- Author: M Morris
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Preface to Murder
An Oxford Murder Mystery
Bridget Hart Book 6
M S Morris
This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
M S Morris have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Published by Landmark Media, a division of Landmark Internet Ltd.
Copyright © 2021 Margarita Morris and Steve Morris
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
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The golden stonework, tall arched windows and elaborately vaulted ceiling of the Bodleian Library’s Divinity School made a lofty setting for a literary event. Bathed in the warmth of the late evening sunlight, the audience seated inside the medieval hall clapped politely as the spokesperson for the Oxford Literary Festival – a rather formidable lady in a tailored black trouser suit – concluded her health and safety briefing and welcomed the writer and interviewer to the podium.
Michael Dearlove – greying but still rakish in appearance, and well known for his award-winning articles in The Guardian and other left-leaning publications – was arguably the more famous of the two people now ascending the platform, but it was the writer and academic, Diane Gilbert, that everyone had come to hear. Dearlove’s task this evening would be merely to pose questions and steer the conversation around her debut book. No doubt the audience was hoping for an interesting and thought-provoking discussion.
From her vantage point standing at the back of the fifteenth-century hall – the oldest part of Oxford’s world-famous university library – Detective Inspector Bridget Hart had a good view of the academic who was now making herself comfortable in one of the two chairs placed at forty-five degrees either side of a low table on which the festival organisers had arranged two glass tumblers and bottles of mineral water.
Diane Gilbert crossed her long legs and leaned back in her seat, surveying the audience from on high. She was one of those exceptionally tall women who made Bridget acutely conscious of her own diminutive stature. At almost six foot, surely Diane didn’t need to wear those towering heels that only served to elevate her even more above her fellow humans?
Bridget estimated the writer to be about sixty years of age, but so well groomed that she would cast many a younger woman into the shadows. Her hair, coloured in shades of dark blonde with subtle highlights, was cut into a layered bob. Her cheekbones were sharp, her eyebrows plucked professionally to perfection, and there was no sign of that sagging jawline that betrayed the age of so many women in later-middle life. Bridget strongly suspected the work of cosmetic intervention in keeping Diane’s glowing skin so ice-rink smooth. The woman looked as if she worked out regularly too, her lithe and supple figure displayed to advantage in the understated designer dress she wore with effortless elegance.
Another reason for Bridget to dislike her.
The New Year was now far from new, and three months on, Bridget’s well-intentioned resolutions to eat less and exercise more had been consigned to the realm of wishful thinking. A healthy diet and regular visits to the swimming pool seemed incompatible with the job of police detective. At least that was her excuse, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.
But it wasn’t simply Diane’s lithe figure and immaculate presentation that made Bridget feel so uncharitable towards the woman. She wasn’t so small-minded as to resent an attractive woman. Nor was it Diane’s height, since almost everyone Bridget encountered was taller than her. No, the fact was that in her brief meeting with the writer before the talk, Bridget had found her to be rather cold and supercilious, not to mention surprisingly ungrateful that two members of Thames Valley Police were giving up their evening to “watch over her” as Chief Superintendent Grayson had put it to Bridget earlier in the day.
‘She’s received a death threat,’ Grayson had told her that morning when he’d summoned Bridget into his office and inquired if she had any plans for the evening. As it happened, it was the school Easter holidays, and Chloe, her teenage daughter, was visiting her father – Bridget’s ex-husband, Ben – in London. Jonathan, Bridget’s boyfriend, was away in New York on business. Was “boyfriend” the right word to use when she was in her late thirties (she had turned thirty-nine the previous month, but was still in a state of denial) and Jonathan already in his forties? It was Chloe who now had a boyfriend, yet another state of affairs that Bridget was still trying to get used to. As for Jonathan, “friend” didn’t convey the true nature of his relationship to Bridget, and “partner” suggested some kind of professional acquaintance. “Romantic partner” sounded altogether too pretentious. If Bridget had been more daring, she might have referred to Jonathan as her “lover”, but that would have made her sound like a character from a cheesy romantic novel. She would just have to stick with “boyfriend” and try not to look embarrassed whenever she said it.
‘Plans, DI Hart? Hmm?’ pressed Grayson, and Bridget realised that her thoughts were wandering. She had fully intended to spend her evening alone catching up with a boxset on Netflix and finishing off a half-drunk bottle of Moscato and a slice of chocolate gateau from the patisserie on Banbury Road, but she didn’t think the Chief Super would regard that as a pressing engagement. ‘No sir, no plans at all.’
‘I’m assigning you to watch over her,’ said Grayson, and Bridget got the impression that his response would have