Monday, April 24, 2017

Week #17: Enigma of Fire by Marilyn Leach

As the season of Pentecost approaches, Berdie Elliott's husband, the vicar for the Aidan Kirkwood village prepares for the Whitsun Long Weekend Regatta boat race. But one amongst them is in a van explosion that puts Berdie right in it. The shock of the blast sends her whirling and when the Yard arrives, fingers point to a profiled suspect that ignites village fears. Who would think that business vans, one heroic dog, mistaken identity, an evocative book, and enduring friendships could help solve the crime? Berdie must recapture her investigative brilliance, sift the ashes, and ascertain who is responsible. Will the enigma of fire be laid bare? This mystery sizzles.

1st Chapter:

“Sometimes it feels the sweeping hands of that clock are wrapped round my toes and squeezing.”

The kitchen aroma of a well-prepared meal tickled Berdie Elliott’s nose as she placed decorated picnic ware in the ample food hamper, whilst aching feet reminded her that she hadn’t had a sit-down since early this morning.

“I tell you,” she said to her friend, Lillie Foxworth, who added folded linens to the plates, “sometimes it takes all one possesses to keep up.”

“True,” Lillie mumbled.

“When I followed my dear Hugh into the pastorate after his military retirement”—Berdie took a deep breath—“and I came with the same commitment of faith and service, mind you, I hadn’t reckoned that I’d be a hostel hostess in a small English village, racing the clock to feed the five thousand at Whitsun.”

“Oh, but remember, Berdie,” Lillie ribbed with a large grin and hazel-green eyes dancing, “to be hospitable at all times is a grace. You could be entertaining angels unawares.”

Berdie waggled a fork toward her friend. “Night wanderings, unwelcomed pets, demanding diets: if the guests staying here are angels, I should think their halos have slipped slightly.”

“Come now, Berdie.” Lillie took the fork from Berdie’s hand. “I’ve not noticed five thousand, just nine people at last count, and it’s a picnic al fresco at the lake, not the village fete.”

“You’re such a stickler about minor details.”

Lillie put the fork next to the others in the utensil basket and surveyed the situation. “There’s no room in the hamper for the main dish.”

“You see? Stickler for details.” Berdie chuckled and Lillie joined her. “Take out the jar of pickled onions to make room. It’s quite clear, Lillie, where our nattering gets us.”

The sound of the vicarage front door chime sang out its plea for attention.

“Oh bother,” flew from Berdie’s lips.

“Ah, angels have come knocking. The word’s out all cross the heavens,” Lillie shouted as Berdie left the kitchen. “There’s a room going spare at the vicarage and food to be had.”

Berdie chortled while she hustled through the front hall.

She arrived at the pub mirror, placed just alongside the door, and glanced at herself. Middle age had been kind to her, but she hoped her brown eyes didn’t appear as tired as she felt at the moment. She pushed an errant piece of her red-brown bobbed hair to its appropriate place, adjusted her tortoiseshell glasses, wiped her hand cross the ditsy designs of her apron that covered her more-pudgy-than-lean body, turned with steady mind for whatever may greet her, and flung the vicarage door open.

There before her stood Milton Butz, the inevitable dots of maturing adolescence decorating his fourteen-year-old face, and behind, his tall, ginger-haired friend, Kevin McDermott. Hardly heavenly beings.

“Milton, Kevin, hello,” Berdie greeted.

“That big dog is running all over the village again, Mrs. Elliott.” Milton released a slight pant.

“He’s been digging in Mrs. Hall’s herb garden, again.” Kevin’s round eyes held an element of panic as he took a deep breath. “And he’s scary.”

Berdie wanted to shout, “That annoying canine escape artist is more trouble than he’s worth, and seeing as he belongs to retired Leftenant Commander Cedric Royce, just one of our ‘angelic’ guests, the commander can ruddy well chase about after it.” But instead, she offered a more refined response that was in line with her position and wouldn’t shower the boys with her displeasure. “The dog’s name is Sparks, and he’s quite”—Berdie searched for a constructive word—“energetic for an animal his size and difficult to contain.”

“He doesn’t seem very friendly either,” Kevin added.

“He’s not a lap dog, no.”

Milton’s barrel chest rose and fell—the boys had obviously rushed. “Do you want us to collect him?”

“Milty.” Kevin’s eyes grew wider, and he kicked the back of Milton’s shoe.

“He’s just a dog.” Milton’s demeanor was fearless.

“Thanks for the offer, lads, but I believe Leftenant Commander Royce is at the Upland Arms enjoying a swift half. Perhaps you could fetch him and let him deal with the beast.”

“Beast?” Kevin’s cheeks flushed under the freckles.

Milton looked slightly disappointed. “Are you sure you don’t want us to try to collect Sparks?”

Kevin’s eyebrows knit into a deep frown.


Thanks for joining in the fun with this sneak peak at Enigma of Fire. Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 1.



  1. Wow. This sounds like a great story! I love the cover. Thanks for sharing this first chapter!
    sallyshupe1 at gmail dot com

  2. You're this week's winner, Sally! Marilyn will send you a copy of Enigma of Fire son. Enjoy!


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