MURDER IN THISTLECROSS by Amy M. Reade
The emerald hills and violet valleys of Wales seem the ideal place to start over after murder—and divorce—shattered Eilidh’s life in the Scottish Highlands. But within the stone walls of an ancient castle, a family’s dark, violent past threatens much more than her newfound tranquility . . .
For the past two years, Eilidh has called the quaint Welsh village of Thistlecross home, embracing her new life as estate manager of a restored fifteenth-century castle. But the long-anticipated arrival of her employer’s three estranged sons and their wives transforms Gylfinog Castell from a welcoming haven to a place seething with dangerous secrets. When the escalating tensions culminate in murder, Eilidh must sift through a castle full of suspects both upstairs and downstairs. She can trust no one as she follows a twisting maze of greed and malice to ferret out a killer who’s breaching every defense, preparing to make Eilidh the next to die.
I snuggled down under the covers again and was soon dozing, but through the fog in my sleep-addled brain I was sure I heard faint crying. I sat up again. The room was deliciously warm from the fire that still burned low in the grate, but I still hated to get out from under the comfort of the blankets. Reluctantly I tucked my feet into the slippers I kept at the side of the bed and went to the door. After opening it cautiously, I peered into the long hallway. The gas-lit sconces provided quivering candlelight at regular intervals, making the spaces between them eerily dark.
Even in the dim light, though, there was no mistaking the shadow that flitted across the hall down toward the main door to the castle. I hesitated, not knowing who the shadow belonged to or whether I should try to figure it out. The crying continued, now a little louder because my door was open. My mind told me to shut the door, get back into bed, and ignore the nighttime goings-on. My heart told me to find out who was crying and whose shadow I had seen from the safety of my bedroom doorway.
I followed my heart, as usual.
It was very cold in the hallway, so I ducked back into my room for my thick robe. Then, pulling the sash tight around my waist, I slipped into the hallway and closed the bedroom door behind me.
I instinctively stayed close to the wall as I followed the flickering sconces to the castle’s great hall. In daylight, this entrance to the home was a magnificent gallery of antique furniture, a polished stone floor, stained glass windows, an enormous, colorfully-painted wooden coat of arms, and even an ancient suit of armor, posed with a lance. In the dim light of night, however, the main hall was a frightening place. The furniture gave way to dark, shapeless forms, the suit of armor took on a more sinister stance, and the stained glass, which depicted pastoral scenes in daylight, seemed to glow with an evil darkness.
When I reached the huge front door, the iron bolt that kept the door locked from the inside had been slid to one side. Someone had left the castle. That must have been the bang I heard. The person I had seen stealing along the corridor was nowhere to be found. Maybe the bang was a person coming in, not going out. Perhaps the person I had seen had just come in from outdoors. I hadn’t heard anyone as I made my way to the great hall, and I didn’t see or hear anyone now that I was standing by the front door.
I was perplexed. I hadn’t dreamed it. There had been a person in the hallway and I had come quickly to the main entrance to the castle. How could I have missed him—or her? But I had gone back into my room to pull on my robe. Had the person disappeared in such a short time? Had he or she gone upstairs? Downstairs? Had the person perhaps ducked into one of the rooms on the main floor and was waiting, listening, until I left to return to my bedroom? The thought sent chills up to the nape of my neck.
Was I just being silly? Maybe Hugh had gone out for Cadi’s toiletries, though it was quite late for that. Maybe someone had gone down to the kitchen to get a snack. That was a far more likely explanation. There were a million reasons someone in the castle might be about during the night, so stop making up sinister reasons, I told myself with a grimace.
But that didn’t explain the crying I had heard so plainly. Was the person in the hallway the one who had been crying? And what had he—or more likely, she—been crying about? I didn’t know Andreas or Hugh or Rhisiart very well, but none of them seemed to be the emotional type.
I was spooking myself and it was getting very cold standing still in the great hall, so I turned on the lights and peeked into the sitting room and the dining room. I didn’t see anyone in either room so I hurried back to the safety and warmth of my own room and my own bed.
USA Today bestselling author Amy M. Reade is also the author of Secrets of Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. She grew up in northern New York, just south of the Canadian border, and spent her weekends and summers on the St. Lawrence River. She graduated from Cornell University and then went on to law school at Indiana University in Bloomington. She practiced law in New York City before moving to southern New Jersey, where, in addition to writing, she is a wife, a full-time mom and a volunteer in school, church and community groups. She lives just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean with her husband and three children as well as a dog and two cats. She loves cooking and all things Hawaii and is currently at work on her next novel.