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  • Scene of Crime
  • Written by Jill McGown
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  • Scene of Crime
  • Written by Jill McGown
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Written by Jill McGownAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jill McGown

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On Sale: June 10, 2009
Pages: 304 | ISBN: 978-0-307-55953-1
Published by : Fawcett Ballantine Group
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mystery (16) fiction (4)
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Real-life crime has engulfed the domestic life of the Riverside Theatre players. For starters, there’s the violent death of Estelle Bignall, the beautiful, neurotic wife of a well-to-do doctor (and aspiring resident playwright). In truth, suicide seemed more Estelle’s line—especially during the Christmas holidays—but a thief saved her the trouble, stealing all the presents and leaving her bound, gagged, and suffocated.

Instinct tells Detective Chief Inspectors Lloyd and Judy Hill that Estelle’s murder is far more complicated. At the crime scene there are too many footprints, too many fingerprints, too much conflicting evidence—and too many suspects: an elusive burglar, a sinister next-door neighbor, the victim’s secret lover, a scared kid with fresh bruises on his face. But which of them was desperate enough to commit murder?


From the Paperback edition.

Excerpt

Chapter One “I felt like a prat,” said Lloyd as he and Judy made their way downstairs from the room in the Christmas-decorated Riverside Family Center in which the so-called relaxation classes were held. It had been his first visit to such a thing. And, if he could possibly work out how to get out of it, his last, because the one thing it had not been was relaxing.

Judy snorted. “And I didn’t?”

“Well, at least you’re pregnant. Why do I have to do the breathing?”

“They explained why. Anyway, you’re supposed to be relaxing, too.”

“As far as I’m concerned, relaxing is a malt whiskey and a crossword. Or maybe a video. Or both. Not squatting on the floor making stupid noises.”

“I don’t think the malt whiskey and crossword method of childbirth has proved all that successful,” said Judy.

“I’ll bet no one’s tried it.” Lloyd looked at the people going down ahead of them and lowered his voice. “Apart from anything else, all the others look about sixteen,” he said. “And there am I, fifty and bald.”

Judy arrived on a landing and turned to face him. “I’m forty-one,” she said. “How do you suppose that makes me feel?”

He smiled and took her hands in his, looking at her dark, shining hair, and today’s choice of color coordinated pregnancy outfit. She had scoured the county to find clothes she regarded as fit to be seen in when you felt like a whale. Even in her eighth month, she didn’t look like a whale, pleasant though these creatures were, in Lloyd’s opinion. She looked wonderful. There really was a glow. He’d told her that once, and she thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.

“I don’t know how you feel,” he said. “But you look great.”

“Rubbish.”

“It isn’t rubbish,” he protested. “You do look great. I think I’ll be a little sorry when you’re not pregnant anymore.”

“Well, I won’t.” She frowned. “Didn’t you go to classes when Barbara was pregnant?”

Lloyd shrugged. “I don’t think they’d invented them in those days,” he said. He didn’t have the faintest idea whether they were fashionable then, but he was fairly safe in assuming that neither did Judy.

Life had been easier back then, he reflected. His marriage had been uncomplicated, basically, until Judy’s arrival in his life made it complicated. By and large, Barbara had done the female stuff and he’d done the male stuff. He wasn’t the archetypal Welshman; he enjoyed cooking, and he didn’t mind housework. He had never expected women to be at his beck and call. But having babies had always seemed to him to be beyond his remit, as the Assistant Chief Constable would say, and he really didn’t know if Barbara had done all this relaxation business. He became aware that he was being subjected to dark brown scrutiny, and felt uncomfortable. “It was different then!” he said.

“Different how?”

“I was in uniform. I worked shifts.”

It was different because Barbara hadn’t been a police officer. Judy was, and she knew what was what; he couldn’t plead a heavy caseload or the sudden necessity to work overtime; she would want chapter and verse. And it had been almost twenty years since he’d had anything to do with a pregnant woman; times had changed. Men weren’t just encouraged to be involved, they were expected to be.

“Were you present when the children were born?” she demanded.

“Well . . .”

“Lloyd!”

“It wasn’t—”

“Don’t try telling me they didn’t do that in those days, because they most certainly did. Where were you? Pacing up and down outside? Waiting to hand out cigars?”

“No.”

“You mean you weren’t there at all?”

“I meant to be there, but it wasn’t possible. Things came up at work. . . .”

“Both times? Oh, sure they did.”

“Look, if Barbara didn’t give me a hard time about it, why are you?”

She didn’t answer.

“Good evening, Chief Inspector Lloyd,” said a voice. “What are you doing here?”

Lloyd turned to see the long, thin frame of Freddie, their friendly neighborhood pathologist, loping down the steps from the rooftop car park. Lloyd had parked in the street—he wasn’t a fan of rooftop lots, or rooftop anything elses, come to that.

“I’m here because I’m going to be a father,” he replied. “Apparently I have to learn how to bear down. What’s your excuse?”

“When it comes to being a father, I think you’d be better off learning how to bear up, but I expect you know that better than I do. I’m here to play squash.” Freddie beamed at Judy. “Hello, Judy—positively blooming, I see. And I believe it’s Detective Chief Inspector Hill now, isn’t it? You’ve caught up to this one.” He jerked his head in Lloyd’s direction. “And not before time. How’s the new job?”

“It’s fine, I suppose. I can’t honestly say I know what I’m doing yet, but Joe Miller does.”

“Ah, yes. He’s the computer buff, isn’t he? My only regret about your promotion is that I won’t see you anymore.”

Judy smiled. “Don’t take this personally, Freddie, but as far as I’m concerned, the absence of mortuary visits is a major plus about this job.”

“Dead bodies are more interesting than most live ones—present company excepted. Besides, you should be used to them by now.”

“I’ll never get used to them.”

“Still—there’s always the housewarming. I presume you’ll invite me, if I promise not to bring any dead bodies. Have you found somewhere to live yet?”

“No,” said Lloyd.

“You mean you’re still living in separate flats?”

Not exactly, Lloyd thought. He wasn’t sure if Judy had noticed yet, but he’d more or less moved in with her.

“We keep looking at houses, but we can’t agree on what we want,” said Judy. “It’s all going to have to wait until after Christmas now.”

“Well, there’s one for the books,” said Freddie, glancing at his watch. “You two failing to agree. Sorry—must dash. I’m on court at quarter past. If I don’t see you before, have a happy Christmas.”

“Same to you,” said Judy. She caught Lloyd’s wrist and looked at his watch as Freddie disappeared down the next flight of steps two at a time. “Is that the time? I’m ten minutes late for the rehearsal. She wanted us all there at eight prompt.”

Lloyd followed as she made her way down. “I thought you just did their books for them,” he said. “How does that involve rehearsals?”

“I’m doing the sound effects tonight because someone’s away sick.”

Lloyd grinned. “Do you have to moo and things like that?”

“There isn’t any mooing in Cinderella.”

It had been the mildest of jokes. When she was in this sort of mood, he thought, she was hard work. “Can I come?” he asked. “Or would you rather I went home and came back for you?”

“Suit yourself. But if you come, make yourself useful.”

Lloyd walked with her through a maze of corridors that would apparently take them under cover to the Riverside Theatre, rather than having to go back out into the rain. The complex had been built with help from the lottery, and as far as he could see, it was still being built. “Watch your step,” he said as Judy briskly walked past wooden panels and pots of mysterious smelly stuff.

She didn’t slow down.

“What should I do to make myself useful?”

She didn’t answer.

Lloyd sighed. “I can make tea,” he said. “And you said you would need to eat—I can nip down to the snack bar for sandwiches or something. Will that be useful?”

“Fine. Just don’t get in the way.”

The theater, which they entered by a rear door that took them along another corridor into the wings, was just about finished. Not too much builders’ debris to catch the unwary mother-to-be. They walked out onto the stage, where a spare, tall woman of uncertain years and flaming hair, dressed in what seemed to Lloyd to be a remarkable number of scarves and very little else, was dramatically glad to see Judy.

“Thank God you’re here, darling!” she said. “I was beginning to think no one was going to turn up.”

“Sorry, Marianne, we got held up. This is Lloyd, my partner. Lloyd—Marianne.”

“How lovely to see you here, Lloyd.” She extended her hand, palm down, and Lloyd felt certain he was supposed to bow and kiss it, but he settled for giving it a necessarily ineffectual shake. “It was my fault that we were late,” he said. “I ran into an old friend.”

Marianne tilted her head to one side and regarded Lloyd. “I don’t suppose you could possibly read Buttons for us, could you, darling?”

Lloyd blinked. “Yes,” he said. “If you’re serious.”

“Oh, I’m desperately serious.” She turned to Judy. “Dexter rang and said he’s come down with something. So I haven’t got Buttons or Cinderella now. And I don’t know where Carl Bignall is. He’s supposed to be bringing the chimes, apart from anything else.”

“Chimes?” said Lloyd.

“Midnight,” said Judy. “The clock has to strike midnight. Carl does the sound effects, and understudies Buttons, amongst other things.”


From the Paperback edition.
Jill McGown|Author Q&A

About Jill McGown

Jill McGown - Scene of Crime
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.

Author Q&A

IN CONVERSATION . . .

JILL McGOWN AND LLOYD AND HILL


JILL: What made the two of you become police officers, and what would you be doing now if you hadn't?

LLOYD: A man called Jack Woodford--he's the reason I became a police officer. I could have gone to university, but I wanted to start earning money. I did a few clerical jobs, none of which suited me; and Jack, who was a police sergeant, said I couldn't stick with anything--bet me that I wouldn't last five minutes as a policeman. He was something of a psychologist. I'd have ended up teaching, probably.

JILL: And you, Judy?

JUDY: I grew up in a university. Well, not exactly in one, but very closely attached to one. My father was a lecturer. But I've never been academic, despite that. I did quite well at school, but I never wanted to study anything in depth. It seemed to me that the police offered a good career with prospects, and you didn't have to sit exams. I've no idea what I'd be doing. I never wanted to be an air hostess or a model or anything. Girly jobs weren't for me.

JILL: Speaking of girly jobs, have you encountered sexism in the police?

JUDY: Yes, because despite all the legislation, sexism comes down from the top; sometimes it's even well-intentioned. Not putting women in the front line, that sort of thing. I try not to take offense when there's none meant, but I give as good as I get when there is. There is a glass ceiling, though some women have broken through, even in CID. I've been lucky so far.

LLOYD: She means, we've got a trendy cop at the top. Unless he just fancies her, of course. . . .

JILL: Now that you are in the front line, does the job ever give you nightmares?

JUDY: Once, yes. When a friend of mine was the victim.

LLOYD: That was probably the most difficult case that either of us had to deal with. But then, we weren't working together, not really. We work best together, I think.

JILL: Do you believe that a relationship between close colleagues is a good idea?

JUDY: Yes, if you're talking about Lloyd and I, because we know each other very well and that can really help, especially when you're interviewing someone. You know when to butt in and when to butt out. And we've always tried to leave any differences at home.

LLOYD: Whose home? Yours or mine? And it's Lloyd and me. Even though we do work well together, I wouldn't recommend working with your partner, not really. I find it hard to shut off my feelings just because we're at work.

JUDY: And I don't? Just because I actually stick to the agreement to keep our private and professional lives separate doesn't mean it's easy. And stop correcting my grammar.

JILL: Do your colleagues know about your relationship?

JUDY: It's an open secret, because gossip gets round a police station faster than the speed of light, but no one knows officially, not even now. They know I'm pregnant, and they can guess who to, but it's none of their business. I don't know when we'll make it official, if at all. In any event, I intend to carry on working.

JILL: What are your professional ambitions?

JUDY: I'm not sure. I think this is probably as far as I want to go rankwise. In a way, I miss being at the sharp end, actually walking down the street in a uniform. But it's nice being able to do things your way, and there's more scope for that in the higher ranks, obviously.

LLOYD: Ignore her. Show her a promotion and she jumps at it, then worries herself sick that she won't come up to scratch. My ambition is to retire. I might be offered early retirement when Judy comes back to Stansfield, and I'll take it if I am because Judy has promised to marry me when I retire. But I'm not at all sure what I'd do with myself. I might write. I think I could write good detective novels. I don't fancy being a house husband.

JUDY: I said I'd marry you. I didn't say I'd move in with you.

LLOYD: She always leaves herself an out.

JILL: Why are you so reluctant to commit fully to Lloyd?

JUDY: I am totally committed to Lloyd, and he knows that. But I suppose the idea of actually setting up home with him scares me. That's why I stayed married to Michael for so long. I knew where I was with him. Lloyd tells me what I want to hear, not what he really thinks, and that bothers me. And at the moment, we don't know where I'll be working, or even if I'll be working. We don't know if Lloyd will be offered early retirement. It would be silly to make any hard and fast plans until we do.

LLOYD: See what I have to put up with? She calls that total commitment.

JILL: How long are you prepared to wait, Lloyd?

LLOYD: I don't honestly see myself as waiting. This is how it is. I might have an unfortunate tendency towards male chauvinism, but I'm not a reactionary--the conventional family setup isn't the only one that works. If anything, my son and daughter have a more extensive family network to fall back on than they would have had if Barbara and I had stayed together. My daughter was dubious of Judy at first, but they get on well now, and she lived with Judy's parents when she first went to London. I don't think this baby will want for love or protection whatever happens, whether or not his or her parents live together.

JUDY: That's not what you said last night.

LLOYD: No, but it's what you said. So I might as well agree and save time.

JUDY: See what I mean?



Author's note: Shelley Greenwood has known both Lloyd and Judy Hill for some time and was thus granted an exclusive interview at which I was present merely as note-taker. The answers, I'm pleased to say, were as frank as the questions were candid. And I hereby acknowledge Shelley with thanks.


From the Hardcover edition.


  • Scene of Crime by Jill McGown
  • February 26, 2002
  • Fiction - Mystery & Detective
  • Fawcett
  • $19.00
  • 9780345485120

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