She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, Where Petals Fall, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the whole book? Well, yes and no. Where Petals Fall is the third in the ‘Jill and Max’ series and the crime-fighting duo - forensic psychologist Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham - are investigating the murder of local businesswoman, Carol Blakely. As is usual in murder cases, close family members top the list of suspects, especially those who expect to inherit the deceased’s millions. On page 69, Jill and Max are with Vince Blakely, the victim’s husband.Learn more about Where Petals Fall and its author at Shirley Wells' website and blog.
(This excerpt includes the paragraph following on from page 69.)
A complete wall was shelved and full of books, floor to ceiling, and a quick glance at the titles told Jill that Carol had collected old books on gardening and flower arranging.
‘Your people spent hours in this room,’ Blakely reminded Max, ‘so I expect they’d have found anything if it was here.’
‘Yes, I’m sorry for this further intrusion, but we weren’t looking for anything specific at that point. I’m sure that you and your late wife’s family want her killer found as quickly as possible. This could give us a useful lead.’
A small unit housed a few music CDs and half a dozen DVDs, all romantic comedies. There were no old videos. Jill hadn’t expected to see any.
‘Are there more in the house?’ Max asked. ‘It may be that she bought you a gift-’
‘I have loads of old music videos,’ Blakely said. ‘You’re welcome to look, but I don’t remember her buying any of them. In any case, most of them are stuff I taped from the television.’
‘If you wouldn’t mind.’
They were taken to a second study at the other end of the hallway, this one used by Vince Blakely. Prints of classic sports cars adorned the walls and Max admired those while Jill looked at the rest of the room. It was used mostly for work. He had an office in Harrington, but he must work from home a lot. His desk was glass and chrome, with not a speck of dust on it. The cleaner he employed did a good job. A heavy glass ashtray sat on the desk, holding down yet more drawings.
A cabinet with smoked glass doors stood next to the desk and, much to Jill’s surprise, Blakely produced a small key from a bunch in his pocket.
‘You keep this locked?’ she asked.
‘Um, yes. Our - my cleaner’s a nosy old biddy and I wouldn’t want her seeing some of these. Oh, it’s only soft porn, the same as everyone has, but she’d feel duty bound to tell everyone she met.’
There was nothing of interest in his video collection or in his study. The soft porn looked to be exactly that, and it was on DVD anyway. The old videos were, as he’d said and as he took them into the lounge to demonstrate, concerts that he had taped from the television.
He hadn’t loved his wife, he hadn’t even liked her, and he wasn’t sorry she was dead. But that didn’t make him a killer.
So while page 69 is representative of their quest for the truth, it doesn’t hint at other problems in this case, the main one being that, five years earlier, four women were murdered in exactly the same way.
Thanks to Jill’s profiling, police had tried to arrest Eddie Marshall but, during a high-speed chase, Marshall had lost control of his car and driven over a cliff. His car was found; his body never was.
Now, Carol Blakely’s murder has brought with it an unwelcome sense of déjà vu and Jill and Max are forced to face the fact that, five years ago, they might have got it wrong.