It’s always a pleasure to feature Helena Dixon on my blog. This time we have a taster excerpt from Murder at the Beauty Pageant, book 12 in the Miss Underhay murder mystery series out on 2 May 2023 and published by Bookouture.
Thank you so much for hosting me, I’m thrilled to give you a taster from Murder at the Beauty Pageant, which is set in Dartmouth, May 1935. It features the silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. Very timely with the upcoming coronation of King Charles III! The final of the Miss Europe beauty pageant, won by Miss Spain took place in Torquay in June of that year.
Here’s what is says on the back of the book to set the scene!
Kitty Underhay is awarding first place… to murder.
Spring, 1935. Newlywed Kitty Underhay has been enlisted by her old nemesis Mrs Craven to help organise the Miss Dartmouth Jubilee pageant at the Dolphin Hotel. Being bossed around by her arch enemy is not quite what Kitty had in mind for the start of her married life, but she’s excited to launch the glamorous show. Sparkling smiles are quickly replaced by audible gasps however, when one of the girls goes missing during the interval…
When pretty Peggy Blaine is discovered dead. Kitty can’t help but notice that none of the other contestants seem particularly shocked. Can jealousy over a sash and a diamante tiara be a motive for murder?
But when she discovers the threatening notes the young women have received, Kitty enlists her husband Matt to figure out who’s scaring the competitors. However, before Matt can speak to them, another entrant turns up dead after an apparently accidental overdose. Taking part in a beauty pageant seems to have turned into a fatal occupation!
The daring duo are sure that someone close to the girls is responsible. But can they sort the harmless face powders from the fatal poisons before it’s too late? Or will Kitty and Matt find they are next to be crowned… with death?
Here is the extract!
Matt ran a finger under the stiff, white collar of his evening shirt. The room was stuffy and filled with cigar smoke from the other gentlemen seated around the various mahogany tables. He never particularly enjoyed these kinds of events, but it was good business practice to attend. He would far rather have spent the evening at home with Kitty.
There had been much discussion about the Miss Europe beauty pageant to take place in Torquay in a few months’ time. Matt suspected it would be a quite different event to the smaller, more decorous parade that Mrs Craven was planning for the celebration of the King’s jubilee.
The meeting eventually closed and everyone began to move, ready to take their leave.
‘Ah, Captain Bryant, allow me to introduce you to Sir Vivian Hardcastle. Sir Vivian, Captain Matthew Bryant.’ Matt found himself being addressed by the mayor who was accompanied by a tall, distinguished-looking man with a deep tan and faint flecks of silver at the temples of his dark brown hair.
He had seen Sir Vivian’s name in the newspaper the previous day in a report about a series of lectures the man was intending to give at the museum.
‘I’m delighted to make your acquaintance, sir.’ Matt shook hands with the Egyptologist as the mayor slipped away to greet another of his acquaintances.
Sir Vivian glanced about as if keen not to be overheard by any of the other men in the room. ‘I say, Bryant, I hear that you’re a private investigator?’
‘Yes, sir, that’s correct.’ Matt’s interest was immediately piqued.
‘I wonder if I might have a word in private?’ Sir Vivian gave another furtive glance around the rapidly emptying room.
‘Of course.’ Matt led the way discreetly to a darker corner of the room, out of earshot of any of the remaining attendees. ‘How may I help you?’
Sir Vivian drew his silver cigarette case from his pocket and extracted a small, dark, exotic-looking cigarette before proffering the case to Matt.
‘No, thank you, sir.’ Matt waited while the man lit up and took his first inhalation of smoke.
‘It’s a rather delicate family matter. My stepdaughter, Victoria, I rather fear she may have become involved with bad company.’ Sir Vivian paused and took another pull from his cigarette. ‘You appreciate this is all confidential? The girl is quite touchy and does not get on with my other daughter, her stepsister, Araminta. I don’t know how much of this is Araminta stirring up mischief or if Victoria is indeed in trouble.’
‘I see, what kind of trouble, sir?’ Matt asked.
‘Drugs, cocaine to be precise. The curse of the modern age.’ Sir Vivian grimaced. ‘Victoria assures me that she takes nothing stronger than aspirin, but I have travelled extensively, and I know the signs.’
‘I see. What is it that you wish me to do, sir?’ Matt was curious about what the man wanted. He obviously had something in mind.
Sir Vivian finished his cigarette and extinguished it in a large crystal ashtray. ‘I want you to find out who might be supplying her with the stuff.’
‘Have you spoken to the police at all, sir?’ Matt knew that his old acquaintance Inspector Greville, now newly promoted to chief inspector, had extensive knowledge in this department.
‘No, not yet. If you can determine who it is, then I’ll be happy to let the police take it further. My main concern is Victoria.’
‘And do you have your own suspicions as to who may be supplying her, sir?’ Matt asked.
Sir Vivian shook his head. ‘Nothing definite. It could be any of that deuced crowd she runs around with. I want this to remain a private matter, for my daughter’s sake and of course, my own. We have a reputation to maintain.’
Matt nodded. ‘Very well, sir, I’ll make some discreet inquiries.’ He had the feeling that Sir Vivian had a very good idea who he suspected but wasn’t prepared to share his suspicions at this point.
‘I’ll find a way to introduce you to the girls,’ Sir Vivian said.
Matt agreed, and with a faint feeling of misgiving, watched his new client walk away. There was something that seemed just a little off with Sir Vivian’s request.
Sounds most intriguing! Have a lovely publication day, Helena. Mx
About Helena Dixon
Helena Dixon is the author of the best-selling Miss Underhay murder mystery series and lives in Devon. Married to the same man for over thirty-five years she has three daughters, a cactus called Spike, and a crazy cockapoo. She is allergic to adhesives, apples, tinsel and housework. She was winner of The Romance Prize in 2007 and Love Story of the Year 2010 as Nell Dixon.
You can find Helena on Instagram, on Twitter as @HelenaDixon and on Facebook Nell Dixon | Facebook
Murder at the Beauty Pageant is available as ebook, audiobook and paperback and already has 5* reviews on Netgalley.
Buying Link Here – https://t.co/NgZxQO7251
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