Grumbling guests and escaping piglets are precisely what Martha doesn’t need. She’s already struggling to run a holiday cottage and a rather large smallholding single-handedly. Since her husband Mark died, three years ago, her rural property in France, beautiful as it is, has become an increasingly heavy millstone around her neck.
So whilst she’s horrified to stumble across a corpse at the local farm supplies shop, it does at least distract her from her own woes. Best friend Lottie, the cheese to Martha’s chalk, swoops in to offer moral support, and encourages Martha to join her in some unofficial sleuthing. Meanwhile, police officer Philippe Prudhomme, a former fellow chess-player of Mark’s, undertakes a rather more professional investigation.
However, despite everyone’s efforts the killer remains at large. And when more bodies (one and a bit, to be precise) come Martha’s way, it definitely feels like he’s closing in on her…
There’s suspense, humour and excitement in this entertaining cosy mystery set in the French countryside.
The start of what turns out to be an extremely eventful day for Martha, not that many days running her smallholding in France single-handedly are what you’d call dull.
Martha squinted at the clock radio and groaned. It was half past five. What on earth was she doing awake at that hour of the morning? She wasn’t a great sleeper and had only dropped off properly a couple of hours ago. She really didn’t want to be awake again quite so soon.
She pulled the covers over her head with a dramatic sigh and closed her eyes determinedly, but a woof from Flossie, her ancient and usually silent Border collie cross, alerted her to the fact that something was definitely going on that shouldn’t. Martha sighed again. It must have been a previous bark from Flossie that had woken her. She’d better investigate, since the dog had never been one to cry wolf in the past.
The something turned out to be the destruction of her one and only flower bed by her Berkshire sow Hermione, aided and abetted by her litter of eleven three-week-old piglets. They were all having a brilliant time in the early dawn, rooting out Martha’s painstakingly planted spring bulbs, but, for whatever reason, not eating them, going instead for the creepy crawlies that came up with them. That was one thing to be grateful for, Martha supposed, the fact that they were de-pesting her borders. And she was relieved they weren’t eating the bulbs, not just because she had a vague idea they might be poisonous, but also, and mainly, because she’d be able to stick them back in the soil in the hope they’d survive their traumatic experience of being dragged out of it in the first place.
But first she had to un-pig the garden. And that wasn’t going to be easy. A glance towards the food bins at the corner of the barn showed them to all be on their sides, and empty. Hermione was obviously stuffed full of a week’s worth of pig pellets and a similar amount of soaked wheat. And anyway, since the food was all gone Martha had nothing with which to try and tempt her back to the field. What on earth was she going to do? There was the cattle prod, but she didn’t like using that. It seemed a rather mean implement. Mark had only ever used it a couple of times on the Old Spot boar they’d had, Horace, who’d been a mean-tempered old beggar.
Mark. Not a minute went by when she didn’t miss her husband of twenty-seven years. She’d lost him to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome just over three years ago now. Sometimes it felt like only three days, the grief could be so raw, but at others like thirty years. Like she’d spent more than half her lifetime without him, mourning for him.
And couldn’t she do with him right now. Rounding up pigs was a two-person job. She had Flossie, but she was a sheep dog, at least in part, not a pig dog. And added to that, any sheep-herding instincts she might have inherited from her mother had been clearly quashed by the comfortable-life-seeking instincts of whatever her father had been. When their neighbour back in England had gratefully handed one of an unexpected, and unwanted, litter of seven puppies over to Mark and Martha, she’d said she suspected a local wiry-haired mongrel of some sort to be the father. Flossie looked every inch the sheepdog but the resemblance only went skin deep. Thus she threw Martha a guilt-free ‘not my monkeys, not my circus’ look and plodded back to the doorstep to have a nap. She’d alerted Martha to the fracas and that was as far as her responsibility and contribution went.
You can purchase this book from Hate Bale
About the author
I’m an English expat living in France, having moved here with my family in 2006 after fourteen years as an expat in Ireland. Taking on seventy-five acres with three lakes, two hovels and one cathedral-sized barn, not to mention an ever increasing menagerie of animals, has made for exciting times. The current array of creatures ranges from alpacas to zebra finches, with pretty much everything in-between! Before we came to France all we had was a dog and two chickens, so it’s been a steep learning curve.
I’m married to Chris and we have three bilingual TCKs (third culture kids) who are resilient and resourceful and generally wonderful.
I’m a traditionally-published author of many children’s books, and am now self-publishing too. As well as being an author, I’m also a part-time editor and, with Chris, manager of three carp fishing lakes. My hobbies are cycling, geocaching, knitting and sewing.