I am so pleased to announce that the seventh book in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon cozy mystery series has hit the Amazon shelves.
Please read on. There is an extract from the book below and purchase links.
Fireworks in France Extract
(Read Chapter One here)
VILLAGERS HAD BEGUN to gather. They took their seats quietly, giving no more than a nod here or a hushed greeting there as they tiptoed across flagstones, grateful to reach the red carpet that would muffle their footsteps. Ville d’Eauloise was a God-fearing place and attendance at Mass was sacrosanct. All the villagers would be here for this most holy of days—Easter Sunday.
Off to one side of the church, close to the altar, there was a small, brown door, low enough to cause all but the shortest of adults to duck their heads. Behind the door, Father Julien stood in front of a small mirror adjusting his vestments around his ample frame. He smoothed his hair. It was so uniformly black that it was at odds with his skin, which despite his best efforts with creams and the occasional treatment, was showing signs of age. He coughed heavily and rubbed his forehead as he struggled to regain his composure. Whether it was the change of the seasons, the challenges of getting older, or the stresses and exertions required to prepare for today’s Mass, he had recently begun feeling the strains of an aging body rather keenly. He closed his eyes and prayed that he would gather the strength to conduct the service—the most important of the Catholic year. As the senior clergyman, much was expected of him in terms of piety, devotion, and rituals. He needed a clear head, and the mild headache that was forming bothered him.
When Father Julien opened his eyes, his gaze fell on a small envelope lying on the simple desk that stood in the corner. He knew what it contained. A different, but identical one had been placed under the door of his office every day for the past week and for many weeks before that. After the second envelope arrived, he swore that he wouldn’t open another, that he would discard any more that appeared, but his resolve had given way every time. And so it did again.
Father Julien roughly grabbed the envelope and tore it open, not caring whether he ruined it or its contents. As he had many times before, he pulled out the singular sheet of cheap paper he knew would be inside and unfolded it. There, pasted to the page, were a series of letters, each one individually cut from a different source—newspaper, magazine, or book—and arranged to form a most devilish message.
YOUR TIME IS RUNNING OUT. GOD WILL NOT HELP YOU.
The priest clenched the paper between his fists, ready to tear it to shreds, but he hesitated. His headache distracted him from properly considering whether this was the right thing to do. Instead, he leaned down to the small safe beneath his desk, and fishing for the key in his pocket, he opened it, struggling with the lock in his haste. After tossing the crumpled paper and its envelope inside, he slammed the safe shut with a bang.
As he straightened up, a pain shot across Father Julien’s shoulder. Leaning over his desk, he cast around among books, correspondence, and other clergy detritus until he found a pill bottle. Quickly pouring some red wine into a gold chalice, the priest popped a painkiller along with a nub of bread into his mouth. He chased them with the wine.
A few moments later, he started to feel better, and after one more brief, but careful inspection of his vestments in the mirror, Father Julien left his office. He nodded at the junior priest who stood outside his door like a guard on sentry duty and walked to the altar, his eyes roving around the sanctuary. With his back to the burgeoning congregation, he began to check that everything was in place.
The assembled villagers had been subdued before, but at the entrance of their priest they grew even more so, calming their shuffling feet and restless bodies as they sat in silence. Many of them looked down in prayer as a group of nuns led by their Mother Superior filed along the red carpet to sit, as was customary, in the front pew that had been left empty for them. The light in the church dimmed as the big front doors were closed, and the shaft of light coming in through them was extinguished.
As Father Julien finished his pre-service checks, there was a creaking sound. The light in the church brightened briefly, there was an almighty bang from the doors, and the light in the church dimmed again. The organ stirred into life with a rousing chord. The sound reverberated around the impenetrable walls so powerfully that even the candles flickered a little.
The young woman who had rushed hastily across the threshold was beautiful. Her glossy jet black hair framed her face and accentuated the symmetry of her features while her big green eyes, strong cheekbones and neat nose were all underscored by her wide, full lips, and delicate chin. A small scar peeked out from below her eyebrow but did nothing to mar her beauty. She wore a plain white shirt punctuated by a large silver cross and a black A-line skirt with sensible shoes, the innocence of her young features affected only by the anxiety of her lateness. She slowed her pace and quickly trotted along the red carpet to the front pew where she slid in to her seat just as the organist began in earnest. Dramatic chords rang around the cavernous space.
The interruption had distracted everyone but now they dragged their attention back to the altar—and to Father Julien. He turned slowly, raising his arms wide to welcome his flock and envelop them in this celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. Everyone relaxed, preparing to be joyful—but only for a brief second. That was all it took for them to notice the strange look on Father’s Julien’s face, his open mouth and wide eyes, the shudder of his shoulders as if he were struggling for breath. He staggered and planted one foot forward, swaying weakly upon it. Then, he stopped, stiffened, and fell flat on his face.
Fireworks in France is available on Kindle, in paperback, and is in Kindle Unlimited.
What reviewers are saying…
“Would give it six stars if possible!”
“Alison has hit another one out of the ballpark.”
“Light-hearted, cozy mystery writing at its best.”
“In today's troubling times it is a relief and a joy to read a story that has friendship, compassion and love.”
“Fireworks indeed! What a fabulous installment in this series!”
Please check out other reviews on Amazon here.
Do you need to catch up?
All the Annabelle books can be read separately but the series is best read in order. All books are available on Kindle, in paperback, and via Kindle Unlimited.
Click on the pink links below.