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A Corpse in Holy Waters

Lucy takes Aidan and his young daughter Melangell on a tour of holy wells in Cornwall. But she has something else on her mind. When Melangell sees "a dead man walking" outside the chapel of St Clether's well, Lucy knows that she is being followed. She eludes her pursuers only to come face to face with the "dead man" on the lip of St Nectan's falls. Now she is suspected of murder.

  Aidan resents the fact that he doesn't know the secret Lucy is guarding, but is determined to protect her. It leads him to share her danger. It is only when that danger threatens Melangell too that he realises he must get her away to safety.

   Lucy too is on the run. The police have not yet arrested her, but the threat is closing in from another, more sinister, quarter.

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 There was no one there.

   “He was here,” she said, with a touch of obstinacy.

    Lucy was now behind them. When Aidan turned, he saw her scanning the slopes    above them. The trees clustered more thickly here. He could not see past them.

    But Aidan himself went striding forward towards the little well house they had not yet explored. He bent to look inside. The water was deeper here than in the southern well.     He half expected to see a body slumped in it. There was only the gleam of coins again in the captured stream, pausing on its way into the chapel sanctuary, and the tiny ferns in the crevices of the stones.

    With a touch of impatience, he straightened up into the daylight.

   “There’s no one here.”

    Melangell still looked pale and scared.

    Lucy went down on her knees, speaking gently to the child. “Look, honey. What did you see? Why did you say there was a dead man outside?”

    Melangell pouted. Words normally came readily to her, pouring out in an excited chatter. But now she was having difficulty articulating her answers.

   “He looked dead.”

    Aidan put his arm around her. She was trembling slightly. “Who did? Just tell us what you saw.”

   “It was a tall man. And he had on a black suit and a very white shirt and a very red tie. But his face was white too, and his hair. Well, almost white. He looked as if he was dead, but walking.”

    Aidan could not help hearing the sharp breath Lucy drew.

   “You thought he was dead,” Aidan pressed Melangell. “But walking? Not lying down?”

    She shook her curls again. “No. He was standing. Well, sort of bent over, as though he was listening.”

   “Listening? Where?”

    She motioned with her head to the shadowed north wall of the chapel, where the stream entered at the base of the wall. “Outside the church. Right where we are now.”

    Lucy got to her feet slowly. “Did he say anything to you?”

    Again, that shake of the head. “No,” Melangell whispered. “He just put his finger to his lips. Like this. He didn’t want me to say anything. But I have.”

    Aidan hugged her close. “It’s OK, love. You did exactly the right thing.”

   “Who was he? He wasn’t really a dead man walking, was he?”

   “Of course not. I haven’t the faintest idea who he was. But he’s gone now. He’s not going to hurt you.”

    His eyes challenged Lucy over the girl’s head. He had not the slightest doubt that she had seen this man before. That she probably knew who he was. He felt a sudden flame of anger. Whatever was going on that had made her so edgy this morning, she should not have involved Aidan and Melangell.

    Or not Melangell, at least.

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Why I Wrote This Book

The sacred places of the British Isles have a special resonance for me. This book is set around the holy wells of Cornwall and Devon. I love the remote chapel at St Clether, where the stream flows through the sanctuary behind the altar. At St Nectan's Glen, the water leaps spectacularly from a hole punched through the rock. At Altarnun the pool is deep and murky. Mad people were said to be thrown in here for a cure.

  Each holy well has its own atmosphere and story. As Lucy and Aidan flee from one to the other, these sacred places come to life. Each has its part to play in the mystery which is unfolding.

  But it's not all about the past. I knew a young Afghan man whose life was in danger if he returned, because he had converted to Christianity. He had been refused asylum because he didn't know what fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Yet the Bible doesn't mention an apple. The judge's ignorance could result in that young man's death.

  Stories from the past and the present weave their way into this crime novel.

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