Author: Angela Wren
Genre: Cosy Mystery/Crime
A spate of abductions and subsequent deaths in nearby départements have Investigator, Jacques Forêt, perplexed. Returning from extended leave to the news of a local kidnapping, Jacques is on the case immediately. And this time it’s personal.
But the case isn’t Jacques’ only worry. He has become more and more concerned about Beth, but what can he do if she doesn’t let him help her?
The investigation into the murders takes him and his trusted assistant, Didier Duclos, to Marseille. Can Jacques find the kidnappers and release their captive before another body is added to the list of unexplained murders?
It’s a race against time.
Marseille is the fourth installment in the bestselling Jacques Forêt Mystery series.
“I need a distraction,” Jacques said slumping down in an empty chair.
Maxim looked up from his daily task of scanning through the print copies of local newspapers, his examination of the online versions already complete. “There’s been very little change since our full update meeting yesterday, Jacques. Didier is out on surveillance for the Éluard matrimonial case. All agreed lines of enquiry on our other cases are being pursued with no new results yet. The latest progress on the Delacroix investigation is already on your desk.” He shrugged, a blank look on his pale face.
“Anything, Maxim. Something to stop me trying to second-guess the board’s decision about our future.” He scrunched his thumb and forefinger across his tired eyes, a deep frown forming on his forehead. When Jacques looked up, his younger colleague was concentrating on something in the paper on his desk.
Folding the broadsheet in half and then in half again, Maxim got up. “This might interest you,” he said as he pointed out the relevant article hidden in the bottom right-hand quarter of the page. “It’s an update on one of the woodland killings that we’ve been following for a while.” Maxim handed over the journal. “It’s the weapon that is of most interest in this case.”
Jacques read the first couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘No Progress on Hunting Fatality’. His frown deepened as he read the line: ‘…the recovered bullet is now known to have been fired…’
He looked up. “From a Derringer? An antique Derringer! How can they be sure about that?”
Maxim puffed his cheeks out as he exhaled. “It doesn’t say, but I doubt your ex-colleagues in the police would have released the information to the press if they weren’t certain.”
“Of course,” said Jacques. “So, despite the journalist’s nomenclature, it’s murder, then, and not a hunting accident. No one goes hunting with a Derringer.”
He got up and moved across the room to a large display board. A map, with the département of Lozère at its centre and the surrounding départements of Cantal, Haute-Loire, Ardèche, Gard, and Aveyron, was displayed and spiked with a number of amber coloured pins spread, apparently randomly, across its expanse. He cast his eyes over the map and then fixed his attention on a single pin below the centre.
“Here,” he said. “This victim was found here on the Col de St-Pierre on the south side of the D260, which is just on the other side of the boundary with Gard.” He pulled out the pin and replaced it with a green one.
“He was fourteen years old,” said Maxim joining his boss at the board, a weighty file of papers in his hands. “Found by a garde-forestier. It’s managed woodland up there, and the body was about two days old when it was discovered.” Maxim consulted his notes. “He’d been missing for just over seventeen weeks.”
“And that was?”
“May this year when he was snatched, and the body was discovered at the end of the week before last.”
Jacques stepped back and scanned the map, trying to recall a detail. “Wasn’t there another case about eight or ten months ago with a similar M.O.?”
“Here,” said Maxim pointing to another pin, located in a forested area to the north-west in Cantal. “An old Mauser, the C96, was used. A boy again, aged twelve, shot in the back. He’d been missing for over three months, and his body was discovered about a month after he was shot.” Maxim paused as he thumbed through his notes.
Jacques’ eyes moved systematically across the board. He nodded. “That’s two. It’s not a pattern…yet. But it is a happenstance that I don’t like.” In his mind, there was no rhyme or reason to the arrangement of pins in front of him, but there were apparent connections. All the bodies had been found in woodland often used for hunting. The victims had been minors who had disappeared from either home or school without any trace. The newspapers had speculated widely and wildly on the reasons for the youngsters being in the locations where they were found. As far as Jacques was concerned, not one scrap of the speculative column space could be relied upon. But it couldn’t be ignored either. Somewhere, in all of those words, was a grain of truth. He would just have to find it.
Moving a few steps further back he was able to capture the whole map within his view.
“And that’s another connection, Maxim,” said Jacques, realisation dawning. “They are all boys. Every one of the victims is male and a minor, apart from Juan de Silva.” Jacques nodded towards the pin indicating the pastures just above Messandrierre, a village located some thirty kilometres northeast of his current hometown of Mende. It was a case that was still unresolved. It was a case that haunted him.
“De Silva?” Maxim hurriedly flicked back through his notes. “Yes, of course, but that was in 2007, and he was killed with a 12-bore shotgun; and he was over sixteen, too.”
“Hmm, I remember. But I don’t like loose ends and, according to the de Silva family, he had learning difficulties which often made his behaviour mirror someone younger than his age.” Pointing at the map again, “And the body found in the ravine on Mont Aigoual the year before last?”
“Boy, thirteen years old, body badly decomposed, some significant damage inflicted by wild animals, and shot with an old Colt 45.”
Jacques nodded. “You see, Maxim, there is a pattern forming. You just have to know where to—” He tried to stifle a long and heavy yawn, but failed. “…look.”
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Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.
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