Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery

BOOK: Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery
11.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Murder in the Neighbourhood


Penelope Sotheby



Kindle Edition



Copyright © 2016 Penelope Sotheby


First published in 2016 by Jonmac Limited.


All rights reserved.


This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters and places, incidents are used entirely fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.


Kindle Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


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Other Books By The Author



Murder in Bermuda
(Book 1 in the "Murder in Paradise" series)

Murder in the Bahamas
(Book 2 in the "Murder in Paradise" series)

Murder in Jamaica
(Book 3 in the "Murder in Paradise" series)

Murder in Barbados 
(Book 4 in the "Murder in Paradise" series)

Murder at the Inn

Murder on the Village Green
(A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery)


Chapter 1


Anyone looking for day-to-day tranquility would be more than happy to settle in Apple Mews. It is probably one of the most composed and calm villages in the county of Shropshire – at least from a bird’s eye view and at street level.

By walking down Apple Mews’ main lanes you would see what you would expect in most English villages: a hotel and a pub, a church and a café, a primary school and a community hall that hosts Saturday night dances, craft fairs, suppers and even festivities for some of the long-time villagers’ milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Apple Mews also has a wee police station – it is only manned by one constable at a time. There is no need for a police force any larger, as the criminal element
punctures the homes, businesses, gardens and fields of Apple Mews.

Place a harpist in the middle of the village green or a Japanese water fountain next to the pub and villagers might shake their heads at first, but they too would accept their presence as compatible with the ambience of their community.

Diane Dimbleby is one of Apple Mews’ most prominent – and loved – citizens. Most of the villagers younger than she were taught by Diane at some point in their lives. Although she never let her students dilly dally, she encouraged them to reach their full potential, and for that she was a favourite teacher to most. Diane spent most of her working years teaching in Apple Mews, and most of all her years living in Apple Mews.

For two years, Diane had lived in London with her late husband, David. They had fallen in love almost instantly when David was holidaying in Apple Mews. When they were married, Diane moved to London with him, since David was already serving as a police detective at Scotland Yard.

Although the pace of the big city was not exactly Diane’s cup of tea, she relished learning as much as she could about her husband’s line of work. It quite simply fascinated her. While David was not technically permitted to divulge any information about the cases he was working on, he could not refuse his wife’s blue eyes and enthusiastic spirit.

Their marriage was an extremely happy one but cut much too short. When David was killed during the course of a robbery, it was an easy decision for Diane to move back to her home village and resume the profession she loved.

This time though, she had an additional pastime: crime solving, which she happens to be very good at, much to the dismay of Inspector Crothers of the Shrewsbury Police, the closest major police station in the region. And now that Diane is retired, she spends much of her free time writing detective mystery stories, partly inspired by her own, real-life experiences.

This very Saturday afternoon, in fact, Diane is sitting at her computer, typing away. At this very moment, she is trying to contrive the perfect red herring for her latest crime novel.
I could trick the readers into thinking that the husband did it… no… too cliché.


Diane is jolted back into reality by the sound of a terrifying scream. It sounded like a woman’s scream. Diane feels spooked up and down her spine.

Ruff au au Ruff au au!

Now, that sound Diane recognizes immediately – it is Carys Jones’ dog, Rufus, who clearly sounds distressed. His yap morphs into a howl. The mournful sound immediately propels Diane to her front door. Something must be dreadfully wrong. Carys has either had a nasty accident or… worse…. Diane does not want to think about that.

Without giving a second thought to red herrings, whodunits, or the slow-cooking crockery pot she just turned on a half-hour ago, Diane rushes out the door. Still in her slippers she runs – she is in marvellous shape for her 60-some years – to her friend Carys’ house three doors down.

Unlike Diane, Carys Jones has not lived in Apple Mews her whole life. The long-time resident was immediately drawn to the new neighbour, and in recent years, the two ladies have shared numerous meals together and often enjoy chats over a cuppa.

Diane admires Carys’ loving and caring nature and how she often volunteers for a homeless charity in Shrewsbury. Diane likes to bake cookies or make sandwiches to send along with Carys, but she admires how Carys regularly spends that face-to-face time with some of the area’s most vulnerable individuals.

Arriving at her home, Diane sees Carys’ front door wide open. Richard, one of Carys’ caregivers, is standing in the front foyer, looking rather pale.

“Richard, what’s happened?” shouts Diane, racing towards the entryway.

“I’ve called the ambulance and the police,” says Richard shakily, pacing back and forth.

“The police!?! Ambulance! Oh dear, where is she?” Diane pushes past Richard towards the sound of Rufus yapping.

Inside the living room, Diane finds Carys awkwardly lying on the floor, her limbs splayed in every direction. Rufus is next to his owner sensing that something is wrong. For a moment, Diane stares in shock at her friend who is eerily lying in complete stillness. Diane hurries to her side and kneels on the floor.

Careful not to shake her for fear of causing any more physical injury, Diane places a hand on Carys’ back. She does not detect any movement.

“Carys,” Diane whispers. “CARYS,” she says louder this time, barely keeping a sob from escaping.

“I think she fell from the balcony,” Richard says nervously. He kneels down next to Diane and points up above their heads.

Diane looks up to see the balcony’s sturdy railing connected to a series of ornate spindles standing firmly in place. None of the parts appear to be cracked or missing.

“Did you see her fall?” asks Diane.

“No, I was in the kitchen preparing lamb casserole for Mrs. Jones’ dinner. I heard her scream and…”

Diane nods her head. She stands up and walks back out into the hallway. Sifting through the shock, Diane feels in the pit of her stomach that Carys’ death is more complicated than meets the eye. Perhaps it’s best that Inspector Darrell Crothers gets involved. Although he might not realize that she thinks so, Diane regards him as the most dedicated detective she’s ever encountered in the county of Shropshire.

She takes her mobile out of her pocket and dials the inspector’s number. While listening to the ring-back tone, Diane gazes at Carys’ photographs on the wall. One is of stalwart-standing Celtic crosses juxtaposing some crumbling stone ruins. Another is of a hilly pasture, lush with grass and sheep, overlooking the blue sea. Diane cannot remember where Carys had said these stunning pictures were taken…

“Inspector Darrell Crothers,” says the 30-something Shrewsbury detective on the other end of the line.

“Oh Darrell… it’s Carys… Carys Jones… she’s… Apple Mews…”

“Diane, I’ve already been notified and I’m on my way,” he says. “Now listen to me carefully. I don’t want you anywhere near Carys’ house. It is the forensic team’s job, not yours, to process the scene. I’ll be in Apple Mews soon.”

Hanging up, Darrell hopes he wasn’t too harsh with Diane, a woman he’s come to regard almost as a second mum. Of course, a civilian, no matter how great a talent they have for sleuthing, should never get involved with a police inquiry. And sometimes Diane did not always think the rule applied to herself.

Diane and Darrell have worked on a couple of cases together already - not that he would ever admit this openly for fear of getting into more trouble, or perhaps to preserve his pride. But the truth is, through their unconventional crime-solving collaborations, a sense of mutual respect has ripened between the two. Their relationship has survived a few trying times of late, not the least of these a kidnapping by a dangerous member of a crime firm that specialized in illegal organ trafficking.

Diane is not happy that Darrell asked her to stay away from Carys’ house, but she cannot fault the inspector for following protocol. Her gumshoeing has already gotten him into trouble at least once, plus she would not later want to be accused of messing up a crime scene.

I’ll just take one quick look around and then I’ll leave
, Diane thinks as she noses around the ground floor. In the kitchen, she admires the vase filled with sunflowers sitting on the counter. She realizes that other than the floral décor, the counters are empty.

Diane hurries back into the living room. Richard is sitting on the couch holding his head in his hands.

“I thought you said you were preparing Carys’ dinner…” Diane says carefully.

“I… I… I was just about to start…”

Diane stares at Richard for several moments until her eyes travel back to Carys lying on the floor. This time, she really lets herself look at her friend: her tightly closed eyes, her contorted mouth…
Did Carys feel excruciating fear during her last moments of life?

Diane runs out of the living room and out of the house to find some shelter in the corner of Carys’ garden. There she crouches down, bends her head to her knees and allows herself to wail for the first time. Her huddled position muffles the sounds of her deep sobs emerging from the bottom of her abdomen.

She is not startled by the hand now resting on her shoulder. She stands to see, expectantly, her ‘partner against crime’.

“Oh Darrell,” Diane cries. “Carys is dead, she’s really dead. You know… she said, just the other day, that her greatest fear was dying alone. But this is much worse! Who would do this?!? Carys wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

Diane continues crying almost uncontrollably. Darrell has never seen her like this before. He puts his arm around her and pats her back until Diane’s sobs dwindle into sniffles. The awkward motions of the inspector, who is trying his best to comfort her, make Diane giggle just a little. She’s starting to regain some composure.

“Now Diane, do not jump to any conclusions,” Darrell says finally. “It has not yet been determined whether she lost her balance or got distracted and fell, or whether she was, in fact, pushed to her death.”

“Well, one thing is certain. Carys did not jump from that balcony,” says Diane adamantly.

“So you’re saying she would
have committed suicide?” asks Darrell.

That is exactly what Diane means. She explains that Carys had no reason to do so. Just the other day she was sharing how fulfilled she felt and how blessed she was to have no stresses in her life. Sure, she wasn’t as spry as she used to be, but she still managed to do many things on her own – even help the homeless folks in Shrewsbury. Her caregivers just helped her out with certain tasks later in the day and with the ‘heavy lifting.’

Besides, this would be the least plausible time Carys would take her own life. It had always been her dream to take a Mediterranean cruise, and this winter she was finally going to do it. The entire trip was already booked. Diane remembers chuckling at her friend the day she went through her thick stack of brochures advertising all of the different packages to choose from.
Now this one has more stops in Greece… but this one goes all the way to Istanbul… oh, but this one has tango and cha-cha-cha dance classes right on the ship!

Diane laughs to herself, remembering her friend’s almost frenzied planning. It was so good to see Carys so excited. She deserved to be happy. Tears begin to well in Diane’s eyes again.

“This may have all been just a tragic accident,” says Darrell.

“Something tells me that it was no accident, Darrell,” says Diane. “Carys Jones was carefulness personified.”

According to Diane, Carys was prudent in everything she did. For instance, she could walk just fine without a cane, but whenever it was slippery or wet outside, Carys would take her cane with her, even just to walk to a neighbour’s or to the grocers down the road. There were so many new things she wanted to try and activities she wanted to keep on doing. She didn’t want a broken leg or fractured arm to get in the way, especially not in the way of her commitments to help others.

“So you think someone pushed her?” asks Darrell.

“Except I have no idea who would want to kill Carys! I can’t think of anybody with a motive to do so. Everybody adored her.”

Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of a dog squealing, heard even above the sound of all the first responders on the scene and the onlookers starting to convene across the street. Diane and Darrell look over to see Rufus, Carys’ dog, squirming in Richard’s arms. He sees Diane and the inspector staring at him, sets the dog down and approaches them slowly.

“I was just trying to comfort poor Rufus,” says Richard meekly.

“I’m Inspector Darrell Crothers. May I ask who you are?”

“He’s—” Diane starts to be say, but is stopped by a stern glance from the inspector.

“Richard, Richard Butler. I’m one of Mrs. Jones’ caregivers.”

“And you are the one that discovered the body… er… discovered Mrs. Jones?”

Richard nods his head forlornly.

“When did you find her?” asks Darrell.

“I arrived for my shift at four o’clock this afternoon…” says Richard.

“You found Mrs. Jones when you arrived here then?”


“But Richard, you told me you were in the kitchen when Carys fell!” Diane pipes in.

“Is that true, Richard?” Darrell inquires.

BOOK: Murder in the Neighbourhood: A Diane Dimbleby Cozy Mystery
11.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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