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.
Purchase Link – getbook.at/HateBale
Author Bio –
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.
Social Media Links – @llamamum
It’s the day after Martha discovered the body of Daniel Frobart at the farm supplies shop. To cheer herself up she’s cycled to the weekly market at Bousseix, not far from where she lives. However, news of the murder has spread far and wide in this quiet rural part of France, and everyone wants to know the details. Martha, however, doesn’t want to be interrogated by anyone about it. And nor does she want to bump into the Cuthbertsons. They’re the family staying in Martha’s holiday cottage, and Carol Cuthberston is a truly awful woman…
Martha’s first port of call was the chicken stall. It was good that she’d come by bike because that meant she couldn’t possibly be tempted into buying something feathery to add to her collection. There were some mulard ducks for sale, attractive things, mainly white with varying amounts of black splotched onto them here and there. The woman next to Martha asked to buy two, but received the reply that she could only buy them in multiples of five. This began a rapid-fire argument with much arm waving on both sides. Martha slunk off before she was dragged in to support either party, as she inevitably would have been had she stayed. Her sympathy lay with the buyer. If you wanted two ducks, then you wanted two ducks, and you didn’t want them to come with an extra unnecessary three. It was all the more bizarre because Martha had bought ducks from there in the past – just the one on the first occasion, and three on another. There’d been no arbitrary ruling on permissible purchase quantities then. But this was France, she reminded herself. Rules changed from day to day and didn’t need to be logical.
There were several plant stalls. Again, as with the chickens, Martha was tempted but thwarted by having come by bike. Just as well, since she was behind enough with the garden already. More plants would have meant even more of a backlog to be potted on or planted out.
She turned into the main aisle of market stalls that stretched up one of the streets leading off the central square. From where she was she could smell the soap stall, her favourite, even though it was a good ten stalls up the road. She headed towards it. She loved scented soaps, floral being her preferred type of perfume. Lavender, rose, honeysuckle, peony, carnation, violet, jasmine, lily of the valley, geranium — any, all of them. At a push she tolerated fruity soaps, such as lemon, strawberry or cherry, but flowers were best.
She walked quickly to her spot of personal paradise, inhaled the beautiful aromas and began the hard task of selecting just three for today. They were €3.50 each, or three for €10 so obviously she needed at least a trio for optimum value for money. Then she saw a sign announcing a special offer of seven soaps for €20. Seven bars of soap would last her till Christmas and beyond, but who cared. A bargain was a bargain.
The stallholder handed her a small wicker basket and she began to load it with her purchases. She’d made it to five, hyacinth being the latest addition, when she became aware of whispering to her left. She glanced up, and saw a group of four women, a couple of whom she vaguely recognised, staring at her with great interest. Uh oh, they must have heard about poor Daniel and how it was Martha who’d found him. Had the news been on the radio or TV then? Martha had never imagined it would make national news like that. It hadn’t been in the papers since round here people only bought the local one, and that came out weekly, publication day being today, Thursday. Or was it the simple yet unstoppable power of word of mouth that had spread the tidings far and wide?
Making eye contact was a mistake. At once the group began to advance determinedly. Martha glanced right, to plan an escape route. But there, five metres or so away, were the Cuthbertsons. Carol was complaining in loud English to an uncomprehending vendor about the price of something on his stall. Roy was looking embarrassed, Sophia was patting someone’s toy dog that was being dragged through the obstacle course of clumsy feet and crushing buggy wheels, poor little mite, and Zack was absorbed in something on his phone.
“Another two soaps, madame,” the stallholder coaxed, as he’d seen the twenty euro note she’d already extracted from her rucksack.
Martha froze like a deer in headlights. She wanted those soaps but she needed to get away. The women were closing in fast, and a quick sidelong look revealed that Carol Cuthbertson had given up on that particular battle and was now on the move in Martha’s direction.
Martha leant forward slightly and said quietly, “If I give you €20 for these five soaps, can I crawl under your stall please? I need to make a quick getaway.”
“But of course,” he shrugged good naturedly, and very calmly. Martha could have hugged him for being so accommodating. Maybe this sort of thing happened regularly to soap sellers.
She thrust the note into his hand and he tipped the soaps from her basket into a paper bag, stepping aside slightly so that she could crouch down and scoot underneath the table. She straightened up, not quite as lithely as she’d have liked, grabbed the bag, thanked him again and shot off down the pavement behind the stalls. She heard sighs of exasperation from her would-be interrogators, and a chuckle from Zack. Head down she scurried along, eager to get away from this busiest part of the market. And now that she was tuned in, she began to hear a lot more whispers going on. What had possessed her to come to town today?