Read Next Door to Murder Online

Authors: Anthea Fraser

Tags: #Suspense

Next Door to Murder

BOOK: Next Door to Murder
12.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Table of Contents

Cover

Recent Titles by Anthea Fraser

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Recent Titles by Anthea Fraser
The Rona Parish Mysteries
(in order of appearance)
BROUGHT TO BOOK *
JIGSAW *
PERSON OR PERSONS UNKNOWN *
A FAMILY CONCERN *
ROGUE IN PORCELAIN *
NEXT DOOR TO MURDER *
The Detective Chief Inspector Webb Mysteries
(in order of appearance)
A SHROUD FOR DELILAH
A NECESSARY END
PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW
DEATH SPEAKS SOFTLY
THE NINE BRIGHT SHINERS
SIX PROUD WALKERS
THE APRIL RAINERS
SYMBOLS AT YOUR DOOR
THE LILY-WHITE BOYS
THREE, THREE, THE RIVALS
THE GOSPEL MAKERS
THE SEVEN STARS
ONE IS ONE AND ALL ALONE
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
ELEVEN THAT WENT UP TO HEAVEN *
THE TWELVE APOSTLES *
Other Titles
PRESENCE OF MIND *
THE MACBETH PROPHECY *
BREATH OF BRIMSTONE *
MOTIVE FOR MURDER *
DANGEROUS DECEPTION *
PAST SHADOWS *
FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS *
*
available from Severn House
NEXT DOOR TO MURDER

Anthea Fraser

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
This first world edition published in Great Britain 2008 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1DF.
This first world edition published in the USA 2008 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS INC of
595 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022.
Copyright © 2008 by Anthea Fraser.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Fraser, Anthea
Next door to murder
1. Parish, Rona (Fictitious character) - Fiction 2. Women
authors - England - Fiction 3. Murder - Investigation -
Fiction 4. Detective and mystery stories
I. Title
823.9'14[F]
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-251-1 (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6614-1 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-051-8 (trade paper)
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
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

One

M
ax Allerdyce came clattering down the basement stairs to the kitchen, kissed his wife, patted the dog, and announced, ‘It looks as if someone's moving in next door.'

Rona nodded. ‘So I noticed. Wonder who we'll get this time.'

The house next door, a four-storey Georgian like their own, had been empty for several months. Its owners lived abroad, and over the years there'd been a succession of tenants, most of whom had taken it for the minimum period of six months. Some of them Rona had barely seen during their tenure, some she'd known only to say ‘Good morning' to, and, very rarely, some they'd had in for drinks. Usually, the tenants were couples with school-age children whose jobs had moved them to the locality, and, intent on finding a place of their own, they'd had neither the time nor the inclination to strike up an acquaintance with temporary neighbours.

‘Seen anything of them?' Max enquired, taking out a couple of glasses.

‘An elderly man went up the path at one point. If he's the one moving in, it'll be a change from the usual age group. Not that it'll make much difference; I doubt if we'll see much of them.' She took the drink he handed her. ‘Thanks. How did the classes go?'

Once a week, Max held art classes in the afternoon for those who couldn't attend in the evenings – mainly housewives and the retired.

‘OK, but it was unpleasantly hot in the studio. The fans are pretty useless; all they do is move the air around. If this weather continues, I'll have to think seriously about air con.'

‘One problem we don't have here, with these thick walls,' Rona commented. ‘It stays cool in the highest temperatures.'

‘And the lowest!' Max said with a laugh. ‘Thank God for central heating.' He glanced outside. ‘The sun's off the garden now; let's take our drinks out before I make a start on dinner. I thought we'd have a barbecue while the weather holds.'

Max was the chef of the family. Rona loathed cooking, and on the evenings he had classes she existed on takeaways, salads and visits to the conveniently close Italian restaurant.

He slid back the patio door, and she went ahead of him into the small paved garden. After the cool of the kitchen, the air was warm on her bare arms, and she inhaled with pleasure the mixture of scents drifting on it. She loved this small, private area, with its urns and baskets overflowing with flowers, and its small, half-hidden statues reminiscent of Italian courtyards. It was surrounded on three sides by a high wall of mellow, rose-coloured brick that now, in the evening sunlight, gave back its warmth.

Gus, the golden retriever, flopped down on the sun-baked flagstones, his tongue lolling. He seemed resigned to his evening walks becoming later and later, postponed till the heat of the day had abated.

Max and Rona strolled in contented silence to the end of the garden, from where they could see that the upstairs windows of the house next door were wide open.

‘It's been empty quite a while, hasn't it?' Rona commented. ‘I hope the agents gave it a good clean and airing before anyone moved in.'

‘If it's an elderly couple, at least we should be spared screaming children in the garden!'

He leant against the wall and lifted his face to the sun, eyes closed. ‘Why did we spend a fortune on that holiday, when the weather's just as good here?'

They'd returned only days earlier from four weeks in Greece – longer than they usually took, but Rona's last assignment for
Chiltern Life
had been a trying one. She'd been subdued for weeks afterwards – hardly surprising, in view of what had happened – and Max had felt she needed a complete break.

‘Because here,' she answered lazily, her own head tilted back, ‘there's no warm sea, or golden sand, or ouzo, or tavernas, or—'

He laughed. ‘OK, you have a point.' He pushed himself away from the wall. ‘I'd better start sorting out the food. I'll give you a shout when I need your input.'

She walked back towards the house with him, and sank into one of the loungers by the open door.

He took her empty glass. ‘Like a top-up?'

‘No thanks, I'll wait for wine with the meal.'

He disappeared inside and she could hear him moving about, the fridge door opening and shutting, cupboard doors sliding. Gus ambled over and lay at her feet, yawning prodigiously, and she reached down to scratch his ears.

She admitted to herself that she'd needed that holiday. So much had changed over the past months; at the time it had carried her along with it, but the stresses and strains of that last project and the emotions aroused had proved the final straw. It was good of Max to have recognized that, and taken measures to rectify it.

Eighteen months ago, she reflected, life had seemed set in its smoothly running pattern. She'd been about to start on her fourth biography – of the recently deceased thriller writer, Theo Harvey. Her twin sister Lindsey, a solicitor, was bouncing back from her divorce from Hugh, and their parents, if not particularly happy, appeared to be rubbing along together as they had for years.

Now, all that had changed. Rona's own career seemed to have switched – at least temporarily – to that of freelance journalist at the glossy magazine
Chiltern Life
– a move that, while seeming innocuous enough, had flung her repeatedly into violent and distressing situations, a trend that her present series, on the history of long-established family businesses, was continuing to uphold.

Lindsey meanwhile had lurched from one unsuitable lover to another – including Hugh himself, who was now back on the scene – and her latest was, in Rona's view, an arrogant and opinionated millionaire, whose cavalier attitude left Lindsey miserable and unsure of herself.

Most dramatic of all, her parents had separated and Pops was now living in a flat in town, waiting for two years to elapse before divorcing to marry Catherine, an ex-headmistress. While Mum had miraculously metamorphosed from a drab, discontented shrew into a smartly turned-out woman with a part-time job and a paying guest.

How had it all come about? What ‘tide in the affairs of men' had been responsible for dropping her family into a kaleidoscope and giving them all a good shake? A mixed metaphor if ever there was one, Rona thought with a self-deprecating smile.

Only Max hadn't changed. In addition to his commissioned paintings and teaching at the art school, he continued to hold classes at Farthings, a cottage ten minutes' walk away, and spend three nights a week there following the evening sessions. Yet, though he was unaware of it, even their relationship had come under threat during that last assignment. Furthermore, though she longed to put the whole episode behind her, including the death of a young woman she'd considered her friend, she was prevented from doing so. For Curzon, local manufacturers of fine china whose history she'd been researching, would celebrate their hundred and fiftieth anniversary in two months' time, and, although all the work had been done on them, the articles were being held over to coincide with that. It was as though a small black cloud hovered over her, and however hard she tried, she couldn't escape it.

Max's call came as a welcome diversion. ‘OK, time to prepare the salad.'

She swung her feet to the ground, narrowly missing the dog. ‘Coming!' she said.

Lindsey phoned the next morning.

‘I'm fed up. Are you free for lunch?'

‘I'm free for anything at the moment,' Rona answered wryly.

‘Still not back in gear? That's what four weeks away does for you.'

‘I needed it, Linz.'

‘I need it too, but I'm not likely to get it.'

‘One of the advantages of self-employment. Max organizes his own classes, and the students had no objection to the four-week break. Which just left the art school, and as he only teaches there one day a week and was able to arrange a stand-in, it wasn't a problem. And to answer your question, yes, I'm free for lunch. Where shall we go?'

‘The Gallery at one? Then I can shop my way down.'

‘I'll be there.'

The next call was from Barnie Trent, features editor at
Chiltern Life.

‘How's my favourite journalist?'

‘Guilt-ridden,' Rona replied.

BOOK: Next Door to Murder
12.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Deep South by Nevada Barr
Maxine by Sue Fineman
Waking Evil 02 by Kylie Brant
Death Walker by Aimée & David Thurlo
The Believing Game by Eireann Corrigan, Eireann Corrigan
On the River Styx by Peter Matthiessen
The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman