Enjoy an excerpt and a cuppa with Jan Christopher | Helen Hollick’s new cosy mystery: A Mistake of Murder

by Helen Hollick – a brief excerpt to tickle your interest!
The third Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery
Was the murder deliberate – or a tragic mistake?
January 1972. The Christmas and New Year holiday is over and it is time to go back to work. Newly engaged to Detective Sergeant Lawrence Walker, library assistant Jan Christopher is eager to show everyone her diamond ring, and goes off on her scheduled round to deliver library books to the housebound – some of whom she likes; some, she doesn’t.
She encounters a cat in a cupboard, drinks several cups of tea… and loses her ring.
When two murders are committed, can Jan help her policeman uncle, DCI Toby Christopher and her fiancé, Laurie, discover whether murder was a deliberate deed – or a tragic mistake?

A Mistake of Murder  by Helen Hollick is available from an Amazon near you, or order from any bookstore. Paperback and e-book available.
Read on…

Jan Christopher is out on her rounds delivering library books to the elderly and disabled who can’t get to the public library themselves. Miss Catesby is Jan’s favourite old lady…
My last lady was easy to cater for as she was an absolute sweetheart. Miss Catesby lived near the Old Church. Normally, it would have made sense to visit her before our tea break, but I’d changed the route six months ago because she had been offered the chance to be taken to a regular luncheon club every Tuesday by a friend who had a car. When she’d said, “I’ll have to stop you calling, my dear,” and explained why, with tears glistening in her eyes because she loved her books, I’d immediately suggested the change.
“No problem, Miss Catesby, I can make you the last of my calls.” She’d burst into tears and given me such a hug of gratitude. Bless her.
Today though, she was in a tizzy as she answered the front door. “Oh, Jan dear! Come in, come in – I feel awful!” She was fluttering about like a moth caught in a jam jar.
“Whatever is the matter Miss Catesby? Are you ill?”
“No, no, nothing like that, but my luncheon friend forgot to buy your chocolate for me. I’m so sorry. I haven’t any for you this time. I’ll quite understand if you don’t want to leave me any books today.”
She regularly bought two bars of Cadbury’s Old Jamaica chocolate, one for herself, one for me to share with Harry. She claimed, “My special treat to look forward to. Makes me feel like a lady pirate sailing off with Errol Flynn.”
In return I always told her off, because I knew she couldn’t afford two bars of chocolate at 9p each on her meagre pension, but she insisted. I do feel mean, though, as Harry didn’t like the raisins in it, but I loved them, so I would scoff the lot. (On top of the fattening home-made cake at the church hall? I know, I’m shocking aren’t I?)
Today, I laughed and patted her arm. “Please don’t worry. The amount of weight I put on at Christmas, I shouldn’t be eating chocolate.”
“Yes but, dear, it’s my way of saying thank you. Look…” she reached for her handbag on the hall telephone table. “If I give you the money, could you buy something for yourself?”
“Absolutely not. You put that money away.”
“No buts. If it makes you feel better, why not get me two bars next time?”
She beamed a bright smile, her blue eyes twinkling. “What a good idea. I’ll do that then.” She put her bag back on the telephone table next to one of those Victorian round, glass-domed taxidermy ornaments. This one was a stuffed puffin and had belonged to her father. She’d rescued it from house clearance soon after he’d died. Personally, I’d have buried it along with him.
If I hadn’t been too delayed by my previous calls I often stayed to talk to Miss Catesby, and of course, today she wanted to hear all about my Christmas and New Year in Devon – and had to inspect my engagement ring. She was so excited and delighted for me. She ushered me into the lounge, a lovely through room that had light all day from the front and the back. At one end she’d lit the fire, which was blazing merrily. ‘So much cosier than the gas fire,’ she always said.
Her own beau was Albert Barrowstone – she’d been engaged to him, but he’d been killed at the Somme. As happened back then, ladies left without their fiancés were not expected to find anyone else – there were very few ‘else’ left alive after that dreadful war. She had a photograph of him on the mantlepiece. He looked most handsome. A second black and white photo on the sideboard was of them both, with her mother looking extremely prim and proper, as older ladies did back then. Next to Albert was his brother. The two men looked very much alike.
“The photographs were taken on the day we got engaged,” she had told me. “He was quite a few years older than I was, but that did not matter. The next day, the two of them went off to join their regiments. I was so proud of him. Still am.” She’d paused a while when telling me this, and I’d seen a tear glistening in the corner of her eye. Then she’d added, “His brother came back to his young lady. Albert didn’t come back to me.”
She often talked to the photographs. Poor lady, she must have been so sad and lonely, all these years, without him.
Noticing the photo on the mantlepiece, I wondered how I would feel if I lost Laurie were he involved in an accident or something, but I immediately thrust the thought away. Too awful to think about. I loved him. Was certain that I loved him and that I had made the right decision. No doubts. Certain.

Was Jan certain? And would a tragic murder investigation throw the pair together – or
cause them to drift apart? Find out in A Mistake of Murder.

A note from Helen: Readers might be interested to know that I needed a photograph of a nice-looking man for my cover designer to use as a photo on the mantlepiece. We couldn’t find anything suitable, so I offered one of my own Dad who passed away several years ago. I think he would have been amused to find himself posing as Miss Catesby’s Albert!

About Helen: First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, Cozy Mystery genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…

Helen’s Amazon author page: https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick
Helen’s Website: https://helenhollick.net/
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