Series: Sharpe & Donovan (Book 8)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: MIRA (August 29, 2017)
About this book:A murder in a quiet English village, long-buried secrets and a man’s search for answers about his traumatic past entangle FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan in the latest edge-of-your-seat Sharpe & Donovan novel
As a young boy, Oliver York witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents in their London apartment. The killers kidnapped him and held him in an isolated Scottish ruin, but he escaped, thwarting their plans for ransom. Now, after thirty years on the run, one of the two men Oliver identified as his tormentors may have surfaced.
Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying the final day of their Irish honeymoon when a break-in at the home of Emma’s grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe, points to Oliver. The Sharpes have a complicated relationship with the likable, reclusive Englishman, an expert in Celtic mythology and international art thief who taunted Wendell for years. Emma and Colin postpone meetings in London with their elite FBI team and head straight to Oliver. But when they arrive at York’s country home, a man is dead and Oliver has vanished.
As the danger mounts, new questions arise about Oliver’s account of his boyhood trauma. Do Emma and Colin dare trust him? With the trail leading beyond Oliver’s small village to Ireland, Scotland and their own turf in the United States, the stakes are high, and Emma and Colin must unravel the decades-old tangle of secrets and lies before a killer strikes again.
New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers delivers the gripping, suspense-filled tale readers have been waiting for.
Meet the author - Carla NeggersCarla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 novels, including her popular Sharpe and Donovan and Swift River Valley series. Her books have been translated into 24 languages and sold in over 35 countries. A frequent traveler to Ireland, Carla lives with her family in New England. To learn more and to sign up for her newsletter, visit CarlaNeggers.com.
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Henrietta walked home after the police finished with her. They’d blocked off entrances onto the York property, including the lane that ran past the dovecote potting shed and was part of a waymarked trail. Walkers out for the day, unaware of the events that morning, would have to take a detour, at least until the scene was cleared. Henrietta had witnessed deaths and seen corpses in her previous life but never one involving a childhood playmate as a witness—a man as enigmatic, frustrating, larcenous, tortured and sexy as Oliver York.
He was maddening, and he was the reason she had quit MI5.
That was the short answer, at least.
She continued along a dry wall, constructed God knew when, of the region’s ubiquitous yellow limestone. Oolitic Jurassic limestone, it was called. She’d thought she’d needed to know that as a garden designer, but no one had yet to ask. She wasn’t concerned about running in to a mad killer. The police hadn’t been, either. She’d take care, of course, but whatever had happened behind her at the York farm, it hadn’t been random.
She crossed a bridge over the same shallow stream that ran behind the York dovecote. The paved lane would eventually take her into the village, but she needn’t go that far—never mind the temptation to. It’d been a day. She’d love nothing better than to spend the rest of it at the pub.
Instead she turned onto a narrow lane, lined with more honey-stone walls, and came to what was still known as the Balfour farm. Her great-grandparents had purchased it in 1909 as a country home and working sheep farm. They’d proceeded to have three children—Freddy, Posey and Anthony—and had left the entire property to Freddy, the eldest Balfour and only surviving son, Anthony having died young. Freddy had promptly turned over most of the acreage to tenant farmers. He’d spent holidays—not every holiday—at the house and let friends and colleagues use it for getaways, but he’d never had a great affinity for the Cotswolds or country life. Surprisingly, he’d moved to the farm after he lost his wife to a stroke. Widowed, his only son busy with his own life in London, Freddy had enjoyed several good years before he developed lung cancer and died in his Cotswolds sitting room at age seventy-seven. Henrietta had been only five, but she remembered him, her chain-smoking grandfather with the kind eyes. She hadn’t known then, of course, that Freddy Balfour was an MI5 legend and British hero. That had come later.
Posey Balfour fell in love with the Cotswolds as a young woman and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. The family carved out a lot for her, and she’d built her own home, where she’d stayed, content, for the next seventy years. Henrietta's father had sold the rest of the original farm after Freddy’s death. As far as she knew her dad had never considered keeping it.
She came to her great-aunt’s house.
My house now.
She was relieved to see only her Mini and not Oliver’s Rolls-Royce in the drive.
A silly thought, that he might have come here.
“Blast it, Oliver, where are you?”
Normally she would drive to work in order to haul tools, pots, seedlings, bags of soil and supplies—her Mini amazed her with its hauling capacity—but that morning she’d walked. She’d been working at the York farm for two weeks straight and had everything she needed there. The day had started with sunshine, but she enjoyed walking even in less-than-lovely weather.
She felt tense as she unlocked her front door. After twelve years with MI5, she liked to think objectivity and emotional distance had become natural for her. She’d managed in the midst of the crisis, with Ruthie Burns in a state and Martin Hambly about to have a stroke, but now, on her own, she was anything but objective and distant. It wasn’t that she was out of practice. She’d only left MI5 in March. It was that today involved people she’d known her entire life. Friends, neighbors, villagers.
She fumbled with the door lock. His fault, damn him.
She got the door open and felt her tension ease the moment she crossed the threshold. Posey had died in her sleep of general organ failure at ninety-four and left the house to Henrietta and small inheritances to Henrietta's father and his cousin, Anthony's only son.
Posey would have relished a mysterious death in the village, provided it wasn’t too gruesome and involved someone who’d had it coming. Henrietta had yet to figure out what to do with her great-aunt's daunting collection of cozy mysteries. They lined the study shelves and filled more than one cupboard.
She went back to the kitchen and filled the kettle with water and set it to boil. In addition to the kitchen, the house consisted of a sitting room, study and powder room on the ground floor, and, upstairs, two slanted-ceiling, dormered bedrooms and a bathroom. Posey had had it built to her standard. She’d decided on new construction rather than selling the lot and buying an existing house. She would never have had the patience to fuss with anything listed or mildly historic that would require her to follow rules and regulations and entertain unsolicited opinions from villagers. “I didn’t want my house to be the subject of postcards, tourist photographs or chocolate boxes,” she’d told Henrietta more than once.
Posey hadn’t cleared out a single possession before her death. Henrietta knew she needed to get on with sorting what didn’t suit her. Sell it, give it away, toss it. It seemed like a daunting process at the moment. Of course, it wasn’t. Surveillance and penetration of a violent cell bent on mass murder were daunting. Deciding what to do with Aunt Posey’s stacks of murder mysteries was emotionally challenging but hardly the same.
As she waited for the kettle to boil, Henrietta gazed out the kitchen window at the glorious June blossoms. As plain as the house was, the gardens were incredible. They were Posey’s creation and had been her greatest joy. Pink foxglove, cobalt-blue delphinium, white daisies, artfully placed grasses—Henrietta let the burst of color soothe her. In the months since her great-aunt’s death, she had maintained the gardens, at least to a degree, without touching their essential structure. The rose trellis needed replacing. Most of the perennials needed thinning and a good chop. She’d get to it all one of these days.
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EXCERPT TOUR for Thief’s Mark:
Monday, August 7th: Lovely Reads
Tuesday, August 8: Stuck in Books
Wednesday, August 9th: The Sassy Bookster
Thursday, August 10th: Books a la Mode
Friday, August 11th: Mama Reads
Monday, August 14th: Books and Spoons
Tuesday, August 15th: A Dream Within a Dream
Friday, August 18th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Monday, August 21st: A Holland Reads
Tuesday, August 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, August 23rd: Romancing the Readers
Thursday, August 24th: The Lit Bitch
Friday, August 25th: Mama Vicky Says
TBD: Book Nerd
TBD: Moonlight Rendezvous