Read an extract from Nick Louth’s latest gripping crime novel, ‘The Body in the Mist’
* indicates affiliate links – this site receives a small fee from purchases made through these links. For more details, please see my Disclosure Statement.
I received a copy of The Body in the Mist* for review purposes.
Today I’m thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Nick Louth’s latest gripping thriller, The Body in the Mist*.
It’s the third novel to feature DCI Craig Gillard, and in this installment, he’s been called down to Exmoor to investigate the apparent abuse of his elderly uncle. But while he’s down in Devon, he discovers that there’s much, much more that needs to be investigated.
In this installment, Craig and his wife Sam are at his aunt Trish’s home, and they’re just getting the first hints that things are not all as they may seem…
‘This was Philip at 31,’ Trish said, handing her a studio portrait in black and white. Her brother had wavy fair hair, a firm jaw and a ready smile. He was standing with one foot on a chair, his hand gripping a pipe in his mouth, looking as incongruous to modern eyes as the jacket and tie he wore with his pale cable-knit sweater. ‘He was quite a handsome fellow, wasn’t he?’
‘He looks like a naval commander in civvies,’ Sam said. To her the staged pose reminded her of the knitting patterns from the 1970s which were now turning up on retro greetings cards. ‘Do you remember him, Craig?’ she said, offering him the picture.
‘Not really. Of course I knew about him. That famous TV programme.’
‘Oh yes,’ said Trish. ‘People still remember that. He still gets letters to the farm. He was also in demonstrations in the 1990s. Trying to stop shopping centres being built. He was quite a radical. Got a photograph of him somewhere chained to a bulldozer.’
‘What was the show called?’ Sam asked.
‘It was called Poverty, dear. It was on Thames TV at half past eight on a Tuesday. Always started the same way, with a camera coming up to someone on a park bench at night, sleeping in cardboard boxes or under newspaper. Then Podge would pop up from under the newspapers and ask: “Do you know what it’s like to lose your home?” He would interview rough sleepers, very gently, and tease out these amazing stories. There were lots of former soldiers, even someone who had once been really high up in the civil service. It was very interesting.’ She looked across. ‘Did you ever see it, Craig?’
‘I did, a long time ago. It was ground-breaking stuff. That kind of social commentary was well ahead of its time.’
Trish interrupted. ‘He met Michael Heseltine, John Major, lots of VIPs. The archbishop of Canterbury, though I can’t remember which one. Of course, he never met her. He never liked her.’
‘Mrs Thatcher,’ Gillard explained.
‘Bit before my time,’ said Sam with a smile.
‘Well, the homeless are still with us, dear. Podge did some good things, despite everything. But most people have forgotten about him now.’
Despite everything? It seemed a curious allusion. Sam caught Gillard’s eye, and a raised eyebrow which showed he too had picked up on it. Trish put the photograph back, and then wiped her fingers on her skirt as if they were soiled. ‘Well, we’re going to see him tomorrow.’
‘Trish, this dispute with the care home,’ Gillard said. ‘You thought someone had assaulted him. You did say you had pictures.’
‘Oh, I completely forgot.’ She put a hand over her mouth, then trotted off into the kitchen. She returned with her mobile phone.
Sam glimpsed between the two of them the images Trish had caught with her phone. There were mottled discolorations – mauve, yellow and green – visible on the old man’s neck, plus a really nasty vertical cut behind one ear that had scabbed over. But what struck her wasn’t his injuries, but his expression. He was looking at the camera, his soft brown eyes wide, like a frightened rabbit. He looked absolutely terrified.
‘When were these taken?’ Gillard asked.
‘The morning after. I went straight round.’
‘But when was that?’
‘More than a month ago now. It’s all healed up.’
‘Was it another resident at the home? I mean, these look to me like a strangulation attempt. Much more serious injuries than I expected.’
‘I don’t know. The staff say it wasn’t them. The manager, Mrs Dickinson, had them all in for interviews, and they all denied having anything to do with it.’
‘So who first reported the injuries?’
‘It was at breakfast. This lovely chap called Fitz, well, he is actually a West Indian. But he is very nice. Anyway, he reported it.’
Sam permitted herself a small smile at Trish’s attempt to redress a perceived prejudice, one that she assumed they shared.
‘What did Philip say?’ Gillard asked
‘Well, he was still in his pyjamas when I arrived. Fortunately he can still dress himself, though it takes a while. And I noticed these marks. “What have you done to yourself?” I asked him. And he said. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” Then he started to cry. Oh, I did check after you asked, Craig, and there isn’t any CCTV. But they are planning to install it eventually.’
She smiled, and led them through to the dining room where a huge spread had been laid out on the table: quiche, ham sandwiches and raspberry cheesecake.
‘Trish, I’m still really surprised you didn’t report the home to social services. Or even the police.’
‘Well, I threatened to, of course. But then Mrs Dickinson and I, we had a discussion.’ She smiled as she bit into a slice of raspberry cheesecake.
‘She offered you a discount on his fees, didn’t she?’ Gillard asked.
Trish didn’t reply and continued to chew. But her sparkling eyes radiated a kind of satisfaction.