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Extract: Murder on Lake Garda by Tom Hindle

Since publishing his first book in 2022, Tom Hindle has quickly become one of our favourite murder mystery writers. His bestselling debut A Fatal Crossing and his festive, cosy locked-room mystery The Murder Game both share a warm, witty tone, and are full of the sorts of twists and turns you’d expect from Agatha Christie.

His new novel, Murder on Lake Garda, is a brilliantly unique whodunnit set during a wedding ceremony. It’s not out until January 18, 2024, but we have an exclusive extract of the novel’s opening below…

Murder on Lake Garda
Tom Hindle


By the time the scream reached Stephen Dalton, he and the groom had been standing for several minutes at the end of the aisle, awaiting the arrival of the bride.
        Laurence didn’t seem remotely fazed by the delay, passing the time by making cheerful small talk with the celebrant. How could he be so calm? Stephen was only the best man, and yet this deviation from the schedule was making him even more restless than he’d been in the minutes before his own wedding.
        That was just Laurence, though. Nothing had frightened him in all the years they had known one another. With a glimmer of resentment, Stephen imagined how that must just be what came of a life spent walking above a safety net spun from pure gold.
        The sun was beating down. Castello Fiore was already slightly raised, a short path having sloped upwards from the jetty to the gates. But once inside, a steep flight of ancient steps had also needed to be climbed in order to reach the terrace on which the ceremony would be performed. The resulting view was breathtaking. Just shy of a mile away, on the nearest shore, Stephen could make out terracotta-tiled roofs and pastel-coloured buildings. Behind them, mountains reached for the sky, giving the impression of a basin, and as for the water . . .On the flight to Verona, he had read that Lake Garda was thirty-four miles from top to bottom. Seeing it in person, it seemed to stretch for ever, the most brilliant shade of blue, until, somewhere on the horizon, the water and the sky simply blurred into one.
        At the front of the terrace, a small canopy had been set up, shading a table with a crisp white cloth, along with seats for the bride, groom and celebrant. It was under this canopy that Stephen and Laurence now stood. The guests hadn’t been so lucky, their own seats exposed to the midday heat. Some on the English side were turning a troubling shade of red, while even the Italians across the aisle were beginning to struggle. Light glinted from the rims of designer sunglasses, sweat beading at hairlines.
        Stephen looked around, taking in the small congregation behind them, and locked eyes with Abigail. He gave his wife a small smile, which she didn’t return. He couldn’t blame her. He was just glad he’d managed to talk her out of flying home.
        Turning back towards the front, he looked out across the lake. The string quartet played, but there was no chance of the music distracting the guests from the increasingly unbearable heat. Laurence flashed him a grin, and Stephen realised that for a good minute or two he hadn’t been listening. He forced a smile, then checked his watch.
        Ten minutes late.
        What the hell was Eva doing? It wasn’t as though she could get lost on her way to the venue; she and the bridal party had been on the island all morning. Had she changed her mind? Got cold feet?
        More likely she was with the photographer. She was going to be on a magazine cover, after all. She wouldn’t think for a second about making them all wait in this heat if it meant getting the perfect shot before she walked up the aisle.
        He felt a sudden flush of bitterness, wishing more fervently than ever that Laurence and Eva had never met. Even as schoolboys, it had always felt as if they’d had more of a partnership than a friendship. Stephen did the work while Laurence took the credit. It wasn’t perfect, but for Stephen, who had only attended Rushworth on a bursary designed to make the school appear slightly less elitist, it had always worked. Having Laurence take such a shine to him in those early days had felt like a godsend. Doubly so when, after university, Laurence had ushered him straight into the Heywoods’ hedge fund management business.
        It hadn’t been until Eva arrived on the scene that everything had started to go wrong. When Laurence, in an effort to please her, had begun indulging some of his darkest impulses.
        Again, Stephen looked around. As he did, he spotted the photographer. She was standing at the top of the steps leading up to the terrace. Waiting.
        Stephen frowned. That meant she wasn’t with Eva. And if she wasn’t with Eva…
        His nerves became impossible to ignore. Something was off. He couldn’t tell what, but he was certain something wasn’t right.
        A breeze strayed across the terrace, prompting audible sighs from several of the guests. It was then that the sound reached them. It was distant. But without doubt, it had come from the island. Somewhere inside the castle.


Harper Bale was sitting alone at the back of the congregation when she heard the scream.
        She should have been accompanying the photographer, making sure she had everything she needed. That was, after all, the reason she had come. Not as a guest. Eva would never think to extend such an invitation to her lowly agent. As ever, she was there as little more than an assistant.
        She looked across the terrace, taking in the aisle strewn with rose petals, the groomsmen in their linen suits, the view across the lake. Harper should have been delighted. The photos, undoubtedly, were going to be stunning. But in that moment, she had bigger things to worry about than a magazine feature.
        After everything she’d poured into Eva Bianchi… All the work. All the stress. All the time. When the agency had wanted to let Eva go, it was Harper who had argued to keep her. When there hadn’t been a single brand that would touch her, it was Harper who had worked night and day to salvage her reputation. When Eva, with one devastating stroke of naivety, had driven her own career to the edge of ruin, it was Harper who had single-handedly steered her back from the brink.
        She wished she’d never bothered. Because now she knew exactly how grateful Eva was for her efforts.
        Harper had always understood that Eva didn’t appreciate everything she did. She’d even suspected, once or twice, that Eva wasn’t fully aware of it. But never, at any point, had she thought Eva was so oblivious that she was at risk of being fired.
        She took a breath, trying hard to keep herself from panicking.
        She had made a mistake. Lashed out in anger. The best she could do now was play dumb. Wait for someone else to spot what had happened and then do her very best to appear oblivious. And if, somehow, the blame was laid at her feet – if she was discovered – she would have to plead for mercy. Eva had betrayed her. Underappreciated and disrespected her for so, so long. How could anyone blame her for a momentary lapse of judgement?
        Harper fanned herself with an order of service, completely unprepared for the sheer relentlessness of the mid-July heat. She looked enviously towards the front, where Laurence stood beneath the canopy with his best man, cheerfully chatting to the celebrant. She was even jealous for a moment of his mother’s wide-brimmed hat. She might as well have been sitting with a parasol on her head.
        Squinting at the lake, Harper looked for the boats that had ferried them to the island. She knew it was futile. It was just short of a mile back to the mainland, no more than fifteen minutes. The boats would have made it back to the harbour at least half an hour ago. She wouldn’t see them again until midnight, when the reception ended and they came to carry everyone back.
        She swore under her breath. There was no way around it. She was stuck there.
        Taking out her phone, she checked the time. Eva was nearly ten minutes late. Harper sniffed. Hardly a surprise; Eva would one day be late for her own funeral. But it was someone else’s problem now. She would make sure the photographer was happy, and that was it. Her days of chasing after Eva Bianchi were done.
        But as the scream rang out, skirting across the terrace on a sudden breath of cool air, her eyes snapped up. The musicians stopped playing, and all thoughts of the photo shoot immediately slipped from Harper’s mind. Even the heat was forgotten, her blood turning to ice.


Vito Bianchi had already been panicking for several minutes.
        ‘Have they found her?’ he demanded. ‘Where is she?’
        ‘Any moment now, signore,’ had been the response from the wedding planner. ‘The island is small. There are only so many places your daughter could go, and all three of the bridesmaids are looking for her. I’m sure we’ll be getting under way in just a few minutes.’
        ‘Relax, amore,’ Paola said to him. ‘You know how important this magazine is to her. She must just be having another photograph taken.’
        He forced a smile. It was easy for his wife to be calm. She had no idea about the argument he and Eva had had that morning. Just as she had no idea two criminals had sneaked onto the island with the rest of their guests.
        At least it was over now. He’d done exactly as they’d asked; the worst thing, perhaps, that he had ever done. But if they kept their word, they would finally leave him alone. The constant harassment. The threats against his family. It was all finally going to stop.
        He went to the window and threw open the shutters. Music drifted down from the terrace, filling the courtyard below.
        ‘Fottuto inferno,’ he whispered. ‘Where is she?’
        ‘Vito . . .’ Paola put a hand on his shoulder. ‘She’s a few minutes late. That’s all.’
        He looked her in the eye, but he couldn’t speak. For an entire year, he’d done so well at making sure she knew nothing of the trouble they were in. He’d clawed and begged, doing everything – anything – he could to keep his debtors from their door.
        ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘Of course.’
        Paola took his hands and began to sway to the distant sound of the string quartet. ‘It’s Eva’s wedding day,’ she said, smiling at him. ‘Our eldest. Years from now, we’ll remember this day as one of the happiest of our lives.’
        He swayed with her, letting her guide him. One of the happiest days of their lives… He wondered if Eva still felt that way, having learned the truth that morning. Learned what he’d done.
        He took a deep breath. There was no need for this. The ordeal was over. Any minute now, Eva would arrive and he would walk her up the aisle. Then, after the wedding, they would talk. He would explain it all – how much danger he had saved them from – and she would forgive him. She would understand.
        He pulled Paola a little closer, taking the lead as the quartet continued to play. ‘Eva’s wedding day,’ he repeated. ‘One of the happiest of our lives.’
        It was then that another sound rang out, pouring through the open shutters and drowning out the music in an instant.
        His panic returning, Vito ran to the window, but there was nothing to be seen in the courtyard; it must have come from somewhere else on the island. Not that he needed to see. He knew exactly what he had heard.
        It was a scream. An unmistakable sound of terror.

Murder on Lake Garda

Tom Hindle

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