My enormous thanks to Rachel Sergeant for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for the paperback of The Good Teacher, and to Finn Cotton at Harper Collins for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. Not only do I have my review of The Good Teacher, but I also have an extract to share with you today.
Published by Harper Collins imprint, Killer Reads, The Good Teacher is available for purchase through these links.
The Good Teacher
Even the good have to die.
A beloved teacher is murdered and left in a ditch beside a country lane. His wife is found beaten and gagged in their suburban home.
Even the best schools have secrets.
New detective Pippa Adams learns that the teacher ran a homework club for vulnerable pupils. But what did he really teach them?
Even the perfect family has something to hide.
When Pippa scratches the surface of the school community, she meets families who’ve learned a shattering lesson. And finally uncovers the good teacher’s darkest secrets…
An Extract from the Good Teacher by Rachel Sargeant
Thank you, Linda for letting me stop off at your blog on my tour for The Good Teacher. I’d like to share some of chapter three. Bartholomew Hedges is a man with a lot on his mind, and DC Pippa Adams visits a crime scene:
Across town Bartholomew Hedges climbs down his ladder. He can’t work. He tells himself it’s the heat, but knows it isn’t. The fair weather is his friend, kind for completing the exterior paintwork. The Lord shines the sun on him. He should be getting on; the customer has started asking questions. Bartholomew can’t blame the dormer roof for much longer.
As he replaces his brush in the paint can, some of the white undercoat slops onto the patio. He scoops it back in with his palette knife and removes the rest of the stain with white spirit. He sprinkles more spirit on his hands and wipes them down with the rag from the pocket of his shorts.
His fingers aren’t clean, but pale like a white man’s. He needs a wash down with soap and water. But he doesn’t want to go into the house as the customer’s wife is at home. She might ask him why he’s stopped again.
He sits on the edge of the patio. The step down to the lawn is low and his paint-flecked knees come up high in front of him. The grass is yellow, even though he’s seen the owners using a sprinkler every evening. He’s heard them talking of having it re-turfed – as soon as the decorating’s finished. He sighs. Perhaps he should tell them that God will replenish their lawn long before Hedges House Painting Services retouches their eaves.
He’s surprised they gave him the contract at all. He knows the man didn’t want to and he can’t blame him. As far as he was concerned Bartholomew had already proved himself unreliable. In February he’d been due to start on their dining room – a big job to take off the Anaglypta wall covering, cross line it and paint over in mushroom gold. Bartholomew had to cancel at two weeks’ notice when he couldn’t find his steam stripper. It would have taken a month of God’s sacred Sundays to scrape off Anaglypta without a steamer.
The machine disappeared from the back of his van one night, but there’d been no sign of a break-in. Had he forgotten to lock the van? Convincing himself that it was his own foolish mistake, he hadn’t gone to the police or contacted his insurance company. Back then, the possibility that someone else could get hold of the van key hadn’t crossed his mind. Bartholomew wipes his chin with his forearm and wonders whether that suspicion had been in his head all along but he’d chosen to ignore it. February? Were the signs already there?
He shuffles along the patio edge to his toolbox. Underneath his Thermos flask of Cherry Tango is his Bible, wrapped in a plastic bag. He longs to take it out, ask it the questions, and seek solace. But he can’t touch it until he’s washed his hands.
The same passage comes into his mind. It’s been there almost constantly for three weeks now. Proverbs 10: 1: “A wise son makes his father proud of him; a foolish one brings his mother grief.” The words have been pressing against his brain ever since he saw his own son, Saul, being … doing …
He shivers. The fear comes back and he thinks of Job 20: 16: “What the evil man swallows is like poison.” Is Saul evil? Every day he prays for a sign, for the Lord to reassure him. Bartholomew needs to know that the evil lies elsewhere, not in a boy like Saul. Again and again he’s asked Saul why he did it. Saul says it’s like falling into cotton wool. It lets him find a warm and happy place that he wants to keep going back to. Where did Bartholomew go wrong? He’s found comfort from a life of faith. Why hasn’t Saul found it there, too?
A scenes of crime officer dusts a bedside locker while another hunts through drawers. I look at the unmade double bed that the Brocks must have been dragged from in the night. The room’s simply furnished – a large pine wardrobe and matching dressing table – again tidy, no lipsticks or perfume bottles in sight.
The second bedroom looks like an advert for an office suppliers. A black swivel chair slots underneath a desk as if it’s never been used. Even the few sheets of printed papers on top lie in a perfect pile. A plastic dust sheet covers the computer. The blotting pad looks fresh and a single ballpoint pokes out of a pen-tidy. The only incongruous item is a birdcage complete with a bell and a seed hopper under the desk. Two forensic officers come in behind me, so I leave them to begin a detailed search.
Whereas the rest of the upstairs appears sterile, the third bedroom is a surprise. Three walls are bright yellow and the fourth displays a magnificent hand-painted circus scene. Trapeze artists fly across the red and white striped backdrop of the big top. Clowns juggle silver hoops and two white horses rear up at each other. It must have taken someone days to complete. In the middle of the room is a large cot with a clown motif mattress, but no bedding. The drawers of the nappy changing unit next to it are empty.
I go downstairs, psyching myself up for the next round with Matthews.
He’s on his mobile, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. “No, ma’am, nothing of interest so far. They’ve bagged up a few bits and pieces.”
I wander into the kitchen. Dave, the forensic scientist, kneels at the opened back door, scraping at a broken pane of glass. I look beyond him into the garden. Typical new-estate small, the paved patio is surrounded on three sides by conifers.
Two familiar figures come round the side of the house and I smile in relief. “Anything interesting?” I call.
“Hi, Pippa, good to see you. Nothing out here,” PC John Whitton says, coming towards the doorstep. “But Forensics pulled some clothes out of the washing machine. They want to check whether anyone’s tried to wash away evidence.”
“Unlikely though,” PC Kieran Clarke says. “It’s a towel and a few men’s shirts and trousers, probably the husband’s. We won’t find any bloodstains. All his blood is spread across Martle Top.” He gives a half-hearted chuckle.
“The relief’s missing you already,” John says. “So how are you getting on in CID?”
The thought of my day so far makes my insides clench but I manage a breezy “Fine”. Trying not to sound desperate, I say how glad I am to see them again and go back through the kitchen.
(I’m sure that will have whetted your reader appetite. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of The Good Teacher too.)
My Review of The Good Teacher
Pippa Adams has just joined CID, but it isn’t necessarily easy to fit in.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Good Teacher, because it is an interesting and entertaining murder mystery without the gratuitous and graphic violence that sometimes spoils these stories for me. I thought The Good Teacher was really well plotted and I enjoyed making the connections in the story alongside Pippa, finishing the book with a sigh of satisfaction. Rachel Sargeant has a brisk, lively quality to her writing that makes the plot zip along effortlessly.
I found Pippa a cracking character. The reader is drip fed aspects from her past and reading The Good Teacher has left me wanting to know more about her. She’s set up perfectly for a very satisfying series and I found her multi dimensional and engaging. I loved her nickname Agatha after Agatha Christie and actually, I could imagine Agatha Christie thoroughly appreciating the way The Good Teacher is written because there are many resonances with her own style. Rachel Sargeant understands that readers sometimes need less gore and more depth of character.
I also really enjoyed the themes explored. Rachel Sargeant encourages the reader to think about the difference between appearance and reality, about the dynamics of race, family, gender and authority, and about identity, grief and loyalty. I think there is huge potential for Pippa Adams in the future.
The Good Teacher isn’t a high octane police procedural, but I enjoyed it all the more for being a measured and compelling first book in a series that I will be following with great enthusiasm and interest. The Good Teacher is a smashing book and very well worth reading. I really recommend it.
About Rachel Sergeant
Rachel Sargeant is the author of Kindle Top Ten bestseller The Perfect Neighbours. She is a previous winner of Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been placed or shortlisted in various competitions, including the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel grew up in Lincolnshire, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.
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