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 (an anonymous “wellwisher” using Bleheim Palace writing paper wrote it would be a good time for me to leave “as I may get sicker”; other people didn’t get off so lightly). 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.

BS Moreton is the charming and erudite archivist at a run-down stately home on the Welsh borders. Although much admired by his colleagues, he is also a mendacious old goat with a shady past, but apart from some irritating poison pen letters, his life is under control. When Sam Westbrook arrives from the British Museum to create a new exhibition from a unique hoard of erotic artefacts, problems begin to seep back into his life.

Sam has other worries. Is the collection real, or an elaborate eighteenth-century smutty joke? As Sam digs deeper, BS Moreton’s world begins to unravel and the secret behind the collection turns out to be more surprising than anyone could have guessed.

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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.

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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The Major smoothed his whiskers, dropped his head and said darkly, ‘But you know where the bodies are buried.’

Having completed his custodial sentence, the former archivist to the Earl of Duntisbourne 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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