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“I want to catch them. To do that we’ve got to lead them on. Now listen to me.”

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Together they looked down at the inert sprawling figure of a man fantastically dressed in red-and-white-striped pyjama trousers, with a red sash belt and a white silk shirt open at the neck.

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It had been so quickly done that he felt almost as if a little knife had actually flashed by him and stuck, quivering, in the door at his back.

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Murder in the poisoned bosom of a genteel, if alarmingly dysfunctional, family in the English countryside.

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“We’ve managed to head off the Press men so far. But that won’t last. We can’t escape publicity, and the reading public enjoys murders.”

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“Not content with mucking up my front garden with corpses, you dare to suggest that the wretched creature passed out in my house!”

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“What earthly grounds are there for believing it to be murder! Great Scott, man! Accidental drowning is tragic enough! And the young lady, Miss Torrington, could swim like a fish too!”

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The plot takes Stephen on an amazing journey of subterfuge, secret codes, nightclubs, spies, rural England and romance.

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“Murder’s an ugly thing!” Detective Inspector Haig said. “Maybe you’ll not want to attend the funeral.”

As the door closed, Thelma said, “I know one funeral I wouldn’t mind attending.”

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“Jiminy! He’s going to fish for him.”

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Why should a holidaymaker, sitting to enjoy a game of village cricket, suddenly meet with death in the shape of a flying bullet?

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“I think you had better telephone for the police,” he said. “This woman has been poisoned.”

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At what point in the life of Edward Packman did the Angel of Death put his finger on him and say “You are mine!”?

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Rex Harrison’s fifth – but not last – wife, Elizabeth said of him: ‘I was very fond of Rex before we were married, and even more fond of him after we were married – it ws the bit in between that was so difficult.’

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‘I’m Scarface. I’m just about ten times as hard-boiled as Johnny Lovo ever thought of being. I’ve bumped off six or eight myself and another one – especially a rat like you – wouldn’t mean a thing in my young life. Get me?’

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Iain stood for a few minutes on the little bridge that crossed the burn and looked at the house—he felt that he had betrayed it. No people save his own had ever lived in the house, and now he had sold it into slavery. For three months it would shelter strangers beneath its roof, for three months it would not belong to him.

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Frances was free. She had enough money for her holiday, and when it was over she would find useful work. Her plans were vague, but she would have plenty of time to think things out when she got to Cairn. One thing only was certain—she was never going back to prison again.

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There is so much War News in News Bulletins, in Newspapers, and so much talk about the war that I do not intend to write about it in my diary. Indeed my diary is a sort of escape from the war . . . though it is almost impossible to escape from the anxieties which it brings.

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Miss Clutterbuck would like me to run the bar—no, it can’t be that—run the car, which has seen its best days but is still useful for shopping. Grace has told her I am patient and tactful, so (as she herself is neither the one nor the other) she thinks I am the right person to look after the social side.

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Sometimes it is difficult to see clearly in what direction one’s duty lies (and especially difficult for people like myself with a husband in one part of the world and children in another) but Tim and I, talking it over together in cold blood, decided that I ought to go home.

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But the servants! Anything might happen to them. They might go in a train to Woolwich and meet the love of their lives, or be murdered almost for the asking. Not that one wanted to be murdered exactly, but there was frustration in being denied the possibility.

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‘The trouble with you, Anne, is that you’re always imagining things.’ Who had said that? Probably mother. Or the governess before she left to get married. How disagreeable, and it was all the fault of the sub-conscious. . . . Why didn’t the sub-conscious ever turn up things like: ‘Anne, how beautiful you are looking today.’

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‘As far as I am concerned, Aunt Violet, I don’t want another penny of your money. I can go out and earn my bread’ and she saw a distinct picture of herself working her fingers to the bone and being seduced by goodness knows whom.

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As I waited for the carriage I realized that whereas before I had been accustomed to think of her as a selfish and often foolish woman I now regarded her as a veritable ogress.

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