Well, it’s taken me a long time to get the next Devonshire Mystery ready.

It’s been a long road, and it’s a long book. Very long.

Today, I’m sharing the first part of chapter 1. This is just between us, so you’ll need to be a member of the site and logged in to read it in full.

The woodland pictured is one of my own photos, taken on a local walk, and I think it gives you an idea of the setting for this chapter.

I hope it gives you a flavour of Dan and Alan’s next adventure, and maybe it will whet your appetite.

A Must-Have Murder – A Snippet

Chapter 1

Alan ran through the forest, his thigh muscles cramping, sweat slicking his back, his chest, his scalp. The crisp air of early spring did nothing to cool him, and his breath rasped in his throat, every exhalation a low moan of pain. But he couldn’t stop to get his breath back, couldn’t slow down.

Ahead, a shadowy figure raced into the distance, sometimes vanishing in the shadows or hidden by a curve in the trail. He was getting away, and Alan couldn’t allow that. He had to catch him.

Alan threw back his head and gasped for air, pouring everything he had into a headlong dash. Arms pumping, feet pounding the dirt, he urged his tortured body onward. I can do it, he thought. I’m gaining on him.

The trail was rougher here, the path littered with loose stones and fragments from broken branches. Alan scanned the ground as he ran, but the dappled shadows made it hard to see, and the sweat from his brow stung the corners of his eyes. He blinked, lifted a hand to wipe his eyes, and that was all it took.

In mid-step his left foot caught on something, and he almost fell, but he spread his arms and twisted his body, keeping his balance. His momentum carried him forward, but his next stride was clumsy, and his right foot hit the ground at an awkward angle. A jab of pain jolted through his calf. He ran on, but each time his right foot met the trail, the pain in his calf intensified as if the muscles were being torn apart.

“Oh hell!” Alan had no choice but to stagger to a halt, wincing with every step. He pressed his hand against the nearest tree trunk, and took the weight from his right leg, staring down at it, half expecting to see the signs of some terrible injury.

There were footsteps on the trail, growing closer, slowing as they approached, and Alan looked up to see the man he’d tried so hard to catch. This was it: the moment he’d been dreading. He’d failed, and now he’d pay the price.

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