The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette

BOOK: The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette
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Table of Contents

Praise

Other titles by R. T. Raichev

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Author’s Note

Chapter 1 - By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Chapter 2 - The Day the Earth Stood Still

Chapter 3 - Taste of Fears

Chapter 4 - Six Characters in Search of an Author

Chapter 5 - Baby Doll

Chapter 6 - The Royal Wedding

Chapter 7 - Death by Drowning

Chapter 8 - Le Goût du Policier

Chapter 9 - An Awkward Lie

Chapter 10 - Sleuths on the Scent

Chapter 11 - A Change of Ownership

Chapter 12 - Atonement

Chapter 13 - Mothers and Daughters

Chapter 14 - The Monocled Countess

Chapter 15 - ‘They’

Chapter 16 - ‘She was never in the river . . .’

Chapter 17 - The Sanity of Lawrence Dufrette

Chapter 18 - B.B.

Chapter 19 - The End of the Affair?

Chapter 20 - Interlude

Chapter 21 - A Demon in My View

Chapter 22 - The Hollow

Chapter 23 - The Edwardian Game Larder

Chapter 24 - The Hour of the Wolf

Chapter 25 - A Mansion and Its Murder

Chapter 26 - Another Self

Chapter 27 - The Asprey’s Cigarette Case

R. T. RAICHEV
is a writer and researcher who grew up in Bulgaria and wrote his university dissertation on English crime fiction. The other books in his successful mystery series,
The Death of Corinne, Assassins at Ospreys
and
The Little Victim
are all published by Constable and Robinson. R. T. Raichev has lived in London since 1989.

Praise for
The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette

‘Fans of cozies will love the light touch ... down to the charmingly titled chapters.’
Kirkus Review

‘Recommended for any mystery fan who likes surprises!’

New Mystery Reader Magazine

‘The intricate and inventive mystery is embellished by witty dialogue and a cast of gloriously eccentric characters.’

Francis Wyndham

‘A fascinating murder mystery that recalls the best from the Golden Age.’

Lady Antonia Fraser

‘A most original whodunit with an unguessable solution ... An England of club and country house!’

Emma Tennant

‘Splendidly oldfashioned sleuthery ... skilfully probes the surface smoothness of country houses.’

Hugh Massingberd

Other titles by R. T. Raichev

The Death of Corinne
Assassins at Osprets
The Little Victim

Constable & Robinson Ltd
3 The Lanchesters
162 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9ER
www.constablerobinson.com

First published in the UK by Constable,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson, 2006

This paperback edition published by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson, 2009

First US edition published by Carroll & Graf, 2006

This paperback edition published by SohoConstable
an imprint of Soho Press, 2009

Soho Press, Inc.
853 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
www.sohopress.com

Copyright © R. T. Raichev, 2006, 2009

The right of R. T. Raichev to be identified as the
author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance
with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition
that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold,
hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover
other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition
including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

UK ISBN: 978-1-84901-089-4 US ISBN: 978-1-56947-576-8

Printed and bound in the EU
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

For Emma Tennant

Author’s Note

This is a work of fiction. All the characters are imaginary and bear no relation to any living person. I am indebted to N. H. for a particularly inventive though rather awful joke.

R. T. R.

1

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

A death that is yet to take place but is believed to have happened some twenty years earlier? Antonia was to think afterwards that it was the kind of ingenious idea crime writers played around with in their idle hours, while luxuriating in a hot bath, or scanning the
Times
obituaries, beguiled by the seeming impossibility of it, but later discarded as too fanciful, not really worth working through and weaving a whole novel around.

It was 28th July. In the evening, her first back in London since she had returned from her walking tour in Germany’s Black Forest, her son and daughter-in-law paid her a visit, bringing with them her beloved granddaughter Emma. Antonia was delighted to see them. She was also glad of the diversion. Something had been troubling her the whole day - she had felt inexplicable twinges of anxiety, the odd sensation of standing under a dark cloud. Once or twice she had even felt like crying.

Emma seemed to have grown bigger in her absence, as bright and happy a child as could be, looking enchanting in her black shirt and baggy blue trousers, her golden curls peeping from under a black beret.

‘Look at her. She’s destined for the catwalk,’ David said.

‘No way,’ Bethany, her daughter-in-law, said. ‘She’ll be a writer, like Granny.’ Bethany was a former model and strikingly beautiful. David had met her four years before, in Cannes, where he had been sent by
Tatler
on a photographic assignment. Bethany was disillusioned with the whole
prêt-à-porter
business and regarded the two years she had devoted to it as wasted.

‘One book does not a writer make,’ said Antonia with a smile. ‘Still, sweet of you to say so.’

‘Why-tah!’
Emma cried and banged her fists on the table.
‘Why-tah!’
She banged them again.

‘Yes. A writer, like Granny. Don’t do that, sweetheart ... How is the new book going?’

‘Very slowly. Not well. Don’t ask.’ Antonia poured out tea and distributed pieces of Bakewell tart. She hadn’t been able to write a single word the whole day.

‘Gwanna!’
Emma cried. Antonia hugged her.

‘Aren’t detective stories -’ Bethany broke off.

Antonia looked at her. ‘Easier to write? Because they are easier to read? Well, they aren’t.’

‘Actually they are extremely hard to do,’ David said. ‘The kind my mother writes. Mystifying and enlightening at the same time. Having to play fair. Trying to be original. That’s probably the hardest - given that every trick has been done.’ He turned towards his mother. ‘That’s correct, isn’t it?’

‘Pretty much. At any rate no one thinks in terms of tricks any more. At least no one admits to it.’

‘You do want to get out of the library, don’t you?’ Bethany said. She put Bakewell tart in Emma’s mouth.

‘Well, I love the library dearly, but, yes, I would very much prefer to be able to write full-time.’

Antonia had for several years been librarian at the Military Club in St James’s. David went on, ‘As libraries go, that is the place to be - a highly desirable address within striking distance of Clarence House. Watering hole to the Great and the Good.’

‘And the not so good,’ Antonia said.

David gasped in mock horror. ‘You don’t mean there are old boys who
misbehave?’

‘Well, somebody was found entertaining a young friend in his room - it turned out they had met only an hour earlier in Piccadilly.’

‘Ah, those military types - notoriously starved of affection. The Queen Mum used to visit some of her old chums there, didn’t she, while she could still get about with a stick? Wasn’t it suggested that she had a beau at the club, some not-so-moth-eaten commodore?’

‘Can’t say. Before my time.’

David had visited his mother at the club and loved every minute of it. He described it as an edifice designed exclusively for manly, or rather, gentlemanly habitation in the Edwardian manner. One walked into a haze of costly cigar smoke - the ‘heathen’s frankincense’. (He claimed he had actually heard one of the club members call it that.) The polished parquet floors were the colour of best-quality
halvah
and they had been covered with Persian rugs in soft greys, greens and muted yellows - slightly murky London shades. Oak-panelled walls. Winged armchairs. Revolving bookcases.
Spittoons
— had Beth ever seen a spittoon? (She hadn’t.) The coffee had been excellent - real Turkish coffee - so had the chocolate éclairs.

‘Nobody spits,’ Antonia pointed out. ‘They use them as ashtrays.’

‘The walls are covered with Spy cartoons and ancient royal photographs. Lord and Lady Mountbatten in the most incredible Ruritanian-looking robes. You know the one? Edwina looks pencil-thin, freakishly thin, almost anorexic

‘Was she a model?’ Bethany asked.

‘No, my sweet. She was a vicereine. She had affairs with Nehru and people. They also have the Goddesses cycle. Where did they get them? I mean Madame Yevonde’s thirties society ladies dressed up as goddesses. Lady Rattendone as Euterpe, Lady Diana Cooper as Aurora, Mrs Syrie Maugham as Artemis - it is the most
un
selfconscious high camp I’ve ever seen!’

‘Colonel Haslett bought them at an auction at Christie’s. Colonel Haslett is my boss,’ Antonia explained with a smile. ‘He’s at least eighty-five.’

‘I’d love to come again and take photos at the club.
A la recherche du temps perdu
kind of cycle. The old boys look like extras in a Merchant-Ivory film. Hairy tweeds and regimental ties. Some of them creaked alarmingly as they moved. Too good to be true. Must do it before they start kicking their respective buckets. You’ve noticed of course how they read
The Times?’

‘They go to the obituaries first. Well, after a certain age one does, I suppose.’

‘Have you had any deaths recently?’ David suddenly asked. ‘I mean among resident members?’

Antonia frowned. ‘Several, yes.’

‘Your friend, the intellectual Major, no doubt suspects foul play? What was his name? My mother has an admirer,’ he told Bethany.

‘I have nothing of the sort.’ Antonia felt herself reddening.

‘Yes, you have. What was his name?’

‘I don’t know who you mean.’

‘Come
on.
I was there. I saw him making sheep’s eyes at you. He was chatting you up. All that rigmarole about murder mysteries resembling baroque opera was only a pretext to get your attention. He
must
know you’ve written a murder mystery.’

BOOK: The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette
4.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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