Sensible Carole Seddon and her bohemian neighbor Jude return in a case of a found skeleton and a missing girl whose identities don't match up.
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April 01, 2003
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Excerpt from Death on the Downs by Simon Brett
THE BONES DIDN'T look old, but then what did Carole Seddon know about bones Her work at the Home Office had brought her into contact with forensic pathologists from time to time, but she didn't lay claim to any of their arcane knowledge. She was just an ordinary member of the public -- in retirement an even more ordinary member of the public.
But any member of the public who'd done the rudiments of anatomy at school, who'd watched television, or been to the cinema, would have recognised that the bones were human.
Carole saw them as she picked herself up off the floor of the barn. When she had realised the rain showed no immediate signs of relenting, she had tried to make herself comfortable on a pile of roughly cut planks. They were dark green with the slime of ages, but her trousers and Burberry raincoat were already so mud-spattered and wet that more dirt would make little difference. She planned to spread out a newspaper over the immaculate upholstery of her Renault when she got back to the road where it was parked.
Maybe it was the slime, maybe it was the fact that they had recently been moved, but the planks proved an unstable seat. When Carole had put her full weight on them, they had tipped forward, spilling her unceremoniously on to the hard earth floor of the barn. Their collapse revealed the bright blue fertiliser bags, out of one of which protruded the unmistakable ball joint of a human femur.
The barn was not on one of Carole Seddon's regular walking routes. Indeed, she rarely went on to the Downs. Gulliver, her dog, was too easily distracted up there, overexcited by the smells of cattle, rabbits and other smaller but infinitely intriguing species of wildlife. Given the luxury of all that space, it would have been cruel to keep the dog on a lead, but she didn't trust him to return from his manic forays into the Downs. Despite impeccable Labrador breeding, Gulliver wasn't a natural country dog. He was at home on Fethering Beach; he knew it well, and always returned safely to his mistress from quixotic tilts at seagulls, breakwaters, or the fascinating detritus that the tide brought in. Carole even reckoned he could, if necessary, find his own way back from the beach to her cottage, High Tor, in Fethering High Street.
But a sortie on the beach was the reason why Gulliver wasn't with his mistress that February afternoon on the Downs. The week before, with customary bravado, he'd attacked a seaweed-shrouded potential enemy, only to back off limping from a gash to his forepaw. His quarry had proved to be a rusty can with a jagged edge. An immediate visit to the vet, injections and bandaging had left Gulliver a mournful, housebound creature, who snuffled piteously by the Aga, pressing his nose and teeth against the intransigent dressing on his leg. His bandages were swaddled in polythene to keep out the damp when he hobbled off with Carole on the essential toilet outings, which were the only social life the vet's instructions allowed him for a fortnight.