Christmas With...Anne Cleeland & Giveaway!

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This short story is from British detective series featuring Chief Inspector Acton and his partner, Kathleen Doyle. Murder in Hindsight, the third book in the series, will launch April, 2015 and is available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Murder at Christmas

Doyle was aware she was a sad disappointment to Reynolds, but nevertheless she wished, sometimes, that he would remember that she was not really a baroness, but was instead a shant from Dublin, masquerading as a baroness courtesy of Acton. The servant was trying to plan a menu for Christmas because one of Acton’s old friends was coming over, and Reynolds seemed to think this called for a state occasion. Since she and Acton had never entertained before—and with good reason—he could be forgiven for jumping on it like a jackdaw; no doubt he was relieved at finally having something to boast about at the butler’s pub, if there was such a thing.

Reynolds prompted, “So now that we’ve determined upon the soup, and the fish filet, we’ve only the main course left, madam. Coq au vin, perhaps?”

Doyle had no idea what “cocovan” was, and rather than reveal her ignorance, took refuge in being cross as she wound her feet around the stool. “I’ve no idea, Reynolds, and Timothy likes plain food, anyway.”

This comment was discreetly ignored as the frowning servant bent over his notes and mused, “Lord Acton never seems to indicate a preference.”

With a mighty effort, Doyle shook off her sulks and offered, “I know his mother served him Cornish hens at Trestles.”

Reynolds immediately plucked up. “Is that so, madam? Can you remember how they were dressed?”

Doyle stared at him for a moment. “Well, they had those funny little paper things on their legs.”

Reynolds bowed his head, but Doyle knew he was wanting to laugh out loud, which made her annoyed all over again, since he was the one who’d asked the absurd question, not her.

Fortunately, at this juncture Acton pinged her mobile, and she gratefully accepted the interruption. “Hallo, husband; I am tryin’ to convince Reynolds that he need only tuck a kidney pie in the oven for Christmas dinner.”

The servant shot her an admonishing look as he gathered up his notes and, with a dignified tread, retreated out of earshot.

“Tell him to serve Chinese food, instead.”

She laughed aloud; she was fond of Chinese food, but her husband was not. “Can’t; he’d quit on the spot. He wants to serve cockervan, or somethin’.”

“We may have to put our plans on hold, I’m afraid.”

Hearing the nuance in his tone, she was suddenly on high alert. “What’s happened? Is your mother runnin’ amok, again?”

“Nothing so simple; I must make a visit to Burroughs in West Sussex, and I’d like you to accompany me, if you would.”

Doyle wracked her brain, and came up empty. “Is Burroughs one of your estates?”

“No; Burroughs is Lord Aldwich’s seat. He has encountered a small problem, and seeks my advice.”

Long used to Acton-speak, Doyle interpreted this remark to mean there was an inconvenient murder—nothing less would cancel their Christmas plans—and that Acton needed her to do a little listening. Doyle was fey, and could hear when lies were being told; it appeared her husband suspected that a fellow peer of the realm was telling him a fish tale.

There was a pause, and her husband added, “There’s a wrinkle.”

Doyle raised her brows; if Acton thought there was a “wrinkle,” then Katy bar the door—although one would think a murder at a fancy estate would be an impressive wrinkle, in and of itself.

“I will fill you in on the way, but I’m afraid we must leave immediately.”

“Right, then; I’ll pack my bag.”

Whatever it was, it was too sensitive to speak of over the phone, and she hung up thoughtfully. “Reynolds, I’m afraid I have bad news. Acton’s been called away on a case, and you’ll be makin’ cocovan for your fine self, this Christmas.”

The servant accepted this blow to his plans with a bowed head, but almost immediately rebounded. “Perhaps I should offer my services at your church then, madam.”

Doyle blinked in surprise. “Faith; that’s a lovely idea, Reynolds.” Then, thinking about it, she frowned slightly. “Would you mind goin’ to Holy Trinity Church, instead? They’re more suited to the likes of you, anyway.” She paused. “I’d ask that you to do a little snoopin’ about, over there.”

The servant eyed her with a hint of well-bred skepticism. “Holy Trinity Church is involved in Lord Acton’s case, madam?”

Her scalp prickling, Doyle nodded slowly, not certain why she was so convinced of this. “That they are, my friend. Not a lot o’ good will toward men, at Holy Trinity.”

The servant bowed his head. “As you wish, madam.”

She slid him a sidelong glance. “Don’t let any of those blacklegs steal you away, Reynolds; remember that no one over there can teach you how to make a blood pudding.”

The servant closed his notebook with a decisive snap. “I will keep it to mind, madam.”

Anne Cleeland holds a degree in English from UCLA as well as a degree in law from Pepperdine University, and is a member of the California State Bar.
She writes a historical fiction series set in the Regency period as well as a contemporary mystery series set in New Scotland Yard. A member of the Historical Novel Society and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in California and has four children.
Find Anne:


Anne kindly agreed to give away Murder in Thrall or Murder in Retribution ebook to one of the commenters. This giveaway is international, so answer the question to win:
Who is your favorite detective? (in  books/movies/TV)
(Check the links above to find out why I love this series so, so much)
 The winners will be chosen on Jan 2nd, 2015. 

My reviews of
Tainted Angel | Daughter of The God-King | Murder in Thrall | Murder in Retribution

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