Hello! It is a new day and a new blog tour! Today I’m taking part in Howard Coombs’ blog tour for the new release, A TASTE OF DEATH. It was published just a couple of days ago, on July 24-th. It is my pleasure to have a wonderful piece of the story on the blog which I hope you’ll enjoy. Massive thanks to Sabah from Harpercollins.co.uk for the chance to be part of the blog tour.
A Taste of Death
Midsomer Murders meets The Great British Bake-Off in this foodie delight with murder at its heart.
The first murder happened while I was making meringues…
When Ben Hunter moves to become head chef at the Old Forge Café in the quiet village of Hampden Green, a tricky recipe for egg-based desserts isn’t the only thing he gets embroiled in. As he struggles with a whisk in his first week , he gets an unexpected visit from DI Slattery – there’s been a murder and he’s a suspect. Ben resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery, and he soon discovers that this sleepy Chilterns village is covering up a whole lot more than an appetite for sweet treats…
Extract five Chapter Six Page 42 – 45
I went through into the restaurant to meet the object of Jess’s ageist, rationalist scorn.
In my limited experience yoga teachers, women ones, tend to be cut from the same cloth. Often with a background in dance or gymnastics, they are genial, usually fairly affluent, good-humouredly bossy, and obviously very flexible physically.
Naomi lived up to the stereotype.
First impressions: wide, sincere eyes, dark hair, quite tanned or naturally brown, slim, wiry body, boho kind of dress sense, silver jewellery, late forties and a habit, as I was soon to find out, of clinging on to your forearm whilst staring intently into your face. The sort of person who tells you earnestly, ‘I’m a people person.’
She was drinking herbal tea. To be expected.
‘Hi, so good to meet you,’ Naomi said. Her voice was low-pitched and husky. She made eye contact with me, as if I was super-important.
I listened as she spoke, giving details of the proposed party. A hundred people, mid-February, a thousand-pound budget. A chance to showcase and show-off. I was delighted.
I was aware of a kind of stiff-backed resentment from Jess as the two of us ran through proposed menus. Jess moved around the restaurant deliberately clattering things. If she’d been an animal, a cat say, her fur would have been on end, angrily bristling.
‘It’s for the feast of Imbolc,’ Naomi said, meaningfully, ‘perhaps you have heard of it?’
I confessed my ignorance of pagan festivals. Naomi leaned forwards towards me, said, ‘Maybe you’d like to come over tonight
to discuss the menu, we could finalise things …Wait—’ she held my arm, peering at me intently ‘—you must be an Aries, I can tell … the ram.’
‘I’m Gemini.’ I said, then, damn! I should have gone with Aries, the customer is always right.
‘Of course you are!’ I had to admire her, she didn’t miss a beat. ‘You are so fluent, so communicative, but I can sense the presence of the hornèd ram, I’m never wrong. I’ll arrange a chart reading for you, we can clear this mystery up together …’
Her long fingers with deep, pink-painted square-cut fingernails lingered long on my arm as she looked up at me. Meaningfully.
It had been a long time since a woman had put a hand on me, I felt quite overcome with excitement. And not just by the catering prospects.
‘Yeah, that’d be great, where do you live?’ I said. I’d brave an astrological reading for a firm booking.
She pointed out of the window. ‘On the green, the Kiln House.’ She stood up. ‘Eight thirty suit you?’
‘Fine, I’ll see you then,’ I said.
She smiled at me and stood up, then moved lithely out of the restaurant. I went back into the kitchen. Jess stood at the fridge, her arms folded. Her expression was as cold as the machine that she was leaning against.
‘What!’ I protested. Judging by her face Naomi and I might as well have been kissing passionately in the restaurant.
‘So, eight thirty, her place.’ Her voice dropped an octave and she turned her head, shyly looking at me out of the corner of her eye. ‘Ohh, Ben, you’re so strong and masterful …’ She pushed her hand through her hair and stuck her chest out, the fabric of her blouse straining under the pressure. ‘Ohh, Ben, you must be born under the sign of the goat, Ben …’
I started laughing, ‘Stop it, Jess, she’s not that bad. She only wants me to do a party.’
‘Oh, yesss! Ben, let’s party!’
‘Not that kind of party, Jess,’ I protested.
‘Oh, Ben, let us shed these constrictive garments and dance naked and worship the moon … tune in our auras . . . can you do asparagus, Ben, I love it so, oh, Ben, tell me you can! I want to dunk my spears in your …rich … creamy … Hollandaise.’ She sucked a finger suggestively, waggling her eyebrows.
It was my turn to raise my eyebrows.
At this point I grew slightly cross. ‘She’s a customer, Jess. It’s business, not a date.’
‘That woman is a man-eater, Ben, you should steer well clear of her.’ Jess’s voice was haughtily dismissive. ‘She made a pass at my dad once. Mummy was furious. She’s boycotted her yoga class ever since.’
‘Look, Jess. It really is none of your business, and, by the way, I’m not your dad …’ That was certainly true. Jess’s father did something – who knows what? – in insurance. She had told me where she lived, on the outskirts of the village; I had driven past a few times. My waitress lived in what might be described as a mansion, behind a well-kept hawthorn hedge and imposing security gates. I think Mr Turner was doing rather well, financially.
I couldn’t be sure, but I bet he had something to sit on in his living room other than a couple of upturned beer crates, like I did. Just an educated guess.
Mr Turner I certainly wasn’t.
‘Yes, it is,’ she said serenely, ‘this might be your business—’ she waved her arms to encompass the kitchen, and she emphasised the ‘your’ as if there was some doubt about it ‘—but as your employee it’s part of my duty to inform you of potential hazards, such as the man-crazy cougar in the Sweaty Betty leotard and leggings that is Naomi West.’
I made a placatory gesture. I didn’t want to upset Jess, even if she had seemed to have decided that she was running the place.
‘Well, Jess, if she makes a pass at me, I shall refuse ever to go to her yoga class. I’ll boycott it like your mum. That’ll teach her, she’ll never get to see my Halasana.’
‘Hmm,’ said Jess as she pulled off her apron and shrugged herself into her coat.
‘People who have seen my Halasana speak very highly of it,’ I said, ‘it’s truly amazing.’
‘I’m sure it is,’ she remarked adding, sotto voce, as she opened the kitchen door to let herself out into the yard at the back, ‘Bet she shows you her Down Dog.’
The door closed behind her.
Eight thirty found me ringing the door of Kiln House.
I, for one, was looking forward to meeting Naomi West.