion of good education for girls, a school now renowned and caricatured throughout the country as the emblem of Establishment good taste and breeding.
In other and newer parts of the town, among the harsher brick buildings of the second half of the twentieth century, there are other schools, educating the children of the workers and the unemployed of a modern industrial complex. Greenwood Comprehensive has very different buildings and a very different ethos from those of Cheltenham Ladies' College and the Cheltenham College for Boys.
Greenwood has equal numbers of boys and girls, for a start, and a much wider range of the social classes among its parents. It also has a far greater proportion of single parents attending â or failing to attend â its regular parents' evenings, where the educational progress of its clientele is discussed. And as might be expected, this school has its share of what the jargon of the day calls social problems. Drugs have exchanged hands outside its gates, especially in the convenient darkness of winter evenings.
Nevertheless, education is not the environment in which you would expect a man to have his head blown away.
Greenwood Comprehensive School's sixth form enjoys an interesting range of distinguished visitors, summoned to offer their experience and their views of life to those about to enter its full challenges. But policemen and social workers are also frequent visitors to the school, and two representatives of that burgeoning profession of the twenty-first century â the counsellor â are busily employed within the school.
Yet let no one convince you that good education cannot be provided in establishments like Greenwood Comprehensive. There are bad schools working among the problems thrown up by settings like this, some of them almost defeated by the difficulties of staffing and resources. But there are also some very good schools, providing a lively and stimulating environment for learning amongst the social problems which surround them.
Greenwood Comprehensive was one of these at the time of these events. It came agreeably high in the league tables of schools by which a desperate government tried to raise standards. If a proper allowance had been made for the background of its intake and the problems of its environment, it might well have come in the very top sections of the tables. The two famous private schools a few miles away had pupil-teacher ratios which were half those of Greenwood.
But Greenwood Comprehensive School was the very last place where you would expect murder to be stalking.
Every good school has a good head teacher. Because of the way the state system is set up, because of the power of the head to set the spirit and standards of the school, it is almost impossible to have a highly effective school without a highly effective head. Greenwood was no exception to this rule.
Peter Logan had been its head teacher for five years. By a combination of vision, foresight and energy, he had made it one of the best schools of its kind in Gloucestershire. Energy might seem a mundane quality to outsiders, but it was the most important of these three in the day-to-day efficiency of a large school, and Peter had energy in abundance.
Yet one would have said that Peter Logan was not at all the kind of person who would get himself involved in murder.
For the energy which drove him was the servant of an unswerving vision. In Logan's view, his school was already the best in the county. In a few years, it would be one of the best in the country. There were two key appointments coming up in the next few months, a Deputy Head and a Head of Sixth Form Studies. Peter knew what he wanted, and would make sure that he got it. Even if the first set of interviews didn't produce the right person, he would wait and re-advertise. Staff appointments were the most important decisions you ever made in a school, and it was worth putting up with short-term inconvenience to get the right person.
All this Peter Logan knew too well for it to need repetition. He was enunciating it for the benefit of his governors at their meeting on this Monday evening. They were a good body of citizens, on the whole. They wanted the school to succeed and took notice of what the Head told them. Once he had reassured them, they were only too eager to help its Head to implement his policies. They were backing a good man, after all. Peter had already convinced them of that: year by year, he brought them solid evidence of success in the school's examination results.
Everyone says that exam performance should not be the sole measure of a school's success, that education is about more intangible things than merely passing exams and taking the first successful steps in life's rat race. And everyone promptly adopts exam results as the only reliable guide to a school's progress.
But that was all right. The state school came out very well on the GCSE and A-level counts. Greenwood and Peter Logan produced the goods, and the school went forward, and everyone was happy.
Or almost everyone. One person in the governors' meeting watched the head teacher steadily, with no evidence of emotion. One person listened not to the arguments he outlined but to the ambition which lay behind them. One person weighed everything Peter Logan said and found it wanting. It was not objective, but one person was not concerned with being objective about the man who led Greenwood Comprehensive.
One governor at least was consumed with a surprising hatred of this popular head teacher.
The meeting proceeded smoothly enough. Peter Logan announced that the new bank of computers had been installed in the school's IT centre. There were mutters of pleasure all round the table, even from the three elderly local councillors, who had no acquaintance with computers. Technology was always impressive, especially when you did not understand it.