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When a politician's wife is murdered, Inspector Thanet investigates the many people who would benefit from her death.
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Dorothy Simpson worked as a French teacher and then for many years as a marriage-guidance counsellor, before turning to writing full time. She is married with three children. The fifth book in the series, LAST SEEN ALIVE, won the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger Award in 1985.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Thanet and Joan were getting ready for bed when the telephone rang. It was just after midnight. Their eyes met. Alexander?
Joan was nearest and she snatched up the receiver. 'Hullo?' The tension showed in every line of her body, in the intensity of her concentration. Then she relaxed. 'It's Pater,' she said, handing Thanet the phone.
The Station Officer.
Thanet found that he had been holding his breath. 'What's the problem?' he snapped. Anxiety was making him short-tempered these days.
'Woman gone missing, sir.'
'When was this?'
'Couple of hours ago.'
'Only a couple of hours? So why all the fuss? She probably had a row with her old man and walked out to cool off.' Literally and metaphorically, thought Thanet. It was high summer, school holidays and the middle of a heatwave, a prime time -- along with Christmas -- for domestic disputes to escalate.
'Her "old man" is Mr Mintar, sir. Mr Ralph Mintar.'
The rising inflection in Pater's voice indicated that he expected Thanet to know who he was talking about. As indeed he did.
'Ah.' Thanet had come across Mintar in court from time to time. The barrister was hardly the type to lose his head in a crisis. If he had reported his wife missing he must have good reason for concern. 'I see. So what's the story?'
'Apparently she disappeared in the middle of entertaining friends. After they finished eating they all decided to go for a swim and everyone went off to change. Only she didn't come back. It was a while before anyone noticed she wasn't there and they've been looking for her ever since.'
'And no apparent reason for her to walk out?'
'Not so far as PC Chambers could gather. And he's pretty much on the ball, as you know.'
'Quite. Well, I'd better get out there. The Super been informed?'
Superintendent Draco liked to keep his finger on the pulse of what was happening on his patch.
'He's away for the weekend, sir.'
'Of course. I forgot.' That was a relief, anyway. Draco had a nasty habit of dogging Thanet's footsteps at the start of any remotely interesting investigation. 'Contact Lineham and lay on some reinforcements, will you? What's the address?'
'Windmill Court, Paxton, sir.'
Thanet scribbled the directions down. It was all too easy to get lost in a maze of country lanes in the dark.
'Sorry, love,' he said to Joan, who was in bed by now.
She shrugged. 'Can't be helped.' But her pretended insouciance did not deceive him. She would have liked him to be with her in case there was any more news.
They were both desperately worried about their daughter Bridget, who was thirty-two weeks pregnant with her first baby and had suddenly developed toxaemia. Although Lineham's wife Louise had had similar problems when their first child was born, until a few days ago Thanet and Joan hadn't known precisely what the prognosis was, but Alexander, her husband, was keeping them up to date on what was happening and they had learned fast: Bridget's blood pressure was alarmingly high and there was protein in her urine. She was therefore in danger of pre-eclampsia -- fits -- and the baby's oxygen supply was threatened. She had been taken into hospital for monitoring.
Thanet finished knotting his tie and went to sit on the bed, took Joan's hands in his. 'If you need me, just ring and I'll get back as soon as I can.'
She shook her head. 'I don't suppose we'll hear anything more tonight.'
'All the same...'
He kissed her and left.
Outside it was still very warm, well over twenty degrees,and Thanet took off his jacket and slung it on to the passenger seat before getting into the car. Then he wound down the window to get a breath of fresh air as he drove. At this time of night there was very little traffic about and once he plunged into the country lanes his seemed to be the only vehicle on the road.
In an attempt to damp down his worries about Bridget he tried to focus on Ralph Mintar. What did he know about him? Not a lot, it seemed. As a member of the South-Eastern Circuit Mintar was a familiar figure in courtrooms all over Kent and Sussex -- less so, of course, since taking silk a few years ago. QCs travel further afield, sometimes having to stay away from home for weeks or even months at a time. Still, he didn't suppose Mintar had changed much. Always looking as though he had just had a wash and brush-up, the QC was a dapper, well-groomed figure, reticent and self-contained. He belonged to what Thanet always thought of as the softly softly school of advocacy, leading witnesses gently on from one apparently innocuous point to another until they suddenly found that they had fenced themselves in and there was no way out but the direction in which counsel had wanted them to go.
Thanet knew that in a high percentage of cases of domestic murder it is the husband who has perpetrated the crime. If the worst had happened and Mrs Mintar had come to a sticky end, Mintar would be a formidable suspect to deal with. Thanet felt the first stirrings of excitement. He hoped, of course, that she would be found alive and well, but if she wasn't, well, he had always relished a challenge.
He braked sharply to avoid a rabbit which had appeared from nowhere to scuttle across the road in front of him and had then stopped dead, transfixed by his headlights. He put the car into bottom gear and began to edge forward. Go on, go on, he muttered. Move! At last, just as he was about to brake again, it turned and dashed off into the undergrowth at the side of the lane.
He was on a slight rise here and ahead of him he could now see some scattered lights. That must be Paxton. Street lighting would be sparse, as it always was in the villages, and he guessed that there would be few people still up -- though more than usual, perhaps, as it was a Saturday night. He was right. Apart from the occasional glow from an upstairs window, Paxton appeared to be sunk in slumber. The village consisted of one long, straggling street with a pub at each end, one of them opposite the church. There was also a Post Office cum general shop, increasingly a rarity nowadays as the supermarkets killed off their smaller rivals.
Thanet had memorised Pater's directions: Turn left at the far end of the village into Miller's Lane. Take the first right then the second left and it's on the right, a hundred yards past the windmill.
There was the dark bulk of the windmill now, its sails a stark silhouette against the night sky and this, no doubt about it, was Windmill Court, lit up like a cruise liner. Thanet swung in between the tall wrought-iron gates and halfway up the drive pulled up for a moment to admire it. The mill owner must have been a prosperous man for he had built himself a fine dwelling. Classic in proportions and as symmetrical as a child's drawing, it looked for all the world like an elegant doll's house awaiting inspection. One half expected the front to swing open, revealing exquisitely furnished miniature rooms. As Thanet studied it someone came to peer out of one of the downstairs windows. There were no cars parked at the front so he decided to follow the drive which curved off around the left side of the house. Here, in front of a long low building which had probably once been stables, were several parked cars, one of them a patrol car. Lineham's Ford Escort was not among them, he noted. As he got out a uniformed constable hurried forward to greet him.
'Ah, Chambers,' said Thanet. 'No one else here yet?'
'No, sir. Just the two of us until now. Simmonds is inside.'
'They'll be along shortly. I gather you were first on the scene. Fill me in, will you?'
There wasn't much more to tell at this stage and as Thanet listened he looked around, taking in his surroundings. The cars were parked on a gravelled area which flanked a w
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Book Description Chivers Audio Books, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0754003868
Book Description Chivers Audio Books, 1999. Audio Cassette. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110754003868