Christmas is Coming

Christmas is upon us. Either that or some greetings card company is spamming me via snail mail.

And right now, of course I have not one but two Christmas titles on the go. The first of Mrs Capper’s Casebooks, Mrs Capper’s Christmas is live and selling, while A Deadly Twixmas, the 24th Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery, is on pre-order, scheduled to go live on December 23rd.

But while you lot are out there planning to take life easy over the extended holiday, I shall be slaving away over hot keyboard working on the early titles for next year, and principle amongst them are the second of Mrs Capper’s Casebooks, working title Mrs Capper’s Curse and the 25th Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery, working title A (Dead) American in Sanford.

And as a special, pre-Christmas treat, let me show you what’s in store for 2022 (aside from another half dozen Covid variants). Here are excerpts from the opening chapters of both projects, starting with…

Mrs Capper’s Curse.

It’s early February and Christine Capper is determined to take life easy, stay indoors where it’s warm, but circumstances might demand otherwise. Now read on.

***

Dennis once said that when he looked into the bedroom before leaving for work, he had a toil telling the difference between the various lumps populating the bed. He didn’t know which was the ruffled duvet, which might have been Cappy the Cat, and which was me. Naturally, he only ever said it once. Not that I would necessarily disagree with his observation, because I did tend to bury myself in the duvet, especially during the winter months, and Cappy the Cat was not only the laziest cat in Haxford, but also the untidiest.

Even so, I refused to let my husband get away with describing me as a ‘lump’. “You didn’t think I was a lump all those years ago when you were having your wicked way with me on the back seat of your father’s Ford Cortina, did you?”

“There was less of you then.” Before I could react to this, he went on, “And as I remember right, it was you having your wicked way with me.” While I tried to think of a suitable response to this, Dennis pressed on. “And it wasn’t a Ford Cortina. It was an Austin Allegro.”

“Well, thank God it wasn’t a Robin Reliant or neither of us would have got our way, would we?”

“Reliant Robin.”

I seem to recall that he left for work at that point, making sure that a) he had the last word and b) a proper argument couldn’t develop.

Winter. Even without Dennis’s unkind comments, I loathed that time of year, and in a curious way, February was the worst month of all. You expect it to be cold, icy, snowy in December and January, but with the dawn of February, the nights are drawing out just little, and you’re anticipating the spring. Warmer days, trees and flowers budding, Cappy the Cat disappearing for longer than thirty seconds at a time. But February could be so varied, and so it proved on the morning of Thursday the third. The previous day had seen sunshine all day, no wind to speak of, and the opportunity to bask in genuine, spring-like temperatures, albeit in the cocoon of our small conservatory.

But on the morning of the third, mists clung to the hills, and the cloud threatened rain, sleet, possibly even snow. I had nothing on that might tempt me to get out of bed in hurry. The body of Dr Graham Ainsley had been found in Wickersley Woods the previous day, and I wanted to do a little research into him before preparing a tribute. Whether as a text blog or a video, that piece would probably go out on the eleventh, and once it was prepared, I planned to idle away the day in front of the computer, preparing and possibly recording my vlog for the episode on the fourth.

***

A (Dead) American in Sanford

Not to be outdone, in the run up to Easter, Joe Murray and his pals from the Sanford 3rd Age Club are ready to greet  party of American visitors, members of the Sanford 3rd Age Club (Florida) and we open with Joe arriving at The Lazy Luncheonette in his finery.

***

Joe Murray walked in through the rear door of The Lazy Luncheonette, passed through the kitchen and stood in the centre of the dining area, where he turned, held his arms wide, and asked, “How do I look?”

It was early afternoon, the lunchtime rush was over and the few staff were cruising down to the four o’clock closing time. There were only a couple of customers in, both of whom gave Joe a quick glance and went back to their muted conversation, leaving him at the mercy of his nephew, Lee, Lee’s wife, Cheryl, and their friend and fellow assistant, Kayleigh Watson.

In place of his customary whites, Joe wore a dark grey, three-piece suit, a pale blue shirt with a matching, soft-patterned tie, and on his feet, where normally they would find a pair of shabby trainers or ageing loafers was a pair of brand new, shiny, black leather shoes.

Cheryl looked him up and down, pursed her lips to show how impressed she was, and turned to The Lazy Luncheonette’s newest assistant. “What do you think, Kayleigh?”

The young woman smiled as she looked her boss over. “I think you look very smart Uncle Joe.” Kayleigh had always called him Uncle Joe, even though, unlike Lee and Cheryl, she was not a relative. “It’s just like you’re off to a funeral.”

He frowned. “It’s a reception not a funeral.”

“A wedding, eh? And will there be a cake, you know, for you and the receptionist to cut?”

Joe sighed. There were times when getting the simplest of concepts across to Kayleigh was like pulling hen’s teeth. “It’s a civic reception, luv. Me, Sheila, Brenda, the mayor of Sanford, we’re all there to greet a party of Americans visiting Sanford.”

“Oh. Right.” A frown crossed her pretty face. “America’s a long way for people to come just to see the mayor get married, though, isn’t it?”

Joe gave up the impossible argument. “Yes. Yes it is.”

From the kitchen where he was cleaning down those appliances he would not need for the remaining two hours of business, Joe’s nephew, Lee piped up. “Funny thing, though, Uncle Joe, I thought the mayor were already married. Is he having two wives or what?”

“Yes, Lee,” Joe agreed. His nephew had long been the numpty of The Lazy Luncheonette’s small crew, and he seemed determined not to let Kayleigh usurp his number one spot.

“But I thought Big Amy were illegal.”

“She is.” Joe looked to the ceiling as if pleading for patience. He wanted to cry out, ‘bigamy, not Big Amy’, but it would be a waste of breath. If Lee thought it was Big Amy, then Big Amy it was. “They’re making a special case for the mayor.”

“Blooming typical,” Lee grumbled. “One rule for us and another for them.”

***

So there you go. That’s what’s in store of the first quarter of next year… or at least that’s the plan.

I’ll be with you again this side of yuletide, in the meantime, chill out with a riveting read.

A Deadly Twixmas, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #24, published by darkstroke, exclusive to Amazon, available for pre-order at:

mybook.to/dtwix

Mrs Capper’s Christmas, Mrs Capper’s Casebook #1, exclusive to Amazon, on sale now at:

mybook.to/capperxm

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