IN THE GRIP OF CRIME
Mystery at Harwich
Original title: Nella morsa del delitto
Translated by: Patrizia Micalizio
Publisher: Tektime â www.traduzionelibri.it
Foreword by Salvatore Tomasello
A distinguished lady, a quiet little town, the mist of the English countryside, a corpse, and of course, a killer. The classic ingredients of a thriller are all present. But âIn the grip of crimeâ is not the usual thriller. Superintendent Baxter will have to face a complex and challenging investigation to unravel an apparently unexplainable and mysterious murder. This thriller captures the reader from the beginning right to the end, so much so that one finds oneself reading it all in one go, without interruptions.
The writing is fluent and the characters are well defined, like in a fresco whose landscapes are presented as in a dynamic and expressive photographic sequence. âIn the grip of crimeâ is a testament to the remarkable skills of its writer, Maria Mezzatesta, mostly known as an author of poems and short stories. This makes the book not only a thriller, but a true story of great depth.
1) The villa of the swamp
One afternoon in late October, Carol Tompkins was travelling on the high road heading to Harwich, a quiet little town in Essex. She was coming from London, where she had purchased some items for her antique shop. She was proceeding along the A120 on board of a rather old red Austin, observing the landscape around her. The autumnal grey sky had been thickening with dark clouds looming ahead, foreshadowing the impending rain. On the sides of the road the hedges had already turned yellow, the semi-submerged fields looked gloomy and desolate. A thin mist blurred the contour of the countryside in the distance, and the first evening shadows made the landscape even hazier. She had passed Chemford, when all of a sudden the car started jolting. Worried, she pressed hard on the accelerator, but the car just jolted to a halt. She tried turning the ignition key time and again, but nothing happened. She got off the car, she lifted the bonnet and took a look at the engine, but all seemed fine. She shut the bonnet and waited for the help of some driver to come along. She waited in vain for more than half an hour. The road was deserted, she could not see a single inhabited building around. Meanwhile, it had become dark, and the few passing cars had been speeding by without stopping. Overwhelmed by a certain fear, she decided to abandon the car and continued to walk up to Dovercourt, about a mile away, to make a call. She proceeded through the fields on the right hand-side of the road, thinking that she could arrive quicker. As she walked, the rain had begun to fall. The soil around her, which was already soft and slimy from the downpours of the previous day, had become muddy. She walked on with a fixed glaze, wincing at every rustle, trying to catch the sight of someone in the darkness. She walked for a good quarter of an hour, but there was not a soul about. Just when she thought she was lost, a light shone in the distance. It had to be coming from a house, a farm, or maybe a hotel, however she soon ruled that option out, considering the place not very suitable for that type of construction.
As she got closer, she realised that the light was coming from a massive villa with lighted windows. The building inspired a certain awe. She could not see any other shelter around; she was wet, so she decided to ring the brass bell on the wall, close to an iron gate. Nobody answered for a few minutes. The silence of the countryside was suddenly broken by a barking dog, then a voice with a foreign accent asked who it was. She briefly explained what had happened to her, and after a few moments she heard the lock snapping. The nearby gate opened up, and she stepped into a gravelled avenue. At about twenty metres ahead of her she noticed, on the main entrance, illuminated by the light of a post, a tall, young black man; a dog was coming towards her barking.
âWhat a weather!â the man muttered while rushing in her aid under an umbrella. âCome in, hurry!â
He approached her, offering her shelter under the umbrella until they reached the hall of the villa. He closed the umbrella, then waved for her to go up the wide staircase. âPlease, please, come upâ, he said to her while putting the umbrella away.
Carol kept a bit standoffish. âI donât mean to disturbâ, she said, âI would only like to make a call to inform about what happened to me.â The man with an unmistakable foreign accent replied: âThe phone is upstairs, come in, donât be afraid! I will take you to the Countess, and you will be able to dry your soaked clothes.â Unwillingly, Carol followed him. They went up the stairs, then they kept walking down a long corridor leading to different rooms. A chorus of strident voices came from one of the rooms. When they met her, Carol noticed some people who animatedly discussed around a table, while they were examining some documents. At least that was what it seemed to her. The man led her to the last room, a spacious lounge. He pointed her towards a damask sky-blue sofa, then he vanished discreetly.
She remained on her own to observe the warm and cosy environment.
The walls were covered in pink-flowered wallpaper, albeit dated and yellowed in several places.
The room was filled with furniture â sofas of different shapes and sizes, pillows, small wooden tables replete with objects, big Chinese vases, all placed a bit at random, without an order, and with little taste such as to almost convey a sense of confusion.
A wide walnut bookcase occupied an entire wall. Oriental figurines of jade and ivory, of good make, reposed on various shelves, alongside books, whereas the floor was covered in Persian carpets.
In a corner, a fire was merrily blazing in the pink marble fireplace.
Instinctively, Carol headed there to warm up. To her left-hand side, a large wood-framed window looking out on the park below.
The rain continued to pelt-down and was now more of a driving blizzard; the window panes were quivering in the frames and the wind was howling like a tormented soul.
Carol shrugged her shoulders, and for a moment she rejoiced that she had shelter. She was soon joined by a young and good looking woman.
She was tall, with delicate oriental features. Her slim, slender body was wrapped in a sky-blue dressed which highlighted her olive complexion and black velvety almond-shaped eyes. It was difficult to tell where she came from. âI am Yuril Barnes,â the woman introduced herself, extending her long and delicate hand.
âGilbert,â she continued, âour butler told me about your unpleasant adventure and that you wish to make a call. The phone is on the small table at the end.â
âThank you, you are very kind. My name is Carol Tompkins and I am sorry to have disturbed you, but I absolutely did not know what to do. I'm on my way to Harwich from London, and my car broke down.
Iâve made this journey countless times without a hitch. It is a rather old car, but it has never given me big problems. I really believe it is about time I changed it!â
The other smiled and replied, âYou will probably have to change it! In any case, you are not disturbing me. I see that you are wet, would you like to borrow some dry clothes?â Carol lifted her hand to reject the offer: âNo, no, thank you. I am afraid I have given you enough trouble already. Maybe Iâd like to dry СКАЧАТЬ