The Felse Investigations Volume One: Fallen into the Pit, Death and the Joyful Woman, and Flight of a Witch

The Felse Investigations Volume One: Fallen into the Pit, Death and the Joyful Woman, and Flight of a Witch

by Ellis Peters

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Overview

From the author of the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, the first three mysteries in the Edgar Award–winning series about an English policeman and his son.
 
In the English village of Comerford, just on the border of Wales, it’s Det. Sgt. George Felse’s duty to keep the peace—and keep his fourteen-year-old son, Dominic, out of harm’s way . . .
 
Fallen into the Pit: The shadow of World War II still looms over the village of Comerford. Dominic finds the body of a German ex-prisoner of war and develops a dangerous interest in solving the case.
 
“Hypnotically good.” —Boston Sunday Globe
 
Death and the Joyful Woman: Dominic falls in love with an heiress who stands accused of bludgeoning a millionaire beer baron to death with a magnum of champagne.
 
“Felse . . .is a fully-dimensioned character who plumbs the experiences of his personal life to understand his case.” —Publishers Weekly
 
Flight of a Witch: Felse handles a strange case involving the disappearance of a local beauty, a fatal robbery, and witchcraft.
 
“A tension-laden, consistently intriguing puzzle.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504051361
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 02/13/2018
Series: The Felse Investigations
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 1570
Sales rank: 170,012
File size: 19 MB
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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.
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

CHAPTER 1

The Time —

I

The war ended, and the young men came home, and tried indignantly to fit themselves into old clothes and old habits which proved, on examination, to be both a little threadbare, and on trial to be both cripplingly small for bodies and minds mysteriously grown in absence. Things changed overnight changed again next day. Nobody knew where he stood. Even the language was different. At the 'Shock of Hay' you could hear goodnights flying at closing-time in two or three tongues besides English. Blank-eyed, blond youths with shut faces worked side by side with the hard old men in the beet fields, and the sons of the old men, coming home laboriously with the distorted selves they had salved from the blond youths' embraces all over the world, wondered where they had been, and to what country they had returned. But they had known for some time, the most acute of them, that if England meant the country they had left, and Comerford the village, this would be neither Comerford nor England. Fortunately the names meant much more than their own phases, and the lie of the land, obscured behind many changes, remained constant even at this pass.

Those who came back first had the easiest time. Those who had still to linger a year or more of their time away in the tedium of suddenly purposeless armies, or adjust themselves to the fluid situation of other people's crumbling countries, limped home with more bitter difficulty, to find the fields full of displaced persons, and the shops of a new lingua franca evolved for their benefit, the encrustations of pits suddenly congealed into the nationalised mining industry, whole hills and valleys turn out by the roots under the gigantic caresses of surface mining machinery, and in the upper air of the mind every boundary shifted and every alignment altered. It was all a bewildered young man could do to find his way around this almost unrecognisable land. The old did not try; they sat in the middle of it in contemplation, waiting for the eyes to adjust their vision, and the legs to acquire the mastery of this new kind of drunkenness. Only the young had so short a time before them that they could not afford to wait.

They tried, however, to cram themselves back into the old round holes, and mutilated their unaccountably squared personalities in the process. Time eased the fit for some; for some, who had sent their minds home ahead of their bodies, the adjustment was neither long nor unwelcome, though it could not be without pain; to some the whole of Comerford seemed now only a green round hole, not big enough to hold them. They despised it both for what had changed in it and for what had remained the same, because they had lived too long enclosed in the changes and monotonies of their own natures, and could no longer distinguish great from small.

If day-to-day life could halt at such a time, and give all the lost people time to get their bearings, things would be easier; but it went on steadily, or rather unsteadily, all the time, full of all the old snags and spiteful with new ones. Colliers' sons went back to the pits, and found themselves working side by side with Ukrainians, Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, Letts, whose wartime alliance was just falling apart into a hundred minor incompatibilities; and soon came even the few screened Germans out of their captivity to fester among their ex-enemies without being able to reunite them. Nice-looking, stolid young men, hard workers, a good type; but they did not always remember to keep the old 'Heil Hitler!' off their tongues; and the leftward-inclined youngster with Welsh blood in his veins and a brother dead in some stalag or other was liable to notice these things. Maybe he picked a fight, maybe some older and cooler minds broke it up, maybe he just got his room at the hostel rifled and his books shredded, or maybe some evening in the dark, pepper found its way into his eyes. No one knew how. No connection with the war, of course; the war was over.

Meantime the topsoil of two small fields and an undulation of rough pasture and furze was scoured off and piled aside in new mountain ridges, and the grabs lifted out the stony innards of Comerford earth to lay bare the hundred and eighty thousand or so tons of shallow coal which the experts said was to be found underneath. As if the earth cried, instant outcry broke out over the issue, one faction crying havoc for the two fields, a smaller and less vociferous group welcoming the levelling of the furze mounds, and tidying of the ground long ago mauled by shallow dog-hole mining. But the small army of weathered men swarming over the site, performing prodigious surgical operations with uncouth red and yellow instruments, took no notice of either party in the controversy. They assembled about them every conceivable variety of weatherproof and wear-proof ex-Army clothing, making their largeness larger still under leather jerkins and duffle coats, and so armoured, they busied themselves in making hills and valleys change places, the straight crooked and the plain places rough. But when they moved on they left a level dark plain, and though inimical voices clamoured prophetically of soil made barren for a lifetime, and drainage difficulties had to be stabbed at twice after an initial failure, in one year grass was growing delicately over the whole great scar. Poor grass beside that which formerly grew on the two small fields, but beautiful, improbable grass over what used to be furze, bramble and naked clay.

And from the returned young men themselves, wise and foolish, willing and unwilling soldiers in their time, proceeded outward through their families and their friends shuddering cycles of unrest, like the tremors before earthquake. They came trailing clouds of tattered and tired glory which they could neither repair nor shake off. The unimaginative were the luckiest, or those whose supposedly adventurous Army career had been spent largely among mud and boredom and potatoes; but some came haunted by the things their own hands had done and their own bodies endured, growths from which no manner of amputation could divide them, ghosts for which Comerford had no room. They had been where even those nearest to them could not follow, and daily they withdrew there again from the compression and safety of lathe and field and farm, until the adjustment to sanity took place painfully at last, and the compression ceased to bound them, and was felt to be wider than the mad waste in the memory. Then they had arrived. But the journey was a long one, and others besides themselves might die on the way.

There was, for instance, Charles Blunden, up at the Harrow. His was a mild case, but even he had fought his way in a tidy, orthodox fashion twice across North Africa and all the way north through Sicily and Italy to his demob. In 1946, and had then to become, all in a moment, an upland farmer. Or Jim Tugg, who came home three times decorated, trailing prodigious exploits as a paratrooper before and after Arnhem, and shrank suddenly to the quiet dark shape of a shepherd on Chris Hollins's farm. Who believed in it? When he went by, double his prewar size, light as a cat, close-mouthed and gaunt-eyed as a fate, the ground under his noiseless tread quaked a little, and small boys expected lightnings to come out of the ends of his fingers and dart into the earth.

Or, of course, Chad Wedderburn, whose legends came home before him, the extremest case of all. Captured in Italy, bitterly ill-used by both Italians and Germans after three attempts to escape, at the fourth attempt he had succeeded, if that could be called escape which smuggled him across the Adriatic from one mortal danger to another. For the rest of the war he became a guerrilla at large all over the Balkans, living from minute to minute, tasting all the splendours and miseries of the mountain life among the Yugoslav patriots, sharing their marathon marches, their hunger, their cold, their sickness and wounds, for which there was seldom medical attention and almost never drugs or anaesthetics. He knew, because he had had to use daily during that last year, all the ways of killing a man quietly before he can kill you; and because he had been an apt pupil he was still alive. It was as if an explosion had taken place in Comerford the day he was born, to fling fragments of violence half across the world.

When he came back in 1949, after a year of hospital treatments in many places, and another year of study to return to his profession, it was an anticlimax, almost a rebuff. He looked much thinner and darker and harder than pre-war, but otherwise scarcely different; he was even quieter than he had ever been before, and of his many scars only one was visible, and that was a disappointment, just a brownish mark running down the left side of his jaw from ear to chin. The village tried to bring him out of his shell by drawing him into British Legion activities, and he astonished and offended them by replying decisively that personally he had been a conscript, and he thought the sooner people forgot whether they had worn a uniform or not, the better, in a war which had involved everybody alike, and in which few people had had any choice about the manner of their service.

But this fair warning meant little to the boys at the grammar school, when he returned there at length as classics master. They had caught a reputed tiger, and a tiger they confidently expected. They conferred together over him with excited warnings, and prepared to jump at the lift of his eyebrow, and adore him for it. But the tiger, though its voice was incisive and its manner by no means timorous, continued to behave like a singularly patient sheep-dog. They could not understand it. They began to test the length of that patience by tentative provocation, and found it elastic enough to leave them still unscathed. His way with them was not so unreasonably mild as to let these experiments proceed too far, but he let them go beyond the point where a real tiger might have been expected to pounce. On a natural human reaction to this disappointment they began to fear, prematurely and unjustifiably, that what they had acquired was merely the usual tame, doctored, domestic cat, after all. But the legend, though invisible, like the potential genie in the bottle, still awed them and stayed their courage short of positive danger. With tigers, with cats for that matter, you never know.

II

The Fourth Form, who had tamed more masters than they could remember, discussed the phenomenon in perhaps the most unwise spot they could have found for the conference, only ten yards from the form-room window, in the first ten minutes of break, while the latest manifestation of Chad Wedderburn's mildness was fresh in their minds. They had sweated Latin and English under him for the whole of the summer term, which was just drawing to its buoyant close, and got away with everything except murder. That he managed none the less to get the work out of them, and to keep a reasonable and easy order, without resorting to sarcasm or the cane, had escaped their young notice, for work was something on which their minds took care not to dwell out of the classroom. The fact remained that he was not the man they had thought him.

'If you'd planted a booby trap like that for old Stinky,' said the largest thirteen-year-old, levelling a forefinger almost into Dominic Felse's eye, 'he'd have skinned you alive.'

'It wasn't for old Wedderburn, either,' said Dominic darkly, 'it was for you. If he didn't come in so beastly prompt to his classes he wouldn't walk into things like that. Old Stinky was always ten minutes late. You can't rely on these early people.' He chewed his knuckles, and frowned at the memory of flying books and inkwell, thanking heaven that by some uncanny chance the lid of the well had jammed shut, and only a few minute drops had oozed out of its hinges to spatter the floor. He cocked a bright hazel eye at the large youth, whose name was Warren, and hence inescapably 'Rabbit' Warren. 'Anyhow, you try it some time. It felt like being skinned alive to me.'

'Sensitive plant!' said Rabbit scornfully, for he had not been on the receiving end of the drastically quiet storm, and had in any case little respect for the power of words, least of all when delivered below a shout.

Dominic let it pass. He felt peaceful, for people like Rabbit seldom interested him enough to rouse him to combat. All beef and bone! He looked small enough when he was turned loose with Virgil, Book X!

'But when you think what he's supposed to have done,' said Morgan helplessly, 'what can you make of it? I mean, stealing about in the mountains knocking off sentries, and slipping a knife in people's ribs, and marching hundreds of miles with next to nothing to eat, and rounding up thousands of Germans –'

'And now he's too soft even to lick a chap for cheek –'

'Never once – not all the term he's been here!'

'Of course, we could be rather small fry, after all that,' said Dominic, arrested by the thought.

'Oh, rot, he just hasn't got the guts!'

'Oh, rot, yourself! Of course he has! He did all that, didn't he?'

'I tell you what,' said Rabbit, in very firm tones, 'I don't believe he did!'

The circle closed in a little, tension plucking at them strongly. Dominic unwound his long, slim legs from the boundary railing and hopped down into the argument with a suddenly flushed face.

'Oh, get off! You know jolly well –'

'We don't know jolly well one single thing, we only know what they all say, and how do they know it's true? They weren't there, were they? I bet you it's all a pack of fairy-tales! Well, look at him! Does he look like a bloke that went around knocking off sentries and rounding up Germans? I don't believe a word of it!'

'You can't tell by looking at people what they are, anyhow. That's just idiotic –'

'Oh, is it? And who're you calling an idiot?'

'You, if you think you can just wipe out old Wedderburn's record by saying you don't believe it.'

'Well, I don't see! I don't believe he ever killed all those Jerries they say he did. I think it's a pack of lies! I don't believe he ever saw Markos, I don't believe he ever was knocked about in a prison camp, see? I don't believe he's got it in him to stick a knife in anyone's ribs. I bet you he never killed anybody!'

'I bet you he did, then! Who do you think you are, calling him a liar? He's worth ten of you.'

'Oh, yes, you would stick up for him! He let you off lightly, didn't he?'

'That's got nothing to do with it,' said Dominic, meditating how little he had ever liked Rabbit's face, and how pleasant it would be to do his best to change it.

'Well, all right, then, I still say it's a big lie about his adventures – all of it! Now! Want to make something of it?'

'It wouldn't settle anything if I did fight you,' said Dominic, tempted, 'but I'm considering it.'

'You don't have to, anyhow, do you? Not you!' And he raised his voice suddenly into the taunting chant from which Dominic had suffered through most of his school years: 'Yah, can't touch me! My dad's a p'liceman!'

Dominic had finished considering it, and come to a pleasing decision. His small but solid fist hit Rabbit's left cheek hard on the bone, and distorted the last word into a yell of quite unexpected delightfulness. Rabbit swung back on his heels, and with the recovering swing forward launched himself head-down at his opponent with both arms flailing; but before they could do each other any damage a window flew up in the classroom, and the voice of Chad Wedderburn himself demanded information as to what the devil was going on out there. Everybody ducked, as though to be shortened by a head was to be invisible, and the latecomers on the outside of the circle faded away round the corner with the aplomb of pantomime fairies or stage ghosts; but enough were left to present a comical array of apprehensive faces as supporting chorus to the two red-handed criminals pulled up in mid-career. They all gaped up at the window, made themselves as small as possible, and volunteered not a word.

'Felse and Warren,' said the unwontedly awful voice, crisply underlined by the crook of the selective forefinger, 'up here, and at the double! The rest of you, beat it! And if I catch any of you fighting again, take warning, I'll have the hide off both parties. Get me?'

They said, in one concerted sigh, that they had indeed got him.

'Good! Now scram!'

It was popular, not classic, language, and it was certainly understanded of the people. They departed thankfully, while with mutual recriminations Dominic and Rabbit scrambled up the stairs and arrived panting before the desk at which Chad sat writing. He looked them over with a severe eye, and then said quietly: 'What you fellows argue about is your business strictly. Only what you fight about is mine. Understand me once for all, fighting is something not to be considered short of a life-and-death matter, and something I will not have about me on any less pretext than that. It proves nothing, it settles nothing, it solves nothing, except the problem of who has the most brawn and the least of any other qualities. There could be times when nothing else would serve, but they're not likely to occur in the school yard – and they always indicate a failure by both sides, wherever they occur.'

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Felse Investigations Volume One"
by .
Copyright © 1964 Ellis Peters.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

FALLEN INTO THE PIT,
Chapter 1: The Time —,
Chapter 2: The Place —,
Chapter 3: — And the Loved One,
Chapter 4: First Thoughts,
Chapter 5: Second Thoughts,
Chapter 6: Feathers in the Wind,
Chapter 7: Treasure in the Mud,
Chapter 8: The Pursuit of Walking-Sticks,
Chapter 9: Babes in the Wood,
Chapter 10: Treasure Trove,
DEATH AND THE JOYFUL WOMAN,
FLIGHT OF A WITCH,
Preview: A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs,
About the Author,

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