Murder Your Darlings (Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries #6)

cover of Murder Your Darlings
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When Sophie Sayers joins a writers’ retreat on a secluded Greek island, she’s hoping to find inspiration and perhaps a little adventure. Away from her rural English comfort zone, she also takes stock of her relationship with her boyfriend Hector.

But scarcely has the writing course begun when bestselling romantic novelist Marina Milanese disappears on a solo excursion to an old windmill. First on the scene, Sophie is prime suspect for Marina’s murder. When a storm prevents the Greek police from landing on the island to investigate, Sophie must try to solve the crime herself – not easy, when everyone at the retreat has a motive.

Murder by the Book is the sixth in the new Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series. 

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THE OPENING CHAPTER OF MURDER YOUR DARLINGS

1 A Greek Cliffhanger

“Sophie, you didn’t!”

“What?”

“Push Marina off the cliff.”

Ben’s voice behind me made me jump. Too engrossed in listening to my voicemail messages, I hadn’t heard him coming up the hillside track.

He pointed at the solitary flip-flop, balanced on the edge of the cliff. It was as turquoise as the Ionian Sea surrounding this tiny Greek island. Beside it lay Marina Milanese’s smartphone in its distinctive diamanté case, a jagged crack dividing the screen diagonally.

Ben took a step closer to me.

“Was it because you were jealous of her success as a bestselling novelist? What a great story that would be!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Ben. Just because I’m standing near her shoe and her phone doesn’t mean I pushed her off the cliff. Why do you journalists have to make such a drama out of everything?”

Ben strode past the old windmill to peer down at the sea.

“Well, she’s definitely gone over. Look, there’s her other flip-flop, caught on a ledge halfway down.”

I’d have to take his word for it, not daring to go as close as he did to the sheer drop. This was the highest point on Floros.

“What about the rest of her?”

Turning to face me, he shrugged. “No sign of her body, but then I wouldn’t expect there to be. There’s no beach below us. The sea comes right up to the cliffs. If she wasn’t unconscious before she hit the water, the rocks beneath the surface will have knocked her out. Lured by the sirens to a watery grave – what a fitting end for a leading romantic novelist!”

He passed his hands across his eyes as he turned his back to the sea.

“I think you’re being over-dramatic, Ben. Marina told me she was a strong swimmer. Surely if she fell into the sea, she’d just swim around the headland to the harbour? It can’t be far.”

“Not a chance. No-one could survive a fall like that, not even an Olympic swimmer.”

We were silent for a moment.

“Do you think her body will reappear down there at low tide?”

He shot me a reproving look.

“The Ionian Sea isn’t tidal.”

“Oh no, of course not. I forgot.”

As I knelt down to examine Marina’s phone, Ben held up his hands in warning.

“Sophie, don’t touch it! You’ll leave fingerprints. Talk about incriminating yourself!”

“Sorry.” My voice was small in the warm breeze. I took the light cotton sarong that I’d found on a hedge on the way up and wrapped it around the phone, careful not to disturb the compromised screen.

Ben pointed to scuff marks in the dusty soil around where Marina’s phone had landed.

“Look, there are signs of a struggle.” He pulled his own phone out of his pocket to photograph the evidence. Before he could click on his camera app, a pair of goats, neck-bells jangling, trotted out from among a clump of pine trees and straight across the patch of disturbed soil, erasing any evidence. I leapt to my feet to get out of their way.

“Those marks are probably just goats’ footprints. These goats get everywhere.”

Their demonic rectangular pupils spooked me. “Perhaps the goats pushed Marina off the cliff?”

When Ben took a step towards them, they turned coy and skittered back in amongst the trees.

Ben rubbed his stubbly chin for a moment.

“I don’t suppose you heard anything on your way up here? No sounds of camera shutter clicking or of her talking to anyone on the phone? If so, that would suggest she plummeted to her death just before you reached the summit.”

I shuddered. There was no need to converse in the lurid language of tabloid newspapers.

“No, nothing. That’s why I was heading up here – for a bit of solitude. The only sounds I could hear weren’t human: the creaking of the old windmill, the rustling of the undergrowth, and the tinkling of goat bells.”

“Are you sure you weren’t trying to get Marina alone? As this is the only place on the island where you can get a mobile signal, we all knew she would head here at our first break.”

I folded my arms across my chest. The last thing I wanted was more one-to-one time with Marina, after the embarrassing incident on the plane.

“For goodness’ sake, Ben, why do you have to sensationalise everything? I know for a fact she was short-sighted but wouldn’t wear glasses. You know what Marina was like with selfies for her social media accounts. She might have been so busy posing that she took a step too far back. Chances are it was a tragic accident.”

I flinched as I realised I was speaking about Marina in the past tense already.

“Of course, there have been press reports of accidents like that every holiday season since the invention of the selfie. But accident or murder, one thing’s for sure: the disappearance of Marina Milanese will be international headline news – and as the only member of the press on the island, I plan to land the scoop.”

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