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  • Written by Jill McGown
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  • Death in the Family
  • Written by Jill McGown
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On Sale: February 04, 2003
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-345-46354-8
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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When Dean Fletcher fell for a blonde nymphet named Kayleigh Scott, he managed to ruin his life. Kayleigh had told him she was eighteen. In truth, she was not quite thirteen—and poor Dean was soon off to prison, a convicted sex offender, still smitten with his adolescent lover.

Now he’s finally free again, only to be ensnared by two crimes that have Chief Detective Inspector Lloyd pulling out what’s left of his hair. One is an infant kidnapping; the other is the murder of Kayleigh’s mother on the very eve of the family’s sudden move to Australia. Lloyd thinks he hears the ring of truth in Dean’s declarations of innocence. But with his partner Judy out on maternity leave, he’ll have to pick his way alone through this minefield of birth, death, murder, and domestic evil.


Chapter One

Judy Hill had never been afraid of another person in her life. In her childhood and adolescence, there had been no cause for fear, but not even in her twenty-odd-year career as a police officer had she ever been truly afraid of someone else. She had found herself in potentially violent situations; she had even been injured in the line of duty. She had dealt with aggressive drunks and the odd deeply disturbing psychopath, but she had always had complete confidence in her own ability to deal with whatever and whoever crossed her path. Until now.

And the monster who had achieved what no rapist or murderer had yet managed was toothless, helpless, asleep . . . and barely two hours old.

"Charlotte," said Lloyd, sitting down on the bed.

Predictably, they had been unable to agree on a name; Judy thought that they had considered everything from Abigail to Zoë and back again, but she couldn't remember them discussing Charlotte. Names were very important to Lloyd, since he had been given one that so appalled him that everyone called him by his surname, and he was worried about inflicting that trauma on the baby. "That's nice," she said.

"Yes? I thought of it when her head appeared. She looks like a Charlotte."

Judy nodded. "She does. Of course she's got French blood. What about a middle name?" She smiled. "We could always name her after you." Lloyd's French grandmother had been responsible for his awful name, which he said made him sound like a cross between a stripper and a potato. "Just put an extra e on the end."

"We could," he agreed. "Over your dead body."

She laughed. "How about after your grandmother?"

"Charlotte Françoise," he murmured, then shook his head. "No-no one would ever get it right. If people can't even use apostrophes, there's no point in expecting them to cope with a cedilla. And she might not like it. Make it plain Frances, and you've got a deal."

"As long as you promise not to go on about people spelling it c-i-s at the end, because they will."

"Done. Other people won't have much call to spell her middle name, anyway. Charlotte might go on about it, though, if she takes after me." He looked at her, his head to one side. "Charlotte Frances Lloyd. Yes. I like that. Perhaps she looks like Grandma Pritchard-that might have been what suggested a French name in the first place." He bent closer and scrutinized her. "Does she look like either of us, do you think?"

"Well, given that she's bald and blue-eyed . . ."

"Very funny. I think she'll have brown eyes like you. And she's pretty well bound to have dark hair. And she's definitely got your jawline."

"She hasn't got a jawline."

"Can I hold her?"

Judy was only too pleased to pass the tiny, fragile bundle to Lloyd, who had at least been through this before and presumably knew a little more than she did about the whole alarming thing, and watch him as he cradled his brand-new daughter.

It had been a long labor, and bearable only because Lloyd was there. Judy had seriously doubted that he would be; Barbara, the mother of his other two children-both adults now-had not been accorded the same measure of support. He had conveniently been too deeply involved in police business to be pres- ent at the births and hadn't even seen either Peter or Linda until they had been in the world for several more hours than Charlotte had. But he had been there for Judy, and he had even made her laugh, something she would have thought impossible in her imaginings of what it was going to be like. "Wouldn't it have been easier just to go through with the wedding?" he'd asked her, at the height of the discomfort.

Charlotte had decided to announce her imminent arrival two days before what should have been their wedding day. For her timing Judy was indebted to her, because getting married while looking like a barrage balloon had not been her choice. In a supreme act of selflessness, she had gone along with Lloyd's oddly conventional desire-given that he was usually anything but conventional-to be married before the baby was born, but Charlotte had obviously inherited her mother's sense of style and had vetoed that. Besides, it had been snowing when Lloyd had driven her to the Malworth maternity unit in the early hours of the morning, and the forecast had been for more of the same; she wouldn't have liked to get married on a cold, snowy day. Having a baby was different-she was glad she'd had a winter baby and hadn't had to carry all that extra weight through the summer.

"So how was it for you?" she asked.

"Embarrassing-I had to keep apologizing for you."

"I didn't swear, did I?"

"Not half."

Judy would seek confirmation of that; Lloyd could tell her anything and get away with it. She couldn't remember what she'd done. "I suppose you were glad it took forever. I think you were frightened you might have to deliver her."

"People do not deliver babies. Pregnant women are delivered of babies."

"Whatever. And you were frightened you'd faint." She grinned. "You didn't, did you?"

He smiled, then shook his head slightly, and she could see him blink away a tear before he spoke again. "Tom was right," he said, his accent more Welsh than it had been, as it was when he was emotional. "It was the most amazing thing."

Tom Finch was Lloyd's detective sergeant and a friend of theirs; he had enthused throughout Judy's pregnancy about the joys of watching a birth, much to Lloyd's discomfort.

"I wish-" Lloyd began, and broke off. "Sorry."

She smiled, guessing the rest. "Don't be silly. Just don't go telling Barbara you wish you'd been there."

"No. I'm not quite that tactless." He smiled down at Charlotte. "Will she resent having an old bald bloke as her father, do you think?"

"Fifty isn't old."

"Fifty-one. As good as. And she can't resent anything yet. But I'll be nearly seventy when she comes of age."

"And I'll be fifty-nine." Judy shrugged a little. "I suppose we just have to wait and see if it bothers her. Not a lot we can do about it."

"Linda rang," said Lloyd, in a not-unconnected diversion. "She sends her best wishes and congratulations."

"Does that mean she's really come to terms with it, or is she just putting a brave face on it?"

Lloyd shook his head. "I think it means that curiosity about her half sister has won out over disapproval of her father having done such a thing at his time of life. She even says she's going to come to the wedding-assuming we ever get round to it again."

Judy ignored that. They had agreed no guests on account of her condition, but she didn't have that excuse anymore. So not only would she have to go through all that buildup again, but this time the day would be complete with relatives and friends and a wedding reception, because Lloyd had missed out on all of that first time round; his marriage to Barbara had been done on a shoestring, with only the closest of relatives in attendance. This time, he wanted to do things in style. Still-at least Judy could wait until her hormones were all back in the right place, so she put the thought of marriage to the back of her mind. "Have you spoken to Barbara?" she asked. "I mean-she should be told that you've got another daughter, shouldn't she?"

"Linda said she'd tell her. And, chickenhearted as I am, I thought that sounded like a splendid idea. I tried to get in touch with Peter, but I think he and his wife are away skiing or something. My father says we're to bring her to see him as soon as she's old enough. Did your mum ring you?"

"Yes-she and Dad are coming tomorrow."

"It'll be nice to see them again."

Judy hesitated a little before she spoke again. "My mother offered to stay for a couple of weeks and help-would you mind if she did?"

"No, of course not."

It seemed genuine. Judy hadn't been sure how he would feel-would he want them to be a cozy threesome in the first few weeks of the baby's life? But if he did, he wasn't betraying it, and she thought that now, with his emotions so near the surface, he might not be as adept as he usually was at acting. She wanted her mother there. Anyone, really, who knew something about babies and would be there all the time. No matter how many health visitors and midwives came, she knew she wouldn't feel sanguine about being responsible for this new person.

Lloyd sat back a little and looked at the baby, and then at her, with another little smile. "We've been pretty clever, haven't we?"

Judy nodded, trying not to show the sheer panic that welled up whenever she thought about the future. Pretty clever or pretty stupid. One or the other.

"You'll like Ian. You really will."

Kayleigh looked dully at the picture of the school's founder that hung on the wall behind the head's desk.

"I like Dad."

She had thought, when she was interrupted in the middle of lessons to be told that her mother was on the phone, that she was ringing to tell her that her dad was home, that everything was back to normal. He and her mother had split up in June, and he didn't know about Alexandra; that was why she hadn't been able to see him since then, so that he wouldn't find out that she was having the baby after all, because he had wanted her to have a termination. Alexandra had been born just before Christmas, so she hadn't even seen him then.

But he had come to Dean's trial, and they had all gone for meals and things-he and her mother had seemed to be get- ting on all right, and Kayleigh had hoped they might reconsi- der the split. It was all her fault, and the least she could do was try to get them back together. She had written to him, suggested that he go to see her mother to try to change her mind, and she had thought, just for a few moments, that it had worked. But instead of that her mother was telling her that she had some new man.

"Of course you do, and you can see him anytime you want now; I've told you that. But he's still lodging with his friends-once he's found a place of his own, we'll sort something out. Maybe you could spend Easter with him." Her mother paused for a moment. "But you'll like Ian, too."

It was while Kayleigh was seeing Dean that her mother had started talking about Ian-she had met him at the place where she worked. Kayleigh remembered how she had felt with Dean and wondered if her mother felt like that with Ian. Had she got pregnant, too? Was that why she was doing this?

There was a silence before her mother spoke. "No, nothing like that," she said. "We just know we're right for each other." Another pause. "Do you remember your real father, Kayleigh?"

From the Hardcover edition.
Jill McGown

About Jill McGown

Jill McGown - Death in the Family
A native of Argyll, Scotland, Jill McGown has lived in Corby, England, since she was ten. She wrote her first novel, A Perfect Match, in 1983. Among those that have followed are Gone to Her Death, Murder at the Old Vicarage, Murder . . . Now and Then, The Murders of Mrs. Austin and Mrs. Beale, The Other Woman, A Shred of Evidence, and Verdict Unsafe.


Mystery Scene

“McGown’s expertly crafted, fast-moving plot contains enough red herrings to keep even the most astute readers on their toes. . . . This is a stellar must-read, bound to delight existing fans and send newcomers seeking the rest of the series.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Complex . . . Intense . . . Engrossing . . . McGown conjures up an abundant array of suspects, all with credible motives. Their lives intertwine in clever and often ironic ways, and the author’s writing style smoothly shifts the point of view between these characters.”
The Mystery Review

“Both fans and mystery lovers just looking for a good read will savor McGown’s rich, detailed character studies and dead-on dialogue.”

“McGown weaves one of her most tangled webs until a climactic revelation bares the ugly truth in a single masterstroke.”
Kirkus Reviews

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