Murder at Honeychurch Hall: A Mystery

BOOK: Murder at Honeychurch Hall: A Mystery


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This book is dedicated with heartfelt gratitude to my boss, Mark Davis, Chairman of Davis Elen Advertising. I am forever indebted to your gracious support of my writing endeavors.



The idea for setting the Honeychurch Hall series on a country house estate was sparked by my widowed mother, Brenda Dennison, who decided to live in her dream house when most women of her age would be heading for a retirement village. Mum, your zest for life and spirit of adventure, together with an insatiable curiosity and wicked sense of humor, are qualities I am thrilled to immortalize on paper.

Inspiration for the Hall itself comes from Hillersdon House, where I was lucky enough to keep my horses as a teenager. I’m indebted to Mike Lloyd, the new owner, who is passionately restoring the entire estate to its former glory. Thank you for sharing historical anecdotes, juicy dark secrets, and ghostly happenings that will keep me busy writing for years.

A huge thank-you must go to Rachel and Leigh Gotch, Toy & Doll specialists for Bonhams in London, who very generously gave me a tour of the warehouse. Their knowledge is nothing short of jaw dropping. Little did they realize that the visit would mark the beginning of an expensive hobby! Speaking of toys, I’m very grateful to Peter Hall, for entrusting me with his two vintage Merrythought “Jerry” Mice, who play a key role in solving the mystery. May Jazzbo Jenkins live on!

Writing is a lonely profession, which is why I am thankful for the support of my kindred spirits in the trenches—Elizabeth Duncan, Clare Langley-Hawthorne, Kate Carlisle, and Daryl Wood Gerber. Also, Mark Durel, Andra St. Ivanyi, and Carola Dunn deserve a special mention for story suggestions and spotting plot snafus.

I feel incredibly lucky to have Dominick Abel as my literary agent. It’s such an honor to have him in my corner. His help, support, and guidance are beyond measure. I also must thank Marcia Markland, senior editor at Thomas Dunne Books, without whose enthusiasm this book would still be just a wish-upon-a-star. It is such a delight and a privilege to be under your wing. I am also grateful to Kat Brzozowski, associate editor at Thomas Dunne Books, for her seamless multitasking and ever-ready smile.

As always, I am thankful to my family, especially my daughter, Sarah, who has been with me on this writing journey from the very beginning.

And, last but always foremost in my heart, my husband, Jason—who continues to amaze me with his endless patience, sweetness, and infinite support. You are my hero.



Title Page

Copyright Notice




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


Also by Hannah Dennison

About the Author



Chapter One

“Mum!” I exclaimed. “Thank God you’ve called. I’ve been so worried.”

“I hope you’re not driving, Kat,” chided my mother on the other end of the line.

driving,” I said as my VW Golf crawled through the heavy stream of London traffic along the Old Brompton Road. “And don’t change the subject.”

“If you’re not wearing a headset, you’ll get a ticket—”

“Which is why I am pulling over,” I said. “Do
hang up. Let me stop somewhere.”

Mum gave a heavy sigh. “Quickly then. This call is expensive.”

I turned into Bolton Place, a quiet residential street divided by two graceful crescents that encircled communal gardens. Spotting a space outside the church of St. Mary’s, I parked and switched off the engine.

“Where did you get to last night?” I demanded. “I was about to call out the cavalry.”

“You sound tense,” said my mother, deliberately avoiding the question. “Is everything alright with Dylan?”

“You know very well my boyfriend is called David,” I said, annoyed that she always knew how to hit a nerve. “God, it’s boiling.” I wound down the window, taking in the heat of a hot August day and the smell of freshly mown grass.

“You’re too old to have a boyfriend—”

friend then. And I’m not tense,” I said. “I was concerned when you didn’t come to my leaving party last night. Did you have another migraine?”

“No. I was in denial,” said Mum flatly. “I was hoping you weren’t going to go through with giving up
Fakes & Treasures

“I want my life back, Mum. Have you any idea what it’s like to be constantly in the public eye?”

“Such a pity,” she went on. “I loved seeing you on the telly. You always looked so nice. Are you sure you’re not making a mistake?”

“You sound just like David—”

“Oh dear,” said Mum. “In that case, I’m
and I’m sorry I didn’t come.”

Ignoring the barb, I said, “Good, because I’m
that we’re going into business together. Speaking of which, I thought we could look at some properties this weekend.”

“That may not be possible—”

“And I must show you what I bought at Bonhams saleroom this morning,” I said. “Two boxes of Victorian toys and vintage teddy bears that I got at a bargain price—our first stock items. I can’t wait to show them to you.”

There was a long pause.

“Did you hear what I said, Mother?”

Another even longer pause and then, “I’ve broken my right hand,” she said bluntly.

“Oh Mum,” I cried. “Are you okay?”

“I am now.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m telling you now.”

“How bad is it?” I said. “Can you cook? Dress yourself?”

“With one hand?”

“Well, you do have the other one.”

“Very funny.”

“I’ll drive over straight away,” I said.

“What about Dylan? Won’t he mind?”

is away this weekend.”

“Your father wouldn’t like me gadding off without him,” said Mum. “Did you know that we never once spent a night apart in all our fifty years of marriage?”

“Yes I did know and it was forty-nine years, not fifty,” I pointed out. “And if you are going to be unkind about David, I won’t come.”

“When did you say his divorce from that Trudy woman is final? I keep forgetting.”

“It’s complicated,” I muttered.

“Have you watched Trudy’s new television show?” Mum said, hitting another nerve. “Very amusing—
Walk of Shame! Celebrity Family Secrets Revealed

“Mum … I’m warning you. I do not want to talk about Trudy Wynne,” I said. “Do you want me to come or not?”

“Yes, yes,” said Mum wearily. “I do have a little project that needs finishing. Some typing.”

“I didn’t know you could type.”

“Of course I can type,” said Mum with scorn. “I use Daddy’s Olivetti.”

“That’s a collector’s item. I’m surprised you can still buy the ribbon,” I said. “I’ll stop by my place to pick up a few things and should be with you in under an hour.”

“I doubt it,” said Mum. “I’ve moved—now, don’t get all cross and silly.”

“Moved? Where? When?” I cried. “What about our business plans?”

“I’ve changed my mind. What do you need me for anyway?”

“The whole idea was that you’d help me run Kat’s Collectibles,” I said, exasperated. “We’d find you a lovely flat above a shop—”

“Whilst you moved in with David,” said Mum. “You know your father would never have approved of you living in sin.”

“It’s the twenty-first century, Mother,” I said. “And anyway, Dad wanted me to look after you. He didn’t want you to be lonely.”

“I’m not lonely.”

“When did you make this momentous decision?”

“Let me see, about a month ago.”

? But…” I was beginning to feel light-headed. “We speak every day. Sometimes two or three times a day.” Then I remembered that recently Mum was always the one ringing me. “I thought I didn’t recognize the phone number. Where are you calling from?”

“My mobile.”

“You have a
? Seriously?” I said. “And when did you put the house up for sale?”

“All these questions,” said Mum. “That nice man who runs the dry cleaners made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

“Mr. Winkleigh?” I gasped. “Dad would never have sold to Mr. Winkleigh. He couldn’t stand him.”

“Well, your father’s not here so he won’t find out, will he?”

I tried to absorb yet another piece of disturbing information. Even the thought of shopping for groceries would guarantee to bring on one of my mother’s “turns” and yet somehow, she’d managed to move house. “You can’t have done it all by yourself.”

“I’m not an invalid, you know,” said Mum.

This was rich coming from someone who spent all my school holidays with a migraine lying down in a dark room.

“And besides,” she added. “Alfred helped.”

“And Alfred is whom? Your Spanish boyfriend?” Nothing would surprise me at this point.

“Alfred is hardly a Spanish name, dear. A Spanish name would be Juan or perhaps Pablo,” said Mum mildly. “Alfred is my brother.”

I swear I stopped breathing. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”

“Well, I do,” said Mum. “As a matter of fact I had two—though Billy’s dead and gone. Aneurism on Blackpool Pier. He died young. So very sad.”

“So I must have cousins. I’d love to have cousins.”

“You wouldn’t like them.”

“I would like them.” I could feel my temper rising as I remembered envying my friends’ big families, especially at Christmas. I hated being an only child. “Did Dad know you had brothers?”

“Of course he
. He just didn’t like them so we didn’t see them,” said Mum. “Does it matter?”

“Actually, it does matter,” I said. “I always thought you and Dad were orphans.”

“Really? I wonder why?”

“Because that’s what you told me,” I shouted.

“Well, never mind all that,” said Mum briskly. “You’d better get cracking if you want to be here in time for tea.”

“Wait a moment,” I said. “What did you do with all my things?”

“Oxfam,” Mum declared. “And before you throw another wobbly don’t worry—I put all your furry friends in a suitcase. I have it right here—”

“And my dressing-up box?” I said, recalling the iron trunk full of dozens of beautifully handmade costumes. Mum had always been very nifty with the needle. “I want my children to have those.”

“You’d better get a move on in that department or it will be too late.”

“Thanks for reminding me, Mum,” I said.

“I was just joking.”

But I knew she wasn’t.

“Do you have a pencil?” Mum went on. “I’d better give you the address.”

“Wait,” I said. “I need something to write on.” I pulled the sale catalogue out of my tote bag and found a pen. “Ready.”

“The Carriage House, Honeychurch Hall Estate—”

“Honeychurch?” I snorted. “How very

“Don’t snort. It’s so unattractive,” said Mum. “Honeychurch is all one word.” There was a long pause. “Little Dipperton.”

“Little what?” I said.

“Dipperton, like the Big Dipper only little. With t-o-n on the end.”

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