John Barleycorn Must Die
On the recommendation of MI5 Detective Chief Inspector Steve Winwood is asked to come out of retirement to find one of their agents who has gone missing from the small English market town of Rutherford.
He cannot think of a good reason why a department of the secret service asked for him to be recruited for this job rather than one of their own.
He has no photo or even a name to help locate the agent. Trusting his instinct, he follows up a report of a car crash where the vehicle and driver have been completely incinerated beyond identification.
Circumstantial evidence points to the driver being Roger Chapman, the Overseas Marketing Executive for Redbourne Brewery.
One further clue is that his photograph in the company’s brochure matches the description given by the Fleetwood Arms Hotel night porter from where he was arrested by the local police.
Assuming that his information is correct he discovers from the Brewery that Chapman was working as a go-between for the British and Chinese Governments.
When searching Chapman’s home address Winwood has his first contact with one of the mysterious Men In Black. No one knows for sure if they work for a Government agency or an alien one. They appear to be responsible to no one; just ask questions and send a chill of fear and alarm in those they contact.
Emma Porter once Winwood’s sergeant and now an Inspector in a department of the Fraud Squad returns to Rutherford and joins Winwood to investigate claims of a property scam reported by a Chinese businessman. The prospectus handed to her by the Chinese is a property development company fronted by Chapman trading as Barleycorn Property Investments.
Winwood is convinced that Chapman was being chased by both the Government and the Chinese over the embarrassment that would be caused if the fraud was exposed. At every turn he is met by obfuscation and blind alleys erected by the secret service.
Winwood is then handed confidential documents confirming a contact with the Men In Black by Dr Rose Collins who treated Chapman for a nervous breakdown. One contains her report of his experiences under regression hypnosis claim he had been abducted by aliens. His company and friends certainly notice a total personality change and a different attitude to work and his position
There are few people he can trust; only his closest friends, the newspaper editor, the antiquarian bookseller and the local vicar. When he pulls all the evidence together Winwood finally discovers who and what the Underground represent and the terrible secret that they and the secret service are hiding.
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