Title: Arrested Flight
Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Genre: British Mystery
Ex-police detective Michael McLaren is determined to have a peaceful holiday after the fiasco of his first attempt at Windermere, so he stops at a bed-and-breakfast in Moorton, a village in Cumbria. But mystery and murder seek him out, and he soon succumbs to the B&B owner’s plea to investigate the year-old death of her daughter’s fiancé, a young musician.
The Lake District parish seems peaceful, but a rival musician’s jealousy and a business partner’s anger boil beneath the façade. Mix that with ‘Barmy Barry’s’ sightings of fairy lights at the castle, references to Uther Pendragon's return and the secrets in the woods, and McLaren finds his sanity shaky.
When the vicar is attacked and Barry disappears, McLaren sets a trap for the killer. But as it plays out, his concern shifts from the potential capture to praying he and his friend can escape with their lives.
It was just going onto one-thirty. Late enough, McLaren reasoned, for activity at the castle, should anything be happening that night. He followed the B6261 and joined the A685 as far as Kirkby Stephen. From there, he drove south to the castle.
It emerged from the night and shadows almost begrudgingly, a dark hulk against a black sky. A stand of trees hid it momentarily, but as he parked and walked up the earthen mound, the ruins shaped into the castle. Whispers of the past seemed to wallow in the stone face and hint at current secrets.
He stood by the arched opening, undecided where to hunt. The area seemed a warren of doorways and recesses, not to mention the copse of trees hovering at the building’s perimeter. As he considered which direction to take, a light flared in the darkness. It was small, just a pinprick in the darkness, but it blinked in irregular intervals and duration near the top of the tower. Long short long short, hesitation, short long short short, hesitation, short… He lost track of the blinks as he moved closer. He snapped off his torch and stooped, staring in disbelief. This was no fairy. Someone was signaling.
His first impulse was to sneak up the steps to identify the person, but a narrow castle keep was a trap waiting to happen. Best to stay outside.
McLaren’s fingers wrapped around the torch. It would do for a weapon if he needed it. He remained there for several minutes, hardly daring to breathe. When the tower fell into darkness, he crept toward it.
He made for the nearest corner, groping for it in the confusion of darkness. It gradually defined itself, separating from the night as his sight adjusted to the new blackness. He reached, stiff-armed, for the wall and nearly yelped. Ivy, brittle with cold and age, wrapped around his fingertips and grabbed at his ring. He jerked away, momentarily alarmed. The wind sighed through the leaves, rustling gently. He laid his hand back on the wall and moved toward the main archway.
The moon had inched above the treetops by the time he came to the end of the wall. He glanced up, hoping for cloud cover. The sky was clear. He cursed his choice of the hour and prayed for rain, but he knew it to be a hollow hope. He kept his hand on the stone wall as he left the moonlit courtyard. Drifts of snow sagged against the base of the tower, chilling the air with a hint of frost and emphasizing the position of the foundation. He crouched near the entry, ignoring the arch, and pressed the torch against his chest. Then he waited in the darkness.
The slap of rubber on stone cut into the stillness with the sharpness of a knife blade. McLaren moved backwards slightly, making no sound, his mind racing. He had no cover if he needed to hide. He bent lower.
The footsteps grew louder, more of a shuffle than distinct steps. At the bottom of the stairway, the movement stopped. Quiet again blanketed the castle.
McLaren hugged the shadows, remaining still and silent as a stone. The figure was nothing more than a dark shape barely in the archway. A breeze slipped over the ground and the figure stepped back into the tower. A flame flared, and the smell of tobacco drifted toward McLaren. The man took several puffs on the cigarette before leaving the tower.
He took a step toward McLaren but didn’t notice, his attention somewhere beyond the castle walls. Only a few feet separated them, but McLaren could not discover the man’s identity without also revealing himself. It was a trade McLaren was temped to make; with that might come the answer as to why he’d been signaling.
McLaren leapt forward, grabbing the man’s legs and pulling him to the ground. An emphatic “Oof” escaped the man as he hit the hard earth, but he shook his head and fumbled for McLaren’s arms. His hand closed around McLaren’s wrist, and he turned the arm to release the grip. McLaren felt his hold loosening and seized the man’s jacket. He pulled himself to his knees as his assailant got to his feet. He wrung the jacket from McLaren’s grasp, stepped back, and kicked. McLaren crumpled to the ground, his ribs on fire. He clutched at the shoe and twisted the ankle. The man fell to one knee, cursing McLaren and striking out with his fist. The blows missed McLaren’s face, but added to the man’s anger. Another kick to McLaren’s shoulder brought welcomed darkness and no knowledge of pain.
Buy Links (including BookBub):
Amazon.com – https://amzn.to/2Ypg0hY
Barnesandnoble – https://bit.ly/2FHJ2Ce
Books-A-Million - https://bit.ly/2XBmQ3q
The Book Depository - https://bit.ly/2Widpom
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
I can’t remember which one, but it was one of the P.G. Wodehouse novels featuring Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. Wodehouse’s verbs are hysterical, and of course the problems that Bertie gets into are mind boggling. I couldn’t get enough of Wodehouse, so I bought a huge omnibus of a dozen novels and read through them in about a week. They still are one of my favorites
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
“Arrested Flight” combines several subjects that many people like: Uther Pendragon’s castle, a sighting of fairies, the suspicious disappearance of a man, and of course a murder! I think if a person likes these items and likes to be plunged into the Cumbrian countryside where the village is, you’ll have an enjoyable. Having immersed yourself in this slice of Cumbria, you might want to read the preceding McLaren mystery, “An Unwilling Suspect,” which also takes place in Cumbria. The other books in the series take place in Derbyshire, which isn’t too far removed from Cumbria. All in all, I think this book will whet your appetite to read other similar locales.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US account to win.
Runs August 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on September 1.
Jo A. Hiestand grew up on regular doses of music, books, and Girl Scout camping. She gravitated toward writing in her post-high school years and finally did something sensible about it, graduating from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. She writes a British mystery series—of which two books have garnered the prestigious N.N. Light’s Book Heaven ‘Best Mystery Novel’ two years straight. She also writes two Missouri-based mystery series that are grounded in places associated with her camping haunts. The camping is a thing of the past, for the most part, but the music stayed with her in the form of playing guitar and harpsichord and singing in a folk group. Jo carves jack o’ lanterns badly; sings loudly; and loves barbecue sauce and ice cream (separately, not together), kilts (especially if men wear them), clouds and stormy skies, and G.F. Handel. You can usually find her pulling mystery plots out of scenery—whether photographs or the real thing.
Social Media Links:
Book Gems: https://bookgems.com/profile/mclgirl1/