At the Villa Rose is a detective novel by British writer A.E.W. Mason featuring his character Inspector Hanaud.In Aix les Bains during the early 20th century, Celia Harland, a beautiful (of course) young English girl down on her luck is befriended by a rich widow, Madame Dauvray, an addict of "spiritualism", and stages seances for her benefactrix, while knowing full well that the supposed manifestations from the spirit world are entirely bogus. This set-up supplies the opportunity for a criminal gang master-minded by Madame Dauvray's maid, with their eyes on the widow's jewellery collection, to engineer an introduction for one of their number, Adele Tacé ("Rossignol") whose taunts of disbelief goad the old lady into allowing a seance to be held which, unsuspected by either Celia or her patron, will be the cover for murder and robbery. The crux of the plot is that Celia, as medium, will be made their innocent victim, on whom suspicion is to be planted. By her professed scepticism, Adele manoeuvres the girl into consenting to be bound hand and foot and secured to a pillar during the performance, such that she is incapable of escaping or preventing Madame Dauvray's being strangled by an intruder in the course of the seance; and is thereafter abducted to Geneva, still trussed, gagged and helpless, with various clues being left behind to incriminate her as accomplice in the murder. Inspector Hanaud of the Paris Sûreté (in several of his novels, Mason's equivalent of Christie's Poirot) unravels the conspiracy and rescues Celia when on the brink of being drugged and dumped into Lake Geneva.
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AT THE VILLA ROSE
Copyright © 2017 by A.E.W. Mason.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Sheba Blake Publishing
Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing
First Edition: January 2017
TABLE OF CONTENTS
It was Mr. Ricardo's habit as soon as the second week of August came round to travel to Aix-les-Bains, in Savoy, where for five or six weeks he lived pleasantly. He pretended to take the waters in the morning, he went for a ride in his motor-car in the afternoon, he dined at the Cercle in the evening, and spent an hour or two afterwards in the baccarat-rooms at the Villa des Fleurs. An enviable, smooth life without a doubt, and it is certain that his acquaintances envied him. At the same time, however, they laughed at him and, alas with some justice; for he was an exaggerated person. He was to be construed in the comparative. Everything in his life was a trifle overdone, from the fastidious arrangement of his neckties to the feminine nicety of his little dinner-parties. In age Mr. Ricardo was approaching the fifties; in condition he was a widower--a state greatly to his liking, for he avoided at once the irksomeness of marriage and the reproaches justly levelled at the bachelor; finally, he was rich, having amassed a fortune in Mincing Lane, which he had invested in profitable securities.
Ten years of ease, however, had not altogether obliterated in him the business look. Though he lounged from January to December, he lounged with the air of a financier taking a holiday; and when he visited, as he frequently did, the studio of a painter, a stranger would have hesitated to decide whether he had been drawn thither by a love of art or by the possibility of an investment. His "acquaintances" have been mentioned, and the word is suitable. For while he mingled in many circles, he stood aloof from all. He affected the company of artists, by whom he was regarded as one ambitious to become a connoisseur; and amongst the younger business men, who had never dealt with him, he earned the disrespect reserved for the dilettante. If he had a grief, it was that he had discovered no great man who in return for practical favours would engrave his memory in brass. He was a Maecenas without a Horace, an Earl of Southampton without a Shakespeare. In a word, Aix-les-Bains in the season was the very place for him; and never for a moment did it occur to him that he was here to be dipped in agitations, and hurried from excitement to excitement. The beauty of the little town, the crowd of well-dressed and agreeable people, the rose-coloured life of the place, all made their appeal to him. But it was the Villa des Fleurs which brought him to Aix. Not that he played for anything more than an occasional louis; nor, on the other hand, was he merely a cold looker-on. He had a bank-note or two in his pocket on most evenings at the service of the victims of the tables. But the pleasure to his curious and dilettante mind lay in the spectacle of the battle which was waged night after night between raw nature and good manners. It was extraordinary to him how constantly manners prevailed. There were, however, exceptions.
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