Excerpt from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The White Lady

A Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear X
The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 336 pages

    Mar 12, 2024, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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The farmer's wife took a sip of tea, her captive audience now leaning on the mop handle. "Well, everyone got what they came in for, but Mrs. Larch had forgotten something, so she was about to walk back into the shop when she heard Miss White, who had finally reached the counter. No one else was in the shop. Mrs. Larch told me that Miss White leaned toward old Hatcher and said, 'Mr. Hatcher, I am sure you don't realize this—or perhaps you do—but your scales are off, so when your customer thinks you're giving them a bit extra, you're still not handing them the weight they're paying for. You're shorting your customers and you're charging them the full whack. I would imagine that rather mounts up in your coffers, over the days.' Mrs. Larch said he flushed beetroot, mumbled something about his scales, then said he'd check the weights directly." Wicks nodded. "She caught him out, did Miss White, and more power to her."

"I don't see her around the village much," said Rose.

Wicks shook her head. "No, you wouldn't. Apparently a van from London comes to the house once a week, sometimes once a fortnight, and she walks out to collect a box of groceries, all sent down from up there. She's looked after, make no mistake. Mind you, she has a motor car herself, but she only takes it out every now and again on account of the government limits on petrol—you know, if you've a motor you can't go more than ninety miles distant in a month, so it's not as if she can wander far from home, is it? Anyway, the royals look after these ladies-in-waiting when they've stopped working—though I would have thought she was a bit young for being retired."

"How old is she, do you reckon?" asked Rose.

"I would put her at about forty-two, forty-three, something of that order. Bit more, perhaps, but not less. Anyway, none of our business, is it? Now—do you think you could go over that bit of floor again, there, in the corner?"

Rose pushed the mop into the bucket of water and scrubbed away at the heavy red tiles in the corner of the kitchen. There was no mark left after the first mopping, but she knew Mrs. Wicks liked to find fault by way of keeping her on her toes.

"Mind you, one thing I know," continued Wicks. "She's handy with a gun. Saw her early one morning, just past dawn it was, when I was out picking mushrooms for Sunday breakfast. Couple of pheasant went up and she had them." The woman snapped her fingers. "Just like that, one after the other, boom-boom. I didn't think she had any idea I was there, because it was all I could do to see the fungi at that time in the morning, but she picks up the birds and calls out, 'Good morning, Mrs. Wicks. I wouldn't touch that clump of mushrooms because they're set among a few Destroying Angels—they're the ones with a bright white cap.' Then she was gone, and I hardly saw her set off on her way. But she had a steady hand, I'll say that for her. And she knows her mushrooms, because when I got back to the kitchen, I looked into the basket and she was right, there were a number of the bad ones she'd told me to look out for. I could have killed me and Mr. Wicks with just one of them if she hadn't warned me." She paused. "Could you do a bit of laundry for me? My smalls, if you don't mind—I like to get them done before Mr. Wicks comes in from the fields. Not right for a man to see his wife's knickers, is it?"

While Rose stood at the sink washing half a dozen heavy-duty bloomers that must have pre-dated the Great War, Mrs. Wicks continued talking about their neighbor.

"And she reminds me of that funny sort of lizard I read about once. You know, the one that changes color to match whatever leaf it's sitting on. Can't say I remember what they're called. Anyway, I was at that kitchen window one morning, wondering if the snow would stop and whether the pipes would freeze—they say last winter was the worst on record for years and years, perhaps even a century. Well, as I said, I was looking out of the window, and I thought I saw something move. I squinted, peeled my eyes to have a good look, and then I saw her—Miss White wearing a white coat, marching across the field, her hunting rifle over her arm. A white coat in the snow!" The farmer's wife shook her head. "It's like she never wants to be seen. Funny, eh?"

Excerpted from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear. Copyright © 2023 by Jacqueline Winspear. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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