R. T. Raichev

The Murder Of Gonzago

The seventh book in the Country House Crime series, 2012

For Imogen

’Tis the sharpness of her mind that gives the

edge to my pains!

In appreciation and with much love.

‘All is not well;

I doubt some foul play.’

Hamlet, Act I scene ii

‘One mustn’t refuse the unusual, if it is offered to one.’

Agatha Christie, Passenger to Frankfurt


Death in a Hot Climate

Three minutes passed before they realized he was dead and another two before it was established how he had died, though any suspicious observer might have argued that at least one of the five people in the room had been aware of both facts all along.

‘Don’t go near him,’ Dr Sylvester-Sale said, removing the cardboard crown from his head.

‘Stop filming. I am talking to you, Augustine. Get the bloody camera out of the way at once!’ As Clarissa Remnant raised her hand, her bracelet in the shape of a coiled serpent glinted ominously.

‘But – how is that possible?’ Basil Hunter said. ‘Are you – are you sure, SS?’


‘Why are you still filming, Augustine? Are you out of your mind? Didn’t you hear what I said?’ Clarissa Remnant’s eyes flashed. Her crown was still on her head.

‘We must turn the music off,’ Louise Hunter said. ‘We really must.’

But nobody did. The scratchy LP continued to revolve on the ancient wind-up gramophone with its huge brass horn, and ‘The Bilbao Song’ was followed by ‘Le Roi d’Aquitaine’.

The door opened and a middle-aged woman in glasses entered the room. ‘It’s so hot – I am afraid I felt faint – I don’t think the air-conditioning system is working properly, is it?’ She sounded breathless.

She stood peering at the body on the couch. ‘Is Lord Remnant unwell?’

‘He is dead,’ Basil Hunter said.

‘Would one of you take the camera from Augustine? The man is a complete idiot, or else he’s doing it on purpose!’ There was something terrifying about Clarissa’s white make-up and lips the colour of old blood.

Dead? But how dreadful,’ Hortense Tilling whispered.

‘The little beast,’ Dr Sylvester-Sale said. He was looking in the direction of the french windows. ‘He did it after all. He said he would – and he did.’

‘I don’t think you should jump to conclusions, Syl,’ Clarissa said.

It was perhaps unfortunate that it was to Hortense Tilling, Clarissa’s aunt, that Augustine handed the camera.

‘Oh dear. Is this the right way to hold it? It’s not upside down, is it? I’m terribly sorry but I’m hopeless with cameras,’ Hortense moaned. ‘Perfectly hopeless.’

Having been very pale, her face was flushed now. She was frightened but also excited. Her thoughts were confused. Dead – Lord Remnant was no more – it wasn’t dreadful at all – one always said things one didn’t mean – the beast was dead – destroyed at last – questo e il fin di chi fa mal – this is the end of evildoers – there should be singing and dancing in the streets – the death of those who do evil is always the same as their lives!

Don Giovanni was her favourite opera.

‘I have no idea how this thing works,’ she said. ‘No idea at all.’

‘It doesn’t matter how it works. Really, Aunt Hortense! Just turn the bloody thing off.’ Clarissa Remnant sounded at the end of her tether.

‘We must call an ambulance,’ Louise Hunter said.

‘I don’t think that would be much use,’ Clarissa said.

‘The police – we must call the police. It would be wrong if we didn’t call the police. We’d be breaking the law.’

‘Shut up, Louise,’ Clarissa said. ‘Just shut up.’

The next moment she turned and left the room.

Renee Glover was the only one who hadn’t uttered a word. Clarissa wasn’t going to call the police. Of course not. Clarissa would come up with a plan. Basil Hunter would go along with anything Clarissa said, of that Renee had no doubt. So would Syl. Old Hortense was still struggling with the camera. Louise Hunter seemed larger than ever and she had an outraged expression on her face. Renee tried to catch Dr Sylvester-Sale’s eye and failed. They’d agreed to be careful, but surely they could look at each other when Clarissa was not about?

The silk curtains were drawn across the french windows and they stirred slightly. Was that the evening breeze – or was someone standing there?

Renee walked up to the curtains and pulled them apart sharply. She didn’t believe the killer would be outside.

Behind the net curtains the windows gaped wide open.

Renee Glover walked out through the french windows and glanced round the terrace. No one. The warm Caribbean night closed in on her. The stars shone with fierce brilliancy – was that Canopus? The full moon above the palm trees had a purplish tinge. Only an hour previously she had stood on this very spot, admiring the crimson- streaked sunset and listening to the surf and the mournful cries of seagulls…

All was quiet now. There was not a breath of wind, just a wonderful balminess in the air. The only sound was that of the insects, a kind of low, steady hiss produced by the rubbing together of thousands of gossamer wings. A moth brushed lightly against her face.

She gazed into the night, at the great avenue of spreading palms thick with shadows, at the harbour lights in the distance. Odd, that she was not at all afraid. Suddenly she heard a tiny splashing noise close by, then another. Stephan? He liked sitting beside the pool, dropping in pebbles.

Her nostrils twitched as they caught a whiff of something she thought was familiar. Very familiar. But it belonged to a different place – it belonged to London – to Belgrave Square-

Moonlight lay in knife-shaped patterns on the terrace. She took a step to the left and stumbled over

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