The Twinning Murders is a modern day classic mystery, one that centers on the ventures of Emily Ryder, a
thirty-something rambler and tour guide. The story opens just before she embarks on this year’s Twinning, a ritual
exchange between her historic New England home and its sister village deep in Dartmoor, a wild upland area in the
west of the county of Devon, England. Shortly, a suspicious death occurs that involves Emily personally. A few days
later, at the Twinning itself, her main client meets the same fate.
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Read about The Twinning Murders on Elizabeth A. White's blog Musings of an All Purpose Monkey.
EXCERPT FROM SHELLY FROME'S THE TWINNING MURDERS
At first during this particular Connecticut morning, there were the squawks of wild turkeys high above the trail. Then Emily heard the sound of a man cursing and caught a glimpse of Oliver the golden retriever bursting through the doggie door of her mother's B&B.
Snug in the guest cottage across the way, Emily decided at first to ignore the ruckus. As a conscientious tour guide to captivating places in England, she had just finished confirming reservations in Bath and Devon, continuing west to Fowey and St. Ives on the Cornish coast. And she was just about to consult the latest road map to ensure trouble-free travel when the noise level picked up another notch.
She peered out over the lawn at the back steps on the off chance that Oliver's master might suddenly return. The dog would then, just as suddenly, scamper back, the racket would hopefully cease and she could go on with her work. After all, the prospect of shepherding the eccentric Curtises across the Atlantic was daunting enough without having to concern herself with whatever was transpiring above the trail.
But no such luck. No sign of Will Farrow, her mother's handyman, or his approaching pickup down the drive; no muscular, pale-yellow canine form bounding back down the slope to the spot where he belonged. Just the sounds of Oliver's incessant barking beginning to grate on her nerves.
Ordinarily, Emily would continue to let it ride. But given her mother's absence on her usual end of August break, and the way things were going lately, Emily found it hard to ignore the noise or just sit still.
Reluctantly giving in, Emily slipped on her windbreaker, left the cottage and in relatively no time was dodging the wetlands and clambering past the sprawling roots and stands of dripping trees that rimmed the path. With each passing second, her thoughts began to center on the rumor afloat about a Gordon Development Corporation and the Village Planning Commission.
More shouts to go with the echoing barks and squawks, and more dripping leaves and tangled underbrush as Emily gained on the verge. The surging bedrock, maples and spindly birch finally gave way to the half-mile-square expanse of pristine meadowland.
As she crested the rise, she caught the tail end of the melee. A hurled broken branch and a stick. Three or four wild turkeys still refusing to give ground lingered and squawked, their jutting beaks and flapping wings at the ready. Then a sudden retreat, ashen wingspans fully displayed, a few hops and a takeoff, swooping close to the ground and away like tattered gliders. All of this fused with Oliver's playful darting, pursuing the last of the sticks and branches as the man's curses dissolved to a single obscene gesture.
Then it grew still, save for Oliver's sniffing survey of the spoils.
Brushing himself off in the soupy mist, a stocky figure--thick neck, swarthy face, black sagging raincoat and dark baggy trousers—yelled out to no one in particular, "Hey, what is this? Can't a guy even walk around for crissake?"
She could have told him that the turkeys were simply foraging and he'd overreacted. But she didn't want to get into any protracted discussion about the ways of the wild. All she was after was a clue what the guy was up to; that and keeping Oliver from running off again so she could quickly return to something approximating normality.
Taken aback as he finally noticed her, the man changed his tone and said, "Oh, how you doing? This your dog, I take it?"
A few steps closer as it began to drizzle until Emily spotted the glittering gold GDC under his lapel.
"No," said Emily. "He's Will Farrow's."
"Will Farrow? Right, you mean the fix-it guy, staying at the house while he patches it up."
Though he was trying hard to be polite and friendly, his voice had a raspy, cynical edge and Emily didn't appreciate at all the way he was sizing her up and down. Judging from his cropped gray hair and deep nasal folds, Emily assumed he was in his early fifties. She also took him to be some kind of point man for the development company, the GDC.
Stepping back onto a slight outcropping, apparently self-conscious that Emily was a good two or three inches taller, the man reached into an inside pocket and took out a few printouts. In turn, Emily held her ground, unfastened the collar of her windbreaker and pulled the hood over her head to ward off the increasing drizzle. All the while, Oliver kept trying to get someone's attention. He looped around, then sat and nuzzled his big blocky head against Emily's thigh, then looped around again.
"Ah," said the point man, smiling, jabbing his finger at the top of a second page, "I got you covered. You're the B&B owner's daughter, used to play a little soccer but now some kinda tour guide. Carting a few locals around spots in merry ol' England. How'm I doing?"
Unfazed by Emily's lack of response, he went on. "So, good, maybe you could be of some use. Seeing how your mom is off on some kinda busman's holiday. And her place is in need of—how should I put it?—deferred maintenance. But in this realty market and as far as the upcoming fall-foliage thing –I mean, what can I say?"
"Where did you get this information?" said Emily, itching to get to the upshot.
Ignoring her, he said, "So, for openers we got mom holing up somewheres at other B&Bs, which leaves how to reach her about an option."
"Option for what?"
Pocketing the printouts, nudging Oliver away and raising his voice, he said, "What are you, kidding me? Nailing a right-of-way. For the construction site, right where we're standing. But, hey, who needs an option if everybody's on the same page? The name so far is Lydfield Woods. Get it? Lydfield, Connecticut—Lydfield Woods."
Still getting no rise out of Emily, the point man added, "So, as long as we're at it, I would appreciate your take on this."
"My take is, you'd better go back to the drawing board."
"Obstacles, you mean. Right, exactly. So, back to the thing, back to everybody on the same page. I mean, how far do you have to go?"
The exchange broke off as Oliver dashed away into the drizzling mist. In no time, he returned with one of the tossed gnarled branches gripped in his teeth. The point man ignored him but Oliver kept it up. As a last resort, Oliver went straight up to him and pawed at his trousers.
Emily went over, hunkered down, turned Oliver's head till they were eye to eye and said, "Oliver, the man doesn't want to play. We're going home."
"Who me? Not a playful guy? Since when?" The point man flung the stick far back into the woods in the opposite direction of the sloping trail. Oliver's ears perked up as he dashed off again. The obvious ploy: using Oliver to keep Emily in place.
"So, maybe there's something I should know, some stone unturned before I make my move."
Impatient to get back but still more than curious, Emily said, "Are you still talking about options or what?"
"Come on, cut the tap dance. I'm talking Chris Cooper, head of planning, casts the deciding vote. I'm talking the old roofer guy and conservationist. I'm talking the issue, what he's got up his sleeve."
Emily didn't know what to say. From what she could gather, there was a veiled threat aimed not at the Planning Commission in general, but at a person who'd been like a father to her.
"I'm talking blowing the whistle, okay?" the point man went on. "Is that plain enough for you?"
Emily readjusted her hood and brushed the damp hair away from her eyes. "Go on."
Just then, Oliver returned with a new stick. Just as quickly, the man yanked the stick out of Oliver's mouth and pitched it way out of sight.
The fog hung a tad lower, cloaking everything in the near distance. Clueless, Oliver took off anyway, this time heading south toward the far reaches of the meadow where the ground sloped down again leading to the village green.
The point man's eyes hardened as more droplets ran down his face. "Look, I appreciate how you're jerking me around and don't back down even though we're alone up here. So seeing that you're about to go futzing off to England and we're both pressed for time, how about getting off it while I maybe do something for you?"
"Get off what?"
"Giving me a hard time, being of no help, that's what."
Tired of the game, Oliver returned stick-less. As the rain drizzle picked up another notch, he opted for a round of rolling on his back in the mucky saw grass.
Tired of the game as well, Emily said, "Okay, let's have it. Just what are you insinuating?"
"Come on, come on. We're talking ratcheting the grand list, lower taxes, new fire trucks, snow plows and all the infrastructure crap. So talk to me. Make it easy on yourself and everybody else. Give me the skinny on this Cooper guy before things get outta hand. You know what I mean?"
"You're serious. You're actually serious."
"What do you think, I'm one of your tourists? I got nothing better to do? Here, you want my card?"
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