A Testament of Murder by Vivian Conroy first came on my radar after reading that this has an Agatha Christie vibe to it (A mix of And Then There Were None and Crooked House, apparently) and seeing as I am planning to read a lot of Agatha Christie this year, I got excited when I was asked if I wanted to be involved in this tour!
A dying billionaire decides on a cunning and ruthless plan. At midnight every day, he appoints a new heir to his fortune. If he dies within the 24 hours before the next midnight, the money will go to that person.
But his beneficiaries aren't normal people. Men who he has crossed, women he has deceived, distant relatives he has wrong. Each with their own dark reasons to want the money and are will to go any lengths to get it. And all that's stopping them is a retired Scotland Yard investigator who must stay two steps ahead...
Like I said, this is blog tour and I have an extract to share. Hopefully, this will wet your crime-solving appetite. And before I hand it over to the extract, I would like to thank Ellie at Canelo for inviting me onto this tour!
Oh, if you want more info on Testament of Murder, check out the Canelo's website or if you want to say to the author, Vivian Conroy, pop over to Twitter and find her at @VivWrites. Now, ONTO THE EXTRACT!!!
Howard marched away, blind to the beauty of the morning garden around him. His hands shook with anger at Hugh's response. The man was a weakling, afraid of his own shadow and still he refused to acknowledge the danger of staying here and playing games with a man who was more adept at games than any other person Howard had ever met or even heard of. Malcolm had some deep, dark plan with all of this and Howard didn't intend to wait and find out what it was. Find out from the inside of a police cell? No. He'd run before that. Coward or not.
He pushed his hands into the pockets of his jacket. His right hand hit on his cigar case. He clenched it, then pulled it out, desperate for the relief of smoking. He had left the case in the sitting room last night, forgotten on a side table, and had only recovered it this morning before walking out to find Hugh with a glass of liquor like a peace offering in his hand.
He laughed to himself. Blind fool he had been, thinking Hugh could be played, persuaded. Like the others he was completely caught under the lure of the money promised to them.
The sun reflected on the silver cigar case in his hands. He halted to click it open. He looked inside.
He blinked. For a moment he was certain it was just a trick of the light. Then he blinked again, his heart nervously skipping a beat.
It was no trick of the light. It was there in the case. Among his cigars. A small glass vial as thin as a cigarette with a little stopper in it. The liquid inside sparkled in the sunshine.
If a scorpion had uncurled inside his cigar case, Howard wouldn't have been more appalled. Minutes ago, he had suggested to Hugh they could plant some incriminating evidence on Theodora. A medicine bottle, he had said. And now here it was. A vial such as you read about in crime stories, containing a poison. Colourless. Odourless as well, probably.
Undetectable when poured into someone's coffee or tea or wine. Slow working? Fast acting? He had no idea. But he knew, without a doubt, that it was poison. Put there by someone last night when his case had been lying in the sitting room. Like a silent hint. An open invitation. Come on, use it. On whomever you want. It need not be Malcolm. There are enough people here whom you loathe.
And who knows? If you use it on the right person on the right day, you might end up with a fortune.
Howard shivered under the strain of the thoughts racing through his head, just because he had found a vial with liquid in his cigar case. For all he knew, it could be water. It could have been put there by someone who wanted to play a prank on him.
But combined with Malcolm's will game, a prank like this could be dangerous. Lethal even. The vial was only half full. What if it was poison and the other half had already been used?
Howard's mouth was desert dry. He could just see Malcolm lying in his bed right now, cold and dead, with blue lips or froth around his mouth, indicating he had been poisoned. And what would happen then? A police search of all persons and property. Of his cigar case and its contents.
Calm down, he told himself. Malcolm needn't be dead.
But if he wasn't now, he could be later today. Perhaps whoever had put the vial in his cigar case hadn't thought he would discover it so soon. Perhaps the murder still had to occur? Over breakfast?
Howard tried to control the panic washing over him like a tidal wave. He turned and hurried back through the garden to the point where he could look down on the sea. He would toss the vial into the sea. Nobody would ever find it again.
But was it wise to touch it?
He could just see the hand who had slipped it among his cigars last night when the case had been on the table in the sitting room, unattended. That hand had no doubt been gloved. That person had left no fingerprints on the vial. If Howard now put his on it, how dumb would that be? Suppose the vial didn't fall into the sea? Suppose that it, for some reason, fell into sand or brush and it would be recovered?
Could he not better take it into the house and pour the contents down the drain? To know for sure it was gone? But then, what to do with the vial?
Did he have to take the boat out and drop the vial into the sea far away from land?
He halted on the edge and looked down the steps leading to the place where Malcolm's boat was docked. It wasn't there. Kenneth must have taken it out.
Howard took a deep breath. All of his helpless anger at the discovery of the vial directed itself at his son now, who had taken away his chance to get rid of the vial at once. He had told Kenneth not to go boating. Still he had done it.
Howard breathed heavily as he stood and considered his options. Did he dare hold on to the vial until he could drop it discreetly? What if Malcolm died in the next half hour? What if the police pulled in with blaring sirens and searched everyone and found the vial on his person? Whatever was in it, Howard bet it would be the exact same substance that had ended Malcolm's life. And if the will was then opened and his name stood on the dotted line…
Malcolm, Malcolm, what a clever revenge. Putting the vial in my cigar case, then ending your own life and letting me take the blame…
But I am not playing.
I am not playing!
In his head he shouted it aloud, until it echoed off the cliffs below. He used his handkerchief to take the vial out of the cigar case and then tossed it away, as widely as he could. He stared desperately at the sparkle of it as it tumbled in the air, trying to determine if it would drop into the safe depths of the immeasurable waters. It was gone already and he had no idea how far it had gone. He didn't know if he was safe.
If he would ever feel safe again.
He turned his head and looked at the villa, holding his breath. Was there movement at a window? Had someone been watching him? Did any of the guests know anything?
Had it not been Malcolm, but somebody else? What for?
Howard wiped his face with both hands as he tried to calm his thundering heartbeat. He looked at the water again, as if trying to gain courage from the calm waves rolling to the shore.
But… what was that?
He tilted his head.
A boat? Turned upside down?
A sickening sensation raced through his entire body. He ran down the steps calling one name, over and over again.