The Voice From The Grave by Jessica Mann
Jessica Mann's characters think and behave like real people.....an intelligent, literate novel about revenge and injustice, and a thoroughly absorbing read.” Susanna Yager, Sunday Telegraph
Why has a total stranger called Lesley Cameron left everything she owns to the psychiatrist and author Dr. Fidelis Berlin? And what did Lesley Cameron have to do with Murdo Wood Wolferstan, now a high court judge, who is the son of Fidelis's oldest friend and mentor?
Drawn reluctantly into a tangle of deceit and delusion, Fidelis finds that suddenly she has to question decades-old relationships. Could it be possible that one of her dearest and closest confidants is a murderer? A double murderer, in facr, as a long forgotten novel reveals, who is driven to kill an old flame in order to protect his sterling reputation and bury all memories of a crime committed in error in their youth?
In looking into the mysterious legacy, Fidelis finds she has opened a Pandora's box of obsessive passion and burning revenge, and is brought face to face not only with Lesley's life and violent death, but also her own emotions as she slowly comes to terms with illness and mortality.
First encountered in A Private Inquiry, Fidelis is reunited in The Voice From The Grave with her extended circle of friends and colleagues.
The critic Philip Oakes has called The Voice From The Grave 'exceedingly civilised, but at the same time pungent, personal and bracingly honest .
Here's Chapter 1.
Autumn, 1998. If the higher ranks of the judiciary had one thing in common that morning it was that their feet hurt. Even the few women walking in the procession, who probably had some experience of wearing nylon tights and shallow leather pumps must surely be wishing they were in their usual shoes. And as for the rest of the obsolete gear, the sooner they got rid of it the better - at least, so the most recently appointed of the high court judges was thinking. Collar bands and gowns had been his working uniform since day one, when he entered chambers as a pupil. God knows they were uncomfortable and inconvenient enough, but at least they did serve a purpose, being an easily recognized badge of the profession. But he could not imagine what made anybody think it was still a good idea to wear knee breeches and lace ruffles with the third millennium only two years away. Did they really suppose that a parade of eighteenth century fancy dress, garnished with gaudy swathes of mauve and scarlet silk, would increase respect for the majesty of the law? And as for the full-bottomed wig! On a day like this, in perfect autumn sunshine and as warm as it had been at the height of an (admittedly wretched) summer, sweat was running down his forehead and the back of his neck. The unaccustomed shoes slipped at the heel and a blister was forming. As the judges processed across the square they were watched by a remarkably polite crowd; American and Japanese tourists, admiring the pageant of Olde Englande's pomp and circumstance, as well as a few local stragglers. The TV cameras were rolling as the Lord Chancellor, The Lord Chief Justice and The Master of The Rolls led their brethren in the annual show of judicial dignity, signified by scarlet robes, purple sashes, ermine and horsehair. Murdo Wood-Wolferstan had spent his career in the law so its pomposities were familiar. Nonetheless, the temptation to giggle or break ranks was very strong. Under the robe and the knuckle covering lace of his shirt, he dug his nails into his palm until it hurt. ‘Bloody hot,' muttered the man beside him. Murdo returned a sardonic quotation in a kind of hiss. ‘And my feet are killing me.' ‘Your first time. Aren't you Wood-Wolferstan?' ‘That's right.' ‘Enjoying it?' ‘Not much.' ‘And just think of the years of hard labour it took you to get here.' Individuals were hard to tell apart under the horsehair headgear and only their make-up distinguished the women from the men. Murdo did not recognize his marching partner, a man half Murdo's height and twice his girth who looked ancient and had probably not achieved the bench before he was in his late fifties. But they were appointing judges earlier these days, giving them a chance to earn their pensions before reaching the recently imposed retirement age. Murdo was forty seven. His acceptance of elevation to the bench had been a sacrifice in one way, since the pay was a fraction of his huge earnings at the bar, though with Gemma doing so well at the bank, it didn't really matter. And he hadn't relished surrendering his freedom as his own boss - since barristers were self employed practitioners - to the impositions of the Lord Chancellor's administrative staff, who would direct his movements and control his timetable. Even in the five months since his appointment, he had already found the civil servants oppressive. However, the appointment was a milestone in Murdo's career plan, and Gemma would never have let him refuse it. She looked forward to his having more predictable working hours, and she was unashamedly thrilled to have a title. On the morning of the day he received the offer of appointment she had ordered a whole lot of cards engraved. Lady Wood-Wolferstan. My lady. Your ladyship. He'd heard her trying it out behind the locked bathroom door. Murdo didn't expect to be stuck doing routine work for very long. Two years trailing round the towns and judges' lodgings of provincial England would be as much as he could take. But he'd always been a high flyer and was tipped for rapid promotion to the superior court. He'd never denied the accusation (made by his tutor at Oxford and repeated often since) that he was the most ambitious man anyone could hope to meet. Even his very earliest school report (handwritten letter from the play-group leader) remarked on the two year old's determination to succeed. All later assessments, including a league table originally published in a professional journal and copied in the Sunday newspapers, had invariably confirmed that Wood-Wolferstan would go far and as a matter of fact he had every intention of getting right to the top. When he did there were going to be some changes round here, he had numerous ideas for shaking up the antiquated system, beginning with the flummery. No more horsehair, for a start. There'd be no need to abolish The Lord Chancellor's Breakfast and the formal inauguration of the legal year though it would only be acceptable in a less archaic form. But there was still a place for tradition, and in more sensible clothes he'd have enjoyed being part of this reverend parade with its deferential onlookers, so awed and cowed that once when they were crossing Parliament Square, a judge had called a friend's name, ‘Neil!' and half the onlookers had immediately knelt down. Someone was calling him now. ‘Murdo.' ‘Who's that?' he thought. His own guests, having attended the service in the Abbey, had gone ahead and were inside Westminster Hall with the wives - no, he corrected himself, spouses - already wearing their best bibs and tuckers; not Gemma, whose work prevented her attendance, but the children up from school for the day and Fidelis Berlin whom he'd invited because his mother couldn't come. He didn't recognize the woman who was waving at him. ‘Dodie, over here!' Only one person had ever called him Dodie. And she was just about the last person on earth he wanted to see today. Murdo lengthened his stride so as to move forward into a thicket of scarlet robes, between a couple of stout parties. ‘Murdo, I need to talk to you.' This was intolerable. Murdo met the eye of one of the policemen who were marching, in full fig, beside the judges. The officer nodded. The place was crawling with cops, some in sparkling uniforms but far more, one assumed, in disguise. Quite right too. As a wag remarked in the robing room, drop a bomb on us lot and you paralyse the system of justice for a generation. ‘Murdo!' He was careful not to show that he had noticed her. He kept his face impassive and eyes front, disguising from the curious bystanders that he was the one to whom this madwoman was calling. That was the fact of the matter, he thought. She was clearly deranged. Using peripheral vision he observed two people closing in on her, a man in jeans and a sweat shirt and an air-hostess type with bouffant curls, and heard the woman say, ‘Let go of me! What do you think you - ‘ And then they were safely inside the gates. The police officers were not letting any of the public through. ‘I take it that was a member of your fan club.' an elderly judge remarked with a giggle that sounded as though he'd actually said ‘tee-hee.' ‘I didn't recognize her. An aggrieved litigant, I should think,' Murdo replied. ‘Ah, the professional hazard.' ‘She was nothing compared to the one who turned up at Oxford Assizes last year,' another judge remarked. ‘That one had a bag full of soggy tomatoes. Luckily the stain hardly showed on my robes.' Smiling, Murdo contributed an appropriate, if untrue, anecdote about a man with a placard who had followed his former head of chambers from court to court for a year. Smoothly, they moved in to the building. All over now. But that woman - damn her. Damn her, how dare she suddenly appear after all these years? What the hell did she think she was up to?