American readers, having faced a number of lean years deprived of the company of Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover, will rejoice (so to speak) in this reappearance of the “most idle and avaricious policeman in the United Kingdom (and, possibly, the world). But be warned: this case is something of a departure—and the very first to depart is none other than Dover himself.

The detective’s sudden disappearance from Scotland Yard one evening is followed by an ultimatum from a gang of kidnappers calling themselves the Claret Tippers. Demanded in exchange for the hostage are not only a stout ransom, but also the release of two prisoners—one turning out to be a multiple bigamist, the other a sharp-tongued nymphomaniacal shoplifter.

How Dover gets out of this one, though, is only the beginning. For just as the case is getting cold, the Claret Tippers strike again. And once more Dover is brought into the center of the action in a most unexpected way, one that will prove a trial not only to his hapless assistant, Sergeant MacGregor, but to all of Scotland Yard as well.

Joyce Porter was born in Marple, Cheshire, and educated at King’s College, University of London. In addition to the Dover mysteries, she is the author of a series featuring secret agent Eddie Brown, and another about the “Hon-Con,” a gentlewoman/detective. She lives at present in Wiltshire, England.

Dover and the

Claret Tappers

A Detective Chief Inspector

Wilfred Dover Novel

By Joyce Porter

A Foul Play Press Book

The Countryman Press, Inc.

Woodstock, Vermont

DOVER AND THE CLARET TAPPERS. Copyright © 1976 by Joyce Porter. All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Porter, Joyce.

Dover and the Claret Tappers: a detective chief inspector Wilfred Dover novel by Joyce Porter. — 1st U.S. ed.

   p. cm.

ISBN 0-88150-148-4

I. Title.

PRS066.072D69 1989                               89-15784

823’.914—                                                             CIP

To Bunty Giddens,

   With all best wishes and much affection.


THE NEWS SPREAD THROUGH SCOTLAND YARD LIKE wildfire. Ordinary constables had heard the rumours by ten o’clock and by the end of the mid-morning coffee break the sergeants were au fait with the situation. From then on the pace accelerated and by lunch-time even the superintendents had caught a whiff of the most amazing development in the fight against crime since they got rid of the How Street Runners.

The last person to be told was, of course, the Assistant Commissioner (Crime), the man upon whose desk this particular baby was destined to come home to roost. It was a little after two o’clock when the news was broken to him.

He listened in silence.

‘So that’s how things stand as of at this particular moment in time, sir,’ concluded Commander Brockhurst, head of the Yard’s Murder Squad. ‘Of course, we’re still pursuing our enquiries but I think you’ll find that we’ve got the broad outline more or less accurately drawn.’

The Assistant Commissioner (Crime) peered over the top of his reading glasses at his rock-solid subordinate. ‘Now pull the other one, Tom!’ he advised jocularly.

‘No joke, sir. My lads in the Murder Squad opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate with, and you know they’re not the ones to go chucking their money around without good cause.’ The Assistant Commissioner (Crime) was an innate pessimist. ‘It’s some sort of a hoax, then.’

‘That’s always a possibility, sir, but I don’t think so.’ Commander Brockhurst half rose from his chair as he handed a typewritten letter, carefully backed with cardboard and enclosed in a transparent plastic envelope, across the desk. ‘In any event, Detective Chief Inspector Dover hasn’t been seen since he left the Yard at eight o’clock last night.’

The Assistant Commissioner (Crime) accepted the proffered missive and resumed his nit-picking. ‘Well, that sounds as phoney as all hell for a start! What in God’s name was Dover supposed to be doing here at eight o’clock at night? And don’t tell me he was working!’

Commander Brockhurst allowed himself a grin. ‘The popular theory, sir, is that he overslept.’

‘What about Mrs Dover?’ The Assistant Commissioner (Crime) was running a sceptical eye down the typewritten letter.

‘Mrs Dover, sir?’

The Assistant Commissioner (Crime) looked up. ‘Well, didn’t she notice her beloved Wilf was missing?’

Commander Brockhurst placidly crossed one leg over the other ‘Mrs Dover’s not the sort to look a gift horse in the mouth, sir.’ he replied a trifle enigmatically. ‘She said she just assumed he’d been sent off on a job somewhere when he didn’t turn up. He doesn’t always bother to phone, I understand.’

‘That I can well believe!’ sniffed the Assistant Commissioner (Crime). ‘Consideration-for-others is not Dover’s middle name!’ He dropped the letter onto his desk. ‘It must be a hoax, Tom! I mean, this ransom note or whatever you call it – it’s ludicrous. A hundred thousand pounds in used one-pound notes! The release of political prisoners! A manifesto to be read out at peak-viewing hour on the telly! God help us, it reads like something a bunch of school kids would dream up.’

‘They did send Dover’s warrant card with the letter, sir. As proof that they’d actually got him.’

‘You didn’t tell me that!’ The Assistant Commissioner scowled at his subordinate and then prepared to defend his prejudices to the death. ‘Well, somebody could have found it somewhere. It wouldn’t be the first time Dover’s lost his blooming warrant card.’

‘Nor the twenty-first.’

‘And look at the signature!’ The Assistant Commissioner flicked the letter along his desk with a disdainful forefinger. ‘ “The Claret Tappers”! I ask you!’

‘I was wondering if that could be a lead,’ said Commander Brockhurst thoughtfully.

‘A lead?’

‘It’s an old boxing term, sir. They used to talk about “tapping the claret” when they’d made a man’s nose bleed.’

‘I am well aware of the sanguinary connotations of the expression “claret tapping”, Tom!’ snapped the Assistant Commissioner (Crime). ‘But, if you think we may be looking for a bunch of anarchistical pugilists. I’m afraid I don’t.’

Commander Brockhurst was a great one for taking both life and his superior officers philosophically. ‘No, sir,’ he said placidly.


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