Tied Up In Tinsel
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Holed up at Hilary Bill-Tasman's manor estate for Christmas, Troy Alleyn is to paint the man's portrait and, while she's there, view the Druid Christmas pageant. Along with a pack of eccentric guests, Troy enjoys the festivities-- until one of the pageant's players mysteriously disappears into the snowy night. Did the hired help-- each a paroled murderer from the nearby prison-- have a deadly hand in this Christmas conundrum? Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to join his wife in finding the lost man-- and unraveling the glaring truth from the glittering tinsel.
better—I’d better report it to our C.I.D. But—just let’s—” He shot a glance at Alleyn, fished in his pockets, and produced a small steel rule. He introduced the end under the hair and raised it. “Take a look,” he said. “It’s wet, of course, but d’you reckon there’s a stain?” “Might be.” “I’m going to damn’ well—” Without completing his sentence, Wrayburn lifted a strand and with a fingernail and thumb separated a single hair and gave it a tweak. The wig tipped sideways and the crown of
Wrayburn’s return aroused him. “No joy,” grumbled Wrayburn. “Breaking and entering with violence and Lord knows what else at the D.C.S.’s. He is calling up as many chaps as he can and the Major’s sending us what he can spare. They should be here within the hour. In the meantime—” he broke off, glanced at Alleyn, and made a fresh start. “There’ll have to be confirmation of all this stuff—statements from the party. The lot.” “Big thing for you.” “Are you joking? While it lasts, which will be
Like I said. Character. I’d of thought in your line, character would be a big consideration.” Alleyn fished out a glowing clinker with the fire-tongs. “It depends,” he said, lighting his pipe. “We deal in hard, bumpy facts and they can be stumbling blocks in the path of apparent character. People, to coin a bromide, can be amazingly contradictory.” He looked at Mr. Smith. “All the same, if you’re going to give me an expert’s opinion on—” he waved his hand “—on the collection here assembled, I’ll
the shards scattered round his feet and recognized the remains of the vase that stood on a little table in the gallery: a big and, he was sure, extremely valuable vase. No joy for Bill-Tasman, thought Alleyn. The pain was setting into a sort of rhythm, horrid but endurable. He tried supporting his forearm inside his jacket as if in a sling. That would do for the present. He moved to the foot of the stairs. Something bolted down them, brushed past him, and shot into the shadows under the gallery.
Buster was clearing. He dressed painfully, dragging on thick sweaters and stuffing a cloth cap in his pocket. He found his way by torchlight along the corridor, out to the gallery and downstairs. The hall was a lightless void except for widely separated red eyes where embers still glowed on the twin hearths. He moved from the foot of the stairs to the opening into the east-wing corridor and, turning left, walked along it till he came to the library. The library, too, was virtually in darkness.