Authors: Ann Purser
“Well paced, cleverly plotted, and chock-full of cozy glimpses of life in a small English village … A fine series that just keeps getting better—a must for British cozy fans.”
“Clever, engaging, and suspenseful … [The] best Lois Meade adventure yet.”
“An inventive plot, affable characters, and an entertaining look at village life.”
“Skullduggery of all sorts greets housecleaner Lois Meade when she opens a cleaning service in the village of Long Farnden … Notable for the careful way Purser roots every shocking malfeasance in the rhythms and woes of ordinary working-class family life.”
“This no-nonsense mystery is competent, tidy, likable, and clever.”
“First-class work in the English-village genre: cleverly plotted, with thoroughly believable characters, rising tension, and a smashing climax.”
“For fans of the British cozy, here’s one with a different twist. Purser’s heroine is not one of the ‘traditional’ apple-cheeked, white-haired village snoops … The identity of the killer—and the motive—will be a shocker. Fresh, engaging, and authentically British.”
“Fans of British ‘cozies’ will enjoy this delightful mystery with its quaint setting and fascinating players.”
The Lois Meade Mysteries by Ann Purser
MURDER ON MONDAY
TERROR ON TUESDAY
WEEPING ON WEDNESDAY
THEFT ON THURSDAY
FEAR ON FRIDAY
SECRETS ON SATURDAY
SORROW ON SUNDAY
WARNING AT ONE
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
SECRETS ON SATURDAY
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with Severn House
Severn House hardcover edition / 2006
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / April 2007
Copyright © 2006 by Ann Purser.
Cover art by Griesbach and Martucci.
Cover design by Leslie Worrell.
Interior text design by Kristin del Rosario.
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BOSS OF CLEANING BUSINESS
Brooms and experienced amateur sleuth, looked out of her window along Long Farnden’s main street, idly thinking about nothing very much. A car drew up and stopped outside her house, and a man—tall, thin, nondescript-looking except for a slight limp—made his way up to her front door.
She dodged behind the curtains in time-honoured village fashion, and waited until she heard the bell. Then she waited some more until her mother came from the back of the house and opened up. “Good morning.” Gran paused, and Lois heard a soft voice asking for New Brooms.
Time to make an appearance. “Can I help you?” she said, and Gran looked at her crossly. Gran liked to know who people were, and to glean as much of their business as she could before handing them over to Lois.
“I wanted to ask about cleaning,” he said politely, looking from one to the other.
“Then you’ve come to the right place,” said Lois, ushering him in firmly. “Our main office is in Tresham, but I’m happy to see you here. Come through.”
Not to be beaten, Gran followed with an offer of coffee, which the man accepted with alacrity. “It’s a cold morning,” he said, “and the heater in my car is on the blink.”
Lois sat behind her desk and picked up a pen. “Now,” she said. “First of all, where’s your house? Got to make
sure you are on our patch. People have rung me from Dorset and Yorkshire, but we stick to a radius of about thirty miles around Farnden.” As Long Farnden was in the Midlands, the heart of England, this took in a nice mix of town and country for Lois’s team of cleaners, and had worked well for a number of years.
“Oh, well, that’s fine,” the man said. “The house is right here in Long Farnden. In the new estate off the High Street. Used to be Tollervey-Jones land. All the nobs are selling off their birthright these days!” The man smiled a wintry smile, and accepted a steaming cup of coffee from Gran with obvious gratitude.
“Oh, right. Have you just moved in, then?” Both Gran and Lois knew who lived in every house in the village, but neither had known that any of the Blackberry Gardens lot were up for sale.
“No, no,” he replied. “It was my uncle’s house, but he’s too old to live by himself now, and we’ve moved him away to a nice comfortable old folks’ home.”
“What?” said Gran. “You mean Mr. Everitt? That nice old chap who used to take his terrier for a walk every morning and evening?”
The man nodded, and Lois said evenly, “We had no idea he needed help. The village is usually very good about looking after its oldies. Now,” she added, “could I have your name, please?”
“Abthorpe,” he said, “Reg Abthorpe. He had no children, his wife died, and there’s just us cousins to be responsible for him. I’m the only one left in England. The rest emigrated to Australia.”
“So how can we help you?” Lois asked. She looked Reg Abthorpe up and down, and decided for no reason at all that she didn’t like him. She didn’t like his soft, smarmy voice, or his thin, mousy hair carefully trained over a bald patch. She didn’t like his soft suede shoes with quiet rubbery soles, and most of all she didn’t like his smile, his cold, one-sided smile.
He settled into his seat, and spoke with more confidence now. “We promised Uncle Herbert that we’d keep
the house in a good state for him. Aired and cleaned, that sort of thing. He thinks he’ll be back when he’s better, poor old lad, but that won’t happen. We just go along with it to please him. After all, it’s his money paying for it! So I wondered if you’d take on the job? Once every couple of weeks should be enough. I’m afraid nobody’s been in for a while, so you may need to do a bit extra at first. We’ll pay, of course.” He smiled at her, and she shivered. “Can you take it on?” he said.