The Shortest Journey: The Third Mrs. Malory Mystery

The Shortest Journey ($12.95, 182 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-055-5) is the third book in a cozy mystery series by Hazel Holt. Mrs. Malory returns to investigate a rich widow’s disappearance after her daughter pressures her mother to sign over a large inheritance. The dauntless sleuth delves beneath the peaceful surface of village life to uncover what happened to the woman she once called her friend.

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Original Publication Date: 1992

Mrs. Edith Rossiter, a rich matron, also has a wealth of greedy relatives–a cold-blooded daughter, a wastrel son, and a desperate sister. Because she is in excellent health, none of them can hope to inherit anytime soon … So when Edith vanishes from Taviscombe’s finest nursing home, the police suspect the worst, despite the lack of evidence. Mrs. Rossiter was a close friend of Mrs. Sheila Malory, who as usual applies her skills as an amateur detective to delve into the lives of the missing woman and her hopeful heirs. Was Edith addicted to sleeping pills? What did the mysterious couple seen in Edith’s company want from her? The truth will be stranger and more startling than even Mrs. Malory could have possibly imagined.

Book Three in A Mrs. Malory Mystery

Hazel Holt was born in Birmingham, England, where she attended King Edward VI High School for Girls. She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to work at the International African Institute in London, where she became acquainted with the novelist Barbara Pym, whose biography she later wrote. She also finished one of Pym’s novels after Pym died. Holt has also recently published My Dear Charlotte, a story that uses the actual language of Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra to construct a Regency murder mystery. Holt wrote her first novel in her sixties, and is a leading crime novelist. She is best known for her Mrs. Malory series. Her son is novelist Tom Holt.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Professional people are getting dreadfully lax nowadays,’ Mrs Dudley said, spreading honey on to a scone with a slightly tremulous hand. ‘Do you know, Dr Masefield came to see me the other day wearing a sports jacket!’

I expressed suitable horror at the enormity of this sartorial lapse. I have found, over the years, that it’s generally easier to agree with Mrs Dudley’s pronouncements rather than to present any other point of view, which she would, in any case, totally ignore.

‘When I was a girl,’ she went on, ‘Dr Campbell—he was Scottish, but from a very good family, his mother was a cousin of the Earl of Dunbar, I believe—wore a frock-coat. And, even after the war, Dr Browning always wore a dark suit.’ She wiped the traces of honey off her fingers with a small, finely embroidered linen napkin. ‘I asked Dr Masefield if he was going fishing, but he appeared not to take my point.

Mrs Dudley is perhaps the most difficult of what my son Michael calls my Coven of Old Ladies, but since she is the mother of my best friend, Rosemary, I do try to visit her fairly often. And in a way, in spite of certain irritations, I find it comforting, as a middle-aged widow, to step back into the past and be with someone who remembers me as a child and still thinks of me as a young person. It’s pleasant, too, in what has become for everyone these days a very busy and often stressful life, to go out to tea occasionally in the old-fashioned way. Tea with Mrs Dudley is always a traditional occasion with bread and butter, scones (in the summer) or crumpets (in the winter), home-made jam and at least three kinds of cake made by her elderly slave Elsie, whose Victoria Sandwich is acknowledged to be the finest in the whole of Taviscombe.

‘Dr Masefield is not particularly satisfactory in other ways,’ Mrs Dudley continued. ‘He completely failed at first to diagnose what was wrong with me when I had that terrible gastric trouble last year.’

That trouble, as Rosemary told me with some asperity, was caused by Mrs Dudley eating four scones, thickly spread with strawberry jam and clotted cream, followed by a large slice of coffee and walnut cake, and Dr Masefield’s final diagnosis (‘A touch of gastric flu—there’s a lot of it about just now’) had been, given his knowledge of Mrs Dudley’s intractable determination to ignore all advice she didn’t wish
to take, a masterpiece of diplomacy.

‘You have Dr Macdonald, of course,’ she went on. ‘I did go to him for a short time but he was never what I would call satisfactory.’

Mrs Dudley, as a private patient (‘I believe you get what you pay for in this life and I do feel that one’s health is too important to be left in the hands of the—what is it they call it?—the National Health Service’), tended to shop around, as it were, for her medical advisers. Fortunately Taviscombe, because it is a seaside town with a high proportion of geriatrics, has a great many doctors to the square mile. Mrs
Dudley has worked her way through most of them by now.

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