Happy Sunday everyone!
Today, I have an extract from a fab new novel by Lesley Thompson
THE DOG WALKER
Head of Zeus | April 6th 2017
A haunted house, a broken family and a body that has never
been found. Stella and Jack must reawaken the secrets of the
past in order to solve the mysteries of the present.
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog
walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett,
a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside
cottage. Only her dog returns.
Twenty-nine years later, her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a
private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what
happened all those years ago.
But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath
refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves
hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold…
Monday, 4 January 2016 Stella Darnell headed smartly along Shepherd’s Bush Green, trim in a green waxed jacket, wool-lined collar zipped to her chin against the searing wind, flat-soled black-leather ankle boots clipping on the frosty pavement, a styled pixie bob framing a lightly made-up complexion. A leather rucksack on one shoulder. A diminutive apricot poodle, shaggy and unstyled, ‘Crufts-trotted’ at her heel.
The morning had started badly because it had started late. For the first time in Stella’s memory she had overslept. Embroiled in a dream in which she shot up with the alarm, dressed and searched without success for her boots, she had been stunned to wake at seven to find she was in bed. By half past the Great West Road was snarled up and what would have been a fifteenminute journey at six took an hour. One reason was a collision between a Range Rover Evoque and a Fiat 500 on Hammersmith Broadway. The Evoque’s registration was ‘Pow3r 1’. Jack said a personalized plate was a sign of the owner’s character. Stella’s, a birthday present from her brother Dale, was ‘CS1’; it stood for Clean Slate, although several clients had jokily suggested ‘Crime Scene Investigation’. Jack suggested that Dale intended it to signify the two sides of her life. Stella, a cleaner for most of the day, was, with Jack Harmon, for the rest of the day and much of the night, a private detective. Her decision to open a detective 4 lesley thomson agency, made a couple of years ago, wasn’t yet official.
She and Jack operated on an as-and-when basis. As her van drifted past the accident, Stella took in the scene. The driver, a blonde woman in an embroidered coat, high heels and huge sunglasses despite there being no sun, was hectoring a bespectacled man with thinning hair who gazed forlornly, hands stuffed in the pockets of his cord jacket, at the crushed wing of his Fiat. The Evoque was undamaged. With the trained eye of a police officer’s daughter, Stella saw, from the angle of the vehicles, that Pow3r 1 had swapped lanes and rammed the Fiat’s offside. The Evoque was at fault, but as she drew level Stella heard the man apologize. Stella shouldered the street door up to her office. It was locked. This was unheard of. She had lost count of her reminders to the insurance brokers on the top floor to keep the door locked against intruders. Emails, laminated notices and personal entreaties were ignored, resulting in delivery couriers – usually for the brokers – coming to Clean Slate on the first floor. Stella was unused to needing her key and had to search for it. She was crouching down, digging in her rucksack, when the door opened. There was a shriek and Stanley let loose a barrage of shouty barks.
‘Stella! I didn’t see you sitting on the ground!’ Beverly was Clean Slate’s young office assistant. Permanently cheerful, she attacked her work with an unbounded enthusiasm that Stella could find overwhelming. ‘I’m not sitting…’ Stella found the key and stood up. As ever Beverly looked immaculate. She wore knee-high boots, a short black dress, thick black tights and a skimpy green bolero jacket. She squatted down and vigorously petted Stanley, presenting her face to be licked. ‘I’m popping next door for milk and Jackie says to get biscuits! We’ve got that woman coming in about the toilet cleaning job.’ She flapped Stanley’s ears merrily. the dog walker 5 ‘Washrooms, not just toilets…’ Stella exclaimed. ‘She’s coming to the office?’ ‘Yeah, bummer! We’ve been here since dawn deep cleaning. But you can’t turn a sheep into a wolf or whatever. Do you fancy anything from the shop?’ ‘No, you’re all right, Bev, thanks.’
Stella spotted Dariusz Adomek, the owner of the mini-mart, frowning at an aubergine on the vegetable display outside his shop. She waved. ‘Get chocolate bourbons. They’re her favourite!’ Dariusz winked at Stella. ‘A gift from me.’ Before Stella could object, he followed Beverly inside. Pausing by the open door, Stella considered that she did like bourbons best. Like her, Adomek made it his business to know what his customers liked. She sniffed. The air in the passage was tainted with stale cooking although no one in the building cooked. The greasy smell somehow seeped in from a hamburger place two shops down. Jackie wanted Clean Slate to move to a larger and more attractive office. Stella was reluctant; she hated change. And she’d miss her chats with Dariusz Adomek. But when a major potential client insisted on coming to the office, as this Angela Morrish had, Stella saw Jackie’s point. Beverly called to her across the fruit and veg, ‘Ooh, I forgot, there’s two women waiting for you. One’s in a bad mood, the other’s well weird!’ She did a ‘bad mood’ face and swooped into the shop.
‘I haven’t got anyone in my diary…’ Stella always kept the first week after New Year free. Then again, she never overslept. Could she have forgotten the appointment? Leading Stanley up the steep staircase, she considered how threadbare lino, peeling Anaglypta wallpaper and the cloying odour of meat would do nothing for the woman’s mood. On the landing, Stella smelled something else. Orange, rose and jasmine cut with patchouli. Her hypersensitive olfactory sense identified Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle. The visitor had expensive taste. Nerving herself, Stella went inside: ‘Sorry I’m late.’
About the Author
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind
of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second
novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and sold
over 500,000 copies.