, perhaps one of the foremost contemporary practitioners of the Cosy Mystery …
(Sarah Williams: 'How to Write Crime', published by Constable Robinson)
THE TOWER ROOM
Is it a ghost story ? Or a love story ? You decide… and let me know
Emily Martin was pleased rather than dismayed when she found that her bedroom was haunted. It added a certain spice to life, she decided, something a little out of the ordinary.
Nobody told her in advance about the ghost, of course. Mrs Anderson, the warden of Tower House, had shown her round on the initial exploratory visit and had said that the Tower Room was the only accommodation vacant at present.
‘Not all of our residents can manage that little half-flight of stairs, though there's a lift on the landing along here’ she explained, throwing open the door to the most enchanting room Emily had ever seen.
It was a large, square, sunny room with a semi-circular bay window jutting out over the garden, a tiny en-suite tucked into a corner.
‘Why, it really is a tower,’ breathed Emily, delighted. ‘I'll take it !’
Mrs Anderson was taken aback at such naked enthusiasm. She prided herself on the contentment of her residents but rarely had anyone launched herself so wholeheartedly at the sheltered flatlets. However determined intending guests were to dispense with the cares and responsibilities of everyday managing, they were usually a little diffident, a touch hesitant.
Emily had no such qualms. She had zipped along through life at a tremendous rate making snap decisions along the way, regretting a few but never dwelling on them. Now it was time to surrender some of her independence in order to preserve her self-respect. The decision was already made, only the details remained and now, for the first time in her life, Emily was in love. The Tower Room had taken the most extraordinary hold on her and she could hardly bear to leave it to go down to the warden’s sitting room to discuss terms and conditions.
‘We like to encourage our residents to bring their most loved bits and pieces’ suggested Mrs Anderson, pouring tea. ‘Pictures, china, a favourite chair, that sort of thing. That's why the rooms are rather simply furnished, with the basics, so that you can stamp your personality on your own space.’
For the first time Emily looked a bit doubtful. Did she want her own very forceful personality stamped on that delightful room? Three years in the wartime Wrens followed by nearly forty years as a high-flying career civil servant had made her into a very tough cookie indeed. The retirement years had hardly been less busy, spent managing, organising and generally telling people what to do in the name of charity and other civic good works. Would all of this stifle the wonderful atmosphere of the room, darken the limpid clarity of the light ?
‘I won't bring very much’ she said thoughtfully, ‘Just some books and pictures and my grandmother's little writing desk. I don't want to clutter up the room, I like the feeling of space.’
That afternoon Emily put her house on the market, sold her car and arranged for her furniture to be taken away and sold at the next auction, apart from the oddments she intended to take with her. Only the sale of the car disturbed her but it was having to give up driving that had precipitated the move to Tower House in the first place. Several attacks of giddiness and palpitations and a warning "to take things easy" from her doctor had shown her that driving wasn't really a sensible idea; she could cause an accident. Without a car she could hardly go on living three miles outside town, with no bus service, and a garden that was too much for her anyway.