From Library Journal
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A spectacular new voice in mystery writing."—Los Angeles Times
"A compelling whodunit...a reader's delight."—Daily News, New York
"Like P.D. James, George knows the import of the smallest human gesture; Well-Schooled in Murder puts the younger author clearly in the running with the genre master."—People
"Ms. George may wind up creating one of the most popular and entertaining series in mystery fiction today."—The Sun, Baltimore
From the Publisher
"A spectacular new voice in mystery writing."
--Los Angeles Times
"A compelling whodunit...a reader's delight."
--Daily News, New York
"Like P.D. James, George knows the import of the smallest human gesture; Well-Schooled in Murder puts the younger author clearly in the running with the genre master."
"Ms. George may wind up creating one of the most popular and entertaining series in mystery fiction today."
--The Sun, Baltimore
About the Author
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The rear garden of the cottage in Hammersmith's Lower Mall was set up to accommodate artistic endeavours. Three slabs of knotty pine stretched across six battered sawhorses to function as work stations, and they held at least a dozen stone sculptures in varying stages of completion. A dented metal cabinet near the garden wall contained the artist's tools: drills, chisels, rifflers, files, gouges, emery, and a collection of sandpaper with differing degrees of abrasion. A colour-splodged painter's dropcloth--smelling strongly of turps--made a dispirited lump underneath a partially broken chaise.
It was a garden completely without distractions. Walled in against the curiosity of neighbours, it was thus also protected from those insistent and largely mechanical noises of river traffic, of the Great West Road, of Hammersmith Bridge. Indeed, the high walls of the garden were so expertly constructed, the cottage's position on the Lower Mall so well-chosen, that only an occasional waterfowl in flight overhead broke into the superb stillness that the site afforded.
Such protection was not without one disadvantage. Since cleansing river breezes never found their way through the walls, a patina of stone dust covered everything from the small oblong of dying lawn, to the crimson wallflowers that bordered it, to the square of flagstones that served as a terrace, to the cottage windowsills and the building's pitched roof. Even the artist himself wore fine grey powder like a second skin.
But this pervasive grime did not bother Kevin Whateley. Over the years, he had become quite used to it. Even if he had not been accustomed to operating perfectly well in a cloud of grit, he would not have noticed it while he laboured in the garden. This was his haven, a place of creative ecstasy in which convenience and cleanliness were not required. Mere discomfort meant nothing to Kevin once he gave himself over to the call of his art.
He was doing so now, taking his latest piece through the final stage of buffing. He was particularly fond of this current effort, a reclining nude rendered in marble, her head raised on a pillow, her torso twisted so that her right leg was drawn up over her left, her hip and thigh an unbroken crescent that ended with her knee. He ran his hand down her arm, round her buttocks, and along her thigh, testing for rough spots, nodding with satisfaction at the feeling of stone like cold silk beneath his fingers.
"You do look a bit daft, Kev. Don't believe I ever once saw you smiling like that over me."
Kevin chuckled, straightened, and looked at his wife who had come to stand in the cottage doorway. She was drying her hands on a faded tea towel, laughter drawing deeply at the wrinkles round her eyes. "Then come right 'ere and give it a try, girl. You just weren't paying attention last time."
Patsy Whateley waved him off with, "You're crazy, you are, Kev," but her husband saw the pleased flush appear on her cheeks.
"Crazy, am I?" he asked. "Not what I recall you saying this morning. That was you, wasn' it, sneaking up on a bloke at six A.M.?"
She laughed outright, and Kevin smiled at her, studying her dear, familiar features, admitting the fact that although for some time she had been surreptitiously colouring her hair to preserve a semblance of youth, her face and figure were decidedly middle-aged, the one lined and no longer firm at jaw and chin, the other filled out in places where once he had found the most delicious curves.
"You're thinking, aren't you, Kev? I can see it on your face. What?"
"Dirty thoughts, girl. Enough to make you blush."
"It's these pieces you're working on, i'n it? Looking at naked ladies on a Sunday morning! It's indecent and that's all there is to it."
"What I feel for you's indecent and that's a fact, luv. Step over here. Don't mess me about. I know what you're really like, don't I?"
"He's gone mad," Patsy declared to the heavens.
"Mad the way you like." He crossed the garden to the cottage door, took his wife into his arms, and kissed her soundly.
"Lord, Kevin, you taste all of sand!" Patsy protested when at last he released her. A streak of grey powder tinted the side of her head. Another smeared against her left breast. She brushed at her clothing, muttering with exasperation, but when she looked up and her husband grinned, her face softened and she murmured, "Half crazy. Always was, you know."
He winked and went back to his work. She continued to watch from the doorway.
From the metal cabinet, Kevin brought out the powdered pumice that he used to condition the marble prior to signing his name to a finished piece. Mixing this with water, he smeared it liberally onto his reclining nude and worked it against the stone. He gave his attention to legs and stomach, breasts and feet, taking the greatest care with the delicate work upon the face.
He heard his wife move restlessly in the doorway. She was, he saw, looking behind her into the kitchen at the red tin clock that hung above the stove.
"Half-ten," she said reflectively.
It was a statement she intended to sound self-directed, but it didn't deceive Kevin with its pretence of detachment. "Now, Pats," he soothed her, "you're just making a fuss over nothing. I can see it dead clear. Leave off, can't you? The boy'll ring home as soon as he can."
"Half-ten," she repeated, regardless. "Matt said they'd be back by Eucharist, Kev. Eucharist surely would've ended at ten. It's half-past now. Why's he not rung us?"
"He's busy, no doubt. Unpacking. There's schoolwork to be faced. Tales to be told about the weekend's fun. Then lunch with the rest of the boys. So he's forgotten to ring his mum for the moment. But he'll do it by one. Wait and see. Not to worry, luv."
Kevin knew that telling his wife not to worry about their son was as useful as asking the Thames to stop rising and falling every day with the tide just a few steps away from their own front door. He'd been offering her variations of that admonition for the last twelve and a half years. But it rarely did the slightest bit of good. Patsy would worry herself over every detail of Matthew's life: over whether his clothing was correctly matched; over who was cutting his hair and seeing to his teeth; over the polish on his shoes and the length of his trousers; over his choice of friends and the hobbies he pursued. She studied each one of his letters from school until she had it memorised, and if she didn't hear from him once a week, she worked herself into a state of the jitters that nothing could quell save Matthew himself. He usually did so, which made his failure to telephone after his weekend adventure in the Cotswolds all the harder to understand. This was something that Kevin would not admit to his wife, however.
Teenagers, he thought. We're in for it now, Pats. The boy's growing up.
Patsy's response startled her husband, who thought himself not so easily read. "I know what you're thinking, Kev. He's getting bigger. Won't want his mum fussing over him all the time. There's truth to it. I know."
"So . . . ?" he encouraged her.
"So I'll wait a bit before I ring the school."
It was, Kevin knew, the best compromise she would offer. "That's my girl," he replied and went back to his sculpture.
For the next hour he allowed himself the bliss of complete absorption into the delights of his art, losing track of time entirely. As was usually the case, his surroundings faded into insignificance, and existence was reduced to the immediate sensation of marble coming to life under his hands.
His wife had to say his name twice to return him from the twilight world he inhabited whenever he was called there by his particular muse. She'd come back to the doorway, but this time he saw that she held a black vinyl handbag in place of the tea towel, and she was wearing her new black shoes and her best navy wool coat. She had inserted a coruscating rhinestone pin haphazardly into the lapel--a sleek lioness with one paw raised and ready to strike. Its eyes were tiny specks of green.
"He's in the Sanatorium." She spoke the last word on a high note of incipient panic.
Kevin blinked, eyes drawn to the dance of light diffracting from the lioness rampant. "Sanatorium?" he repeated.
"Our Matt's in the Sanatorium, Kev! He's been there all weekend. I've just rung the school. He didn't ever go to the Morants' at all. He's sick in the San! That Morant boy didn't even know what was wrong. He hadn't seen him since Friday lunch!"
"What're you up to, girl?" Kevin queried shrewdly. He knew full well what the answer would be and sought a moment to ponder how best to stop her.
"Mattie's ill! Our boy! Lord knows what's wrong. Now, are you coming with me to that school or planning to stand there with your hands on that woman's flipping crotch for the rest of the day?"
Kevin hurriedly removed his hands from the offending part of the sculpture's anatomy. He wiped them down the sides of his work jeans, adding white abrasive cream to the dust and dirt already embedded along the seams.
"Hang on, Pats," he said. "Think for a minute."
"Think? Mattie's ill! He'll be wanting his mum."
"Will he, luv?"
Patsy worked on this thought, her lips pressed together as if in the hope of keeping further words at bay. Her spatulate fingers worried the clasp of her handbag, snapping it repeatedly open and shut. From what Kevin could see, the bag was empty. In her rush to be off, Patsy had thought nothing about putting inside a single belonging--a pound coin, a comb, a compact, anything.
He pulled a piece of old towelling from the po...