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Beaujolais Blood - Large Print Hardcover

Beaujolais Blood - Large Print Hardcover

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Book 2 in the Saint-Maurice Mysteries series

A locked room in a castle contains a dead body. Or does it?

Trapped in a medieval wine château, a fierce snowstorm raging outside. This is not how I imagined celebrating the Beaujolais Nouveau. A sparkling extravaganza had seemed the perfect escape from ordinary life in Saint-Maurice, but now I’m stuck with the local crème de la crème, who all hate each other.
What was supposed to be a festive evening of sipping wine by a crackling fire turns into a web of intrigue and suspicion. Tensions run high as accusations fly, but the guests are shocked into silence when one of them is found murdered in a locked room.

With no way out and the police unable to reach us, I’m forced to investigate not only who the killer is, but how and why they made the body disappear. The secrets and lies of the Beaujolais jet-set send me round in circles, but if I can’t solve this baffling puzzle, none of us will make it out of the castle alive.

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Beaujolais Blood: An unputdownable puzzle of a mystery (The Saint-Maurice Mysteries Book 2)
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  • Chapter 1: I thought you were supposed to be good at it

    I opened my eyes and screamed. Not that the sight was so hideous, but I had not expected the face of my assistant hovering over me when I woke up. His name was Thibault but everybody called him Beau, for very obvious reasons. Handsome as he was, I still didn’t want him to be the first thing I saw in the morning.

    Thibault staggered back, apparently also not expecting this reaction from me. He recovered quickly, however, and thrust my phone in my face.

    ‘Julie, keep your… your’ – he swallowed a swear word, which I appreciated – ‘phone with you. The thing has been ringing for ages. Woke me up at this indecent hour.’

    I glanced at my smartwatch, which I now realised was vibrating almost violently. Eight o’clock. I narrowed my eyes at him. ‘How did you get in?’

    He shrugged, rubbing his eyes and yawning while he made for the door.

    I sat up, bunching the duvet over my chest. ‘Thibault Fouquet, how did you get in?! I’m sure I locked the door last night.’

    He turned on a dramatic sigh. All blond youthful innocence, he spread out his arms. ‘So I picked the lock. You have the worst security around here. You should really do something about that. What if they steal your cameras?’

    ‘You know how to pick locks?’

    ‘Are you really surprised?’

    Come to think of it, I wasn’t. His family and I weren’t exactly on the same side of the law. That didn’t mean I couldn’t glare at him now for putting his dubious skills to use on my back door. He belonged in the room above my studio. Actually, though he’d been in there for the past month and a half, I still wasn’t sure he belonged there or anywhere else on my land.

    ‘Thank you for the phone. Now go back to your side of the property.’ I tried to make my voice sound icy, but he didn’t seem impressed. To top off my frustration, my phone chose that moment to start ringing again. It was my brother. Too unawake to keep the phone to my ear, I put him on speaker.

    ‘David, what is the emergency that you’re calling me about at eight in the morning? And by that I mean there had better be an emergency.’

    ‘I broke my ankle and lost my house key. Can you come and collect me from the train station?’

    ‘Right.’ I blinked to process whether this should constitute as an emergency. ‘How did you…’ Skiing. Good morning, brain. Thank you. He was on a skiing holiday. ‘Never mind. Let me get dressed and I’ll be there as soon as I can.’

    I hung up and dropped the phone on the bed. Then I fell back and turned over, pulling the duvet up to my chin.

    ‘You’re supposed to go pick up your brother.’ Thibault fled my bedroom when my pillow came sailing at his head.


    Twenty minutes later, my brother folded himself into the passenger seat of my car. I closed the boot and joined him in the front, turning the heat up high. The predicted early snow hadn’t fallen yet, but everything pointed to it coming.

    ‘I thought you were supposed to be good at it,’ I couldn’t help teasing.

    He grunted, not dignifying my taunt with an answer. I supposed it must be hard for the golden child to have something not go perfectly in his life. Though I was successful in my business, in my family I was just the girl taking pictures of other people’s bums. Yes, I’m a pin-up photographer, but the tasteful kind. No nudity, just ‘Whoops, did my skirt fly up?’. Sass, baby! I love it.

    But my family loves it less. Except maybe for my great-aunt, whose house I now own, and of course my mum, because she’s my mum, everyone looks down on my chosen profession. The Belmains are an old and distinguished family and we do not lower ourselves to this kind of standard. You should hear my uncle go on about our history and the time we had ties to the British court.

    Sometimes I wish my dad was still alive. He was about the only one who understood me. But then, if he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have rebelled against my family and married a man whose sweet side reminded me of my dad but whose dark side took over as soon as we were married. Long story short, he’s doing time for fraud and I’m spending time trying to fall back into favour with my family.

    This tall-dark-and-handsome next to me, however, is a whole other story. Twenty-nine – two years younger than me – a paediatric surgeon, never been married, never been divorced, always done everything by the book. Naturally, he’s completely un-standable. For normal people, that is. My family can stand him and then some. But then, our family is pretty much the golden family in our village of Saint-Maurice. Probably one of the reasons why I still haven’t felt at home there since I came back.

    David stared out the window for the ten-minute drive back through the undulating Beaujolais countryside. With the bare vines ready for winter, the vineyards always looked as if they were bracing themselves. ‘If we can get through this unnecessary cold patch, we can start again in spring,’ they seemed to say. Was I projecting my own feelings onto them? Very well possible! Why don’t humans hibernate? Nobody wants their pasty complexion captured for posterity, so my business wouldn’t suffer. But then there’s people like David, who actually seek out the cold. Just so they can break their ankle.

    He was still silently staring. This was nothing out of the ordinary, though. Our lives were so different that we didn’t have much to say to each other. Usually. Today, I wished he’d at least tell me about his holiday.

    As I got back in the car after opening the big metal gates to his drive (because why would you modernise?), I ventured a question. ‘So how were the slopes?’


    Ça alors, you are grumpy.’

    ‘What did you expect? I was supposed to be out there, having fun with my friends. Instead, I’m hobbling into my big empty house, and Anne is probably cosying up to Yohan right now.’

    That, I was sure, brought a glimmer to my eyes. ‘You were showing off? For a girl?’

    His jaw muscles tightened. He’d said too much and knew I was not going to let this go for a long time. So childish, I know. But this was my perfect brother. It was my duty as his elder sister to point out every flaw he showed.

    But when he hauled his surly face out of my car, took his crutches from the back seat, and made an attempt at dignified hobbling, I took pity on him. My brother lived in a big, centuries-old house overlooking the village, full of stairs and thresholds. All by himself. How was he going to cope with all those obstacles on crutches? I rounded the car and shoved my shoulder under his arm. Since he was quite a bit taller than me, I was an easy support.

    ‘Thanks,’ David mumbled.

    Built in the eighteenth century by Joseph Belmain, La Grande Maison resembled a child’s drawing of a house – a rectangle with a bunch of windows and a triangle for the roof. Except the triangle had its tip cut off and the proportions were massive. The golden yellow stones so common to the region had been smoothly cut, contrary to the rough stones most houses were made of. Though I wouldn’t want to live here all by myself, knowing that the house was still in our family always filled me with a sense of pride.

    Entering through the side door so David wouldn’t have to climb the steps to the entrance, I led him through a little corridor to the kitchen, where he sank down on a chair.

    ‘So… do you have something like a guest bed to set up downstairs?’

    ‘I’ll sleep on the couch.’

    ‘All right, I’ll make you some coffee and then I’ll bring down some bedding.’ And some clothes. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing joggers outside of the gym, but jeans weren’t going to fit over that cast.

    He nodded, and I set to work in silence. His cupboards were almost empty, which shouldn’t have surprised me. But I remembered these cupboards from when we came here at Christmas as kids. The cupboards were always overflowing then, though now I realised that must have been the case only at Christmas. My great-uncle had lived here alone, much like my brother now did.

    Leaving David with a steaming mug, I went upstairs but then realised I didn’t even know which room my brother used. I opened a few doors, all of them leading to dusty rooms filled with sheet-covered furniture – some antique, some just old. While I knew David wasn’t here for much more than sleeping, the sight of La Grande Maison in such a state of disuse brought a sadness to my heart. Not much I could do about it, though. David was always either working or out with friends in Villefranche or Lyon. I guessed not many of them wanted to come all the way out here.

    At last, I located David’s bedroom and went downstairs via the grand staircase in the hallway. This, at least, was dust free. The carvings on the bannisters showed the opulence this villa had once displayed. The house had been built around 1750 but had survived the Revolution more or less intact. Much of the gilded glamour had since faded, though, or been traded in for more modern conveniences. I say more modern, because the last change to the house and its interior had been right after the Second World War. And then only to eliminate every trace of the Nazis who had occupied it on the invitation of that family member whose name shall never more be mentioned. See? I wasn’t the only one bringing shame to the family. But in a weird way, I took courage from this guy. At least I wasn’t as bad as him.

    By the time I’d made up a bed on the couch in the salon and joined David in the kitchen, I’d also made a phone call.

    ‘I’ve hired you a temporary domestic helper.’

    His eyebrows lifted, then fell. ‘You’ve what? I don’t need help. I just need to heal.’

    ‘There’s no food in the house and there are steps everywhere. How are you going to keep it all clean over the coming weeks?’

    Glaring at me, he opened his mouth for a retort that stuck in his throat.

    ‘She’ll be here this afternoon. Her name is Maëline, and you are going to be nice to her.’

    ‘I’m always nice,’ he growled.

    ‘Right. Call me if you need me.’

    ‘I won’t need you. But… don’t you want some coffee or something?’

    I paused at this unexpected display of civility. Tempted to accept, I then saw us just sitting here, staring at each other. ‘I still have to put my face on.’

    He peered at my face. ‘But you’re wearing make-up.’

    ‘This? This is nothing! Bare minimum for emergencies.’

    He threw his hand up in defeat and hid his face in his mug.

    For once, I thought some show of affection might be in order, so I put my hand on his shoulder. Let’s not go crazy. ‘I’ll go get you some breakfast. Anything else you need?’

    ‘No. Thanks.’ It sounded so sad that I really felt for him then.

    ‘Be right back.’

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