Authors: Sara Sheridan
Praise for the Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series
‘Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot’
‘Unfailingly stylish, undeniably smart’
‘Fresh, exciting and darkly plotted this sharp historical mystery plunges the reader into a shadowy and forgotten past’
Good Book Guide
‘A crime force to be reckoned with’
‘I was gripped from start to finish’
‘Plenty of colour and action, will engage the reader from the first page to the last. Highly recommended’
‘Quietly compelling … plenty of twists and turns’
Sara Sheridan is fascinated by history – particularly the period from 1820 to the 1950s. She enjoys working in different media and genres, and writes for both adults and children. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, she lives in Edinburgh with her family. Sara’s first novel
Truth or Dare
was nominated for a Saltire Prize and was included in the Top 100 Books in the Scottish Libraries Award: her other novels are
Ma Polinski’s Pockets
The Pleasure Express
The Blessed and the Damned
The Secret Mandarin
Secret of the Sands
. Sara sits on the Scottish committee of the Society of Authors and on the board of the writers’ collective, 26. She guest blogs regularly (for the
London Review of Books
) and has reported from Tallin, Estonia, and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, for BBC Radio 4’s
From Our Own Correspondent
. She tweets about her writing life as @sarasheridan and about the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries as @mirabellebevan, and has a Facebook page at sarasheridanwriter.
A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery
First published in Great Britain in 2013
by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd
West Newington House
10 Newington Road
Copyright © Sara Sheridan 2013
The moral right of Sara Sheridan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form, or by any means electronic, mechanical or photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express written permission of the publisher.
ISBN 978 1 84697 243 0
eBook ISBN 978 0 85790 566 6
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library.
Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh
Printed and bound by
Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.
Society has the teenagers it deserves.
11.15 p.m., Thursday, 31 January 1952
Upper Belgrave Street, Belgravia, London
The kitchen smelled of roasting pans and spilled wine. The servants were in bed, and the family’s plump ginger cat lay dozing in front of the black range. Rose Bellamy Gore tiptoed across the flagstones. With her parents’ bedroom being above the hall and a distinctly squeaky door-handle, using the front entrance was far too risky. Rose slid the bolt across and eased open the door. Thank heavens it wasn’t raining, or worse – the smog made the whole city seem oppressive. She pulled her fox fur around her shoulders and with perfect deportment crept up the stone stairs, before cutting smoothly through the long shadows cast by the railings. The street was deserted. The white stucco porticos at every front entrance framed a line of rectangular black caves. Perfect for all the wolves that live here, Rose thought. The neighbours were ghastly – every one of them.
The gas lamps glowed hazily in the smog. Rose’s breath clouded in her wake. Harry was waiting further along the street in his racing-green Aston Martin, an eighteenth birthday present from his parents. Her gloved hand moved to her throat to check the pearls – her birthday present only a month after Harry’s big day last autumn. The cousins were close. Their parents had hosted a lavish joint eighteenth party, which both Rose and Harry agreed had been insufferably dull – champagne and canapés and some dreary band Harry’s mother had heard was fashionable.
‘Chop chop!’ Harry grinned, holding the door open and beckoning her into the tan leather interior. ‘We’re going to be late.’
Rose smiled. She slipped elegantly into the front seat exactly as she had been tutored, sitting first then pulling in her long legs before tucking the skirts of her yellow dress out of the way.
‘I’m going to die of boredom if we don’t have some fun soon,’ she said.
Harry started the car as Rose lit two cigarettes from her brushed-gold case, engraved with the first notes of her favourite number from last year – ‘Too Young’ by Nat King Cole. Her father had peered at it the other day but the old man couldn’t read music. He’d never even heard of the hit parade and probably thought the notes were written by Benjamin Britten or, worse, Mozart. Rose had already tired of Nat King Cole; these days she much preferred Chet Baker. She handed Harry one of the cigarettes. He took a deep draw savouring the combined taste of lipstick and tobacco. Rose always smelled good – of L’Air du Temps, Earl Grey tea and hair lacquer.
‘I’m dying for a cocktail,’ she announced, tossing her hair.
‘Something bitter with gin.’
Harry was about to pull away from the kerb and into the night when a female figure emerged from the thin smog – one with a familiar clumsy gait.
‘Damn!’ Rose snapped. ‘Do you think she’s seen us?’
The girl was wearing an ankle-length blue cape. Her mousy hair was pinned up with a diamanté clasp. She gave a little wave as she homed in on the Aston. They had no choice but to speak to her.
Harry wound down his window. ‘Vinny!’
Lavinia Blyth leaned in. Grinning broadly, her lips were chaotically painted with orange lipstick. ‘Gosh,’ she said, ‘I was hoping I might catch you. I saw Rose’s bedroom light and thought you must be going to some club or other. You two are always out on the town! The parentals would be livid if they caught us out this late and off somewhere, well, mysterious, wouldn’t they? What fun!’
There was a moment’s hesitation that would have indicated reluctance in the car’s occupants to anyone more sensitive than Lavinia Blyth. Harry rolled his eyes and glanced at Rose. There was nothing to be done – they’d have to bring her along. Quite apart from the rudeness of leaving her, now she’d seen them Lavinia could blow the whistle. Next time they’d be more careful. He jumped out of the car and held open the door.
‘In you get.’
Rose did not offer Lavinia a cigarette as they bundled together.
‘Top hole!’ Lavinia cooed, oblivious. ‘Are we off to Greek Street? Dougal McKenzie told me they dance all night in Soho! It sounds thrilling! I can’t wait!’
She licked her lips, smearing the orange lipstick.
Harry eased into the driver’s seat and flicked his cigarette out of the window. The orange embers sparked on the pavement. They might as well have a good time with Vinny, now she was here. She’d probably be shocked, but there was nothing for it. Soho at night was a labyrinth of unsuitable delights. He expected Vinny might quite like to be shocked and, for his part, the idea of enlightening one of the famously strait-laced Blyth girls about what really went on in London’s nightclubs gave him a thrill. Harry loved pushing the boundaries. He dedicated a good deal of his time to it.