Corfu is a sunny, charming Greek island, but for Val Baker it is dark with secrets. What is Val's family hiding there, and who killed the young English girl Hilary ten years ago?
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Val Baker, tough but loving, restores musical instruments, but her relationship with her Greek-Italian family on Corfu is broken beyond repair. When she is commissioned by her old friend Alexia to restore a rare giraffe piano, she returns to the island to find her dreams haunted by memories of Hilary, a young English girl raped and murdered ten years before.
Val determines to uncover the truth about the case, and set to rest her own doubts about the involvement of her father, Yiannis, and half-brother, Markos, both policemen who were involved in the original investigation. Joined by her friend Harry, Val begins to unravel the threads. Then two strange tokens arrive, one for Alexia's daughter Chloe and one for Val, and it becomes clear that Hilary's unknown killer is on Val's trail. Her search for the truth becomes a race for life.
She was dreaming a murder and her dream was true.
A park at night. A park in Fenfield, the Pennine town where she
lived, or a formal garden in Corfu, close to her old home?
Where am I? Marble staircases, palm and cypress trees, grandiose
statues. A massive villa, striving to be heroic but achieving instead
a bombastic sadness. The Achillion: that classical folly built on
Corfu island a century earlier, a shrine to the mythical hero
When am I? Her feet touched sun-scorched grass and she was rushing
under the wisteria pergola, the scent of white lilies catching in her
throat as she ran past the rose beds and hibiscus, fleeing into the
pine forest below the palace grounds. Sprinting for her life,
terrified under summer stars.
Who am I? Starting awake, she reached for the bedside light and lay
panting in its pencil beam. `You're Val,' she whispered.
Still the dream persisted, stirring memories which she had tried for
so long to suppress. After-images danced in her mind. Blood. Lips.
`Why are people bad?'
Val had been thinking of Nick. A mouthful of coffee went down the
wrong way. `I beg your pardon?' she gasped.
Sitting opposite Val at the kitchen table, Judith speared a chicken
nugget and ate it like a toffee apple. `Helen Flower called me foxy-
`And what had you called her first?'
`Rabbit teeth. She has, mummy!' Judith vigorously nodded her head.
`But no one likes to be picked on, do they? You don't like it when
you're called "Carrots". Perhaps that's why Helen taunted you back.'
`Perhaps.' Judith gnawed a chip. `Can I play with my Thunderbird?'
`Have you finished your tea?'
`Yes, thank you.` Judith's knife and fork clattered onto the plate. A
May sun, striking through the sash window, flared on her red curls as
she charged into the cramped sitting-room, a bundle of auburn energy
as Nick had been.
The phone rang. Glad of the distraction, Val took the call. `Val
`You got Steve there? Sorry, you can't have - nobody's screaming.
Sure you want him with you tomorrow?'
`If it's still okay with you, Penny.' Val was very careful with
`You know he's only coming for a free ride? A month of sun, sex,
`We don't get many raves where we're staying.' Clearing away Judy's
plate, Val hunted under the sink for the washing-up liquid. `Last
time we talked, Steve said he was looking forward to windsurfing.'
`Oh, he's full of it. But he'll have to come back here tonight.'
Penny laughed. `I've got his passport.'
When the musical doorbell rang moments later, she wondered if she
would find Steve on her doorstep. Instead it was another six footer,
altogether more disconcerting.
`Harry.' Blushing at finding the new Fairy Liquid still in her hand,
she stood back in the hall.
`How are you?' he asked quietly. `Are you all right?'
She stared up at him without answering, seeing the new harsh lines
round his mouth, the new bruise on the side of his neck. She could
smell the whiskey on him, for her an unseen badge of office for the
plainclothes force Nick had been part of, before he had died in his
sleep of a heart attack at the impossibly young age of thirty-three.
`Val?' Harry ducked under the lintel, a big, blond fellow in a trim
grey suit, his tie stuffed into a pocket. `May I come in?'
Resigned, Val stalked back into the kitchen, letting Judith and Uncle
Harry complete their frenzied hellos in the living room. She was
uneasy with his calling in tonight. Every year for five years, on the
day Nick had died, he would visit, offering support. She was wary of
Making fresh coffee, Val heard Judith begin another countdown to
Thunderbirds. She guessed that Harry had left the sunny sitting room,
strewn with books and toys, and would soon be joining her.
A cleared throat indicated he was close behind her. Val twisted round
and stepped sideways so that the table was between them.
`Coffee. Black, three sugars.' She thrust the blue mug handle-first
He took it. `You always remember.'
`Sit down,' Val said. `Please.' She felt easier when Judith's chair
creaked under more weight than it was designed for and the shadow was
lifted from her head. Harry was taller and bulkier than Nick had been.
Joining him at the table, she watched as Harry glanced about her home
with wary blue eyes. His blond hair was still more gold than grey,
but his squarely handsome features had refined with age, while in her
memory Nick was always youthful and sharp, younger-looking than his
`How are you?' They spoke together and both replied, `Fine.'
`Off to Corfu again tomorrow.' Harry sipped his coffee.
`Yes.' Watching his mouth, Val was reminded of her recurring dream.
`How is the piano restoration business?'
`Judith tells me she's started French at play-school.'
`Nick would tease me in French…' Val thought of Corfu, as blue and
bright to her as anywhere in France.
She blinked. `Sorry, I was miles away.'
Harry flicked her a look from under thick pale lashes, his voice
indulgent. `Anywhere special? You and Nick?' he added softly.
`I don't want to burden -'
Harry reached across and caught her hand in his. `Never that, Val.'
`You'll have heard it before.' Newly widowed, she had told Harry the
whole run of hers and Nick's courtship, a holiday romance that had
He smiled. `I like to hear you,' he said.
Faintly embarrassed, Val heard the floating notes of an ice-cream van
weaving through the Fenfield streets. The tune, `Greensleeves',
reminded her of the first time Harry had sat with her at this kitchen
table, telling her how he had met Gilda. An ice-cream van had been
passing then, playing `Greensleeves.' He and Gilda had been married
for four years. This wasn't bad for a police marriage, especially as
Gilda was also on shift-work as a nurse. Their divorce was quick and
both had moved on.
Val waited for `Greensleeves' to fade away, and Harry said, `The
first time you and Nick met.' He brushed her fingers. `Where was it
again, Corfu Town?'
`Yes, it was,' she admitted slowly. `I was tending my mother's grave
in the British Cemetery. Nick came up and asked me something in Greek
and when I answered in English, I think he was so grateful for
someone to talk to that he invited me for tea at the Liston. We were
married next spring.' Val blushed again. Harry knew this: he had been
their best man.
`There was some opposition to your marriage: Nick told me at the
time. Your Greek relatives liked him, but not as a future son-in-
law.' Harry smiled, unrepentant. `Later, you told me more about them.'
`Yes,' Val said faintly, remembering.
`You and Nick looked right, as a couple,' Harry said. `Gilda and I
never managed that. I look at Judy and see Nick in her -'
`No.' Listening for Judith's patter heading their way, Val cut across
him. `Don't worry about Judy or me. We're going to Corfu.'
The square planes of Harry's face changed subtly to a look Val knew
well: cop curiosity. `You're going earlier this summer. Why is that?'
Val gently disengaged her fingers, wrapping both hands round her
cup. `I'm going to work. A restoration job for an old friend. A
girlfriend,' she added, wondering why she felt it necessary to
Harry grunted and relaxed, draining his drink and glancing round the
small, spare kitchen, so different from the cheerful clutter of her
music workshop in Corfu. `Want me to cruise past here, now and then?'
`If it's no trouble.'
`None whatsoever. What kind of job will you be going to?'
Val's dark eyes twinkled. `Repairing a giraffe piano.'
`A what?' Harry was laughing too.
`A giraffe piano. Looks like a cross between a piano and a harp.
Alexia - the school friend I always stay with when I go back to
Corfu - she wants me to restore one that's been in her family for
years. We're hoping it'll get Chloe interested in playing her modern
`Chloe. Your god-daughter.'
Val nodded, mentally cursing Harry's prodigious memory for names and
relationships. He was recalling more, snippets of conversation.
`Tipped for a big career in music, wasn't she? When you came back
from Corfu last summer, brown as a tea bag, I remember you said she
played like an angel.' Harry frowned, embarrassed by his tea bag
Val found it endearing. `Yes, she did,' she agreed quickly, to cover
his embarrassment. `She was wonderful.' Her smile faded. `But this
year it's all stopped. Chloe won't play a note.'
`I'll find out when I get there.'