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Who’s Doing What…in Brambly Cott

To all my lovely Busypen followers…

My latest book is a venture into the unknown for me – the cosy murder mystery genre – but I have had such fun writing it. However, as this is my first attempt in this genre, regardless of how much I enjoyed the process, I decided to put the first chapter here on Busypen and hope that you will give me some feedback.

So here goes…and thank you in advance for any feedback you are kind enough to provide…


 Two things were bothering Mrs Betty Barclay, Post Mistress and general fount of knowledge in the village of Brambly Cott.
The night before, her mild-mannered husband, who never spoke a harsh word – hardly spoke much at all, in fact, apart from a series of grunts she had come to understand over the years – had completely fallen out of character and actually raised his voice at her.
She recalled how her jaw had dropped and several moments had passed before she could gather herself together enough to respond to his cruel remarks.
“Well,” she said finally, in a voice that reeked of hurt, “what do you expect? She hardly says `Boo,’ tells me absolutely nothing, and now she’s got my husband championing her. I never heard the like.”
Arnold had looked up from his place at the head of the highly polished mahogany table he had sat around as a boy, and pushed his half eaten dinner aside.
“Well, if you want to know, I’m not in the least bit interested in the comings and goings, or not, of Angela Witherspoon and, as far as I can tell, neither is she. So if she don’t want to speak about it, why in Hades are we? Or I might say, you. Me, I’m sick of listening.
His outburst had left her speechless. She hadn’t heard this many words in one string from him in thirty odd years. What had gotten into the man?
“An one more thing,” he continued, surprising her even further as he leaned across the table and shook his fork under her nose. “If I hear one more word about Ms Witherspoon, I’m going to the pub. I may even take it up regular.”
He then pushed back from the table, slammed his napkin down beside his plate, crossed to the mantle shelf for his pipe, which he jammed into his mouth, and left the room.
Betty was amazed – and more than a little surprised – and possibly even a wee bit impressed. But she wasn’t about to tell Arnold that.
Later in bed, Betty turned to Arnold. He had calmed down and was back to his normal quiet self. Unusually, Betty felt in a cuddling mood and Arnold, although surprised, wasn’t averse to a bit of a cuddle too.
That morning she had floated downstairs and made her husband a nice bowl of thick creamy porridge which he ate slowly, told her it was very nice, said nothing about the night before and their little disagreement, or the later sort-of reconciliation, then he put on his jacket, picked up the packed lunch that was laid out for him, kissed her on the cheek and exited through the rear door.
In the shed he pulled out his bicycle, climbed on and headed off in the direction of the Gadsby farm where he would work until he knocked off at five o’clock to pedal the five miles back home. The routine was the same every day except for Saturday, when he would only work until noon and Sunday, which was his day off.
The other thing that was bothering Brambly Cott’s inquisitive Post Mistress was something else altogether. Word was out that the village was finally about to have a new vicar. Their old vicar, Reverend Godfrey Spence, had retired seven months ago and he and his wife had moved to a retirement village in Bath. The village had been without a regular vicar since, relying upon a lay preacher from the nearby town of Standingham to take their Sunday morning service, which in the absence of a permanent vicar was only every two weeks. If anyone felt the need for a more regular church visit, it was only a five mile drive to Standingham but most were in agreement that the sooner they got their own vicar, the sooner life could be restored to a comfortable routine.
What was bothering Betty was how the information about Brambly’s new vicar was released, not to mention who by. She was the local bringer of news to the village, not Doris Mackie, whose appointment to the church vestry seemed to have gone to her head.
It was quite a while since Betty had been beaten to the post with a juicy tid-bit and it was not a good feeling. Of course, news had to eventuate from somewhere but the shop was generally the first point of any rumour and, once a seed had been sown, she considered it her duty to ferret out the details, to which she then added teensy bits of embroidery as they came to mind because, everyone knew, it was important to add interest while passing on a good story.
After all, what kind of news was it that Mrs Brown’s cat had eaten Mr Fairway’s pet budgie? Cats ate birds. No, the story was begging clarification and, by adding a few more details – that were probably entirely correct anyway – such as that the cat was on medication for depression and the side-effects had turned him into a rabid predator.
After that got around, a delegation of neighbours had appeared on Mrs Brown’s doorstep demanding Dudley the cat be either put down or confined to the house. No one had seen him since and Mrs Brown was no longer talking to any of her neighbours.
She wasn’t in the least perturbed about the fallout from Dudley’s escapades and her own involvement. In a small village these things needed to be known. One couldn’t allow secrets to lie around under the surface and fester – who knew what or who Dudley would eye up as his next victim.
As it happened, she knew Dolly Brown had him on a special diet because she bought his food from the village shop and she had said once that he was prone to depression, and on another occasion that the vet had put him on medication for something – she couldn’t quite recall what for – probably the depression.
As Post Mistress, Betty Barclay fully believed it her duty to know all there was to know about the village and its residents and to be the general bringer of news – a bit like a local newspaper. In fact, she even saw herself as a kind of village networker.
Sales people networked in the big cities – she had read about it once – and she saw no reason why her village should not have a network – with her shop as the central point, of course. The advantages were enormous – she couldn’t exactly pinpoint them but they were there – the article had described the benefits and she was sure that here in Brambly Cott, her networking acted as a valuable service – an extension of the village shop, one could say, where alleged fact and rumor merged together and became truth.
Betty didn’t know it yet, but she was soon to discover the biggest story ever to affect Brambly Cott – one which made even the thirty-year-old Pendle scandal pale in comparison.

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