A Taste of Death by H.V. Coombs – extract

Today I’m pleased to welcome H.V. Coombs to the blog. H.V. Coombs’ novel, A Taste of Death was published by Avon on 24 July 2017.

Avon have kindly allowed me permission to share an extract from the book with you.

Not being too busy suited me. I felt that I would rather take a low footfall and turnover on the chin and work through the bad times of January and February, growing organically, than start out when things traditionally went well. Battling adversity, well, I was kind of used to that. And it was undeniably pleasant to wake up in the flat above the restaurant and savour the silence.

For the last two years I had been living in noisy central London kitchens, eighteen-hour days, cramming as much experience as I could in with kids who were twenty years my junior. It was a steep learning curve. My one-bedroomed flat in Kentish Town had been equally noisy. And prior to that, my rock-bottom, my time spent banged up at Her Majesty’s pleasure, had been far from relaxed.

I also didn’t mind the fact that I had hardly any personal effects in the flat that came with the restaurant. Not now that Mrs Cope’s stuff had gone. It wasn’t just the furniture that she had removed. She had taken not only the lampshades, but the lightbulbs too. That seemed a bit excessive, but, I reflected, Mrs Cope was a thoroughly vindictive woman.

Still, I was enjoying the space. Just as well since I had so much of it. Uncluttered by things I couldn’t afford, I pretended I was enjoying the minimalist life. Who needs tables and chairs and a sideboard? Who needs a bed and a chest of drawers? Who needs a wardrobe, I wasn’t going to Narnia.

I led the police into the restaurant area, gave them a table, asked them what they wanted to drink – two cappuccinos for the PCs and a double espresso for the DI – and busied myself behind the counter.

The two uniforms were festooned like paramilitary Christmas trees with the tools of their trade, batons, Tasers, radios, other bits and bobs of equipment. They clashed horribly with the chintzy furniture of the restaurant which I couldn’t yet afford to replace.

I brought them their coffees. They looked me over in a markedly hostile way. Perhaps they missed Mrs Cope. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t from round here. Or maybe they just didn’t like my face.

Outside the windows of the tearooms the village of Hampden Green carried on its peaceful, unremarkable existence. The winter rain beat down unceasingly.

Through the glass I could see: the green itself (or the common as it was sometimes called); the children’s play area; the fitness/arts studio; twenty or so houses and the village pond. There was also a pub, the Three Bells, a rough kind of place with a pool table. It was one of two pubs in the village. Houses of various shapes and sizes fronted on to the green. The road bent around to the left out of sight, leading to the King’s Head, the other village pub.

The two pubs were indicative of the social divide of the place: BMWs and Mercedes at the King’s Head, pick-up trucks and vans at the Three Bells.

In short, a typical Chilterns village. But carrying on the good old country traditions of surly hostility to incomers.

‘What brings you gentlemen to Hampden Green?’ I asked. The uniforms glanced expectantly at the DI, their spokesman. He had a tough, good-humoured face, slightly battered and quite tanned. He also had a powerful physique under his suit, running slightly to middle-aged fat, and a very obvious ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. He looked hard as nails.

He stood up and pointed out of the window.

‘You see that house, the one with the blue door?’

I could, and I did. I nodded.

‘That’s my place.’

It was said more in the tone of a warning than anything else. That’s my house, this is my turf, this is my patch. Like a dog cocking its leg, the DI was marking his territory. He looked at me in an intimidating way to underline the message.

About the book

The first murder happened while I was making meringues

When Ben Hunter moves to become head chef at the Old Forge Caf in the quiet village of Hampden Green, a tricky recipe for egg-based desserts isn’t the only thing he gets embroiled in. As he struggles with a whisk in his first week, he gets an unexpected visit from DI Slattery there’s been a murder and he’s a suspect.

Ben resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery, and he soon discovers that this sleepy Chilterns village is covering up a whole lot more than an appetite for sweet treats.


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