It’s 1927 and Great Britain is sweltering in an unprecedented heatwave. On the morning after her eightieth birthday party, Lady Fitzhugh is discovered bound and butchered in her bed, with her family and staff the prime suspects…
Whilst holidaying at nearby Meadowford Village, Detective Dermot Carlyle is asked to help investigate the brutal murder. The clues all point to a robbery gone wrong, but Dermot suspects that there is more to the horrific crime. The Fitzhughs’ secrets take Dermot along a path linking some of the biggest events of the British Colonial Empire – from India to Africa, to the dark days of the Great War itself.
As more murders take place, Dermot is racing against time to discover the killer’s identity. What are the family hiding, why did Lady Fitzhugh have to die, and what horror was committed in the colonies that led to this trail of death and deceit?
Argyle Castle Grounds, Scottish Highlands – January, 1903 It was a cold foggy night and the only sound was of the snow crunching under the feet of the couple walking up the path towards a small and isolated cottage. Wearing a long woollen coat and a flat cap, and tightly clutching a basket, the man towered over the woman walking beside him who, despite also being dressed in heavy clothing, visibly shook with the cold. The man knocked on the cottage door and it was quickly opened by a smiling middleaged woman who pulled nervously at her bedraggled clothes when she recognised her visitors. “Here y’are, finally…” she said. She looked at the shivering woman. “Ye poor wee hen, you’re shivering, aren’t ye? Come in an’ get yourself warm.” The warmth from the roaring fire enveloped them as the couple entered the cottage and they felt their bodies finally relax. The shaking woman stood by the large fireplace, palms to the flames. A large cooking pot was bubbling and hissing over the fire and the comforting smell of stew wafted through the air, causing the couple’s empty stomachs to grumble in anticipation. The man walked towards the large wooden table that filled the room and placed the basket down on the floor next to one of the chairs. The blanket in the basket seemed to move and the middle-aged woman bent down and slowly removed it. “Ach! She’s a bonnie wee bairn. How old is she?” “A few months old, Mrs. Blair,” said the man. “You have always been faithful to Lady Argyle’s family and she trusts you with this. As agreed, we need to keep this a secret; not a word to anyone. We will send the money for the child. All you have to do is raise her as your own and make sure that she knows nothing until we say so. Is that understood?” he said, staring at her intensely. Mrs. Blair’s smile slowly vanished. “I understand, sir. Her Ladyship has already spoken tae me… Tae avoid any questions, I’ve already told folk here that she’s my nephew’s daughter an’ her parents were killed in a carriage accident in London. My husband, Ewan, an’ I will bring her up as our own.” “That’s good. I am placing the money on the table. We’ll send you more and our address in case you need to get in touch with us.” “Very good, sir. Thank ye for the money; I will wait for yer letter. When will ye be back tae see her?” “Not sure, but if we do she must never know who we are… We have to leave now. We’ll say goodbye to the child.” The man and the woman kissed the baby, took one last look, and went out of the door into the foggy night. “I hope we’re doing the right thing,” said the woman with tears in her eyes. “Yes, we are. We must do it for her. She’s the only thing that matters now. Tomorrow we go to England and, no matter how long it takes, we’ll accomplish what we came to do.” The woman smiled sadly as they walked down the snowy garden path towards a horse-drawn carriage that was waiting for them.