I am delighted to share an extract with you today on Blog Tour for The Liar In The Library by Simon Brett, which I hope you enjoy.
Fethering has everything a sleepy coastal town should: a snug English pub, lots of cosy cottages, a little local library – and the occasional murder . . .
Bestselling author Burton St Clair, complete with soaring ego and wandering hands, has come to town to give a talk. But after his corpse is found slumped in his car, he won’t be leaving.
Jude is the prime suspect; she was, after all, the last person to see Burton St Clair alive.
If she is to prove her innocence, she will have to dust off her detective skills and recruit her prim and proper neighbour (and partner-in-sleuthing) Carole to find the real culprit.
A nd I think it’s very important for a writer to have a secure emotional base at home. In the solitude behind one’s desk one travels a roller-coaster of ideas and
impressions, so it’s good when one returns from the wilder shores of the imagination, to be able to settle back into a reality in which one feels grounded. And I am fortunate to have found that emotional grounding with my wife – not my first wife; many of us make mistakes when we are young and foolish (SMALL CHUCKLE) – but the right wife. In my case, Persephone.’
The speaker’s words prompted an only-just-audible sigh of satisfaction in Fethering Library. His audience, mostly female and mature, felt comforted by avowals of marital love. Particularly when they came from a writer as eminent as that evening’s guest, Burton St Clair. They knew, from their reading of the Daily Mail, how often fame and fortune triggered promiscuity. It was nice to be in the company of someone who hadn’t been spoiled by success.
He stood in front of a display sent to the library by the publicity department of his publishers. There was a large posed photograph of the author looking soulful, along with a blown-up image of his bestselling book, Stray Leaves in Autumn. On a table beside him were stacked piles of the recently published paperback edition.
Jude was as pleased as the rest of the audience to hear the writer’s words. Burton St Clair had not always been so emotion-ally secure. Nor indeed had he always been Burton St Clair. Jude had known him some twenty years before when he was called Al (short for Albert) Sinclair, still living in Morden with his first wife, an actress called Megan. And if marrying her had been the ‘mistake’ he had made when he was ‘young and foolish’, Jude reckoned that, during the marriage, Burton’s irrepressible habit of trying to get into bed with every other woman he met had possibly been another mistake.
She had not been surprised when she heard, through mutual friends, that Al and his wife had split up after four years. Soon after they got married, Megan had gone through one of those moments in the sun which happen in actresses’ careers. A supporting role in one television series had led to a starring role in another, and for a couple of years Megan Georgeson (her maiden and professional name) was everywhere on the box.
Though Al Sinclair claimed to be delighted by his wife’s success, it was not an easy burden for someone as egotistical as he was. After a few experiences of accompanying her to premieres and awards ceremonies as the ‘token spouse’, increas-ingly he let her do that kind of stuff on her own. He was sick of being seated next to show-business successes and being asked the question, ‘And what do you do?’ To reply that he was a writer risked being asked the supplementary question, ‘Do you write anything I would have heard of?’ And since his first novel had yet to be published, the answer to that had to be ‘No’. It was not an admission Al Sinclair enjoyed making. And he compensated for his sidelining in the marriage by various and continuing infidelities.
Megan Georgeson, dark-haired, petite and with ‘surprisingly blue eyes’, was often described as ‘waiflike’ or having ‘a fragile beauty’. Unfortunately, she was equally fragile and needy in her private life. It had only been a matter of time before she found out about one – or more – of her husband’s betrayals. And to someone as sensitive as Megan, such a revelation would have been a severe body blow, which the marriage could not survive.
Still, Jude was by nature a generous woman and prepared to take at face value that evening’s assertion that Burton had found emotional stability with his new wife. From Jude’s point of view, that was good news. It meant that, if she and Burton were ever again alone together, she wouldn’t have to face the tedious necessity of deterring his wandering hands.
And she tried to banish from her mind the unworthy thought that, as again she had heard through mutual friends, this new marriage to Persephone was very new indeed. Less than six months old. There was always the possibility that Burton’s old
behaviours might reassert themselves. But, for the moment, she was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Time changed people, she knew, occasionally for the better. And it had been a long time since she, Burton and Megan had spent much time together.
The event was taking place in Fethering Library. Though the radiators were turned up to full, the place still felt draughty. The Edwardians who had designed its gothic dimensions must have been a hardier breed than their twenty-first century descendants, pampered from birth by central heating. Outside it was a bitterly cold January evening. A pitiless wind from the Channel assaulted the seafront of Fethering, which still called itself a village, though it had the dimensions of a small town. And the sudden rainbursts of the day, undecided whether they should be falling as snow, had compromised by turning to face-scouring sleet.
Jude had been lucky. Nothing had fallen from the sky during her half-mile walk from Woodside Cottage to the library. Optimistic by nature, she hadn’t bothered to take an umbrella and, as outerwear, put on one of her favourite patchwork jackets, confident that brisk movement would keep her warm.
Simon Brett worked as a producer in radio and television before taking up writing full-time. He was awarded an OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours ‘for services to literature’ and also was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2014 he won the CWA’s prestigious Diamond Dagger for an outstanding body of work.
You can find out more by visiting Simon’s website.