It’s an ordinary day in Steeple Martin, a quiet village in a corner of Kent, England. It’s almost as quiet in Nethergate, an old fashioned seaside town a few mies away, although this is the beginning of the holiday season and a few early visitors are already on the beach opposite Fran Wolfe’s Coastguard Cottage on Harbour Street. Balzac, her black and white long haired cat, is sitting on the deep windowsill watching them.
In Libby Sarjeant’s garden, under the cherry tree, Sidney the silver tabby is stretched out, pretending not to watch the blackbird hopping from branch to branch above his head. Libby herself is standing in her conservatory staring at the almost finished painting on her easel and wondering, if she could get it finished this morning, if that could be the excuse to drive down to Nethergate in time for lunch with her best friend Fran.
The trouble is, Libby’s bored. There have been no mysteries to solve, no adventures to get involved in, and there’s nothing going on at the Oast Theatre, where she acts and directs. Ben Wilde’s family own the theatre, and The Manor which sits next to it, and he will be there all day, working in the estate office. So, she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it.
Later, she loads the painting, another small watercolour view of Nethergate Bay, into the back of the car, and hopes it’s dry enough. She drives down Allhallow’s Lane in the bright May sunshine and turns into the high street, where she parks outside the Pink Geranium, the restaurant owned by her friends Harry and Peter. Harry, the chef, can be seen inside, and she gets out of the car and taps on the window.
Having booked in for dinner that evening, she waves at Bob the Butcher, standing in the doorway of his shop, gets back in the car and drives off towards Nethergate.
From the top of the hill, she can see the whole of the bay, with the brooding Dragon Island in the middle and the red and white painted lighthouse over to her left on the very tip of the point. Down the hill she steers the little car, past The Swan Inn at the bottom, and turns left into Harbour Street, where she finds a parking space not far from Guy Wolfe’s shop and gallery. She delivers her painting to Guy, then walks the few yards to Coastguard Cottage, where Fran is waiting for her.
At the other end of Harbour Street sits The Sloop Inn, next to the Blue Anchor café and opposite the tiny harbour. The two tourist boats, the Dolphin and the Sparkler bob gently at anchor, while their captains, George and Bert, sat outside the Blue Anchor and Mavis serves them tea. Libby and Fran sit outside The Sloop and order fresh crab sandwiches and wave at George and Bert. After lunch, they stroll down to Lizzie’s tiny ice cream shop and buy huge cones of freshly made vanilla ice cream, and leaning on the railings overlooking the beach, eat them watching the holiday makers.
Libby accompanies Fran back to Coastguard Cottage, where she says hello to Balzac, then, back to the car and back to Steeple Martin.
The village high street is even quieter than it was this morning. Parking the car opposite Number Seventeen Allhallow’s Lane, Libby sees Sidney watching from the window of the sitting room. As soon as she opens the front door, he shoots out between her legs, off up to the end of the lane and the woods.
A cup of tea at the kitchen table, a quick tidy up, then a pre-dinner drink when Ben arrives. A little later, a stroll down to The Pink Geranium, where Guy and Fran are already waiting for them, sitting on the sofa in the window, a bottle of red wine on the table before them. Libby’s son Adam, who helps out in the restaurant occasionally, somes forward in his long white waiter’s apron and gives Libby a kiss on the cheek and the menu. Harry waves from the kitchen, and Peter strolls in to join them.
An ordinary day in Steeple Martin and Nethergate. But tomorrow – who knows?
About Murder in the Monastery:
The eleventh book in the Libby Sarjeant series of British murder mysteries which features a retired actress as the female sleuth and are based in the picturesque village of Steeple Martin.
Libby Sarjeant is invited to look into the provenance of a jewelled Anglo-Saxon reliquary which has appeared on a website. The nuns at St Eldreda’s Abbey are curious, as it apparently contains a relic of St Eldreda herself. Libby’s friend Peter obtains permission to mount a play based on St Eldreda’s story in the ruins of the original monastery called, naturally, Murder In The Monastery. And then, inevitably, a real body is discovered, and Libby and her friend Fran find out that this is not the first.
About Lesley Cookman:
Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth’s exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. The Libby Sarjeant series is published by Accent Press, who also publish her book, How to Write a Pantomime, with a foreword by Roy Hudd. Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association. Links to their sites are listed below.
Lesley’s pantomimes are published by Jasper Publishing.
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