To whet your appetite for the official launch day tomorrow, here is an excerpt from the first chapter of “The Body In The Snow (A Bebe Bollinger Murder Mystery)”
“…and now for the weather: In the West and North of Britain we are currently seeing the worst snow falls in over twenty years. All roads and motorways have been closed. Road services are working around the clock to restore normal transport conditions but with so many areas affected it will mean that some communities will be isolated for some time to come.
Most airports and railway stations are closed, too. Please check with your local news and council websites for exact details. People are advised to stay indoors and make only essential trips while the snow is still falling so heavily. Please remember to stay safe.
In other news, Cheryl Cole has been replaced on the X Factor panel by Bebe Bollinger. The industry is in shock over this surprise choice, apparently this is Simon Cowell’s dream cast ever since the beginning of the show. Younger people may not be aware of Bollinger’s singing career in the 1980s but the move is rumoured to be part of a wider comeback plan of the retired singer…”
Bebe Bollinger was torn from her magic dream by the piercing sound of her alarm clock. She swiftly switched the thing off and rolled back on her pillow, smiling and indulging herself for a few more moments at the idea of a return to the limelight. The mere thought gave her a surge of energy, she bounded out of bed and her knees immediately let her know that bounding was now not a good idea. “Dreams can come true,” she hummed as she paraded through her bedroom. As she pulled back the curtains she saw that at least one part of her newsflash dream had come true: she looked with amazement at the snow-covered landscape. It was just as the announcer in her dream had foretold. She could hardly even make out her car beneath the huge amounts of snow. Trees, bushes and fields were all only vaguely distinguishable, and the snow kept falling in heavy flurries.
For more than twenty four years Bebe had lived in the hamlet of Llangurrey and not once had there been bad weather like this – there had to be at least a metre. Everything had turned into a winter wonderland, but as beautiful as it looked, there were practicalities to be considered. She and her neighbours were cut-off from the world. With snow this high, no regular car would be able to drive the few miles to the main road, and it was too far to walk to the rest of civilisation.
There had been weather warnings on the radio, but Bebe had heard such grim predictions many times in the past and nothing had ever come of them. Only the day before, the teller at her bank had told her that it might be as severe as the winters of 1947 and 1963. She had gasped at the impertinence of the woman for implying that Bebe should have first-hand knowledge of those years. Yes, she had been around in ‘63 but liked to pretend that she was younger than she was. Anyway, for Llangurrey such conditions were totally unheard of. No one could blame her for being surprised that this time the weathermen had actually been right.
The phone rang. Bebe sighed. This had to be Bryn, her hairdresser, to cancel their appointment. He was one of her biggest admirers. Not in a sexual way, Bryn was gay as the proverbial goose although he still pretended to be in the closet at the age of 65. He was an incredibly talented stylist, though.
“Yes,” she said abruptly into the receiver, trying to sound busy.
“Bebe my darling, please tell me that you’re alright,” Bryn sang into the phone. “My sister said that the road to Llangurrey is completely snowed in. I take it our hair session today won’t be happening if that’s the case. How will you cope?”
“Bryn I’ll be just fine,” she said. “Don’t worry about my hair. I’m not likely to see anyone until this snow is gone. I might as well look scruffy, nobody will care.”
“That is exactly the moment when some paparazzo will get you and write a nasty ‘where-are-they-now-article’ about the retired singing legend Bebe in the gossip magazines,” Bryn said. “And people will think like that it was all my doing.”
Bebe rolled her eyes. Bryn was such a drama queen.
“Tell me, do you have enough food for a few days?” he asked, his voice panicked.
“Of course I have darling, please don’t worry,” she reassured him. “There is plenty in the freezer, and a little diet will do me good, if the worst should happen and I’m stuck for longer.”
“But there is nothing of you,” Bryn said.
Bebe perked up at the compliment.
“Sweetheart, I need to go,” she said, wishing to examine the situation outside first hand. “I’ve literally just woken up.”
“No problem Bebe. Look after yourself and call me if there is anything I can do,” he said.
“Thank you. I promise I will.”
She hung up. Bebe had to come to rely on Bryn over the years for a weekly ego boost, but wouldn’t dream of relying on him for anything else. He was good for make-up advice and for sourcing the right chemical peels, but he would be the last person capable of rescuing her from the snow.
If she had known that this amount of snowfall was a real possibility then she would have joined the panic buyers at the supermarkets and petrol stations over the past few days. After the incident with the bank teller, she had walked the aisles of the local superstore and had been disgusted by the scramble for goods. Manic people were pushing in her way, rushing from shelf to shelf and taking as much as they could get their unwashed hands on, probably without even knowing if they needed it or not.
Bebe refused to be seen pushing towards the emptying shelves. She only bought a few essentials and left as soon as she could get out via the self-service check-out. Having to scan her own shopping was a little beneath her but on a day like this she really did not want to speak to anyone.
Now that she was actually snowed in, it looked as if she would be stuck with the little provisions she had brought home that day. Bebe’s larder was filled with snacks, so she wouldn’t starve, although theoretically she had planned to go on a diet in the New Year − always ready for that return to the musical stage – she had just not got around to starting it yet.
Llangurrey consisted of an old abandoned farm and three country cottages, tucked away in a small valley, several miles away from the nearest town. Fields and a little stream acted as natural borders and a narrow country lane ran through the hamlet, rather close to the houses. Petite front gardens served as buffers from what little traffic that passed.
From her window she could see that her neighbour Ian had already tried to get out of the hamlet with his car. His Rover had been meticulously freed from snow and ice. Bebe could make out tyre imprints that showed he had attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to make his way through the meter-high drifts. If he with his superior car and driving skills had failed then there was no hope for Bebe. Her brand new Nissan might look like a 4×4, but it was of no use in this weather.
She almost rejoiced in the drama of her situation. Without even noticing she started to hum the theme of Love Story, which had also had such a beautiful winter setting in the film. Only when she started to lilt the words “Where do I begin?” did she remember that Shirley Bassey and Nana Mouskouri had both covered the Andy Williams song and that was enough to stop her in her tracks. A wave of envy rushed over her: Those two women had managed to make it big in a small market that should have belonged exclusively to Bebe.
She decided to go outside and examine the situation first hand. She put on her big mink coat, her Russian-style hat, also made of fur, and the warm leather winter boots. She adored the look. In her mind it was the perfect cross of Dr Zhivago and Sex and The City and she looked herself up and down in the mirror before making for the door. A former publicist had been so bold as to call it the ‘Babooshka’ look. Bebe found the word distasteful. It rang too much of Kate Bush, another musician whose guts she hated, and because the remark put her prematurely in the casting category of older women and mothers. It was no wonder she let said publicist go.
Bebe stepped outside her front door. She felt clumsy and unwieldy in the winter clothes. Since she was neither tall nor slim she feared that, despite the glamour factor, these big coats might also give her a square and disadvantageous figure, even though Bryn assured her that it was not the case.
Wrinkles could be painted and operated away and hair could be bleached, but few fabrics and styles could cover up the results of comfort eating.
The truth was that Bebe was far from being fat. At close to sixty she was entitled to a little bit of extra weight. For someone with such a dislike for physical activity she had a fantastic body. With the right dress her large chest could distract from her expanding belly and her bottom could pass as curvy and voluptuous. Or so she told herself successfully on a good day, and Bryn said so every time they met.
She studied the snow-bound hamlet: only a snowplough could free them from isolation. Given that there were so few inhabitants along this insignificant loop of a lane, Bebe knew they would not be a priority on the council’s list of rescue missions.
As she stood outside her cottage she heard a door open nearby. Bebe turned as quickly as she could on the icy ground without losing her balance and hurried towards her house. She was not in the market for pleasantries, nor interested in other people’s stories, yet didn’t want to appear rude or ignorant.
As she turned around to close the door behind her, she could just about make out Dora standing in her garden only wearing winter boots and a pink morning gown. What on earth was this woman doing outside dressed so sparsely? She must be catching her death, never mind about the rudeness of it.
The Body in the Snow” is now available as e-book on Amazon on pre-order via these links:
For those who can’t wait, I have some ARC copies to give out.
THE BODY IN THE SNOW – A BEBE BOLLINGER MURDER MYSTERY:
Fading celebrity Bebe Bollinger is on the wrong side of fifty and dreaming of a return to the limelight. When a TV show offers the chance of a comeback, Bebe grabs it with both hands – not even a lazy agent, her embarrassing daughter, irritating neighbours or a catastrophic snowfall will derail her moment of glory. But when a body is found in her sleepy Welsh hamlet, scandal threatens.
Detective Sergeant Beth Cooper has a string of unsolved cases to her name. Her girlfriend left her and she’s a fish out of water in rural West Wales. Things couldn’t get much worse – until the case of the Body in The Snow lands in her lap.
Can Beth solve the case and save her career and can Bebe make her comeback? All will be revealed in this light-hearted, cosy murder mystery by best-selling and award winning historical and crime fiction novelist Christoph Fischer.