Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting a stop on
The Body In The Ice Blog Tour
I am delighted to be able to share this tantalising extract from
The Body in the Ice
Centuries before, Hope had been a thriving Marsh village and All Saint’s Church had been the bustling heart of a community. Plague and fever had killed its people or driven them away, and now all that remained was the ruin of the church, its roof long since fallen in, its floor a bed of grass and moss. Lantern-light flickered around the nave, casting wavering shadows on stone walls, windows like eyeless sockets giving onto the night beyond.
Joseph Parker lay sprawled on his side, one hand flung out where he had clutched at the turf in a final spasm before he died. He had been struck a massive blow to the back of the head, shattering his skull. The lanterns showed a dark shadowy stain where his blood had poured out and soaked into the grass. The light showed also the jewelled buttons on his waistcoat and the glittering gem on his watch fob. The cameo rings were still on his fingers.
The rector knelt over the body, studying it. Unless I stop you, there will be yet more killing, he had said to Parker. And more killing there had been. But Hardcastle had not expected him to be the next victim.
‘Has Dr Mackay been sent for?’
Stemp nodded. ‘I sent the lad to fetch him.’
The corpse had been found by a boy from Old Romney, coming back from an evening’s fishing. That was the story, at least; it might be true, but Hope Church was also a favourite rendezvous point for smugglers. Foucarmont knows this too, the rector thought. Parker was killed and left his body here to ensure he would be found
‘One thing’s for certain, reverend,’ said Stemp. ‘This was no robbery.’
‘No,’ said the rector. ‘This was a calculated killing.’
Foucarmont was back on the Marsh. And Clavertye was still hunting him far away among the downs of Sussex, looking in the wrong place.
Parker had been dead for hours; Foucarmont and his men could be miles away by now. They would have to start a new search for them, and of course Lord Clavertye would have to be informed. That last cheered the rector a little, for he quite enjoyed the sight of Lord Clavertye in the wrong. But the cheerful thought did not last long, for another, deeply unhappy task lay ahead of him. He began to walk back to St Mary in the Marsh, leaving Hope Church with its flickering ghostly lanterns behind, rehearsing in his mind the words of consolation he would use and the questions he would have to ask.
Tendrils of fog snaked over the marsh, blown on a faint fluttering breeze. Apart from this little wind the night was utterly silent and still. He had just crossed the bridge over the New Sewer, St Mary in the Marsh about three-quarters of a mile away, when he stopped dead in his tracks. Booming in his ears, muffled and yet magnified by the fog, came the sound of a gunshot, followed swiftly by another...
On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.
It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace at St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim's identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.
With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor's attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.
A.J. MacKenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife duo. Between them they have written more than twenty non-fiction and academic titles, with specialisms including management, medieval economic history and medieval warfare.
The original idea for The Body…series came when the authors were living in Kent, when they often went down to Romney Marsh to enjoy the unique landscape and the beautiful old churches. The authors now live in Devon.
Follow on Twitter @AJMackNovels
My thanks to Imogen at Bonnier Zaffre for the invitation to be part of this blog tour and for the kind permission to feature this extract from The Body in the Ice.