Stealing the Crown by TP Fielden (Guy Harford Mystery #1)
English | 2020| Mystery/Thriller| ePUB | 3.4 MB
Britain is at war—but the greatest threat to the Crown might be within the Palace walls.
London, 1941: Major Edgar Brampton is found shot dead in his office in Buckingham Palace. All signs point towards a self-inflicted tragedy, but when Palace authorities hurry his body away and order staff to stay silent, fellow courtier Guy Harford’s suspicions are raised.
While the outside world faces the onslaught of war, within the Palace walls a curious mystery unfolds. Rumours swirl about Brampton’s relationship with the Queen, and there’s talk of other plots involving those closest to the King.
To get to the bottom of what really happened, Guy joins forces with some unlikely allies—Rodie Carr, a beautiful East End burglar, and Rupert Hardacre, a postman with a past—but time may be running out…for him, for the King, and for Britain. Someone has their eye on the crown, and they’ll do anything to get it. Can Guy solve the case before more blood is spilled on the royal carpets? Or will he be the next victim?
Outside, the streets around Piccadilly were awash with debris from the recent raid, the air tainted by the smell from burst gas mains, the gutters running with water from the fire hoses. The gradual destruction of a once-great city and the terrible news from abroad had the effect of altering personal behaviour. These days, through the patina of good manners could be seen the slow decline of ancient values, and in dark corners, in the refuges of the night, a new order was growing at an alarming rate.
Down steps still covered with plush carpet and behind heavily curtained doors, two women dawdled over the remains of their second sidecar. Both were startling to look at – the blonde in a lightly padded Betty Grable sort of way, her dark-haired companion undeniably beautiful but looking slightly odd with her old-fashioned Eton crop.
Their jewellery was expensive but big. Their clothes looked new and their high-heeled shoes were clearly still at the breaking-in stage – each had taken one off under the table. They spoke in carefully modulated tones, caution governing the delivery of their vowels.
‘Another, Lem?’ It was now past seven o’clock.
‘No thanks, Rodie. Time for a dip.’
‘No swimming pool here, ducks.’ She knew perfectly well what her friend was getting at but never passed up an opportunity to tease.
‘Nooo,’ said the woman, who answered to Lemonade but preferred to tell people she was Claudia. ‘The other. Do a bit of work.’
‘Remember your manners, girl! You’re in The Ritz now.’
Upstairs, the permanent residents of the fabled hotel, from King Zog of Albania to Mrs Keppel, famous mistress of King Edward VII, were preparing to move from their observation posts in the Palm Court into the dining room. An unofficial order of precedence marked their journey, with the king and his family slightly ahead of the bulky seventy-three-year-old who’d made her fortune from doing what comes naturally. Others of lesser blood followed at a discreet distance.
But down in the Basement Bar, life moved at a livelier pace, with white-jacketed old men circling like ballet dancers. Many had served here in the First War, retired, and now were hauled back for a second round of duty. For each the same rules applied: first establish the customer’s place in the pecking order, then remember what they drank.
‘Thank you, Your Grace, three pink gins. And Your Lordship, another whisky with water on the side? Sir Henry, one moment if you please . . .’
The two women idly watched this courtly dance while exchanging pieces of essential information. In their line of duty, it was vital to keep on top of the latest developments – shifts in personnel, changes of location, fluctuating tastes and desires, who’s suddenly rich and who’s dead.
‘Can’t hang on much longer,’ said Claudia. ‘You can stay here all night if you want to but I’ve got work to do.’