I really enjoyed the previous book in this series, The Body on the Shore, so I am pleased to be able to share an extract from the latest DCI Craig Gillard book, The Body in the Mist. This is another fantastic book and my review can be read here.
A body is found on a quiet lane in Exmoor, victim of a hit and run. He has no ID, no wallet, no phone, and – after being dragged along the road – no recognisable face. Meanwhile, fresh from his last case, DCI Craig Gillard is unexpectedly called away to Devon on family business. Gillard is soon embroiled when the car in question is traced to his aunt. As he delves deeper, a dark mystery reveals itself, haunted by family secrets, with repercussions Gillard could never have imagined. The past has never been deadlier.
After being woken at seven by Napoleon scratching at the door, Gillard and Sam were lured downstairs by the smell of bacon. Trish watched them each consume a full cooked breakfast, but ate nothing herself.
‘I’ve got a small errand to run, then I’ll go and make friends with the local constabulary to find out what they know about the hit-and-run,’ Gillard said. ‘I’m sure I’ll be about as welcome as an outbreak of the plague, so don’t expect too much.’
‘I’m sure you’ll be able to straighten it out, dear.’
Gillard had to wait 45 minutes at reception at Barnstaple police station for Detective Inspector Jan Talantire. He had already looked her up on the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary website, so recognized her immediately as she walked in. If he had not done so, he would have pigeonholed her as a mid-ranking business executive in her late thirties: expensively coiffed, in a smartly cut white blouse, black trouser suit and houndstooth jacket. He knew from what Sam had told him how much those highlight hairdos cost. Talantire was on the phone, but had instantly eyed Gillard and turned her back to shield her confidentiality. After keeping Gillard waiting another five frustrating minutes, she hung up, turned and offered a brief but firm handshake. ‘Thanks for the email, Craig, if I may call you that. There were some good questions. But come on, you’re experienced, you know the score. Given your links to the Antrobus family, I can’t share any of our thinking about this case so long as there is the slightest uncertainty about who drove that vehicle.’
‘I understand perfectly,’ Gillard said. ‘I’m not here to make life difficult, but if I can help in any way, I’m available. You’ve got my contact details.’
She smiled. A keen intelligence shone in her brown eyes ‘We could always do with more hands on deck, just not from you, or on this particular case.’ She paused, and he felt her scrutinizing him. ‘I looked you up. Quite an impressive track record. Solved the Martin Knight murder case. Must have been tricky, given your connection to Mrs Knight.’
‘It was.’ Gillard immediately realized what a sharp brain this woman had. Picking the only other case in which he had a conflict of interest, asking around enough to discover something not mentioned in any of the official reports.
At that moment a young uniformed constable emerged from the door and called out to her. ‘Forensics called, ma’am.’ He waved a piece of paper. ‘We’ve got a match for the fingerprints on the can. Bit of a likely boy—’
‘Willow, zip it,’ Talantire said, flicking her fingers away from her to indicate the young constable should return through the door he’d so foolishly entered by. She excused herself to Gillard, then followed the PC, closing the door behind them.
* * *
Talantire was furious. She snatched the piece of paper from Willow’s hand and quickly scanned it. These were the results she’d been awaiting. Half a dozen different sets of prints from inside the vehicle, one matching the owner, one matching a known local bad boy. She looked up at the PC, then pointed a thumb over her shoulder, through the now closed door. ‘Do you know who that is?’
‘Yes, he introduced himself earlier, a Detective Chief Inspector…’ The constable screwed his face up trying to remember the name.
Talantire helped him out. ‘Craig Gillard, from Surrey.’
‘That’s the one. I saw him up at the crime scene this morning. He was quite helpful.’
‘The crime scene! Clifford,’ she said, gripping the constable by the shoulders, ‘that detective is the nephew of Barbara Antrobus.’
‘Is he? Is that why he’s come all the way down here?’
Talantire nodded, waiting while the cogs in Willow’s brain slowly turned. She found herself fervently wishing that Avon Police up in Bristol would hurry up and allocate the promised two detective constables to help her while DS Charmaine Stafford was on maternity leave. ‘Did he cross the crime tape? If he did, I’ll bloody nail him.’
‘No, we chatted outside the cordon.’
‘You chatted, did you? So what did he want to know?’
‘Just about where the body was, what condition he was in. He asked whether we had done fingerprints on the car, tyre analysis, and established whether the locks had been forced.’
‘I hope you didn’t answer any of those questions.’
The constable looked sheepish. ‘I didn’t see any reason not to. He showed me his card, mentioned your name, so I thought he was part of the investigation.’
Stupid boy. ‘Willow, from now on, do not tell him anything. On principle, okay? If it turns out that Barbara Antrobus was the hit-and-run driver, you might well have compromised any chance we have of getting a clean case to the Crown Prosecution Service.’
‘But we got all the fingerprint results through. And the fingerprints from the can in the car, they match Micky Tuffin. That’s what I was telling you—’
‘And broadcasting to everyone sitting in reception,’ she said.
‘He’s a bad ’un, Micky Tuffin,’ Willow said. ‘Regular car thief. Right from school.’
‘My year, my class. I know all about him. I had the desk in front.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘For God’s sake.’ She leaned back against the door, momentarily closing her eyes. ‘Okay, thanks for letting me know. Was he a friend?’
‘You’re kidding,’ Willow said, grinning. ‘I hated him. We had a punch-up during year nine.’
‘All right, to be squeaky clean, I’m still going to have to keep you away from that side of the investigation. Christ, another conflict of interest. Confine yourself to dealing with the leads that come in on the victim. Keep off the driver side of the investigation.’
Angry now, Talantire dismissed the young constable, turned on her heel and went out to confront Gillard.
He was nowhere to be seen.
With thanks to Nick Louth & Canelo and to Ellie Pilcher for organising the blog tour.