Cosy crime

The Duntisbourne Hall trilogy was inspired by my time working at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in 2004 during a poison pen letter campaign. The culprit was never identified or brought to justice, but setting out a fictional solution to the mystery brought me solace, and my colleagues a great deal of mirth.

Max Black, retired stock broker and single parent, is facing a crisis. His daughter has left for university, and despite the companionship of his faithful Cairn terrier Monty, he feels untethered and not very well. His doctor tells him to get out more, change his lifestyle and get a job. Duntisbourne Hall, a nearby rundown stately home, is recruiting tour guides. Could this be the answer to his empty-nest syndrome?

Joining the team of eccentric retired professionals who shuffle the general public around on tour, he meets BS Moreton, the charming and erudite archivist who is working alongside the impressive Sam Westbrook. She has arrived from the British Museum to create a new exhibition from a unique hoard of outré artefacts. She has a great deal in common with Max – her daughter has also recently left home. But she has other worries. Someone has written an anonymous letter threatening her future and making her question if the collection is real. Could it be an elaborate eighteenth-century smutty joke? And why are a number of pieces missing?

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As the summer season gets into full swing at Duntisbourne Hall, it looks as if love is in the air again for hall guide Max Black, but life is getting complicated. His daughter has decided to spend the summer at home, and the arrival of Hector Schofield, an author on a mission to find Lord Rochester’s famous monkey, threatens Max’s future happiness with fellow amateur sleuth Sam Westbrook.

When a momentous discovery at the Hall propels Hector from confidante to suitor in Sam Westbrook’s eyes, Max thinks things couldn’t get much worse until a mindless prank by one of the students put him, his daughter and his colleagues in danger of losing everything they hold dear.

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Amateur sleuths Max Black and Sam Westbrook have gained a reputation for crime-solving. But will they be able to untangle the latest baffling mystery in the cosy world of Duntisbourne Hall?

In a rundown stately home on the borders of Wales, BS Moreton, disgraced former archivist to the Earl of Duntisbourne has completed his custodial sentence and is hell-bent on revenge. But when an ancient visitor to the Hall recognises his contemporary, Claude Hipkiss, as a retired MI6 agent living under an assumed name, BS’s most important asset goes missing, along with the dossier that holds the key to the Earl’s demise.

As Sam vacillates about her feelings for Max, outside events draw them both into a harrowing world of subterfuge and danger as the Duntisbourne trilogy accelerates towards a thrilling conclusion.

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