M Beaton: There Goes The Bride

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M Beaton There Goes The Bride
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    There Goes The Bride
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    Детектив / на английском языке
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There Goes The Bride: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Agatha's former husband James is engaged to be married to a beautiful, young woman and Agatha has been kindly invited to the wedding. To take her mind off this, Agatha decides she has fallen for Sylvan, a Frenchman she met at James' engagement party. To distract her still further she decides upon a holiday and flies to Istanbul, where unfortunately she bumps into James and his fiance not once but twice – convincing him she is stalking them. So when the bride is murdered on her wedding day, naturally Agatha is Suspect Number One – but then matters are turned on their head when the dead bride's mother engages Agatha to take on the case of her murdered daughter! And very soon Agatha's own life is in danger while she tries to solve the mystery of the corpse bride while fighting off (halfheartedly) the advances of a very attractive and determined Frenchman!

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‘You think you know me but you don’t!’ snapped Agatha and rang off.

In the taxi on the road to the boat the next day, Agatha asked Erol about himself, but she barely listened as he explained he owned a small publishing company. In her mind, Agatha was already leaning on the rail of a white cruise ship while a handsome man stood beside her and looked into her eyes as the moon rose over the Black Sea.

The ship was a shock. It was a Russian rust bucket. In vain did they search for another ship; Agatha’s ticket was only valid for the tramp steamer.

‘It’s all right,’ Agatha said to Erol. ‘It’ll get me there. Thanks for all your help.’

She was assisted by the crew over piles of goods. The decks were blocked with cargo. As she stumbled down to her cabin, she noticed that even the fire exits were also blocked with cargo.

Then Agatha realized to her horror that in her haste she had forgotten to say goodbye to Erol or get his card. She dashed back up on deck but Erol had gone.

The other few passengers were Ukrainian women, and the crew were all Russian. None spoke English. Soup was all Agatha could eat at dinner. The ship had not moved. She retired to her cabin and read herself to sleep.

When she awoke in the morning, the ship was still at the port. At last it set sail. At first it was bearable as she was able to stand on a tiny bit of the deck that was free of cargo and watch the palaces on the Bosphorus slip past, but once the boat reached the Black Sea and there was nothing but water to look at for miles, Agatha retired to her cabin, wondering whether she would survive the journey. She had booked a hotel, the Dakkar Resort Hotel in Balaclava, on the Internet before she left the hotel in Istanbul, and had asked for a taxi to meet her on arrival.

Two days later, when Agatha felt she could not bear another bowl of soup – the only thing she found edible – and shuddered at the prospect of another visit to the smelly toilets, the ship finally arrived.

As she struggled through customs with the Ukrainian women and their massive shopping – some had even bought mattresses – she saw to her relief a taxi was waiting with a driver holding her name up.

Oh, the blessings of a civilized hotel with a smiling beautiful receptionist and a well-appointed room. The receptionist said, ‘I was horrified when you e-mailed us about arriving on that boat. It’s the Gervoisevajtopolya, famous for being awful. I didn’t think you would make it here in one piece.’

Agatha showered and changed. She then went down to the reception and asked the one who had welcomed her to arrange a guide and interpreter for the following day to take her to the site of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

But the next day proved to be a waste of time. In vain did she insist she wanted to see the site of the Charge, which had taken place during the Crimean War on twenty-fifth October 1854, where 118 were killed and 127 wounded. In vain did she take out her notebook and say she wanted to get to the valley between the Fedyukhin Heights and the Causeway Heights.

The pretty young translator, Svetlana, persevered with the guide, but he took Agatha to one Soviet World War II memorial after another, all in the Russian Communist style, with muscular young men pointing in all directions, while even more muscular women gazed balefully at some unseen enemy.

The sympathetic Svetlana said she would arrange for her tour bus to pick up Agatha the following morning. And so eventually Agatha found herself on the battlefield. But it was a plain covered in vineyards. No skeletons of horses, no abandoned guns, it stretched out mild and innocent under the sun, as if the most famous cavalry charge in history had never taken place.

Agatha returned wearily to the hotel. Her favourite receptionist gave her a welcoming smile. ‘We have two English guests who have just arrived,’ she said. ‘They might be company for you. A Mr Lacey and a Miss Bross-Tilkington.’

He’ll think I’m stalking him, thought Agatha. Of all the rotten coincidences! ‘Get me my bill,’ she said. ‘I’m leaving now. And don’t tell these English visitors about me. How the hell do I get out of here?’

‘You can get a plane from Simferopol Airport.’

‘Call me a cab!’

James Lacey wandered over to the window of his hotel room. His fiancée, Felicity, was asleep. He was feeling some twinges of unease. What he loved about Felicity was the way she looked at him with her large eyes, appearing to drink in every word.

But on the plane journey, when he was enthusiastically describing the cavalry charge, he felt Felicity shift restlessly in her seat. For the first time, he wondered if she were listening to him. ‘The order to charge was given,’ said James, ‘and a spaceship landed in the valley and some little green men got out.’

‘Fascinating,’ breathed Felicity.

‘You weren’t listening!’

‘Just tired, darling. What were you saying?’

James heard a commotion down below the hotel. He opened the window and leaned out. A woman had tripped and fallen getting into a cab. He only got a glimpse but he was suddenly sure the woman was Agatha. A familiar voice rose on the Crimean air, ‘Snakes and bastards!’

James ran down the stairs and out of the hotel, but the cab had gone. He took out his mobile and phoned his friend, Detective Sergeant Bill Wong, back in the Cotswolds.

‘Bill,’ said James, ‘did Agatha say anything about being upset by my engagement?’

‘No,’ said Bill. ‘I honestly don’t think she was.’

‘But she was just here in Balaclava. Agatha has no interest in military history. I hope she isn’t chasing after me.’

Bill was also a loyal friend of Agatha’s. ‘Just a coincidence,’ he said. ‘You must be mistaken.’

James re-entered the hotel and asked the receptionist if a lady called Agatha Raisin had just checked out. The receptionist said firmly she could not give out the names of other guests.

Agatha decided on returning to Istanbul to take that much-needed holiday and forced herself to relax. She visited several of the famous sites: Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, the Spice Market where James Bond got blown up in From Russia With Love, and the Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosphorus. At the end of a week, she phoned her friend Mrs Bloxby. After telling Agatha the village news, Mrs Bloxby said, ‘James called round looking for you just after you left. He’s got a contract to write a series of guidebooks on battlefields. He was just off to the Ukraine and after that, Gallipoli. How is Istanbul?’

‘Great. Eating lots and reading lots.’

When Agatha rang off, she took out her BlackBerry and Googled Gallipoli. The site of the disastrous Allied landings by the New Zealand and Australian and British forces in 1915 was in Turkey!

Should she go? Common sense told her to leave it alone. Fantasy conjured up an image of dazzling James with her knowledge. He wouldn’t know she had been in the Crimea. She could backdate her visit and say she had been there the year before. So, you see, James, I really am interested in military history. You never really knew me.

Agatha thought briefly of phoning up the Dakkar Resort Hotel to see if James was still there, but decided that he must be. He had a lot of research and writing to do.

Agatha managed to find a taxi driver who spoke English. The Allied landings had taken place all the way down the Gallipoli Peninsula, so she settled on ANZAC Beach, site of the Australian and New Zealand troop landings to the north of the peninsula, by the Aegean Sea. The taxi driver assured her it was only a few hours’ trip from Istanbul.

The rain was drumming down by the time she reached the famous beach. She took photographs, she read the moving dedication on a monument to the fallen soldiers of both sides, and then wearily got into the cab thinking dismally that she should have stayed in Istanbul and just read up on the place.

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