Monday 3 December 2018

Urbane Extravaganza The House on Downshire Hill by Guy Fraser-Sampson Blog Tour

Today I am on the Urbane Publications Extravaganza - invited by the lovely Kelly over at #LOVEBOOKSGROUPTOURS - please check her out guys, click here. My featured book is The House on Downshire Hill by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Blurb for the book:

'An enticing blend of elegance and darkness ... of which the finest Golden Age writers would have been proud.' - Nicola Upson, bestselling author of the Josephine Tey series

When a wealthy recluse is reported missing from his home, a shocking discovery sparks a homicide investigation which begins to lead the team from Hampstead CID in some very unexpected directions.

What has happened to the man's family? Who is the mysterious character with whom he appears to have been sharing his house? Do transgressions from the past have a bearing on crimes of the present day?

In this, the fifth volume of the Hampstead Murders, we see a murder enquiry once more playing out against a shifting background of police politics and personal tribulations. Again, the beautiful London village of Hampstead with its Georgian terraces and stuccoed villas provides an unlikely setting for events which show only too clearly the dark and ugly side of human nature.

You can buy it on kindle or treebook format, click here


Guy Fraser-Sampson is an established writer, previously best known for his ‘Mapp and Lucia’ novels, which have been featured on BBC Radio 4 and optioned by BBC television. His first three books of detective fiction, Death in Profile, Miss Christie Regrets and A Whiff of Cyanide, have drawn high praise from fellow crime writers as well as from readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Book 4, A Death in the Night, was published in November 2017 by Urbane Publications.

The House on Downshire Hill publishes at the end of 2018

Urbane Twitter @UrbaneBooks

Lovebooksgroup Twitter @LoveBooksGroup

Guy Fraser Sampson Twitter @GuyFSAuthor

I have a wee extract for you - chapter 1, enjoy!

Detective Inspector Bob Metcalfe had various reasons to be cheerful as he made his way from Frognal towards Hampstead police station. First, as he took the small footpath beside the former residence of Gracie Fields which led past the graveyard and up into Church Row the sun, which had been attempting to break through some rather hazy clouds, finally did so. After the grey, damp weather of the previous few days this marked a welcome change.

Second, he and the rest of the team had recently received favourable comments from the powers that be at Scotland Yard for successfully concluding an investigation into a suspicious death at an exclusive club for female university graduates. This meant a few days of quiet as they waited for assignment to a new enquiry, and having a respite from the long hours and intense efforts which normally attended a homicide investigation was always agreeable. Last, and by no means least, he had recently become engaged to be married, a development which even a few months ago would have seemed extremely unlikely given the highs and lows (mostly lows, to be honest) of his personal life.

He crossed Fitzjohns Avenue, one of the two main roads which meet at the top of the hill by Hampstead tube station, and cut down Perrin's Court which brought him swiftly to the second, Rosslyn Hill. From here it was a right turn and a walk down the hill to the police station, passing the King William IV pub, commonly known as 'the Willy', where he and his colleagues had been known to take a modest drink or two after work. He stayed on this side of the road as he progressed down the hill, since it kept him away from the window shoppers and aggressive pram wielders who tended to clog the other pavement. He crossed the road at the zebra crossing and completed his brief but agreeable walk to work.

The desk Sergeant said "good morning, sir."

Since he would normally have used the informal 'guv' Metcalfe looked at him sharply, for they had been uniformed constables together, and it was always difficult to know whether someone was 'extracting the Michael' as DCI Tom Allen would have said. He wondered if this newfound formality was for the benefit of a trainee constable who had started work a few days previously, but a subtle jerk of the sergeant's head indicated the presence of Detective Superintendent Collison, who was leafing through some papers away in the corner of the room in a rather desultory fashion. As he dropped them back into the tray he caught sight of Metcalfe.

"Morning, Bob."

"Good morning, guv. Anything happening?" "No, not really."

"Excuse me, sir," the desk Sergeant said diffidently, "but there is that missing person's report."

"Yes, I was just looking at that. Is there anything to it, do you think? It all seems a bit tenuous."

"I saw the lady when she came in, sir. I'd say she was genuinely upset. Shall I ask someone from uniform to call on her? It's only just round the corner after all."

"No," Collison said after deliberating for a moment. "On reflection I think you're right. Let's do the job properly and send somebody from CID. Who's free, Bob?"

"Just about everybody at the moment, guv. What about Priya?"

"Okay then. Have that sent up to DC Desai, will you please, Sergeant?"

"So how are the wedding plans coming along then?" Collison asked as they walked up the stairs together.

"Oh, quietly you know. We haven't even set a date yet. It's all been a bit sudden to be honest. I'm still trying to get used to the idea."

"No second thoughts I hope?"

"Absolutely not, no."

"Good. Lisa seems like a really nice girl."

They walked past the door to the operations room, currently eerily empty since the conclusion of their most recent case.

"Now, let's see, where is Priya? I think she's sharing an office with Timothy isn't she?"

He knocked briefly at the next door they came to and poked his head into the room. Timothy Evans was eating a large pastry, much of which he seemed to have spread across his desk. Priya Desai was watching him and trying to look disapproving. Priya never had to try very hard to look disapproving.

"Priya, do you have much on at the moment?"

"No, sir, just getting rid of the last of the filing actually."

"Good. I was just taking a look at some papers downstairs and I came across a missing person's report which was filed yesterday. Because it doesn't deal with a child it wasn't treated as a matter of urgency. There's also some doubt about whether it actually discloses anything sinister. Apparently some lady hasn't been able to contact one of her neighbours for a while. Do you think you might be able to pop round and have a word with her? It's only just round the corner in Downshire Hill."

"Yes of course, guv. It'll be nice to get out of the station."

As she said this she cast a pointed glance at the snowfield of sugar and crumbs on her colleague's desk.

"Good. I've asked the desk Sergeant to send up the report. Ah, here it is I believe. That was quick. Thank you, Constable." He stood aside to let the trainee constable hand an internal brown envelope to Desai.

"Report back to DI Metcalfe, will you? Depending on how you see things, we'll decide whether to take things further or not."

Where a missing person's report concerned neither a child nor a vulnerable adult the police had a wide measure of discretion as to how seriously or urgently to press their enquiries. Where the concern expressed amounted to little more than an elderly neighbour not answering the door, usually a visit from uniform was enough. There was hardly a serving officer in the Metropolitan police who had not, as a young constable, forced entry to a house to discover the natural death of its occupant. DCI Tom Allen, who delighted in regaling younger officers with the gory details of his early career, had a fund of such stories, including his pièce de résistance which concerned an elderly man who had died over a year previously and whose body had been largely mummified by the cool breeze from an open window.

Metcalfe ducked into his own office while Collison continued along the corridor. He was feeling at least as much at a loose end as the rest of the team, but was trying very hard not to show it. An old university friend who now worked at an investment bank had described to him over dinner the unnatural calm which descended on a corporate finance department once a deal completed. He had explained how everyone took the opportunity to schedule anything from a weekend away to a dental appointment as quickly as possible, since they all knew it was only a matter of time before the next merger or equity issue arrived on their desks from one of the rainmakers on the directors' floor upstairs. He had reflected at the time that this sounded pretty similar to what CID went through when a homicide investigation closed down. He couldn't quite decide whether it felt like the beginning of term, or the end.

One of the doors he passed was open, and he saw Detective Sergeant Karen Willis putting a file into her out tray. Presumably she, like Desai, was just tying up the few loose ends which remained in documenting the Athena Club case. She looked up at him and smiled, tossing her dark hair back as she did so.

"Good morning, guv."

"Good morning, Karen. How are you? And how's Peter?" "We're both fine, thank you."

Karen's boyfriend was Dr Peter Collins, who had for some time been an official psychological adviser to the Met, and whose skills Collison had used extensively since he had first come to Hampstead as a Detective Superintendent.

"That's good," he replied and then wondered what to say next.

"It feels strange, doesn't it?" she asked. "I suppose it always does, but I went on leave the last couple of times so it didn't really hit me the way it has now. I don't think I'll ever get used to being completely committed to a big case one day, and it suddenly all being declared over the next. It's a sort of flat feeling, isn't it? I suppose it might have something to do with stress, and adrenaline, and all that sort of thing."

"Yes, I suppose so. Still, if history's anything to go by we won't have long to wait for something else to crop up, so I should make the most of it if I were you."

"Good, then I shall."

"Actually, while I'm here, there's something I wanted to talk to you about."

He came in and closed the door behind him.

"This is all very speculative, but every time I see the ACC he seems to have some new idea about my future. As you know, all I really want to do is to stay here and get on with solving crimes, but he seems to see things rather differently." "That's hardly surprising is it, guv? You've been marked out as a high-flyer, everyone knows that. They're grooming you for a top job, perhaps the top job. They'll want you to be sitting on committees, briefing civil servants, that sort of thing."

"You're right of course, but I wish you weren't. It's all very flattering being apparently held in high regard by the ACC but I'd much rather just take my chances like everyone else."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, other officers are going to see me being promoted ahead of them and they're likely to resent it, aren't they? It's only human nature."

"I would have thought you'd be used to that by now, guv. Wasn't that an issue when you first came here to Hampstead?"

"You know it was. And it put me under a lot of extra pressure, I don't mind admitting. If we hadn't been able to crack that first case it would have been extremely embarrassing – not just for me, but for the ACC as well."

"Well, you did crack it. So what's the problem?" Collison gave a wry smile.

"Why is it you sound like my wife so often?" "How is Caroline? And the baby?"

"They're both very well thank you, but listen: this is what I wanted to talk to about."

He sat down, glanced out of the window to marshal his thoughts, and then went on.

"I said that the ACC seems to have lots of different ideas about my future career. Well, that's true, but there's one that he keeps coming back to and it involves quite a senior post with Special Branch."

"Well, that wouldn't be as bad as sitting on a committee now, would it? And the branch is a traditional route to the very top, as I understand it. Didn't the present Commissioner used to be Commander there?"

"Yes he did, as everyone keeps reminding me. But here's the thing. As a sweetener, he's suggested once or twice that I might be able to take either you or Bob with me. How would you feel about that? It would mean a promotion, I assume."

"I'm very flattered, guv, but why are you asking me? Bob is a much more experienced officer."

Collison shifted awkwardly on the chair.

"Bob's got a natural leg up coming here as a DCI on homicide. He's overdue for it in my view, as I've told the ACC repeatedly. That's not true of you. If you wanted it, I think this could be a great opportunity for you. Like I say, I think if I press them they might make you a DI immediately."

"Have you had this conversation with Bob?" she asked quietly.

"No, I haven't. To be perfectly honest I think you would be my number one choice. That's why I wanted to hear your reaction first. Bob's a great copper and he knows his way around a homicide enquiry with his eyes shut, but the branch is different. It needs a flexible, imaginative approach, and I don't think that would be playing to his strengths. Also, he's a really nice bloke and that might not be a good fit with what goes on at the branch."

"What does go on?"

"Well I can't be sure, but don't forget I got quite involved with them over that business at Burgh House. So I know some of the things that went on, and I can guess at others. Let's just say that once you move into the security world you need a rather different perspective on things. You need to be able to do things because you're comfortable that they're in the national interest without worrying too much about the ethics of it all."

"And you think that I could do that? I'm not sure whether to be flattered or not."

"I'm sorry, I don't think I'm putting this very well am I?"

"No, I see exactly where you're coming from, guv, and I think you're right to be concerned. I'm not sure how I'd handle that, to be honest. If this ever becomes a serious enquiry then I'd need some time to think about it." Collison gave a little laugh.

"That's exactly what I've been telling the ACC for the last six months or so."

1 comment:

  1. Hmm! Whilst the book blurb didn't shout 'read me', the extract did make me wonder if I'd enjoy this after all. Perhaps one I'd read if I came across it in the library but I don't think its a book I'd buy.


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