Publication Date: 22nd July 2020
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Page Length: 270 Pages
Genre: Historical Crime
A girl’s body is found in Hertfordshire.
Her eyes and mouth have been sewn shut. Candle wax has been poured into her ears to seal them.
DCI Jack Callum, policeman and dedicated family man, who cut his teeth walking the beat on the violent streets of London, before moving his family away from the city, to a safer, more restful life in the country, leads the investigation into this gruesome crime that shatters the peace of the sleepy English town.
Images of three monkeys are sent to the police to taunt them: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Something more sinister than a mere isolated murder seems to be going on as more victims come to light.
Who is doing this and why?
At the insistence of the first victim’s father, a local dignitary, officers from Scotland Yard are brought in to bring about a speedy conclusion to the case, side-lining Jack’s own investigation.
In a nail-biting climax, one of Jack’s daughters is snatched. Before she can become the next victim, Jack has to go against the orders of his superiors that have constantly hampered his investigation, and risk his own career in an attempted rescue at the killer’s own home.
The house of Mill Road was in a state of disrepair, with peeling paintwork and brickwork that badly needed re-pointing. There was no doorbell so Jack rapped on the door with his fist. After what seemed like an age the door was opened by an elderly man wearing sunglasses, impeccably dressed in a white shirt, navy blue tie and grey slacks. His white hair was neatly cut and swept away from his face, but on his feet, incongruously, were a pair of maroon carpet slippers.
“Hello, can I help you?” he said, staring to Jack’s left.
Jack introduced himself and Myra. “Mr Lamb, I’d like to speak with your son, if I may.”
The man turned his head at the voice and Jack realised that he was blind. “My son’s dead.”
“Peter Lamb?” Jack said.
The man smiled. “You mean my grandson,” he said.
“Right,” Jack said. “May we see him? We have a few questions we’d like to ask him.”
The man continued to smile. “I’d like to help you,” he said. “But I’m afraid he’s not here at the moment.”
“I see,” Jack said. “Will he be back any time soon?”
The old man shook his head. “I really couldn’t say. It’s Monday. He always goes out on a Monday. He could be back at any time. I’d ask you in to wait for him, but it could be a long one. Then again, he could be back in the next ten minutes.”
“Perhaps we could do that, then – maybe for ten minutes or so? It would save us calling back.”
“Of course,” the old man said, and stood aside. “Go on through. The living room is at the end of the passage, on the right.”
Jack and Myra walked into the house, wrinkling their noses at the smell of burnt toast.
“Forgive the smell,” the old man said. “I made a bit of a balls up with the grill.”
“Is it just you and your grandson that live here?” Myra said.
“It is now,” the old man said as he followed them into the living room. “My wife passed five years ago. We’ve been alone since then.”
“I’m sorry,” Myra said.
Jack was looking around the room, noting the old, but comfortable looking armchair placed at the side of a tiled fireplace. Every flat surface seemed to be filled with photographs in all manner of frames, ranging from tarnished silver to cheap plastic Woolworth’s specials.
Above the fireplace hung an oval mirror, and pinned to the walls were pictures, copies of old masters taken from magazines and books.
“Please take a seat,” he said, waving airily in the direction of a couple of dining chairs pushed up against the wall.
An ancient Bakelite wireless stood atop an equally old oak sideboard. It was broadcasting music, but the volume was set so low that Jack had to strain his ears to hear what was being played. “Glenn Miller,” he said when he finally identified the tune.
“The Joe Loss Orchestra, actually,” the old man said. “But an easy mistake to make. In the Mood. It’s Joe Loss’s signature tune.”
“Wasn’t it Glenn Miller’s as well?”
The old man laughed as he settled into his armchair. “You fell into the trap that so many people do. You assume that as Miller recorded the original, it was his signature tune, but it wasn’t. That honour went to Moonlight Serenade. Is the wireless loud enough for you? Can you hear it?”
“It’s a little quiet, but it’s fine,” Jack said.
The old man raised his wrist and ran his fingers over his watch. “A quarter to eleven,” he said.
Jack looked at him in surprise and then it dawned on him that Lamb senior had no glass in his wristwatch and was tracing the minute and hour hand with the tips of his fingers.
“So, you’ll give him ten minutes. Is that enough time for a cup of tea?” the old man said.
“Oh, I think so,” Jack said.
“I’ll make it,” Myra said, standing up.
“Would you, my dear? That would be very kind,” the old man said. He turned back in Jack’s direction. “Is she pretty?” he said. “She sounds pretty.”
“Very pretty,” Jack said.
Myra smiled, mouthed “Liar,” silently at Jack, and went out to the kitchen.
“Yes, I thought so,” the old man said.
“Do you take sugar?” Myra called from the kitchen.
“Two please,” Lamb senior called back. “It’s in a bowl in the cupboard above the sink.”
“Do you know where everything is?” Jack asked him.
“Of course,” the old man said. “I have to,” he pointed to his dark glasses. “I know the contents of every cupboard, know what’s on every shelf, and the position of every piece of furniture. It would be a disaster if I didn’t. I’d be falling arse over tip every five minutes.”
“When did you lose your sight?” Jack said.
“1944 at El Alamain. Bloody hand grenade. Shrapnel.”
“You seem to cope very well.”
“I get by. Having Peter here helps. He’s my eyes more often than not.”
“It must be a great comfort.”
“When my son and daughter in law were killed in ’47, the authorities wanted to take him away from me, to put him in some damned orphanage. They didn’t think I was capable of looking after him. But I fought them like I fought the bloody Nazis, and won. Now, the irony is, he looks after me.”
“You’re very close,” Jack said.
The old man nodded. “He’s a good boy. Hasn’t got much up top – never much of a scholar – but his heart is in the right place.”
“The pictures on the walls. Are they for his benefit?”
“Well, they wouldn’t be for mine, would they?” the old man said with a chuckle.
“No, I suppose not.”
“Peter loves art. Sometimes he will sit and describe the pictures to me, and he describes them so well it’s almost as if I can see them.” He fell silent for a moment. “Come to think of it, that’s where he could be right now.”
“Where’s that?” Jack said.
“He could be at Gavin’s.”
“Gavin Southland. He’s a local artist. Lives about ten minutes away. Has a big house on Ridge Road – a bloody mansion according to Peter. Fancies himself as a bit of a Bohemian, so Peter tells me."
“And you think your grandson may be there?” Jack said.
“More than likely, I would have thought. Peter sits for him now and then, for pin money. It supplements the pittance they pay him at Hennessey’s. Bloody old miser, Ernest Hennessey is. Tight as a nun’s…well, I won’t say what. Suffice it to say, Ernest is frugal, always has been. So Peter’s lucky to have a friend like Gavin who’s willing to pay him just to sit there while he makes sketches of him. Supposedly they’re very good, but I have to take Peter at his word on that one.”
Myra came back into the room with a tray containing a teapot, cups, milk and sugar, and set it down on a small drop-leaf table. “Shall I be mother?” she said with a smile.
They stayed for another thirty minutes drinking tea with the old man, listening to his wartime anecdotes and being regaled with stories of his grandson’s childhood.
“To listen to him you might believe that Peter Lamb can walk on water,” Myra said as they got back to the car.
“For all we know, he can,” Jack said.
“Well he certainly likes to look at himself. The walls of his bedroom are covered with sketches of himself. Charcoal, pencil – he certainly has some artistic talent.”
“It’s not him who has the talent,” Jack said as Myra pulled away from the kerb. “He sits for a local artist. Lamb’s just the model.”
“Anyone I would know?” Myra said.
“You might,” Jack said. “Does the name Gavin Southland mean anything to you?”
Myra looked thoughtful. “Gavin Southland,” she mused. “It’s ringing a bell somewhere,” she said. “I’ve definitely heard or seen…” She shook her head. “No. I can’t place it. Back to the station?”
“Might as well,” Jack said. “The old man thinks that his grandson may be at Southland’s now. He has a place on Ridge Road, but that’s a very long road and I don’t fancy spending the rest of the day knocking on doors.”
“We could stop at the library,” Myra said, “and check the electoral roll.”
“Good thinking,” Jack said.
“There it is,” Jack said as they sat at the table in the library. “Gavin Southland, 41 Ridge Road.”
“Sssssh!” The bespectacled librarian at the desk hushed him.
“Come on, let’s go and pay him a visit.”
“Can we go back to the station first, sir? I just want to check something out. I think I remember where I’ve seen Southland’s name before.”
“I knew I’d seen it,” Myra said, running her fingers down a list of names. “This is the list I printed out from the microfiche the other day. Gavin Southland was a student at Norwich University, at the same time as Adam Channing and Tim Fellowes.”
Jack took the list from her and perused it, scratching his head.
“A coincidence, sir?” Myra said.
“I don’t believe in them, Myra. I think we’re onto something here. This could be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.”
“Are you going to tell Superintendent Fisher about this?” Myra said.
“Yes, of course…once we’ve checked it out.”
“So, are we off to Ridge Road?”
“Presently,” Jack said. “But first we’re going to go and have another chat with Mr. Fellowes. Let’s find out what else he’s omitted to tell us.”
Len Maynard was born in North London in 1953. In 1978, a book of short ghost stories, written in collaboration with Michael Sims, was published by London publisher William Kimber. For the following forty years the pair wrote ten more collections of ghost stories before moving into novels in 2006, completing over thirty more books, including the successful Department 18 series of supernatural/crime crossover novels as well as several standalone novels and novellas in the supernatural and crime genres.
Always a keen reader of crime novels, and with a passion for the social history of the twentieth century it was fairly inevitable that, when he decided to branch out and write under his own name, some kind of combination of these two interests would occur.
The six DCI Jack Callum Mysteries were the result of several years of total immersion in the world he created for Jack Callum, his family, his friends (and enemies) and his work colleagues.
He has also written a trilogy of adventure thrillers set in the Bahamas (also available from Sharpe Books). He is currently at work on the seventh book in the DCI Jack Callum series. Connect with Len: Website • Website “The DCI Jack Callum Mysteries” • Twitter • Instagram • Facebook
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