Today I have an exclusive excerpt from Box of Bones, the latest book in the Captain Darac Series by Peter Morefoot.If after reading this has left you wanting more, be sure to pick it up. Also Make sure to check out the other stops on the Blog Tour. More details about them are in the banner after the sneak peak.
Darac had never been a good time-keeper. Late for school. Late for band practice. Late for this, late for that. But on 27 February every year, he was always the first to arrive at the old cemetery in Vence. Set on a terraced hillside just outside the town walls, it was a classic burial ground in the local style; no sylvan idyll but a conurbation of stone tombs and statuary laid out in a strict grid. A tiny city of the dead.
Usually dormant, Darac’s sense of his mother’s loss, deepened by convictions that allowed not the slightest hope of eventual reunion, awakened with some force as he waited at the gates for the others. He was never quite sure how to deal with the emotion. Give himself up to it? Snap out of it? He turned away for a moment and looked back toward the living city.
It was an overcast but warm morning for early spring, as was often the case for the anniversary. All around, there was a feeling of life freeing up, breaking out, burgeoning. Small birds flitted from branch to branch of a nearby shrub, flashing particoloured patterns against the pale green leaves.
‘Goldfinches. A charm.’
Darac turned. The woman was elderly, rail thin and, with her spry demeanour, somewhat birdlike herself.
‘That’s what they call a group of goldfinches.’ She smiled. ‘A charm. Lovely, isn’t it?’
‘We used to get them in our hibiscus when we lived in Antibes. Almost sixty years, we were there. Of course, I’m over in the apartments now. La Belle Vue. Do you know it?’
There wasn’t a centimetre of Vence that Darac didn’t know. ‘Yes, I do.’
‘It’s very nice. But it’s not the same.’
Darac was carrying a spray of perfect white roses. The woman’s eyes alighted on it, darting with unconcealed pleasure from bloom to bloom.
‘She would have loved them,’ Darac found himself saying. And then wondered why he had. ‘Mama, that is.’
The woman smiled with a sort of knowing gravity. Leaning into him, her eyebrows rose as she touched his arm. ‘She does love them, my dear. By God’s good grace, she loves them at this very moment.’
However well-meaning, Darac didn’t need it. ‘Yes, well I must be going.’
‘Of course, monsieur.’ As if listening for a faraway voice, she canted her head slightly toward the avenues of tombs laid out beyond the gates. ‘Yes, she is so happy you’re here.’ She nodded. ‘I know, you see.’ Her face was riven with concern, suddenly. ‘I hope you are not the only one for her?’
But before Darac could answer, she spotted something behind Darac and her face lightened. ‘Ah good, I see you have company. Your friend obviously didn’t notice you.’
Darac looked over his shoulder. A man in a black coat, carrying a huge bouquet of lilies, was walking briskly through the cemetery gates. After a moment’s hesitation, he began slow marching along the nearest rank of graves, reading each inscription in turn.
‘As I say, I really must be—’
‘Yes, you go and join him. What was your mother’s name, by the way?’
Some medium you are, Darac thought. But at least the woman had asked the question directly, not recited a rollcall of initials until the connection with the ‘other side’ was made by nothing more supernatural than a process of elimination.
‘It was Sandrine.’
The woman was only partially satisfied. ‘Sandrine…?’
Enough was enough. ‘Sandrine.’
‘Yes.’ The woman gave him a slightly straitened look. ‘Forgive me. But remember what I said, monsieur. She does know. Goodbye.’
It was a further ten minutes before the first of the party, his mother’s older brother Clément, joined him at the gates. And then in short order, his aunts Sophie and Antoinette, assorted cousins and old friends of the family, and even a few former students from the school at which Madame Sandrine Darac had been head of mathematics. As the appointed hour arrived, only one person was absent.
‘He’ll be here shortly, Paul.’ Aunt Antoinette gave him a reassuring smile. ‘Got a bit held up, that’s all.’
Trying to hide his irritation, Darac said nothing. Other well-meaning people uttered well-meaning excuses for Martin as the minutes ticked by. Just as someone suggested that mobiles be switched on after all, a red Citroën swung into the street, stopped and reversed sharply into a parking space. The passenger door opened and Martin jumped out. Behind the wheel, a striking-looking woman with a head of auburn hair watched Martin hurry toward the party. The woman, it was clear, was Julie Issert.
‘Clément, I can’t tell you how sorry I am to be late.’
Checking the pink carnations he was carrying had survived the dash, Martin greeted everyone in turn. He left his son until last. ‘Paul, I’m—’
‘Let’s go in.’
A live CCTV camera was set up in the street that skirted the right-hand wall of the cemetery. Had staff at A1 Security been paying attention to the live shot it was relaying, they would have seen the Darac party walking in an informal group toward the graves clustered in the far corner of the site. They would have seen, on a parallel path, a large bouquet of lilies laid at the feet of a stone angel, and leaning against it, a man wearing a black coat, head down, weeping. And then, they would have seen the image turn to grey as the camera tilted suddenly skywards.
A whole family of Daracs resided in the neighbourhood of his mother’s grave, a plain stone tomb mounted on a stepped plinth. A headstone carved in the form of an open book was its only sculptural flourish. On it was inscribed:
OUR BELOVED SANDRINE THÉRÈSE DARAC, 18 AUGUST 1954–27 FEBRUARY 1988. Beneath it, the tomb itself was carpeted in flowers.
Clément said a prayer; Darac and Martin remained mute. Martin said some words at which Darac, and Martin himself, shed tears. And then all shared in a moment of silence.
BOX OF BONES
(Captain Darac #3)
by Peter Newham
Release Date: 3rd April 2018
It is Carnival time in Nice, and for three weeks the boulevards are alive with dancers, jugglers and musicians. Amidst the colour and pageantry, Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is investigating a series of suspicious deaths. He and his team reopen a closed case that may provide new insights, but their own lives are in danger as they uncover a story of terrifying ambition and betrayal.
ABOUT PETER MORFOOT
Peter Morfoot has written a number of plays and sketch shows for BBC radio and TV and is the author of the acclaimed satirical novel, Burksey. He has lectured in film, holds a PhD in Art History, and has spent thirty years exploring the life, art and restaurant tables of the French Riviera, the setting for his series of crime novels featuring Captain Paul Darac of Nice’s Brigade Criminelle. He lives in Cambridge.