A Belinda Lawrence Mystery Book 5 – A Wicked Design

by Brian Kavanagh


Jasmine Sinclair was a tall statuesque blonde, expensively dressed and cool to the point of being frosty. She offered a perfectly manicured hand to greet Belinda. “So you’re Belinda? Brad told me so much about you.”

“I’ll bet he did,” thought Hazel.

As Jasmine examined Belinda, the way she would no doubt examine a dubious fashion item, Belinda couldn’t shake off the feeling she had seen the woman before. But that was not possible. She put the thought out of her mind. “I’m pleased he did. Then you can understand just how upset I am at his murder.”

Jasmine flinched slightly at the word. “Yes. His death came as a great blow to us all.”

They took their seats at a small lounge area in an office. The window in the high rise building afforded a wide view of Port Phillip Bay, the beaches stretching in an arc down towards the Mornington peninsula. Belinda looked around. The wall held a display of architectural awards bearing Brad’s name. “So this is Brad’s office?”

“Was his office,” said Jasmine.

“Bitch,” thought Hazel.

Belinda let the woman’s tactlessness pass. “We were wondering if you could give us any idea of how or why he was killed.”

Jasmine examined her fingernails. “I would have thought you’d already read the papers.”

Hazel, sensing that Belinda was finding the situation difficult, spoke up. “But we thought you would know more details.”

Aloof, Jasmine transferred her look to Hazel. “Why would you think that?” The frost in her voice grew heavy. “I’ve told the police all I know. I wasn’t there when he died and I didn’t murder him.”

“But,” said Hazel in counterfeit honeyed tones, “as his secretary and being so close to him, you’d know if he had any enemies or was engaged in any activities or projects that might have led to his murder. After all, a really good secretary knows where the bodies are buried.” She gave a patronizing smile.

Jasmine stared at Hazel for a moment before addressing Belinda. “As you were such and old and close friend of Brad’s, all I can tell you is that, as far as I know,” she glanced briefly at Hazel, “there was nothing in Brad’s life or work that would be considered – questionable.”

“I’m sure of that,” said Hazel with false appease-ment, “but the police and the papers haven’t really given details, except he had his hands tied and had been hit on the head. A blunt instrument was it?”

Jasmine frowned, or as much as she could. A Bo-tox junkie, thought Hazel. “What do you mean, a blunt instrument?”

“Isn’t that what they always say? Hit on the head with a ‘blunt instrument’?”

Jasmine’s lips tightened. “I really wouldn’t know,” she spat out.

“And this ‘blunt instrument’, say an iron bar. Or perhaps one made of silver? Was it used in his apartment? Was he murdered there and then dumped in the river?”

Jasmine’s cheeks reddened and her voice became low and heated. “As I said, I really wouldn’t know. I’ve al-ready told the police I was working here in the office the night Brad died, but I don’t see why I need to tell you.”

Hazel lifted her eyebrows expressing doubt. There was an awkward silence. Belinda began to feel that soon Jasmine would throw them out. She gave a tentative cough to draw attention back to herself. “What projects was he working on?”

Jasmine gave a weary sigh. “I’ve told all this to the police. The most obvious thing was his desire to build the dome on Parliament House. Apart from that he had a number of projects at various stages of development. Some apartment blocks, a few contracts for private houses. That’s more or less it, apart from a corporate building.”

“Where were these projects?” said Hazel.

Jasmine continued looking at Belinda. “The apartment blocks, down in the Quay area. The houses spread here and there. Chiefly in country areas close to the city. The Dandenong’s mainly.”

“Dandenong’s?” said Hazel. “What’s a Dan-denong?”

Jasmine sniffed. “The Dandenong Ranges. The mountain range nearby.”

“You mentioned a corporate building.” said Belinda.

“Yes. Work there is well underway. It’s in Little Lonsdale Street near Spring Street. Some old houses were removed. Of course, the greenies and the heritage mob complained, as they usually do. But they lost out and the excavation for the new building foundations is already underway.”

“And you don’t think these activities had anything to do with his murder? I mean, a payback from groups he may have offended, or corporate management that had an axe to grind, or a jealous associate?”

Jasmine got to her feet. “I’m afraid you’re talking nonsense. Now you really must excuse me. As you can appreciate, we have to carry on with Brad’s work, and arrange for other architects to take over, that is until we can sort out what happens to the company.” She moved towards the door.

Belinda and Hazel rose and followed her. They moved into the foyer and Jasmine pressed the elevator button. There was another awkward silence before Belinda muttered a feeble ‘thank you’.

“I really think you should speak to the police, if you want further details about Brad’s death,” said Jasmine dismissively, “there is nothing more for me to add.”

Belinda felt whatever Jasmine knew or suspected, she wasn’t prepared to part with it. The lift door slid open and Belinda and Hazel entered. They turned as the door closed. Jasmine was watching them, her eyes steely and unfeeling. Once again Belinda had the curious feeling she had seen Jasmine before.

(C) Brian Kavanagh


Now hot on the heels of my previous review for “A Canterbury Crime” I get to visit Belinda in “A Wicked Design.” If you’ve just read the other review, you know I’m not Mark’s biggest fan…Belinda’s boyfriend. Boy, I was thrilled at the mess Brian wrote for Mark this time around.

I had even more fun with Hazel this time around. Now this lady I would love to know in real life. She just grabs and runs with the moment…and if that moment is a cute male, all the more fun.

I know I shouldn’t have this much fun with murder and politics, but “A Wicked Design” is too much a treat.

With “A Canterbury Crime” I enjoyed curling up and moving into the book. Here at “A Wicked Design” I was still curled up, but I found myself feeling a faster pace setting in. Could Mark really be ex-boyfriend Brad’s killer? What would that do to Belinda? Given my mixed feelings about Mark, how would I feel if he was…wasn’t?

Here is where I’ve discovered the diverse nature of Brian’s writing. Reading both these books back-to-back, one had me in a much quieter mood (A Canterbury Crime) whereas “A Wicked Design” I felt I was racing against the clock. Both completely satisfying and not as easy as you would think for any writer.

It takes a dedicated writer to pull their series characters through each story without a formula developing. A formula which can then become an anticipated pattern. Don’t get me wrong, I do like my pattern favourites…Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, along with The Famous Five books come to mind. However, I do appreciate an author who knows how and when to grow their characters. What pace the story being told requires…and listens to the story’s demands for that pace.

Having been a fan of Belinda’s since book one, closing “A Wicked Design” I feel there’s a whole new chapter opening up for her. A new path she’s going to travel down and I’m curious to know what that brings her. What decisions she makes.

Way to go, Brian. I’m forgetting she’s a fictional character and you’re her creator. I do hope you keep an ear open and a blank screen ready for what Belinda wants next.