On a train ride across Northern Italy, a quartet of young English tourists en route to Venice are charmed by a kindly older fellow passenger. Inviting them into his first-class compartment, their new friend, Signore Galassi, beguiles them with stories, anecdotes, and fascinating facts about the lush Italian countryside.
But once the train deposits them all in Turin, a dark cloud settles over the Brits’ carefree holiday. After discovering that their elderly traveling companion has been brutally attacked and robbed, the distraught students vow to scour this unfamiliar city and find his assailant.
Unbeknownst to the young British visitors, they have something in their possession that ties into a greater, even more terrible crime. Their hunt could have unexpected and very deadly consequences, for now their quarry is hunting them.
The Edgar, Agatha, and Gold Dagger Award–winning author of the Brother Cadfael Mysteries is “highly recommended for those who still like a proper five course whodunit with all the trimmings” (The Sunday Times).
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About the Author
Ellis Peters is a pseudonym of Edith Mary Pargeter (1913–1995), a British author whose Chronicles of Brother Cadfael are credited with popularizing the historical mystery. Cadfael, a Welsh Benedictine monk living at Shrewsbury Abbey in the first half of the twelfth century, has been described as combining the curious mind of a scientist with the bravery of a knight-errant. The character has been adapted for television, and the books drew international attention to Shrewsbury and its history.
Pargeter won an Edgar Award in 1963 for Death and the Joyful Woman, and in 1993 she won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an annual award given by the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She was appointed officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1994, and in 1999 the British Crime Writers’ Association established the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award, later called the Ellis Peters Historical Award.
Read an Excerpt
Holiday with Violence
By Ellis Peters, Karl Kotas
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1952 Edith Pargeter
All rights reserved.
INTERESTING JOURNEY OF THE FIRST-CLASS PASSENGER TO TURIN
The train came round the curve of the line just as the long, wavering fingers of the morning reached out from behind the eastern rocks. A reflected light flowed hesitantly over the upper edges of the great ridge which climbed, somewhere to the south, into the spear-guarded bowl of the Aiguilles d'Arves; and the blue of the highest faces of rock flushed suddenly into iris, into rose, into liquid gold, one distant peak grasped firmly in the palm of the Midas-hand, and turned into a chrysolite, a coruscation of flame.
Peter, who had stumbled down the road to this early departure more asleep than awake, now became entirely and enthusiastically wakeful, and when he should have been scouting along the train for a vacant spot in the corridor, clawed out his camera and turned his back squarely on Italy in favour of the dawn on the Grande Chible. The other three, with rucksacks already hoisted on one shoulder, were snuffling along the track like hounds, even before the train had slowed. It looked worse than they had expected. Rows and rows of people standing in the corridors, heads nodding out like large, pale, heavy flowers in window-boxes, every doorway, as it opened, bulging and heaving softly with released humanity; but from all this convulsion of escape only one or two people descended.
'We'll have to shove in anywhere,' said Punch recklessly, and selected what he considered the least congested doorway, and heartily shoved. A babel of excited and inimical French broke over his head, but he was getting used to that; likewise, he no longer expected anyone to budge so much as an inch to let him in. They stood four-square, and one shoved. In this operation, and more particularly in hauling the girls aboard after him, a full-size ex-Commando rucksack was the best ally in the world. Where it passed painfully, Phyllida's slenderness could easily slither after, and Mab was only pocket size, and could practically wriggle in under the elbows of the enemy.
Punch hauled himself between the two plump women who stood in his way, and found a little more breathing space than he had expected. Ample for the four of them. He reached back for Phyllida's brown wrist, and pulled her up after him, and then leaned out for Mab; but she hung back at the last moment to look for Peter. She was always the one who did that, and it always infuriated the other two, who could never get ahead from one place to another fast enough to suit them, and resented having their progress checked by the brake of Peter's incalculable mental aberrations. Punch craned out from the doorway to look where Mab was looking, and there was the irresponsible child, straddling a luggage-trolley far up the long platform, with his camera glued to his eye, and far more interested in the jewelled mountain-tops than in the train to Turin.
Mab shouted, but she was not equipped for shouting against the formidable opposition of a French railway station, and her voice did not reach Peter. He completed his picture, turned his film, appeared to be considering more shots.
'Come on!' bellowed Punch, observing with misgivings a purposeful human tide which was sliding along the crowded train still questing for space, and washing every moment nearer to their coach.
'He heard you,' said Mab, rather reluctantly suffering herself to be drawn aboard. 'He waved!'
'Well, you get in, at any rate. He can take his chance.'
'He'll be all right,' said Phyllida peacefully. 'He always is. Never knew anybody fall on his feet like Peter does, considering he never looks where he's going.' She heaved a relaxing sigh, and eased her rucksack carefully down from her shoulder, smiling in brilliant but wordless apology upon a large Frenchwoman in a white hat, whose ample hip thrust back against the passing pressure viciously. 'Well, anyhow, we're in!'
Peter arrived on the run, too late by some thirty seconds to find even a toehold beside them. The tide, thinning as it came, had lipped at their doorway just ahead of him, and all they saw of him was a sudden eruption of bright blond hair and an unabashed grin, visible momentarily beyond the heaving shoulders of an entire French family. He gestured forward, shouted something which was lost in the general din, and padded on up the line.
Mab was upset. After all, he was the youngest of the party, and it seemed unkind to let him pile in somewhere on his own. She wriggled arduously towards the doorway.
'I'll go with him, and keep him company.' She meant it sincerely, as she always meant everything she said, but it was quite beyond her power to carry it out, for a strong current was running against her, and the doorway was occupied by two square French sons hoisting their enormous mother aboard.
'Like hell you will!' said Punch, holding her back by the arm. 'Don't be such an ass! Once you got out of here you'd never get in again. You stay where you are.'
'But Peter —! And he doesn't even speak French!'
'He doesn't need to,' said Phyllida, without a trace of sisterly anxiety. 'I keep telling you – the luck always sticks to him like jam. Anyhow, when we stop at Modane there'll probably be a long wait, and we shall find him all right then.'
It was reasonable to suppose that Phyllida knew her brother's capabilities, after observing them for seventeen years; but Mab was still uneasy. However, it was too late to do anything about it, for she felt the train already beginning to move again. The doors slammed. The station buildings, fawn and cement-grey as if for protective colouring among the bewildering planes of fawn and grey rocks which rose beyond, slipped slowly by, and dwindled into a single railing. The steel-blue roofs, the hard cream walls, the garden fences heavy with vines, the tall, slender, Italianate church tower, all the precarious Alpine artery of St. Michel-de-Maurienne narrowed and slid away behind.
Now all they could see from the window was a gaunt and stony river valley coiling alongside the track, its small flow of ice-blue mountain water strangled among piled rocks; and beyond it, the great, gaunt, sterile shelves of mountain climbing one beyond another out of sight, lightening from blue to paler blue in the distance, until they reached the direct transmuting sunlight, and became golden. Bonily beautiful, the Alps of Savoy folded themselves into the Alps of the frontier, straining towards Italy and the sun.
It grew warm very quickly in the crowded corridor, and everyone began to shed garments, stuffing the discarded wind-jackets and pullovers under the straps of rucksacks, since there was no elbow-room for packing and unpacking. Periodically, brave and impervious people made an infinitely slow way down the corridor to the end of the coach, stepping over children and luggage, undulating in and out of open doors, squeezing past fat women and emerging beyond them with almost audible pops. Inside the compartments French and Italian family parties had already begun to pack up the portable homes they had brought with them from Paris, the rolls of rugs, the little pillows, the baby's small string hammock for slinging between the luggage racks, the baskets of food and bottles of cider and wine. Mab could just see into the first carriage. The people there looked as if they had lived in it for three weeks rather than merely overnight, and had brought with them everything except the four-poster.
By the time they reached Modane the sun was well up, the sky brilliantly blue, and no cloud in sight. They drew rather suddenly alongside a very long white platform, heavily built over with official-looking sheds and offices, and already extremely populous. Small vociferous men in uniform dashed along the platform shouting unintelligibly, and as soon as the train stopped, every door was flung open, and hundreds of people began to pour out and add themselves to the hundreds already darting uneasily about on the concrete.
'Going to be an empty train,' said Phyllida, flattening herself into a doorway to let the whole population of the corridor flow by her. But her optimism was followed by a shadow of doubt. 'These people can't all live on the border. Punch, we don't have to change, do we? You said —'
'Not until Turin,' said Punch very firmly. 'Besides, the people in the compartments aren't budging. But there's something fishy going on, all the same. Can you tell what he's shouting?'
They all listened, but the peculiar shorthand of railway stations was too difficult for them to decipher, in French or in Italian. Punch leaned out of the window, and clutched at a passing porter; and having listened arduously and with a scowl of intense concentration, offered rather damp thanks, and turned glumly to hoist his rucksack.
'Come on, we've got to get out.'
'What, we have got to change, after all?'
'No, we have to find places in this train again afterwards – if there are any by then,' he said dubiously. 'It's the Customs and passport control examination. All those who haven't got seats on the train have to clear the corridor, and go through the Customs sheds on the platform. The lucky devils with seats stay right where they are, and the blokes come to them.'
Disgustedly but hastily they picked up their rucksacks and jumped down, to race along the platform and join the crowd already circling about the sheds. Phyllida, thrusting her wind-jacket under the straps, had almost dislodged the rolled-up fawn raincoat already buckled there, and when she began to run it uncoiled itself, and tried to trip her up. She tugged it clear, and continued to race after the others with the coat draped over her shoulder.
'I bet Peter's right up in front of the queue,' she cried as she ran.
But Peter wasn't. He was leaning out of a window in the train, placidly watching them run, and grinning over his calmly folded arms as they recognised him and pulled up to stare.
'Catching a train?' he asked sweetly.
'You can get out of there,' said Punch, not without satisfaction, 'and bring your things with you. And better make it nippy, or we shan't even get a toe in the door next time. All those who haven't got seats have got to go through the Customs sheds, and leave the corridors clear.'
'I know,' said Peter, 'but I have got a seat.'
'I've had one all the way. And there are four more in the same carriage. Come on in!'
'What did I tell you?' said Phyllida, beginning to giggle.
Punch had already turned to make a dive at the door of the coach, but at sight of it he halted again suddenly, and frowned up at Peter's bland smile. 'It's a first!'
'So what?' said Peter. 'I didn't notice. And I don't understand French.'
Punch had an arrogant conscience which disdained compromise, even where no rights were concerned except those which he did not acknowledge; but he had also, or conceived that he had, two girls on his hands, and they had been up since five o'clock, and it was a long journey to Turin, and even there they would only have begun the strenuous travels of the day.
'Anybody else in there?' he asked, hesitating.
'One old gentleman. He's all right, you don't have to worry about him.'
It was, in fact, too late to hesitate, for Phyllida was already on the train, and Mab was following her loyally. Women, of course, hadn't any consciences at all, and these two had been in league ever since they first went to the same high-school at eleven years old. So Punch hoisted his rucksack after them, and followed resignedly past four full compartments, and into the fifth, whither Peter beckoned them royally.
Two large hide suitcases were piled in the rack over the corner seat facing the engine, and under them, just looking up at the doorway with some surprise but no displeasure, sat a middle-aged gentleman, nursing a large brief-case against his side. He had a well-kept head of bright, short grey hair, and an innocently interested face, as smooth and pink-and-white as a child's; and his eyes, which wandered with a quick, welcoming intelligence over Phyllida, over Mab, over Punch in turn, were as blue as the sky over Italy.
Signor Arturo Galassi had been in the train since about eight o'clock the previous evening, and though the weekend journey between Paris and Turin was a mere matter of routine to him, he had never yet learned to sleep through it, and required, as a rule, some amusement beyond books or magazines to get him through it without boredom. Accordingly he had made it his habit to travel third-class when he was not carrying goods for his firm, and to involve himself in the affairs of the people who travelled with him. He liked people. It was an incurable weakness of his to like them, and no amount of disillusionments could teach him sense. In the third-class the company was almost invariably first-class, whereas in the first he had often found it either completely missing on the night train, or regrettably third-class. But this time he carried back from Paris merchandise too precious to be risked; he might even have reserved a whole compartment, and so secured complete privacy and absolute boredom, but for the consideration that such a step would only call attention to the nature of his charge. The risk among the poor, voluble and gay in the cheap coaches was, mark you, one in which he himself did not believe, and he would have taken his own valuables among them without a qualm; but the firm were nervous about their property, and in protecting it he punctiliously observed their standards, not his own.
At six-thirty in the morning, therefore, after ten hours on the train, Signor Galassi was feeling the want of human companionship; when suddenly the door of his compartment was opened by an insinuating hand, and the hand followed by a long, slim brown arm, and then a very young and demure face, several shades darker gold from the sun than the tow-coloured hair above it. The boy looked at him, not so directly as to catch his eye, which was willing to be avoided lest it should scare him away, but sufficiently sharply to find him harmless; and then came in jauntily but gently, very circumspect and adult in defiance of his attire, which was not calculated to add any years to his appearance or sophistication to his bearing, consisting as it did of a short- sleeved plaid shirt open at the neck, a pair of very short corduroy shorts, and a pair of sandals composed of the minimum of straps possible.
With grave deliberation he deposited in the rack an ex-Army rucksack, studded with badges, and dangling a pair of formidable climbing boots which bristled with triple hobs and grinned with clinkers; laid beside it a very new-looking camera in a leather case, and his khaki wind-jacket; and went neatly to sleep in the corner seat beneath them, with the aplomb of a bored puppy. Or perhaps this was strategy rather than sleep, at least for the first five minutes; but after that it was certainly genuine, for after that the soft, light snores began.
Signor Galassi let him sleep. Now at least he had someone on whom to exercise his mind after the staleness of the night; and there was surely no need to take defensive action against a stray English boy of about seventeen. Many Italians would have said American, being used to the idea that all who spoke English belonged to the dominant race; but Signor Galassi was not deceived. The rucksack, for one thing, was ex-English-Army, the climbing boots were something the Americans seldom sported, or at any rate seldom used, and these had been used a good deal, for the hobs were worn flat in the middle of the sole, and the uppers very much scratched. But the small material evidences were hardly needed. It was an English face, an English manner of intruding, not without grace for all its impudence; and besides, if he had been American he would probably, indeed almost certainly, have had a first-class ticket, whereas his dignified and austere entrance had made it quite clear that he possessed no such thing.
Signor Galassi liked having someone young and personable on whom to exercise his imagination. This boy would be still at school, he judged. Some student spending his summer holiday wandering about the mountains of Savoy and Italy; and what could be better? His own son was just turned seventeen, at much the same stage as this; and his daughters were in the early twenties; and if he had a decided preference for one kind of human creature rather than another, it was the young he liked best.
Excerpted from Holiday with Violence by Ellis Peters, Karl Kotas. Copyright © 1952 Edith Pargeter. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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