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When the wayward lady Imogen Swain summons journalist Jemima Shore to her home, Jemima once again finds herself in the thick of love affairs--old and new--intrigue, and betrayal. For the colorful Lady Imogen kept diaries documenting her passionate affair with a rising young politician who has since risen to high ranks in the government. Increasingly eccentric as the years have passed, Lady Imogen now threatens to reveal details of the affair, and of the subsequent and unsolved disappearance of a young journalist. Jemima's meeting with Lady Imogen is the first step in a sinister series of events which will remind the reader why Antonia Fraser is the reigning queen of murder--British style!
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Antonia Fraser is the author of many internationally bestselling historical works, including Love and Louis XIV, Mary Queen of Scots, and Marie Antoinette, which was made into a film by Sofia Coppola. She is also the author of two memoirs, Must You Go? and My History. She has received the Wolfson History Prize, the 2000 Norton Medlicott Medal from Britain's Historical Association, and the Enid McLeod Franco-British Society Literary Prize. Fraser was made a Dame for services to literature in 2011.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A RADICAL SOLUTION
Millie Swain was in her dressing-room reading the evening paper and thinking how rotten the government was, when the telephone rang. With a sinking heart, she knew that it was her sister. Olga was married to a Conservative MP, known to his sister-in-law as Holy Harry, but Millie did not imagine that Olga was calling her to discuss politics. If only she were! Millie would bait her about the government’s record, and how they deserved to lose the election, which would be enjoyable. As it was, Millie Swain was filled with dread.
“She’s done it again. Madre of course. Today of all days. I could kill her. And so could Harry.” Olga’s voice was crisp, but even so Millie could detect the note of resentment towards herself. “Your turn, Millie,” Olga’s voice was saying to her.
“Where?”—defensively—“You know I’m just about to—it’s the last preview—”
“I know. I looked it up in the paper. To get the number.” More resentment. This time the voice was saying: “You haven’t arranged for tickets for us for the first night. And I had to look up your telephone number.”
In the large mirror opposite her chair, Millie could see herself already dressed in the velvet trouser suit and frilly shirt in which she was about to play a sixties Viola. She had grown her short dark hair so that it could be cut to resemble that of a fashionable young man of the period, curls brushing the collar of her shirt. An enormous plastic Pop mackintosh and hat for the opening scene hung on a hook in her open cupboard. She must not let herself be distracted by Olga.
To stop that unspoken voice of complaint, Millie decided on a policy of sisterly warmth. “Where, darling? Yes, it does matter. Perhaps I can help this time. You know I want to. This Twelfth Night is not a long version,” she went on, “many, many cuts, I’m happy to tell you. That means you and Holy Harry—all right, Harry then—will love it, won’t you? It starts at seven thirty. And I can be out of the theatre pretty sharply. At least the West End, if a desert, is a convenient desert.” Millie hesitated. “Olga, you say this time it was worse ...”
But could anything be worse than last time, Millie wondered. “Last time” referred to the occasion when Madre had gone to Harrods, bearing an ancient evening dress, shell-pink and heavily beaded, in a Safeways bag. She had then decided to exchange it for a new one on the grounds that there was a stain on it—true enough, there were in fact a good many stains. She must have pulled it out of one of her terrible cupboards. With a kind of dreadful plausibility, the precise dress Madre wanted in exchange—Versace, Christian Lacroix, that sort of thing, costing thousands—had similar bead-work to the remnants on the ragged pink object on the chair beside her.
“Actually it did have a very dirty label in it, something like ‘Christian Dior–Harrods’,” reported Olga. “No doubt that was what aroused the manager’s respect.” It was naturally Olga who’d had to cope with all this. (Millie was in rehearsal and could not be reached.) Olga found herself summoned to Harrods by a house manager or some such functionary who was, under the circumstances, amazingly polite. Perhaps that was part of the Harrods’ training course: how to pacify middle-aged ladies bringing in ancient dresses to exchange them for something new?
“Lady Imogen was rather distressed,” he began, “but fortunately she had your number written in her diary under the words ‘Next of kin’.” The manager coughed discreetly at what such a phrase might otherwise suggest. “So it seemed wise to summon you.”
Olga tried to match the manager’s own delicacy. “I’m afraid my mother does get a little distressed from time to time. Confused is probably the right word.” Olga thought she had better broach the unpleasant subject. “Did she by any chance try to pay for the dress by putting it on her account?”
“I don’t think you quite understand.” The first hint of something less bland beneath the manager’s composed surface. “Lady Imogen didn’t try to pay for it at all—”
“Yes, yes,” stumbled Olga, “how stupid of me.” Just as well, she thought, since the account had long ago been closed: one of the many facts her mother found impossible to accept.
“As a matter of fact Lady Imogen seemed to think that the original dress had been a present,” went on the manager with a tactful cough, blandness restored. But Olga knew better than to pursue that one. She knew from experience that this could be lethal. She could imagine only too well who was supposed to have given her mother the dress, probably had given it to her, dammit.
“Come along, Madre,” Olga said bracingly—but not too bracingly, she hoped. Past experience again: too much bossiness, the nanny’s touch, tended to make things worse. “Let’s go home.”
“But my pretty dress.” Lady Imogen spoke up suddenly in that breathy little-girl voice which became that much breathier on these occasions. “I need it for tonight. The Barracloughs’ ball. Teresa is coming up from the country. As you can imagine, rather a fraught occasion. But Burgo has promised, you know, my Burgo—” More coughs but this time from Olga, as she resolutely interrupted her mother. She simply could not allow Madre to keep introducing that name. It was so terribly recognisable! The manager sounded nice and was certainly helpful, but the Press were everywhere. With the election coming (it had finally been announced for March 18) politicians were more in the news than ever, and if the story got repeated ... what on earth would poor Harry do about it?
Her mother was sitting quite docilely on a gilt chair brought by the thoughtful manager; she had the unhappy air of an abandoned child. It was indeed extremely irritating to Olga that her mother, a woman in her sixties, for heaven’s sake, could from a distance be mistaken for a girl. It was partly the sheer littleness of her. Imogen Swain was no more than five foot one, a tiny fairy of a woman, and even the absurd high heels she insisted on wearing, on which she balanced so precariously, hardly took her to average height. Both Olga and Millie had inherited the more robust physical appearance of the father they could not remember.
Of course when you saw Madre close, no slimness could make up for the fact that here was a wrinkled, no, an extremely wrinkled woman, who would never see sixty again—might indeed be seeing seventy quite soon. The huge blue eyes (Olga and Millie both had eyes like black olives) were surrounded by lines, which the spiky mascara on the sparse eyelashes only emphasised, and lines dragged down the wide mouth with its slightly-too-bright lipstick. Raddled was probably the right word for Madre’s appearance. Olga’s daughter Elfi, an only child with an unfortunate gift for accuracy, had once observed, “Nonna looks like a very old doll, doesn’t she, like a doll you find in the garden when it’s been left out in the rain?” It was still true that neither Olga nor Millie could be mistaken for dolls.
Now, as Millie Swain sat in her dressing-room in her velvet suit, waiting for the latest report from the distressing maternal front, her gaze fell again on the evening paper. It would happen that there was a picture of the Right Honourable Burgo Smyth at Heathrow beneath a report of the latest poll on the outcome of the election (still a dead-heat). That in itself was hardly unusual: a Foreign Secretary was always at some airport or other, BURGO FLIES OUT was a familiar headline as the photogenic Foreign Secretary headed towards the latest crisis. In this case Burgo was flying in: he was calling, she noted, for a radical solution to something or other, some place or other. Millie had long ago trained herself not to tremble with agitation every time she saw a picture of Burgo or caught sight of him on TV. But this afternoon’s picture was different.
By a fluke of shadow as he bent down, Burgo’s magnificent head of silvery hair—his most characteristic feature—looked black again. This was once more the young man who—but Millie would not let herself continue. She had to think of Madre now, not Madre then, not Burgo at all. For a long time as children they had not been allowed to mention his name. The topic had been cut off, just like that, with bewildering suddenness. In the same way Burgo himself—marvellous generous teasing huggable bear-like Burgo—had vanished mysteriously and suddenly from their lives. Questions to Madre had met with a blank stare of those huge wide-open blue eyes, so famously beautiful, so free from lines around them. And there would be silence as though the question had simply not been asked. Questions to Nanny Forrester had met with a sharp reproof and, if repeated, a sharp slap. So Millie had learnt to divorce the public image of Burgo Smyth, politician, from the private man she had once known. Most of the time she genuinely felt nothing.
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Book Description Crimeline. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0553572032 *BRAND NEW* Ships Same Day or Next!. Seller Inventory # SWATI212A0208708
Book Description Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc, United States, 1997. Paperback. Condition: New. Bantam pbk. ed. Language: English. Brand new Book. With Britain on the eve of a neck-and-neck election, a nice juicy scandal is all it would take to tip the balance. But scandal isn't exactly on the agenda of the new Jemima Shore Investigates TV program, which centers on aspects of aging.until Jemima interviews batty, tipsy, vindictive Lady Imogen Swain. Determined to Tell All on the telly about her illicit romance thirty years ago with today's distinguished Foreign Secretary Burgo Smyth, the erstwhile society beauty comes armed with diaries and love letters. Amid dire hints that these are the kinds of secrets that could get a woman killed, she also vows to divulge everything she knows about the infamous Faber Affair - and the journalist whose baffling disappearance while on trial for selling government secrets had threatened ruin for her lover. Already Lady Imogen's on the phone to everyone - including the Sunday Opinion - to advertise her pending revelations. That is, until she makes a headfirst exit one stormy night from the balcony of her ramshackle town house. When her private papers are nowhere to be found, Jemima is left with one diary and a multitude of questions. Seller Inventory # BTE9780553572032
Book Description Crimeline, 1997. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0553572032
Book Description Crimeline, 1997. Paperback. Condition: New. First Edition - may be Reissue. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0553572032n