Fatal Solution by Leslie Scase once again sees Inspector Thomas Chard confronted with a murder in bustling Victorian Pontypridd.
On the face of it the case appears unremarkable, even if it isn’t obviously solvable, but following new leads takes Chard into unexpected places. A second murder, a sexual predator, industrial espionage and a mining disaster crowd into the investigation, baffling the Inspector and his colleagues and putting his own life at risk as the murderer attempts to avoid capture.
Once again Leslie Scase takes the reader back to a time and place where, despite the pretensions of Victorian society, life is cheap and passions strong. His research brings Pontypridd vividly to life, and historical events drive along the plot of this page-turning story of detection, as Chard navigates a way through the clues and red herrings, and a lengthening list of suspects, towards the poisoner.
Atmospheric, authentic, Chard and the reader are left guessing until the final page.
Our featured extract begins on page 24 of the novel, with Inspector Chard and his colleague interviewing local residents in the wake of a fire…
‘This is Mrs Griffiths who discovered the fire,’ said Scudamore by means of introduction.
‘Very pleased to meet you Mrs Griffiths, I am Inspector Chard. I hope you might be able to help me with my enquiries.’
‘Only too pleased to help. There’s not much that I don’t know,’ stated the woman confidently. ‘Not that I’m a gossip mind,’ she added.
‘Thank you. Now when did you notice the fire?’
‘Well, I had noticed old Mr. Jones go up the road, hadn’t I? Poor old soul, it’s the dust on his lungs, he hasn’t been well for ages. It takes for ever for him to get to the end of the street.’
‘What time would that be?’
‘Sometime after five o’clock then wasn’t it?’
‘Can you be more precise? I mean you must have been out on the street yourself so what time did you set off ?’
‘My old man has a bad cough so I was off to see Mrs Evans, wasn’t I?’
Chard was becoming irritable. ‘Very well Mrs Griffiths, why were you going to see Mrs Evans and how does that help us establish the time?’
The woman looked at Chard as though he was simple minded. ‘I was going to Mrs Evans to get something for my old man’s cough like I said. We don’t have enough money for doctors around here do we? We all have little gardens and grow our own natural remedies. I was short of a few bits and bobs so I was going to get some dried herbs from Mrs Evans. That’s how I know what time it was.’
‘What was the time?’
‘It was definitely sometime after five because I saw Mr Jones. I told you that didn’t I?’
Chard grimaced and decided a different tack.
‘Very well, did you notice anyone else about at the time?’
‘The light was very poor, but yes. There was Mrs Davies out with her little boy, horrible little thing as he is. Always pulling jibs.’
Chard glanced at Constable Scudamore who assisted by saying, ‘pulling faces, sir.’
‘Then there was Mr Phillips from the grocer’s shop, going about his business. He had his window smashed the other day, didn’t he? Now then, we also had Mrs Evans.’
‘The one that you were going to see?’ asked Chard.
‘No, different Mrs Evans. We have four in our street. There was someone I didn’t know, a scruffy looking man in a long coat. There were two men talking together, but they were too far away to see properly. Then young Tommy Jones, he is nearly twelve so will be down the pit soon.’
‘Is that all?’
‘Apart from Mrs Pearce’s children, she lets them run riot you know, not that I’m one to talk.’
Chard turned to Constable Scudamore. ‘Tomorrow morning trace everyone this lady has mentioned and see if they know anything.’
‘Can I go now?’ asked Mrs Griffiths.
‘Just one or two more questions. Did people get on with Mr Hughes, I mean was he popular?’
‘I am not one to cleck on others,’ said Mrs Griffiths hesitantly.
‘She means tell tales,’ added Scudamore helpfully, for even after a year Chard was still unfamiliar with the local idioms.
‘To be truthful, for I cannot tell a lie, Mr Hughes was not a particularly pleasant man. The only person who got on with him was his wife, and he was besotted with her.’ continued Mrs Griffiths. ‘No one else had much of a good word to say about him and he had been very mean spirited of late.’
‘So Mr Dixon told me,’ said Chard.
‘There’s another grumpy bugger. Those two didn’t get on at all. Why are you asking though?’ asked the woman with keen interest. ‘Do you think the fire started deliberately? You can tell me. I won’t tell a soul.’
‘We are keeping an open mind Mrs Griffiths so I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions. Thank you for your help.’
Turning away the inspector led Constable Scudamore out of earshot. ‘If this is murder then it doesn’t make sense. By the sounds of it he was unpopular but why not just slit his throat one evening? Why do it in daylight and then burn down the workshop?’
‘No idea sir,’ answered the constable, rubbing his chin.
‘There is evil here Constable, I can feel it in the air, but I will uncover it, you mark my words.’
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Bring a glass of wine or your favourite tipple and join us on Tuesday 25th May at 7:30pm for the online launch. Leslie will be in conversation with Matt Johnson and we’ll host an audience Q&A. Register for free via Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/154383153167.