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The opening of Murder at the Lighthouse.

Murder at the Lighthouse


Under the Lighthouse

The autumn high tide discarded Susie Bennett under the lighthouse, on the beach she’d avoided for twenty years.

A fierce autumn wind whipped across Exham beach, driving sand and rain in Libby Forest’s face. It tore at her hood as she trudged across the expanse of deserted beach. The locals knew better than to brave this morning’s weather. Libby shivered. Newly arrived in Exham on Sea, she’d underestimated the strength of the storm. She tugged her hood closer, as the wind snapped strands of wet brown hair across her face.

No wonder Marina, one of the handful of people who’d welcomed her to the town, had jumped at her offer to walk Shipley, the Springer Spaniel. Excited by the storm, Shipley pulled at the lead, dragging Libby towards the lighthouse.

She’d never seen a building like it. White-painted, perched on the sand on nine wooden legs, the lighthouse looked hardly strong enough to withstand a breeze, never mind this gale.

The dog ran around Libby, wrapping the lead round her legs. She stepped out of the tangle and hesitated. The dog pulled harder and her arms ached. Marina had forgotten to mention the animal’s lack of training.

Could Libby let him run off some of his energy? She didn’t want to lose Marina’s pet. It seemed hard enough to be accepted in a town like this, where everyone seemed to know other people’s business, and Marina was chairman of music club and the history society. Her opinion counted in Exham.

‘I’ll chance it,’ she told the dog. ‘You’re pulling my arms out of their sockets.’

Free from his lead, the animal raced in excited circles, twirling and spinning, ears alternately flat against his head or standing at right angles, like aeroplane wings.

As Libby squinted into the wind, Shipley skidded to a halt, right by the lighthouse. She ran to catch up, and he barked, whiskers quivering, head pointing.

‘What’s that?’ Libby gasped as she reached his side. ‘Looks like an old sack. Still, we’d better take a closer look.’ The tide had receded, almost out of sight, leaving a layer of mud surrounding the lighthouse. It stuck to Libby’s boots, dragging her down, sucking at her feet as she picked her way to the shapeless bundle, testing every step.

‘It’s a person. A drunk, I suppose,’ Libby said. ‘We’d better wake him. He’ll freeze, in this weather.’

The drunk lay awkwardly, half supported by one of the lighthouse legs.

Libby braced herself for a mouthful of abuse from the drunk, and shook one of the leather-jacketed arms.

The drunk slid noiselessly to the sand. The spaniel nosed it, whining. ‘Quiet, Shipley.’ Libby squatted beside the body, brushed sopping wet hair from an icy cheek, and searched the neck for a pulse. ‘It’s not a man, it’s a woman.’

Murder at the Lighthouse