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Authors: Sara Sheridan

London Calling

Praise for the Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series

‘Mirabelle has a dogged tenacity to rival Poirot’
Sunday Herald
‘Unfailingly stylish, undeniably smart’
Daily Record
‘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’
Good Reads
‘I was gripped from start to finish’
newbooks magazine
‘Plenty of colour and action, will engage the reader from the first page to the last. Highly recommended’
Bookbag
‘Quietly compelling … plenty of twists and turns’
Shots

The author

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
and
Brighton Belle
. 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
Guardian
and 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.

London Calling

A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery

Sara Sheridan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First published in Great Britain in 2013

by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd

 

Birlinn Ltd

West Newington House

10 Newington Road

Edinburgh

EH9 1QS

 

www.polygonbooks.co.uk

 

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

Contents

Prologue
 
Chapter 1
 
Chapter 2
 
Chapter 3
 
Chapter 4
 
Chapter 5
 
Chapter 6
 
Chapter 7
 
Chapter 8
 
Chapter 9
 
Chapter 10
 
Chapter 11
 
Chapter 12
 
Chapter 13
 
Chapter 14
 
Chapter 15
 
Chapter 16
 
Chapter 17
 
Chapter 18
 
Chapter 19
 
Chapter 20
 
Chapter 21
 
Chapter 22
 
Chapter 23
 
Chapter 24
 
Chapter 25
 
Chapter 26
 
Chapter 27
 
Chapter 28
 
Chapter 29
 
Chapter 30
 
Chapter 31
 
Questions for readers’ groups
 
Author’s note
 
More Mirabelle anyone?
 

 

 

 

 

 

For Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.

 

 

AGATHA CHRISTIE

Prologue 

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.

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