When the Duke of Purbeck throws a house party to celebrate his daughter’s twenty-first birthday and present her with a family heirloom, no-one expects that the weekend will end in murder. The fabled Belsingham pearls have a history steeped in blood and slaughter dating back more than a century—and now it seems they’ve claimed another life, when the interfering and opinionated Professor Coddington is found dead in the library with the pearls clutched in his hand. It looks like a robbery gone wrong, but then why didn’t the thief take the necklace? And how did he escape unnoticed, given that half the guests were seemingly wandering around the house at the time of the murder?
House guest Freddy Pilkington-Soames has enough on his plate already, with a lecherous nuisance of a grandfather to keep an eye on, a girlfriend his mother disapproves of, and an ex-girlfriend who’s engaged to another man but shows signs of changing her mind. But with a killer on the loose in the house, it’s time to forget his own troubles and rise to the occasion—or risk a scandal that could destroy the reputation of his whole family.
Excerpt from A Case of Duplicity in Dorset:
‘Oh?’ said Cynthia, but her mind had already flitted to another subject. ‘Bea told me Kitty Fitzsimmons is coming,’ she went on after a moment. ‘Now, why on earth she’s been invited I couldn’t tell you. You know the story about her and Rob, of course. The accident was all very suspicious, and there were rumours at the time, although nothing was ever proved. She’s a dangerous one, and all the more so because one can’t even dislike her.’
‘Dangerous? Kitty?’ said Freddy, relieved the conversation had turned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, she’s terribly discreet,’ said Cynthia, ‘but everybody knows that no husband is safe when she’s in the room.’
‘Nonsense, she’s a delightful woman,’ said Freddy. There was an echoing grunt of agreement from the back seat.
‘Of course you would say that—you’re a man. And she’s so terribly charming that one looks like a dreadful cat if one criticizes her, especially so soon after she lost her husband, but a woman knows. I shouldn’t trust her an inch around your father, for example. I wonder who she’s got her eye on? I have the feeling, from the tone of Bea’s voice when I spoke to her, that it might be Cedric.’
‘What? Cedric? I won’t believe it,’ said Freddy. ‘He’s far too stodgy to be getting up to that sort of thing.’
‘Oh, but he’s at that delicate age when a man is apt to lose his head,’ said Cynthia. ‘You remember what happened to Dickie Ratcliff, don’t you? The second he turned fifty he took up Satanism and ran off to Greece with those ghastly Americans. You know the ones I mean. There was a woman with awfully silly hair—what was her name, now? I’m sure it will come to me in a minute. At any rate, the last time I heard of them they’d set up a sort of cult, and were cavorting among the temple ruins quite naked except for a few olive garlands, which can’t possibly be comfortable. Far too prickly, I should think.’
‘Very cool in the hot weather,’ remarked Nugs. ‘I’d wear nothing but a couple of fronds of greenery myself if the summers here weren’t so beastly cold.’