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The Domestic Detectives
Harry Armfield

The Domestic Detectives

Fiction & Poetry

Voters Rating 85 / 1000

85

Synopsis

The Domestic Detectives is a light-hearted murder mystery set in East Sheen, a wealthy, middle class suburb of South West London, and recently voted one of Britain’s happiest towns

Andrea Dawson, the ex-model wife of a wealthy businessman, has been found stabbed to death in their ‘beautiful home’ up on ‘Millionaire Mile’, the prime residential location adjacent to Richmond Park.

The story is narrated by Nick Young, an advertising copywriter in his late thirties. Having lost his job in the recession, he has taken over his family’s domestic and child rearing responsibilities, whilst his wife Janey has reluctantly returned to work. Nick joins forces with his young, bored, wealthy, ex-scientist neighbour Angela to solve the mystery.

As Nick juggles his role as a househusband, and Angela her desire to shop and be a good wife and mother, they quickly realise that nothing is what it seems in their respectable neighbourhood, and together gradually uncover a web of sexual blackmail, art fraud and financial corruption at the highest level.

Full of sparkling humour and crackling dialogue between the two main protagonists, The Domestic Detectives is also full of witty observations on the life of a young man separated from his career and reduced to marshalling his creativity in the execution of domestic chores, the school run and coffee mornings.

As the book’s subtitle (‘Nick and Angela’s first case’) suggests, the book leaves plenty of potential for future instalments of amateur sleuthing in respectable, middle-class East Sheen, by the co-partners in crime.

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Extract

Prologue - The sex change


The sex change was my decision. We discussed it. We talked about it.  We looked at all the pros and cons. The ins and outs. We watched and we waited. And then, after much deliberation, we finally agreed to go ahead with it. After all, we joked, over a couple of bottles of indifferent plonk, it’s not as if it couldn’t be reversed. The balls retrieved as it were. Just as long as we had the money. 


And so I’ve withdrawn from the coal face, the rat race, the paper chase, and have taken up the apron and carrier bag, to become her in charge of all things domestic and offspring-sprung; whilst my wife Janey has dusted off her briefcase and travel-card and accepted her old job back at her old company on a mercifully anything-but-old salary. One that will hopefully deliver us from all creditory evil and keep us in the style in which we had become firmly buried in cement.


Though I said the decision was mine, there was really no decision to be made. Unless of course, we were prepared to uproot, up-sticks, and ascend several rungs down the property ladder to a place where the sun of munificent status no longer shines. The spacious loft extension, the breezy patio addition, the new kitchen and car have all made the decision for us. We need that precious income like a model needs a set of runway directions. Though accountants, doctors and drug dealers can always get work in a non-existent-but-much-talked-up recession, advertising copywriters cannot. Especially if they’re in the ever-so dodgy epoch of their late-30s and expect a salary at least equivalent to that of a middle-ranking cabinet minister. We are about as indemnified against redundancy as a sprinkler salesman during  Monsoon season.


My severance package, afloat for a shorter time than Ophelia’s petticoats, was instantly ripped to shreds by a boiling piranha frenzy of outstanding standing orders, whilst an income protection policy, in which I had so wisely invested at the start of my last employ, is currently being sucked dry by the twin vampire bats of school fees and extra-curricular infant activities.


Since leaving Porky, Porky Capitalist-Pigg, I have been interviewed, re-interviewed, considered, re-considered, short-listed, de-listed, tipped for and pipped at the post so often, that I no longer have any further expectation of gainful career employment in my chosen field.  So it has been Janey and her offshore taxation expertise who has mercifully come to the rescue.


'It’ll be hard,' she informed me, in that wonderfully practical voice of hers. 'Let’s be clear about that. But you’ve got a good way with children, and I’ll do what I can when the job allows. Plus weekends will be fine with both of us on the case.'


We agreed that the timely arrival of regular freelance, or a change in my full-time employment fortunes might reopen the case, but for the time being, to all intents and purposes, at the beginning and at the end of the day, Nick Young would be adopting the bland but worthy mantel of ‘house husband’.


Funnily enough, I am very calm about the whole thing. Dare I say it, looking forward to the challenge. I mean it’s all very modern, isn’t it? The way things are heading. The essence of 21st century heterosexual couple as team players, albeit with crouching skivvy as solid, dependable goal-keeping type; breadwinner as noble, goal-scoring übermensch. Women are finally coming into their long-awaited inheritance, their shot at running the teetering system, and I am simply bowing to the inevitable. For my part, it’ll mean less stress, less pressure, less jowl thickening and artery furring, and thus ensure greater longevity and sanity for my besieged and storm-tossed corps. The change will enable me to take a mid-life view. To peek and poke around in my confused and neglected psyche - to restore, realign, reclaim.


I mean, how hard can it be? I’ll take the little dears to school and collect them. I’ll cook their breakfasts and dinners. I’ll do a vroom of vacuuming, a dash of dusting, the radio merrily twittering in the background. I’ll buy the groceries and lash the laundry, whites firmly separated from the colours. But there will still be sufficient time for my golf handicap, my tennis game and all those other projects I’ve never got round to, like my unfinished screenplay and novel. The possibilities stretch out before me like the sun-kissed tarmac of a Californian highway.


 

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