And Is There Honey Still For Tea?

BOOK: And Is There Honey Still For Tea?


A Ben Schroeder Novel

1965. The British Establishment is reeling after a series of defections and acts of treachery by high-ranking Intelligence Officers.

When American academic, Francis Hollander, publicly accuses Sir James Digby QC of being a Soviet spy, he ignites a new storm of controversy. Trying to salvage his reputation, Digby turns to Ben Schroeder to sue Hollander for libel, but what at first appears to be a straightforward case soon escalates into something far more complex and dangerous.

As evidence starts to emerge of Digby's association with the Cambridge spies, and as MI6 becomes involved, Ben can no longer be sure that he can save Digby from prosecution and ruin. To obtain vital evidence to help his client, Ben will have to put his career at risk… But will it be enough?


Peter Murphy graduated from Cambridge University and spent a career in the law, as an advocate, teacher and judge. He has worked both in England and the United States, and served for several years as counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He has written five novels: two political thrillers about the US presidency,
Test of Resolve
; and three legal thrillers featuring Ben Schroeder set in Sixties London,
A Higher Duty
A Matter for the Jury
, and his latest,
And is There Honey still for Tea?
He lives in Cambridgeshire

Critical acclaim for Peter Murphy

Critical acclaim for

‘A gripping page-turner. A compelling and disturbing tale of English law courts, lawyers, and their clients, told with the authenticity that only an insider like Murphy can deliver. The best read I've come across in a long time' –
David Ambrose

‘A brilliant thriller by a striking new talent. Murphy cracks open the US Constitution like a walnut. This is
Seven Days in May
for the 21st Century'–
Clem Chambers, author of the Jim Evans thrillers

‘Peter Murphy's debut
introduces an exciting talent in the thriller genre. Murphy skilfully builds tension in sharp prose. When murder threatens the security of the most powerful nation in the world, the stakes are high!' –
Leigh Russell, author of the
Geraldine Steel mysteries

Critical acclaim for
A Higher Duty

‘Weighty and impressive' –
Crime Time

‘An absorbing read' –
Mystery People

‘A very satisfying read' –
Fiction is Stranger than Fact

His ‘racy legal thrillers lift the lid on sex and racial prejudice at the bar' –

‘If anyone's looking for the next big courtroom drama… look no further. Murphy is your man'–
Paul Magrath,
The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting Blog

‘Peter Murphy's novel is an excellent read from start to finish and highly recommended'–
Historical Novel Review

Also by Peter Murphy


Test of Resolve

The Ben Schroeder series

A Higher Duty

A Matter for the Jury

Say, is there Beauty yet to find?

And Certainty? And Quiet kind?

Deep meadows yet, for to forget

The lies, and truths, and pain?… oh! yet

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?

And is there honey still for tea?

Rupert Brooke,

The Old Vicarage, Grantchester


Sir James Digby

Of the days of
my earliest childhood, before I started school, I remember little. I remember bright autumn days when the garden was covered with brown leaves fallen from the oak and sycamore trees which bounded the garden, which Sykes had not yet swept away. On breezy days, I watched as the leaves were swept up off the ground, and glided across the lawns haphazardly in the swirling eddies of the breeze. I imagined the leaves in a race, and traced a finishing line near the house with my shoe, and appointed myself judge of the winners. When the breeze was not strong enough for them to race without assistance, I would take Sykes's broom, which he always left propped up against the same corner of the garden shed, and furiously brush the leaves along the path towards the finishing line. I remember rainy days in winter, when I was not allowed in the garden, when I would sit in the living room on the sofa and watch the patterns made by the rain drops as they traced their paths down the window pane, and tried to guess which drop would be the first to disappear into the general dampness as it reached the wood of the window frame. I remember light summer evenings when it was difficult to go to sleep because it was not yet dark; hearing the voices of my parents, and their friends and the older children of their friends, in the garden below my window, the sound floating dreamily up to where I lay restless in bed. I remember that, before I did go to sleep on such evenings, I would hold my breath for some time – how long I do not know – allowing the sounds to pass through my head until they merged and lost all meaning; and that by this means I had the power to go in my mind to another place, in which there was no sound, a place which was still and had no limits at all. And I remember standing with my parents and with Roger on the dark platforms of the great railway stations of Manchester and Crewe when we went away for holidays, watching with awe as the huge steam locomotives puffed their way slowly to a stop, making more noise than should have been possible in the world, as they pushed their steam out and upwards towards the soot-coated glass of the roof high above.

I knew from an early age that my family was different. My father was always known as ‘Sir Alfred'. All my friends' fathers were addressed as ‘Mr' except for the one or two who were doctors. I knew that our house, an early eighteenth-century manor house in the countryside outside Clitheroe in the heart of the Ribble Valley, was far bigger than the houses most people lived in. I knew that we were unusual in having a household staff, though under my father's careful stewardship of our small estate it had dwindled to four: Mr Bevan, who helped my father to manage the business side of the estate, keeping accounts and dealing with the leases of our two or three tenant farmers; Sykes, who took care of the garden; Mrs Penfold, who cooked when we had visitors and took care of the inside of the house; and her husband, Mr Penfold, who took care of the outside of the house, and did odd jobs, and sometimes drove my father when he went to catch the train for London, or my mother when she had a lot of shopping to do and, without ever telling my mother, placed the odd bet for my father on the Cup Final or the Grand National. I learned that we were proud Lancastrians. Our coat of arms featured the red rose; we had seats at Old Trafford during the cricket season; and at dinner, when my father proposed the loyal toast, we claimed the privilege of toasting ‘The King, the Duke of Lancaster'.

My parents explained to me that the Baronetcy was the family's reward for having backed the right side more than once in the various royal succession questions that kept recurring for more than a century after the Civil War. Generations later, we were still on good terms with the Royal Family. My parents knew the King and Queen and were their guests at garden parties and dinners. When we were old enough, Roger and I were introduced to them too, and I found them very charming. All this seemed normal to us. My father would talk about the King in much the same way as any man would talk about his friend. His title, ‘Sir Alfred', was as much a part of him as the light gabardine raincoat and hat which he insisted on wearing everywhere and from which my mother could never part him. In any case, while I was proud of the Baronetcy, it was of no direct interest to me. I was born on 2nd November 1913. At that time, my brother Roger was almost four years old. It was always made clear to me that, as the older brother, he would inherit the title and with it, the responsibility of running the manor house and the estate. As the younger son I would enter a profession – the Army, the Church or the Bar – perhaps spending some time in one of the colonies.

I cannot remember ever resenting Roger for being my older brother. Indeed, I can truthfully say that the title never came between us once. We were extraordinarily close. When I was eight, he was sent away to his boarding school. But before that, we were constant companions. We roamed the estate together, fighting wars as Saxons, Crusaders, or Cavaliers against invisible Normans, Infidels, or Roundheads; batting for England, making centuries in the face of the most hostile Australian bowling. We spent many a long summer day down by the stream at the far end of the estate – which we called the river – lying on its banks tasting blades of grass; conducting expeditions to find the site of Toad Hall, wondering how Toad would have got from the river to the road to find a car to drive, and where the Rat lived, and where he kept the boat he would have used to make his way along the river, and where lay the entrance to the great forest where the more frightening animals had their lairs. How many days we spent together in this way I cannot say; just that it felt, at the time, like a whole lifetime of days. We had a language of our own – a mad combination of English without verbs, supplemented by a variety of human or animal noises picked up during our wanderings around the estate – which mystified our parents and, I am sure, must have caused them to suspect that their progeny were not quite right in the head. But if they did suspect such an affliction, they never said so. Even today I can remember some of the language, and I can have a conversation with Roger in my mind, one into which no living person can intrude.

After Roger went off to school, we carried on during school holidays for a few years as if nothing had ever interrupted us. My parents had decided that we would always go to different schools, and when my turn came to go, while the closeness remained, it necessarily changed. We had our own circles of friends, but we still spent some holidays together and we were regulars at Old Trafford during the cricket season. We shared a love of reading and I followed the trail of literature he left me: Sir Walter Scott and Daniel Defoe in childhood; and in adolescence Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe. I took on his love of poetry: he left me the Sonnets, of course, and Alexander Pope, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Finally, as he left for his final year of school he led me to Boswell's
Life of Johnson
. He had loved it from the moment he picked it up, and I came to love it just as much. We practised talking to each other in Boswell's wonderful formal eighteenth-century English; ever afterwards I played Boswell to his Johnson, and we wrote our letters to each other in their style.

He wrote to me as he left for a month in France before going up to Cambridge.


14 August 1927


I am sensible of the great kindness with which you have favoured me since my arrival in Lancashire to prepare for my journey. I cannot allow that France is in any way superior to Lancashire, or its people in any way comparable to ours. But I shall endeavour to make a record of my travels which I undertake to submit to your perusal on my return, and it may be that I shall allow Mr Davies to publish it if sufficient terms can be agreed. I know not whether tea will be available to me there. A gentleman with whom I dined lately, and to whom I put the question, replied thus: ‘Sir, I doubt that a leaf of tea is anywhere to be found in France'. ‘Then Sir,' I remarked, ‘it cannot be right to trust the inhabitants of that country, for no people ignorant of tea can be truly civilised.' A gentleman who had much travelled in France protested and insisted on the gentility of the French people. ‘Nay, Sir,' I replied, ‘I shall report to you about that matter on my return.' I doubt that I shall find myself in agreement with him.

I trust, my dear Sir, that I shall find you in good health on my return, and remain your humble and devoted servant,

Sam Johnson

I replied.

Digby Manor

20 August 1927


Nothing could be more welcome to me than to receive your letter of the 14th instant with its habitual protestations of your high regard for me, which I assure you, are fully reciprocated. I have reported to your friends at the Club the anxiety you entertain as to the conditions you may expect to find in France. The proposition that tea will be hard to find and, if found, likely to be of inferior quality, is universally allowed. But certain gentlemen inform me that there are wines whose virtues may provide some limited compensation for the sense of deprivation you will certainly encounter. I look forward with keen anticipation to your report of your travels, which I apprehend any publisher would gratefully adopt for public subscription. I expect you may find France somewhat different from the Hebrides, but I trust you will find the people just as civil. I await the pleasure of taking tea with you and dining at the Mitre on your return.

I remain, my dear Sir, your humble and respectful servant,

Jas. Boswell.

I idolised and adored Roger. He was my captain when we fought the Normans and when we made our centuries against Australia, and I followed his lead without question in everything we did. He was, throughout those early years, the rock on which my life was built.

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