and waiting for help. Overhead, an Air Sea Rescue helicopter whirred across the sky. Agatha marvelled that the day had arrived when she could see Air Sea Rescue turning out to save the people of middle England.

She walked to the center of the bridge and joined the spectators. Debris and tree branches raced past on the swollen river. There was a crunching sound as a caravan which had floated loose from a nearby caravan park got jammed under the bridge.

And then, as Agatha leaned over the bridge and stared down at the water, gilded by sunshine for the first time in weeks, she let out a gasp.

Like Ophelia, the girl from the beauticians, who she remembered was called Kylie, floated underneath her on the flowing river. Her blond hair was spread about her. She clutched a wedding bouquet. As Agatha and the other spectators watched in horror, the body twisted and turned and sank from sight.

Agatha pointed and tried to scream, but as in a nightmare, no scream came out. But the other spectators were shouting and yelling. A policeman spoke into a two-way radio on his lapel and then, as they all waited, a police patrol boat came speeding along underneath. More policemen appeared on the bridge, saying, “Move along. The bridge isn’t safe. Move along.”

They were hustled back up Bridge Street by the police.

Agatha felt shaken. Zak did it, she thought. Just like that chap on Robinson Crusoe Island. All thoughts of going to her Pilates class were driven from her mind.


“You can’t just barge in here every time you feel like it,” said Mrs. Wong, barring the doorway to her home. “I’ve read about women like you. Chasing young men.”

“I’m here on a police matter,” said Agatha, who had driven to the Wongs’ home directly from Evesham.

“Then go to the police station. It’s Bill’s day off.”

Bill came round the side of the house at that moment, holding a trowel in one earthy hand. “Agatha!” he said. “I thought I heard someone. Come round to the back garden. What about some tea, Mother?”

His mother muttered something sour under her breath and shuffled off. Agatha followed Bill. The garden was Bill’s pride and joy. “Just clearing up after that dreadful rain.” Bill indicated two garden chairs. “Sit down and tell me what brings you.”

Agatha blurted out about the floods in Evesham and seeing the body of Kylie. “She could just have been frightened by the prospect of her wedding and committed suicide,” said Bill. “It’ll come under Worcester police, not us.”

“He must have done it. Zak,” said Agatha. “And remember I told you about that couple on Robinson Crusoe Island? Well, I had an e-mail from someone I met there and he did murder her. Said she fell off the boat but he was seen pushing her.”

“I would think it very odd if it turns out to be her fiance,” said Bill. “So obvious.”

“But isn’t it usually the obvious?” asked Agatha. “The nearest and dearest?”

“I’ve got a friend in Worcester police,” said Bill. “I’ll give him a ring tomorrow. Aren’t these floods dreadful? And all those poor people with the contents of their houses wrecked by flood-water.”

“Terrible,” said Agatha vaguely, her mind still on that image of Kylie floating underneath her.

“I can’t do much to help you until the police find out more,” said Bill. “Meanwhile, let’s go inside and have some tea.”

“I think I’d better get on my way,” said Agatha hurriedly. Bill’s mother terrified her. “If you’ve got a free moment in the next few days, drop over and let me know what you’ve found out.”

“If I can’t manage, I’ll phone you.”


When Agatha got home, she switched on the news. It was full of pictures of the flooded Midlands, tales of people being swept to their deaths, and then the announcer said, “The body of a young woman was recovered from the river Avon at Evesham by divers. She had been spotted by onlookers on the bridge as she floated underneath. She was wearing a wedding gown. Police are not releasing her name until the family has been informed. So far, foul play is not suspected.”

“Pah,” said Agatha angrily. “What do they know?” Hearing her doorbell ring, she went to answer it. Miss Simms stood there, swaying slightly on her usual, very high heels. “Can I come in?” she asked. “I’ve got some news.”

“Of course you can come in,” said Agatha, leading the way to the kitchen. “Is it about that girl in the river in Evesham?”

“What girl? No, it’s about your new neighbour. He’s John Armitage.”

“And who’s he?”

“He writes detective stories. Ever so clever he is. Mrs. Bloxby says his last one, A Cruel Innocence, was on the bestseller lists.”


“Don’t think so. Mrs. Anstruther-Jones said she once read an article about him in the Sunday Times. She’s sure he’s a widower.”

“How old?”

“About fifty-something.” Miss Simms giggled. “Just the sort of age I like. I like mature men. They can be ever so generous, where the young fellows expect you to pay for everything.”

“When’s he arriving?”


“Oh.” Agatha felt a flutter of excitement followed by a feeling of competitiveness. She must get to know him first.

“Anyway, what’s this about a girl in the river?”

Agatha told her about the drowned Kylie. “Are you going to find out who done it?” asked Miss Simms eagerly. “I mean to say, maybe you and that new neighbour could join forces.”

“I don’t suppose detective writers know anything about detecting,” said Agatha loftily.

But when Miss Simms had left, Agatha drifted off on a rosy dream. She and this John Armitage would solve the case together. “Murder has brought us very close together,” he would murmur. “I think we should get married.” And James would read about the wedding in the newspapers and feel terrible about what he had lost. She jerked herself out of her reverie to plan. First, she’d better get down to the bookshop in Moreton-in-Marsh and buy a copy of one of his books.


In the bookshop, all the talk was of the floods and how the main street at Moreton had been flooded. Agatha burst through the little knot of customers and interrupted their never-seen-anything-like-it exclamations to demand harshly, “Any books by John Armitage?”

“Just his latest,” said the bookseller. “A Cruel Innocence.”

“That’ll do,” said Agatha. “Get me a copy.” And ignoring the glares of the interrupted customers, she paid for the book and headed back home. Once there, she unplugged the phone and settled down to read.

Her heart sank by the time she had read the first two chapters. The story was set in a tower block in Birmingham, much like the one in which Agatha had been brought up. It started with the ferocious gang rape of a young girl. It was compulsive reading, but Agatha read for escape, not to be reminded of scenes of her youth, the past which she tried so hard to forget about, to bury.

She began to picture this John Armitage in her mind, for there was no photo of him on the cover of the book. He would be short with a beer belly. He would be middle-aged with a beard and a false hearty laugh. But she continued to read, because the story was gripping, and by the end of it she knew she was free from indulging in any romantic thoughts about her new neighbour. Let the other village women call on him with scones and cakes. She, Agatha Raisin, would get on with studying one real-life murder – for Agatha was convinced it was murder.


Agatha drove down to Moreton-in-Marsh the next morning to buy the Evesham Journal. There were pages of photographs of the flood, but only a brief report about Kylie’s death, still with that quote from the police saying that they could not release the name until close family had been informed. She returned home. A removal van stood outside the neighbouring cottage, but she only gave it one brief, sour

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