- Author: Benedict Brown
Book online «Murder at the Spring Ball: A 1920s Mystery Benedict Brown (good books to read in english .TXT) 📖». Author Benedict Brown
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2021 by Benedict Brown
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of quotations in a book review.
First edition March 2021
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The Cranley Family Tree
Read Lord Edgington’s next adventure
“Lord Edgington Investigates…”
About this Book
The “Murder at the Spring Ball” Cocktail
For my father, Kevin,
who I hope would have liked this book an awful lot.
The Cranley Family Tree
It must be strange to know that everyone in the room wishes you were dead.
My grandfather sat very straight in the stiff, high-backed chair where he’d been resting for the last ten years. It wasn’t just our immediate family who’d come to celebrate the old man’s birthday. Every last rat had scuttled out from under the skirting boards. Every cousin and nephew, niece and nobody from within the ranks was there to pay their respects to Lord Edgington of Cranley Hall.
The unappealing collection of playboys and charlatans, spinsters and spoilt brats sat waiting for something to happen. We sipped our tea politely, hoping that someone would break the silence. Inevitably, it was my Aunt Belinda who finally did.
“Such a lovely party.” She did not sound sure of herself, and my grandfather let out a huff that was only perceptible thanks to his prodigious moustache ruffling in the resultant breeze.
“Yes, quite lovely,” her portly brother rushed to agree. “And it’s incredible to think that you’re seventy-five, father. You don’t look a day over…” The sentence faded away without resolution. Presumably my sycophantic Uncle Maitland had failed to think up an age that would sound both flattering and realistic.
My great-aunt Clementine had fallen asleep in the corner and let out a single grunted snore, which made the atmosphere in the room all the more uncomfortable. Following in its wake, the only sounds were the clinking of teaspoons on porcelain and the ticking of the gigantic clock beside the door. Even Grandfather’s ageing retriever wasn’t enjoying herself and rolled onto her side, apparently ready to give up the ghost.
With so many expectant heirs on hand, it was a tight squeeze in the old man’s sitting room. My rakish cousin George had made sure to get a seat close to the front and, as second in line to the Cranley family fortune, looked keen to discover why our grandfather had called everyone together for the first time in a decade.
There were piles of cakes and sundries on offer, but they remained largely untouched. Cranley Hall’s cook was well known for the eccentricity of her culinary creations, and, while Lord Edgington adored them, it turned out that haddock and honey sandwiches were not to everyone’s taste.
“Ahem…?” Our butler Fellowes cleared his throat to get his master’s attention.
The birthday boy continued to stare out of the window, down past the lake and across the expansive grounds of his estate. Perhaps concerned that her father had finally lost his senses, my mother frowned, just as he turned to look at us with a sudden snap of the head.
“I’m not planning on dying just yet.” His cold, grey eyes surveyed the crowd, and he spoke through resolute lips.
There was no reaction at first, except for a distracted sigh from my big brother, who was still recovering from his last ill-fated romance. A few guests looked at their neighbours to confirm that they really had heard Lord Edgington’s pronouncement, but then he spoke again.
“I know what you’re all thinking and you’re wrong.” His sonorous voice boomed through the floor like a minor earthquake. He stood up without a wobble and gasps went up around the room as if Lazarus had risen for the second time. “My days are not yet numbered and I still have plenty of living to do.”
As the esteemed former police superintendent stood imposingly before us, the assembled leeches failed to smother their moans of disappointment.
“Really, father,” my beak-nosed Aunt interjected, “no one could possibly think-”
Our host’s gaze fell upon his eldest daughter. “Belinda, I’ve been sitting here mourning your mother for long enough. As much as you’d like me to do the honourable thing and shuffle off this mortal coil, I’m afraid I have other ideas.”
The notoriously impertinent butler let out a brief, caustic laugh. This elicited a curl of the lip from Uncle Maitland, a squat, middle-aged man, who was forever dressed in a Norfolk jacket and hunting cap.
My grandfather didn’t seem to notice and continued with his speech. “I still have a lot I want to do with my life. Starting with this place.” He glanced around the room as though he were taking in the faded décor for the first time in years. “Cranley isn’t what it used to be. It’s high time I did something to bring the house back to life – back to the way it was when my beloved Katherine was still with us.”
“Well, I say, jolly good!” my father proclaimed with a clap of his hands, and received several stern looks for his trouble.
Grandfather nodded his appreciation before explaining further. “I’ve spent the last few months wondering if I’d ever find the strength to break free from this room, but the moment has come.” He tugged his waistcoat down to straighten it before announcing the first of his elaborate plans. “It’s been twenty years since we had a real party at Cranley, and I’m going to throw one.”
This led to a murmur of speculation and