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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Print Excerpt

After reversing the motor car out of the garage, she ensured the doors were secured again and drove at a low speed toward the Mackies' cottage. Pulling over to park on the grass verge, where she knew the shadow of a giant conifer would obscure the fact that she was there, she waited.

Her timing was good. Within a few minutes, two men came out of the cottage, one looking back and waving a fist at Jim Mackie, who turned away into his home, an arm around his wife and child. Was it instinct on her part? Foreknowledge? Experience? Whatever the source, Elinor knew the men must in some way be disabused of the notion that they could prevail, for she understood that the only reason for the visit was to bring Jim Mackie back to London, and not because his family missed him.

And how did Elinor know all this? Because she made it her business to know. Just as she knew the butcher was fiddling the books and his customers, just as she knew Mrs. Butler at the tea shop in Shacklehurst was a receiver of black market goods. She also knew that Wicks, the farmer, spent many an evening in Mrs. Butler's company and not walking the perimeter of his land checking fences, which is what he'd told his wife. To be sure, she recognized the Mackie name—anyone who read the newspapers would have seen it on occasion in connection with a police inquiry, though as far as she knew, nothing had ever been pinned on the family. A few days after her first encounter with Rose and Susie, Elinor had taken the train into Tunbridge Wells—just for a change and to visit a shop or two—and used the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the library, leafing through a clutch of old newspapers. She told the librarian that she was writing a novel, a mystery, and she wanted to find out more about the criminal underworld. The librarian was most enthused—indeed, she was a fan of mysteries—and proved to be a helpful accomplice in the quest. Elinor thought it was enlightening, what she learned about crime and the Mackie family. Of course, there was another source of information she could have approached—a man who had an intimate knowledge of organized crime—but at that point, early in her acquaintance with Rose and Susie, Elinor thought she understood enough about the Mackies to be going on with. And she wasn't ready to consult that particular oracle.

As the Ford accelerated away from the cottage, Elinor released the handbrake, slipped the Riley into gear and kept a discreet distance behind the Ford. She knew they were bound for London; she would follow them all the way to be sure her information regarding their identity was correct. Then she would go to the flat. The flat was her secret. If the house in Shacklehurst had become her retreat, the flat was her safe house. To her knowledge, it was her best-kept secret, and Elinor White knew how to keep secrets.

Tomorrow morning she would go to see Steve. It was time. Her reappearance in his orbit would come as a surprise, might disarm him at first—she knew that much. He would ask why any of this was her business, and he would doubtless lecture her about London's gangs, about the machinations of organized crime. Naming his adversaries, Steve would tell her more than she wanted to know about the Sabatinis, about the likes of the Maltese Alfred Messina, his brothers and their gang, and the types of ne'er-do-wells who toiled for a nasty piece of work known as Jack Spot, and then he would list every other crime lord in London who was giving him and his men a headache. Finally he would tell her to go home. He would insist she return to her safe, quiet and secure house in the country and put all wars behind her. He would tell her the underworld wasn't her battle. In the meantime, she would devise an answer for him, a counter to convince Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Warren that she was serious, that she knew something was going down with the Mackie family, though her motive for taking immediate action would not be the truth. But he might guess. He might well intuit that it was the child. And he would smile at her; the penny would drop, and he would know that for Elinor, Susie Mackie was both the reason and the opportunity. The little girl had triggered something elusive she had yearned for since the war. It was the possibility of atonement.

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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