#BlogTour #Review Murder And The Glovemaker’s Son by Leslie Cookman

Before I share my review of Murder and the Glovemaker’s Son I just want to invite you to the launch party on Facebook on Friday 17th August. I have gone to a number of these events hosted by the lovely Jill Burkinshaw and there’s always fun and giveaways galore. Just follow the link below:

LAUNCH PARTY – Murder and the Glovemaker’s Son:

https://www.facebook.com/events/193396384616020/

Title: Murder And The Glovemaker’s Son by Leslie Cookman

Publisher: Accent Press

Publication Date: 16th August 2018

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Description:

A new title in the Libby Sarjeant Murder Mystery series by bestselling author Lesley Cookman.

Set in the Kent village of Steeple Martin this series has a loyal following from around the globe.

The Oast Theatre in Steeple Martin is hosting a touring production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night which is attracting a lot of attention. But very soon it begins to attract attention of an entirely different kind, when a document goes missing along with its owner.

When a body turns up, Libby Sarjeant and Fran Wolfe become involved with the investigation with the help, naturally, of their friends and relatives.

Review:

A tour of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has arrived in the village of Steeple Martin after a letter was uncovered claiming that Shakespeare had toured with his company there. The letter is soon debunked as a fake and the letter and the owner disappear. The owner is soon found dead but the letter is missing. Another body is found with links to the touring Shakespeare company. Can Libby Sarjeant and her friends get to the bottom of this mystery before anyone else turns up dead?

So this is the 19th book in the series, yes you read that right 19th, this has to be one of the longest running book series I’ve come across in years. I actually haven’t read any of the other books myself and I found there was a handy little glossary of regular characters in the front, which helped me to make sense of who was who etc.

This is a proper cosy mystery, you don’t see the body or have it described in detail, instead it really focuses on the puzzle of the case.

The characters really make this book. Libby is quite fierce and a little bossy but I feel like the characters around her bring out her nicer side.

The book contains a lot of historical facts which I found immensely interesting like Shakespeare being a spy for Queen Elizabeth which I didn’t know and now I want to find out more about!

I have to be honest, there is quite a large cast of characters which I felt slightly over shadowed the mystery and trying to keep them straight in my head was quite hard.

Overall I would recommend Murder And The Glovemaker’s Son to anyone who enjoys a good puzzling mystery.

Rating: 3/5

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Author Bio:

Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth’s exerciseLesley Cookman Author Photo books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess, actor and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. The Libby Sarjeant series is published by Accent Press, who also publish her book, How to Write a Pantomime, with a foreword by Roy Hudd. She is also the author of several pantomimes and a Music Hall musical, and more recently an Edwardian mystery series, The Alexandrians, also from Accent Press. She has also written romances under the name Rosina Lesley.

She has four grown up children, two cats and lives on the Kent coast of England.

Links:

Website – http://www.lesleycookman.co.uk/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/lesley.cookman

Twitter – @LesleyCookman

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#BlogTour #Review The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker by Kerry Wilkinson @bookouture

Title: The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker by Kerry Wilkinson

Publisher: Bookouture

Date Published: 26th July 2018

Genre: YA/Mystery/Paranormal

Description:

I will never forget the night I drowned…’

Seventeen-year-old Eleanor Parker wakes up cold and alone in the river that twists through her quiet village. She remembers a hand on her chest, another on her head, water in her throat, those final gasps for air…

Her brother’s girlfriend was drowned in the same river the summer before, held under the water by an unknown killer.

Determined to unlock the mystery of what really happened that night, Eleanor can’t escape the feeling that something terrible links her to the previous summer’s murder. But will she discover the shocking truth, before it’s too late?

A gripping and extraordinary coming of age novel that will keep you guessing until the very end. 

Review:

Eleanor Parker wakes up on the side of the river, the same river her brother’s girlfriend Sarah died in the summer before. She can’t remember the previous night just someone holding her under the water until she died…but somehow she’s still walking, talking, breathing, how is that possible?

Eleanor doesn’t feel right. She can’t eat or smell or even sleep. The only way she’s going to find peace is to find out who killed Sarah and who tried to kill her.

Now Kerry Wilkinson has been on my radar for a while now but this is actual the first book I’ve read by him and it definitely won’t be the last! This death and life of Eleanor Parker is the kind of novel that you can’t really pigeon hole into one genre, in a good way, it’s young adult, mystery with a hint of paranormal.

There’s also a mystery within a mystery. First there’s who tried to kill her, then there’s how is she still walking and talking? Is she a zombie or something else?

I loved Eleanor or Ellie as she’s called through most of the book. She’s funny, sarcastic, massively overthinks things and has to deal with bullies, a normal teenager really. She’s also not perfect either, regularly arguing with her mum and brother.

Kerry Wilkinson really captured the slightly claustrophobic atmosphere of a small village where everyone knows everyone and anything that goes wrong is blamed on strangers because it couldn’t possibly be someone they know.

This book ended up being a complete breath of fresh air, which although I did figure out who the killer was (eventually) it kept me guessing. I’d recommend this for anyone who wants to read a unique and out of the box mystery.

Rating: 5/5

Check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on this tour:

The Life and Death of Eleanor Parker - Blog Tour

Author Bio:

Kerry Wilkinson has had No.1 bestsellers in the UK, Canada, South Africa and Singapore, as Kerry Wilkinsonwell as top-five books in Australia. He has also written two top-20 thrillers in the United States.

As well as his million-selling Jessica Daniel series, Kerry has written the Silver Blackthorn trilogy – a fantasy-adventure serial for young adults – a second crime series featuring private investigator Andrew Hunter, plus numerous standalone novels. He has been published around the world in more than a dozen languages.

Originally from the county of Somerset, Kerry has spent far too long living in the north of England, picking up words like ‘barm’ and ‘ginnel’.

When he’s short of ideas, he rides his bike or bakes cakes. When he’s not, he writes it all down.

Recent and upcoming UK releases:
Eye For An Eye (Jessica Daniel): Out now
Last Night (standalone): Out now
The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker (standalone): July 2018
To Have And To Hold (standalone): October 2018

Author Social Media Links:

http://kerrywilkinson.com

http://facebook.com/KerryWilkinsonBooks

#BlogTour #Review An Oriental Murder by Jane Bastin @JaneJanebastin @crookedcatbooks @rararesources

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Title: An Oriental Murder by Jane Bastin

Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

Date Published: 12th July 2018

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Description:

The Pera Palas hotel in Istanbul, Turkey plays host to the Agatha Christie Writers’ Congress when real life imitates fiction. The bodies of the Prime Minister and his occasional mistress are found dead in one of the hotel’s locked rooms surrounded by bodyguards. Seemingly, no one could get in or out, and yet…

Inspector Sinan Kaya is convinced that foreign agents are culpable, and that the murders are linked to the recent spate of killings of Turkish government officials.

Within this complicated, crime riddled city, Sinan Kaya’s moral compass never falters. Not concerned with threats of dismissal from the force, he cuts his own path through the investigation, determined to uncover the truth.

An Oriental Murder is a tale of espionage and murder set against the backdrop of beautiful Istanbul, the ancient city where east and west meet.

Purchase Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Oriental-Murder-Jane-Bastin-ebook/dp/B07CKZW2WD/

Review:

The Agatha Christie Writers convention is in full swing at The Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul when the Prime Minister and his mistress are found dead without anyone entering or exiting the room.

A tired and overworked Inspector Sinan Kaya is called to the scene and is immediately confronted by a group of amateur detectives wanting to solve the case. Only this might not be the only murder. A string of Turkish officials have been found mutilated and dumped down alleyways in the sketchier parts of the city. Can Sinan stop this killer before they strike again.

This is a fast paced, action packed mystery with plenty of intriguing characters set against the exotic backdrop of Istanbul.

The city of Istanbul was almost a character in its own right. So full of contradictions! You have the strict Muslim, tradition aspects rubbing up against the more liberal western ideas.

Inspector Sinan is quite an intense character. He’s in his thirties, unmarried (much to the disappointment of his mother) surrounded by a police station that seems to be crumbling to bits and a senior officer Haris intent on making his job harder. The only thing he really seems to enjoy is his food. The book is packed to the brim of delicious sounding food and made me feel quite hungry while I was reading it.

I did feel that there was a few plot holes and the romance aspect of the story seemed a forced. We hear that someone called Ani was part of his life and it doesn’t really explain who she was and what happened to her but that Bea, his love interest in the book, reminds him of her. Then again, Bea herself is not all that likeable, looking for husband number six.

I would recommend this to mystery lovers who like a well researched and vivid setting with an interesting cast of characters.

Rating: 3/5

Check out the other fantastic bloggers on the tour here:

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Author Bio –

Jane is a storyteller, writer, traveller and educator. Having lived and worked for over thirty years in Turkey, Jane has amassed a breadth of experiences that have led to the writing of the SinanIMG_0113 Kaya series of novels. Of course all characters and events are fictitious!

Fluent in both English and Turkish, Jane writes in both languages and has had a range of articles published in Turkish periodicals and magazines alongside British newspapers.

Jane now divides her time between rainy Devon and sunny Turkey,

Social Media Links – https://twitter.com/JaneJanebastin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jane.bastin.9887

#BlogTour #Review w/ #Giveaway The Girl In The Gallery by Alice Castle @rararesources @DDsDiary

The Girl in the Gallery Cover

Title: The Girl In The Gallery by Alice Castle

Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

Date Published: 19th December 2017

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Description:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Dulwich…

It’s a perfect summer’s morning in the plush south London suburb, and thirty-something Beth Haldane has sneaked off to visit one of her favourite places, the world-famous Picture Gallery.

She’s enjoying a few moments’ respite from juggling her job at prestigious private school Wyatt’s and her role as single mum to little boy Ben, when she stumbles across a shocking new exhibit on display. Before she knows it, she’s in the thick of a fresh, and deeply chilling, investigation.

Who is The Girl in the Gallery? Join Beth in adventure #2 of the London Murder Mystery series as she tries to discover the truth about a secret eating away at the very heart of Dulwich.

Purchase Link – http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery

Review:

This is the second in London Murder Mystery series and as with most series it works well as a stand alone. If you want to start at the very beginning of the series you can read my review of Death In Dulwich, here.

So we’re back with Beth, who seems to have a knack for finding trouble! This time she finds a girl barely alive, laid out in mausoleum within the museum Picture Gallery. No girl has been reported missing and it’s a race against time to find out who she is.

You know it’s rare that I find a sequel that’s better than the first but that’s the case with Girl In The Gallery. There’s plenty of twists and turns with a very surprising ending.

This book also deals with the issues of today’s teenage girls with all the social media and trying to look like they have the perfect life. Also there is sensitive subjects of anorexia and self harm showing how these mental illnesses are often misunderstood or marginalised as not being ‘that serious’.

I like the fact we get to know DI York and Beth’s friend Katie making them seem a little more rounded than in first book and not just there for Beth to bounce her ideas off.

I did feel that the middle got a little bogged down with slightly outlandish theories and lots of dialogue which is why I didn’t give this book the whole five stars but as usual that could just be me being fussy.

I’m not going to say too much more in case of spoilers but I would highly recommend this to fans of MC Beaton or Agatha Christie.

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Rating: 4.5/5

About The Author:

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, wasauthor pic a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019. Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Giveaway – Win signed copies of Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494106/?

 

#BlogTour #Review w/ #Giveaway Death In Dulwich by Alice Castle @DDsDiary @rararesources

Death in Dulwich Cover

Title: Death In Dulwich by Alice Castle

Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

Date Published: 6th September 2017

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Description:

Thirty-something single mum Beth Haldane is forced to become Dulwich’s answer to Miss Marple when she stumbles over a murder victim on her first day at work. 

To clear her name, Beth is plunged into a cozy mystery that’s a contemporary twist on Golden Age crime classics. But can she pull it off? She already has a bouncy young son, haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and lots of bills to pay, as she struggles to keep up with the yummy mummies of SE21.
Join Beth in #1 of the London Murder Mystery series, as she discovers the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places.

Purchase Link MyBook.to/1DeathinDulwich

Review:

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while and I want to thank Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on this blog tour and providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Beth Haldane is a single mum, just about scraping by after the death of her husband trying to provide for her nine year old son Ben. She lives in the affluent Dulwich Village, surrounded by yummy mummies with far too much time on their hands. When she’s offered an archivist assistant job at Wyatt’s, a much sort after boys school in the area, she jumps at the chance. Unfortunately for her on the first day she finds her boss, Dr Jenkins dead.

Feeling that she’s the only suspect, she embarks on finding the real culprit, much to the annoyance of dishy DI Harry York.

This book puts the cosy into cosy mystery! It’s a good old fashioned style whodunnit, with plenty of suspects, red herrings and mystery. It really reminded me of the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton which I absolutely love.

I was quite surprised that Dulwich Village is actually a real place in South London. I honestly thought before I started reading it that it was entirely out of the writer’s imagination but now I want to go and visit it although I don’t think I’d want to live there, not with all those yummy mummies hanging around!

I really liked Beth. She’s hard working, a little stubborn with an OCD streak and has a tendency for bouts of low self esteem. I think any mum, single or not, would understand the constant struggle of trying to do your best for your child or children that Beth goes through on a day to day basis. The way she butts head with DI York, who seems a little cold and formal, was a nice touch and I look forward to their relationship growing.

I did feel that Beth’s friend Katie seemed a little too perfect, even though she’s meant to be the so called ‘normal’ one like Beth and she was just there as a bit of a plot device to move the story on but of course that’s just my opinion!

A fantastic start to the series that I would recommend this book to those who love a good cosy mystery.

The second book, Girl In The Gallery, is up for my next review on Tuesday so keep your eyes peeled for my thoughts.

Rating: 4/5

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About The Author:

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.author pic

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en


Giveaway – Win signed copies of Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494106/?

 

#BlogTour #Review Smith by Stewart Giles @stewartgiles @Books_n_all

Title: Smith (DS Jason Smith #1) by Stewart Giles

Date Published: 16th November 2014

Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Police Procedural

Description:

‘The sleepy historical city of York is about to wake up’. 

It is Christmas Day in York. A woman is found dead in her bed. A suicide note is found on her chest. It reads ‘I am so sorry Martin’. Hours later the police are called to a house a few miles away. A mother and her daughter have been brutally attacked; the mother is dead and the daughter is barely alive. The father is found shaking uncontrollably in the corner of the room. He is covered in blood but he is unharmed. His name is Martin Willow.
Detective Sergeant Jason Smith is put in charge of the investigation. After reaching dead end after dead end, Smith starts to put the pieces together and figures out that Martin Willow is innocent and the killer is still out there.

The little girl who was attacked on Christmas Day wakes from her coma and gives Smith a clue about the attacker; a piece of a song she heard directly before the attack. Smith then finds himself in a race against time to find this maniac before he kills again.

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Review:

DS Jason Smith has drawn the short straw and is on call on Christmas Day. He’s called to the apparent suicide of a young student by the name of Lauren Cowley. On the same day the police are called to the Willow house where a mother and her daughter have been brutally attacked but there’s not a scratch on the father. It transpires that Lauren was the Willow’s babysitter, who’d called in sick the previous night. Could the two cases be connected? To complicate matters a face from his past reappears claiming that the sister he lost ten years previously is not in fact dead. Can Smith crack the case and find his sister?

So this is the second in the Smith series that I’ve read, the first being a collection of short stories, Phobia, you can read my review here.

I really enjoyed this first full length Jason Smith novel! It’s one of those mysteries that you can really get stuck into! Like with Phobia the chapters are short and snappy with an incredibly fast pace but Stewart Giles still managed to weave an intricate narrative balancing almost three separate storylines and timelines.

For those of you who don’t know DS Jason Smith, he’s an Aussie who’s lived in the beautiful city of York for ten years after his sister was supposedly attacked by a shark, which gave him a fear of the water. He not opposed to bending the rules and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, especially lazy police work and usually butts head with fellow officers especially one of his team DS Thompson. He also has a bit of a will they, won’t they relationship with DC Erica Whitton.

There is a bit of dipping in between time lines (there’s 2008, 1998 and 2005) and in places it was more of a whydunnit than whodunnit but I really enjoyed it and found it utterly engrossing.

I’d recommend this book for those who like a fast paced and easy read with an emphasis on entertainment.

Rating: 4/5

Stewart Giles – Author Bio:

After reading English & Drama at three different English Universities and graduating from none of them, I set off travelling and finally ended up in South Africa, where I still live. I enjoy theStewart Giles Author Photo serene life running a boat shop on the banks of the Vaal Dam. I came up with the DS Jason Smith idea after my wife dropped a rather large speaker on my head. Whether it was intentional still remains a mystery. Smith, the first in the series was finished in September 2013 and was closely followed by Boomerang and Ladybird. Occam’s Razor, Harlequin and Phobia (a series of short stories detailing Smith’s early life) were all completed in one hazy 365 days and Selene was done and dusted a few months later.Links:

Website: www.stewartgiles.com

Twitter: @stewartgiles

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stewart.giles.33


#BlogTour #Excerpt w/ #Giveaway Death In Vermilion by Barbara Elle @shanannigans81 @barbaraelleauth

Today I’m very excited to bring you an extract from Death In Vermilion plus a giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle copy of the book (see bottom of the post)

Title: Death in Vermilion by Barbara Elle.

Publication Date: 16th April 2018

Genre: Murder Mystery

Description:

A psychological mystery about art and obsession…

Artist Leila Goodfriend is laying down the bones of a painting. When she’s interrupted by Iris, the noisy, unlikeable artist in the studio upstairs, Leila is distracted and annoyed.

When Leila discovers the racket was actually Iris’ dead body hitting the floor, she becomes obsessed: Who murdered Iris?

The other Red Barn Cooperative artists—competitive, jealous and hypocritical—are prime suspects. They all hated Iris. “An artist owes his life to his art,” Iris said.

Iris was good for a laugh. But no one is laughing now.

In this gripping mystery, new author Barbara Elle paints a clever, twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a charming Cape Code town.

Alibis fall apart. Plot twists multiply. And Leila comes to a dangerous conclusion.

Goodreads Link:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863595-death-in-vermilion?ac=1&from_search=true

Purchase Link:

Amazon: https://goo.gl/CYrR5V

Death in Vermillion Cover

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Bellies and Strips

There was no glance more cutting or cruel. The narrowing of unsympathetic eyes a shade of cool, blue slate, like Dylan’s on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. The imperceptible flare of nostrils, followed by a slow yoga exhalation in Savasana, the corpse. It wasn’t going well.

Leila Goodfriend was laying down the bones of a painting. She took a step back from her easel. A no-name clam shack clung fearlessly as a barnacle to the edge of the old East End pier. A forlorn wooden structure, barely bigger than a Punch & Judy puppet stage, had withstood the fierce winds whipping off the water in the dead of winter. The pier was deserted. Anyone could paint a sunny day.

After outlining the shack in ghostly charcoal strokes, she stood, hand on hip, poised with a palette loaded with ultramarine and cobalt blues for the sky, sap green for foliage, a transparent manganese blue hue for waves in the water, Van Dyck brown for the pier’s planks and Naples Yellow Hue for sunlight. Flake white blobs dabbed in the foreground could be gulls, or children, or discarded clam containers. She hadn’t decided which. Leila loved that shack, the rough pier, and the view of dotted Race Point Lighthouse off the distance. Painting was all about execution, feeling a connection to the subject, the composition, the angles of light. Though local artists mostly painted popular summer scenes of boats and beaches.

That’s what the summer birds, vacationers who nested in the Cape Cod dunes from June until the end of August, bought. Her husband Joe dubbed them the dorks of summer. Leila didn’t care what unflattering name Joe had for them, or whether the summer birds cared as much about this place she called home as she did. She wanted to sell them a painting capturing what she loved about this place.

If she was lucky, and painting was largely a matter of luck, random strokes on the canvas would become a painting, At the Clam Bar: Succulent Bellies and Strips. If one of the summer birds bought her painting, she’d be happy. Even the most dedicated of artists needs affirmation sometimes.

A loud whacking thump overhead jarred Leila rudely from her thoughts; the thud traveled like a jolt of electricity down her spine Immediately, Leila knew the disturbance, of course, was Iris. Iris again. Always Iris. Of the six other artists who called the Red Barn home, her studio had to be, unfortunately, overhead.

And inevitably, as Iris worked, the creaking old floorboards quaked under her relentless assault with her flapping Birkenstock sandals.

Leila complained about Iris to Joe more than once, actually almost every day. It was impossible for someone who barely grazed five feet could make so much noise. Iris could be quiet if she tried, she’d say. She was inconsiderate. She was pompous. “Art,” Iris would say, “has a life of its own and an artist owes his life to his art.” Quoting Iris was good for a laugh.

If Iris bothered her so much, Joe would say, why keep talking about it? Why not rent a different studio? That would make sense, except Leila loved her space, had been there for nearly five years, and was lucky to have found it in this touristy town. Besides, she hated giving in to her own annoyance; she’d learn to ignore Iris if it killed her. Maybe, someday, Iris would just float away like a child’s birthday balloon. No such luck; gravity worked overtime with every tread Iris inflicted in her flapping Birkenstock sandals. Leila fought her first instinct, which was to grab the long, telescoping pole by the casement window, stand on a stool and bang her weapon of choice sharply on the lofty ceiling, twice. It wouldn’t work. It never did. Iris would ignore her.

Instead, Leila turned up NPR on the radio. She could drown out Iris with the sound of undemanding human voices on the radio. NPR was excellent company and, when necessary, excellent white noise. The hourly news, a lengthy interview, a personal piece affected in that breathless NPR accent was the perfect antidote for distraction. And the distraction was usually Iris.

Iris McNeil Thornton was a fellow member of the Red Barn Art Cooperative at Castle Road, which was housed in the happily dilapidated Red Barn Studio. It was high on a hill, overlooking Pamet Marsh, close enough to spy the flights of blue herons and egrets wheeling through the Aliziran Crimson sky, the sun an orb of Cadmium Yellow falling into the salt marshes from her window.

Among the Red Barn’s many charms were the old building’s quirky twists and turns, the sizeable studio spaces with high ceilings from its former life as the Southwind Bros. Button and Snap factory. Leila loved the patina on the old, uneven oak floorboards, the room secreted under the stairwell, doors that jammed and staircases that creaked.

But it was the heady mix of gesso, turp, linseed, pigments, primer, developers and emulsions, the fat smell of oil layered with acrylic resin and a faint dash of watercolor, an acrid, chemical concoction heady in the nasal passages, smells as familiar as the scent of a baby, that made it home.

Not that the Red Barn was without its problems. The daily irritations of artistry and intimacy meant the Red Barn artists were often less than happy. And when the Red Barn artists were less than happy, which occurred as frequently as the tides, they would reach for anything on hand brooms, clogs, slammed doors, sighs in the hallways, post-it notes on the bulletin board, giggles behind a back, and any combination thereof to convey their displeasure. Under other circumstances such communications might be considered rude, but the Red Barn operated by its own set of rules.

It wasn’t that the Red Barn, a collective space of otherwise solitary individuals, didn’t have its share of fellowship and communal spirit. Sometimes it was nice to see a friendly face.

But, recently, their friendships had been called into question by a series of items gone missing, small stuff, seemingly at random, from their studios, Daklon paintbrush, a can of gesso, and unused tube of paint and a half-used tube of paint. A box of plastic gloves was now empty; which Leila was sure had been half-full. No one said theft, not at first. It was more like, did I leave this in your studio? did you find this in the bathroom? I must be a little crazy because I was sure I had it, but as the missing items mounted, minor though they were, so did whispering, suspicion, and an uneasy sense someone, maybe one of them, was a thief.

It made Leila uneasy; maybe someone was invading her studio, without her knowing. She debated whether, like Iris, she should lock her door at the end of the day. But she shook it off as unnecessary paranoia and decided to ignore it.

Leila took a deep breath, brushed back her unruly, graying curls, squinting at her canvas. When she painted, the circling steps of the heavy woman upstairs receded from consciousness, and time was suspended.

The wood planks of the pier were muddied. The perspective wasn’t quite right. The colors weren’t right. Leila waggled the end of her paintbrush like a cigar between her lips. It was a messy habit. She looked down at the black-and-white photo of the shack, not that she had any intention of painting the snapshot, any more than a musician only plays the notes.

Leila picked up her palette knife. Shaped like a small trowel for digging in the dirt, its usefulness came from its versatility in blending colors, creating textural effects, or scraping across the surface of a painting to obliterate an offense. Artists can be rough on their work; Leila was her own toughest critic.

The pier had to go. Leila wielded the knife, scraping hard until she hit the tooth of the canvas. She preferred working on a good, tightly woven cotton duck. It wasn’t an inert surface, so it recovered quickly after Leila’s brief attack. She dabbed a rag soaked in turpentine on the wound. The reconstruction of the pier could wait until tomorrow.

What time was it? Leila lost track of time as she worked. She never wore a watch in the studio.

But if she left too late, Joe would be annoyed his port wine reduction for the seared tuna had broken. It wasn’t the sauce—he could revive with a quick whisk of butter on a low heat—it was her spending more and more time at the studio and coming home later. The sky over Cape Cod Bay was a wistful grey heading into night.

Leila put down her palette knife, turned down her radio, and listened. There was quiet, finally quiet, blissful silence.

Now, at the end of the day, Leila had to steel herself for the most infuriating moment of the day: Iris leaving. The torrential thumps of Iris’ flapping Birkenstocks as she gathered up her belongings, slammed the window, searched for her purse, and slammed her door. The old oak boards were punished as as Iris clomped overhead.

The stomp was followed by the slam. Iris was incapable of doing anything quietly. There was some relief in the slam—it meant Iris was no longer overhead. The Red Barn artists never said good night, pretending not to notice each other’s comings and goings. So Leila didn’t expect Iris to poke her head in, or wave when she passed by. However, the daily drama of the swirling clamor that was Iris, like a performer doing a star turn on the stage, made it impossible not to notice her entrances and exits.

Leila walked to the window. The light of an Indian summer day was fading. Sailboats moored in the bay listed drunkenly. Had the final thump earlier signaled Iris’ departure? Leila walked back to her canvas. She recognized this as the same solitary circling as that of her neighbor overhead. It was ironic, but that didn’t stop Iris from being an annoyance.

She put her tools on her workbench. She should rinse them in turpentine and water in the bathroom at the end of the hall—the brushes would be tackier and difficult to clean after drying overnight. Oh well, she’d deal with that in the morning. Grabbing her backpack, she turned out the lights and closed her door. The hallway was silent. The other studio doors on her floor were closed. No Philomena, no Dové.

But something in the quality of the jarring loud noise earlier somehow made the quiet louder.

The stairs were poorly lit, even after Leila switched on the bare bulb dangling overhead. The whole damn place was a fire hazard. She climbed to the second floor. No Liz, no Gretchen. Later, she couldn’t quite explain why hadn’t she gone home.

The crap fixture in the upstairs hall, that never worked right, was out, as usual. The damn, dusty moose head Iris had mounted above her door stared down dolefully through its blind, button eyes. Its antlers wore a fine coat of dust.

Iris’ door was open a crack, which surprised Leila. Iris worked behind closed, locked doors, all day, every day. The other Red Barn artists left their doors open at least a smidgen, not exactly an invitation, but not a deliberately antisocial act. Iris had no such compunctions.

Leila knocked. Silence. She hesitated. Should she leave Iris alone? She took a few steps back toward the stairs, but turned around. What harm was it peeking inside? “Iris, its only me, Leila. ” No answer. “Iris, are you there?”

Leila stared through the crack in the door. At first, she thought the room was empty, but as her eyes adjusted, Leila made out a shape, or maybe a shadow, in the center of the studio.

The value of the only available light source, through the far window, made it difficult to see. Iris refused to use artificial light. She insisted on painting ‘as the Old Masters had’, that is, only by natural light. For a time, she had painted by candlelight, until the Red Barn got wind of it, banning burning candles before Iris burned the place down.

Leila stared at the shape. It didn’t move. Iris never left her door unlocked. Maybe she’d left something behind and would come back for it. Leila pushed the door open further, venturing into the silent studio, under the disapproving gaze of the mildewed moose, inching towards the shadow.

Iris, who incurred the Red Barn artists’ collective ire by deprecating the work of her fellow artists, neglecting to lock the front door, leaving puddles around communal hall sink, and far worse, as the prime suspect in the ongoing war of toilet squatting accusations, that same annoying Iris, was splayed on the floor, eyes wide open, inert as a tube of sepia.

It was a body. Iris’ body. Later, Leila recalled the body like a dead deer, abandoned on the side of the road after an accident. She remembered noting the color of Iris’ skin, like the underpainting of flesh in a neutral shade—what artists called grisaille, or dead coloring.

Ironically, under the circumstances, the scene is not unlike Iris’ own brooding assemblages: the carnage of death, overripe fruit in silver bowls, bird carcasses on platters, and game animals, fresh and bloodied, trophies of the hunt hung in the background, rendered in the style of the Old Masters.

And later, Leila was vaguely ashamed of her observations, her detachment. But, she thought defensively, isn’t observation was a habit developed over a lifetime?

Tentatively, Leila inched forward, reaching out her hand to touch the body. She yanked it back as if it was submerged in a shark tank. Iris was surprisingly warm, alive warm.

As her eyes adjusted to the low light, Leila saw Iris’ blood was a seeping stain from her flowing blue dress onto the floorboards. The red was the red every paint manufacturer had tried, but failed, to capture in a tube. Brilliant, blood red. But the eyes were dead, even if the heart was beating. Leila’s heart dropped a beat. Fear crept up her throat. Leila had to look away; she couldn’t look at those eyes. Should she call out? Is anyone here? But it was better she was alone, even if it was with a dead body. But, Iris wasn’t alone.

A small figure stood—as if on guard—over the body. Leila bent down to look at it: it was a wooden artist’s mannequin, no bigger than a child’s toy, standing guard over Iris. She recognized him immediately.

Jesus, it was Fred, fucking Fred— Leila, in a fanciful mood, had painted the figure to be anatomically correct, as well as well-endowed—who had gone missing from her studio months ago.

But poor Fred, as an eyewitness to a crime, could have nothing to say. There was no doubt he was Fred, and that he belonged to her. Bending down to pick up her missing mannequin, Leila gazed into his dead eyes. What to do?

In truth, she was both embarrassed by her handiwork, and concerned his presence could be construed as evidence at the scene of the crime; she pocketed Fred and in a sleight of hand he disappeared.

Leila didn’t need Fred to paint the picture. Iris prone. The blood. The burnished wood handle of a knife stuck in an ample left breast. Iris had been murdered. Leila didn’t scream. Leila wasn’t a screamer

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About the Author

Barbara Elle grew up in Boston, but as an adult became a New Yorker. Barbara loves writing barbaraelleabout people and places she remembers, so Death In Vermilion is set on Cape Cod, a place of many memories. She continues collecting memories and places, traveling the world with her touring musician husband, whether exploring Buddhist temples in Beijing, crypts in Vienna or Kabuki Theater in Tokyo, in search of new stories to write about. She invariably packs a notebook and her laptop.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deathinseries/

Twitter: @barbaraelleauth

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