Saturday, 28 July 2018

Spotlight & Extract: The Invisible Case by Isabella Muir

The Invisible Case by Isabella Muir
A shocking death turns a homecoming into a nightmare. 

It's Easter 1970 in the seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, and for one family the first Easter of a new decade brings a shocking tragedy. Amateur sleuth and professional librarian, Janie Juke, is settling into motherhood and looking forward to spending time with her family. When her Aunt Jessica is due back from Rome after nine years travelling around Europe, she arrives back in town with a new Italian friend, Luigi, and the whole family soon get embroiled in a tangle of mystery and suspicion, with death and passion at the heart of the story.

As time runs out on Luigi as prime suspect for murder, Janie has to use all of her powers of deduction in the footsteps of her hero, Hercule Poirot, to uncover the facts. Why did Luigi come to Tamarisk Bay? What is the truth about his family?
As Luigi's story unfolds, tragedy seems to haunt the past, present and unless Janie acts fast, possibly what is yet to come.

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It’s Easter 1970 and Janie Juke is looking forward to her aunt’s homecoming. Jessica has been travelling around Europe for the last nine years and has now returned to Tamarisk Bay from Italy, with a friend in tow. She arrives at her brother’s house and is welcomed by an effusive niece, but later that day Janie finds that, Luigi, her aunt’s friend has been poking around in her father’s bedroom. The more she discovers about the stranger, the more ill at ease she feels. She suggests that Luigi would be more comfortable staying in the nearby Summer Guest House, run by Rosetta Summer...

He is a friend of your auntie?’ Rosetta said quietly.
More of an acquaintance. He’s a bit of a strange one though. I can’t make him out, he’s hardly got a word to say. I’m not sure why he’s come to England, but he doesn’t seem thrilled about being here.’
Janie’s mind flashed back to the night before when she had seen Luigi coming out of her dad’s bedroom. ‘You don’t know him, do you? You seemed to recognise his name.’
The name Denaro. I remember it from somewhere. No matter.’ Rosetta’s concentration appeared to drift for a moment as though her thoughts were elsewhere. Then she smiled. ‘Perhaps he will relax a little more now he is with me. A reminder of home for him, eh? And tomorrow I have another visitor arriving from Italy.’
A friend of yours?’
No, I think he is a businessman.’
What’s an Italian businessman doing here in Tamarisk Bay? Perhaps he wants to start up a new coffee shop? Competition for Jefferson’s, I’d better tell Richie to watch out.’ Janie smiled.
All I know is his name, Mr Bertrand Williams.’
He sounds English, maybe he’s got family locally. Although it’s not a name I recognise from Tamarisk Bay. Mind you, I did go to school with a Margaret Williams.’ Janie chattered on without realising that Rosetta was barely listening.
I am pleased you come here today. I have an idea. Tomorrow is Good Friday. I would like to cook a special meal and I would like to meet your aunt. Will you come? You, Greg, your father? Bring the baby too. I haven’t seen her for over a week and at this age they change every day.’
Are you sure? That’s a lot of cooking. Why don’t we each bring a dish?’
It must be fish. All fish on Good Friday. I will cook.’

Up in Room 2 Luigi opened his suitcases. One case contained every sweater he owned. Already since his arrival here in England he was feeling in need of extra layers. His second suitcase was part filled with cigarettes. He guessed it would be difficult to find his favourite brand here in Tamarisk Bay, so he had come well prepared.
He’d had his first cigarette when, at the age of fifteen, he was left in the house on his own for a weekend. His father was away on business, as usual, and his mother had made a trip to Bologna. It was rare for his mother to go anywhere outside their home town of Anzio. Occasionally she would spend a day in Rome, returning with a new pair of shoes or a handbag. She’d told him the Bologna trip was to a dressmaker who had been recommended to her by a friend. He remembered how she was like a young girl going to her first party, full of anticipation. It was a mystery to him how anyone could get so excited by clothes. To him they were merely something that had to be kept clean and neatly pressed, an annoyance if anything.
Before she left for her weekend of fashion she showed him every item of food in the fridge and cupboards. Opening each door, she spelled out what she had prepared for each meal in such a painstaking way he vowed to himself to spend the whole weekend out of the house. She would return to find all the food untouched. It was a small act of rebellion.
As soon as she left he went into his parents’ bedroom. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been in there. When he was a toddler perhaps. He opened the wardrobes. His father’s was filled with suits, neatly ordered, with shoes lined up in pairs below. As he opened his mother’s wardrobe waves of her perfume washed over him. He stepped back, struck by a sense of her presence, when in reality it was merely her scent. Next he sat at her dressing table, opening up the jewellery and trinket boxes that covered the surface. He recognised the double string of pearls, a recent gift from his father. She had unwrapped the gift in front of Luigi and asked him to help fasten the clasp. There were matching earrings too. They were the latest offering of many. Each time his father returned from a business trip he would bring a gift. Perfume sometimes, occasionally flowers, but often jewellery. And yet now, as he looked through her jewellery he realised she had taken none of it with her on her shopping trip.
Moving away from his mother’s dressing table he walked past the bed. Unlike his own, which was topped with a single linen coverlet, theirs was covered with a sumptuous satin bedspread and piled high with silk cushions. Either side of the bed stood rosewood bedside cabinets. He pulled open one of the drawers, not knowing whether it was his mother’s or father’s side of the bed. But once he opened it he knew. There, in amongst a leather wallet, pencils, and bizarrely a silver whistle, lay a packet of cigarettes. He had never seen his mother smoke, but he had rarely seen his father without a cigarette in his hand. This then was the best act of rebellion. He picked up the packet, pulled out a cigarette and put it in his mouth, enjoying the feel of it. He pushed his hand towards the back of the drawer and discovered a lighter. He held the lighter for a moment, admiring it. The body of the lighter was the palest green, onyx perhaps, the top and mechanism fashioned from silver. He flicked it, the flint firing into action, providing a bright little flame. He lit the cigarette and drew in a long breath.
Now, fifteen years later, standing in Room 2 in the Summer Guest House, he repeated the same action and it felt good.

Isabella Muir is the author of Janie Juke series of crime mysteries - all set in Sussex.

'The Tapestry Bag' is the first in the series, followed by ‘Lost Property’. Now - 'The Invisible Case' - the latest in the series is available for pre-order from Amazon.

The 'Janie Juke mysteries' are set in Sussex in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian with a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.

Isabella has also published 'Ivory Vellum' - a collection of short stories.

She has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing - she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.

Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.

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