#ThursdayBookBlog ~ an excerpt from Out of Time… #MysteryThriller

 Kate Devereau wakes up in a hospital, unable to speak or move. Her brain has shut down, refusing to acknowledge her dark and disturbing past, concealing a web of painful secrets.

Michael Barratt brought her to the hospital, insisting that her ex-husband had tried to kill her. And from the state of him, had tried to kill him too. He had been searching for Kate for years, ever since their doomed love affair, only to discover someone else had been hunting her too.

With the help of the DI David Snow, Kate will gradually piece her life back together, only to discover the nightmare is far from over.

Her first instinct is to run, but David Snow convinces her to stay and help him put an end to the nightmare. A nightmare that will get progressively worse before it gets better.

Haunted by his own demons, will the Snowman manage to catch the twisted killer?

Evil lurks in this story and people die, but amidst the tears and heartache, a lost love struggles to survive…

 

Excerpt from Out of Time

 Detective Inspector David Snow looked down at the unconscious woman on the hospital bed in front of him, remembering the state of her when she had arrived, a few hours ago. They had done a good job of cleaning her up. She lay still, like a religious statue in a church, her pale skin the colour of finest marble. The gentle rise and fall of her breasts the only indication life still clung to her body.

So different to the wrinkled, dirt-ingrained body he had looked at earlier, of an old tramp, found dead in the hospital car park, bundled into a moth-eaten army coat and wedged under a car. What was originally thought to be a simple case of neglect, had taken on a more sinister tone when they discovered the tramps head had been cut off and shoved down the back of the old boy’s trousers.

Snow wondered what an old tramp could possibly have done to warrant such treatment, being well known around the hospital and described as a harmless old soul. The tenuous link to the woman in front of him indicated she might not be safe and would need his protection.

They knew very little about her, and he wondered again what kind of woman she was.  Now the dirt had been removed, she looked healthy and well cared for, which ruled out homelessness. A reasonably attractive, middle-aged woman, bordering on the ordinary, apart from her curly hair which would appear to have a life of its own, as even now it crept across the pillow like the roots of a willow.

Alone with the unconscious woman, Snow had an excellent opportunity to study her without feeling self-conscious about doing it. In all the years since his wife’s death, he missed looking intimately at a woman. He usually tried to do it surreptitiously to avoid the risk of being branded a pervert, or worse. He liked to imagine what kind of person they were, if they were kind or cruel, bossy or timid, but for once, there were no clues on this woman’s face. A slight determination in the set of her jaw gave him pause for thought.

According to Michael Barratt, the man who brought her here, her name was Kate Devereau, an artist, none of which gave him any clues as to her character. In the beginning, Snow had instinctively thought she might be the murderer in this case, due to the amount of blood found in the cottage.  Michael Barratt had found her unconscious in this cottage on the outskirts of Guildford. He said he knew her, but had no idea why she had found it necessary to be there. As an estate agent, he had been arranging to have the cottage ready for Miss Devereau to rent.

It was all a little mysterious, compounded by the fact Michael Barratt looked as if he had been barbecued. His clothes were burned black in places, apart from his jacket, which was clean and several sizes too small and obviously didn’t belong to him. The back of his head and hands were raw and blistered, suggesting there were probably more extensive burns to his body.

The estate agent had offered no explanation for his own condition but stubbornly kept asking after Kate, which might possibly indicate an emotional involvement. He had no answer for what had happened to her, except to say her health had not been good for a while. If it hadn’t been for all the blood, it would have seemed innocent enough.

So why didn’t Snow believe him?

 

 

 

 

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#Tuesday Book Blog: Secrets by A.Dawes #FamilyDrama

 

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SOME SECRETS WILL KILL YOU…
and some are about someone who is already dead.
A mother must find the truth before the secrets destroy her family…

Excerpt

Maggie heaped three spoonsful of brown sugar into the frothy coffee, and Scott gave a gentle tut-tut as she watched it slowly slip through the bubbles.

Watching her stir the coffee for longer than was necessary, he asked, ‘Shall I fire questions at you or will you volunteer your troubles to old Scottie?’

The softening of his name was only for those he considered his true friends and he listened without interruption while she told him all about the nightmares, the mess in the kitchen, Danny’s destructiveness, burying Jack’s stuff in the garden and all the things that Danny attributed to his imaginary friend, Toby.

Scott pondered awhile, and then said, ‘You of all people shouldn’t think it so strange, where would you be without imagination, Maggie?  Pulling groceries on a check-out? Not that it’s a disgrace; someone has to do it… Danny is developing his mind, maybe he’ll be a great artist like his beautiful mother, or  write the books Jack couldn’t… then he’ll need all the power of his inner mind, much the way you do.’

She looked deep into her empty coffee cup as if it were a crystal ball. ‘Maybe I could believe all that if he were happy, Scott, but he’s not. He’s so moody and goes days without saying a word to anyone.’

She related Cathy’s story about hearing a dog in the car, and Scott looked puzzled.

‘From what you’ve told me about her, I’d say she’s prone to flights of fancy and you shouldn’t take any of it too seriously. It could have been anything, like that wretched noise when you speed past those wooden poles along the road. Maybe there was something stuck to the wheel of her car. Noises you would normally recognise have a way of sounding strange when you’re cooped up inside a tin-can on wheels.’

She didn’t believe Scott’s explanation, but it was enough to put a little doubt in her mind, she realised that she hadn’t thought the situation through as thoroughly as she might.

She didn’t tell him about the bite-marks and scratches that appeared on Danny during the nightmares until last. It wasn’t really all that bad, not enough to draw blood but marks none the less.

‘Could he have done it himself?’ asked Scott.

‘Yes, but he denied it.’

‘Someone at school, a fight? Boys get into them all the time.’

‘I don’t think so. Danny told the doctor that this Toby did it. When we asked him why he hadn’t said anything to us, he just shrugged his shoulders and clammed up. We’ve been advised not to push him too hard.’

Scott could see how worried she was, but he couldn’t really think of anything to allay her fears, real or imagined. It was high time to lighten the mood. Catching Kelly’s eye, he ordered two more coffees with hand gestures.

‘God knows what you’ve been letting your mind get up to, Maggie darling, but as far as I can tell, there are only two explanations. He either did it himself or he got into a fight and didn’t know how to tell you. There are times, darling when a young man can’t run to his mama. Losing a fight would be worse than telling you he had been in one in the first place…

‘Maybe that’s all he’s hiding from you, and as for the rest of it, it’s plain old-fashioned mischief born out of the sheer frustration of keeping things locked inside…’

~~~~~

 

Secrets

Danny’s secret goes back in time

How is this known to a child of nine?

No one believes him when he speaks

Of buried treasure the earth still keeps.

Yet stranger words are said in sleep.

His mother hears his sleeping moans

Afraid now, how can he know

Of secrets buried so long ago?

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#ThrowbackThursday ~ Lily White in Detroit by Cynthia Harrison #ThrillerMystery @CynthiaHarriso1

 

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Private investigator Lily White has a client with a faulty moral compass. When the client is arrested for murdering his wife and her alleged lover, Lily follows her intuition and her own leads. If she’s wrong, she’ll at least know she did her job.

Detroit police detective Derrick Paxton remembers Lily from another case. He understands she suffers from PTSD and thinks her judgment is impaired. He goes after her client and the evidence he needs to close the case. When Lily is kidnapped, the case takes an unexpected turn.

In a sometimes racially divided city, a black cop and a white PI work together to peel back every layer to find the truth. What they find leads them to each other, but do they have enough to bring the true criminals to justice?

Excerpt

They laughed and exchanged a look. It felt to Paxton like their eyes did something more than see each other. They connected. Tight as two loose strings making a strong knot. “Yes. And then today he brought flowers. He said we’d had an awful time of it with my room being broken into, and he needed to be there to surprise me and make me feel safe. ‘Give a heartsick guy a break’ were his words.”

She picked up her drink and took a swallow. “This is good,” she said. “I feel the vodka.”

 “So how’d he know you’d be there?”

“I didn’t think about that until I was on the way home, um, here.” Paxton drained his martini glass. “Home is here,” he said, “if you want it.”

She slid one of her legs out from under her and wiggled it under his thigh. “We have a ways to go, don’t we?” But the way she said it made it clear she was in this with him. He was not feeling the love alone. He took her bare foot and began to massage it, rubbing the arch and the heel and smoothing his fingers over her toes. “So, how’d he know?”

“If you think about it, you’ll be able to solve that one before I finish my drink.” She sipped. “That feels so good,” she said, pulling her other foot out from under her and sliding it his way.

“I’d say our security spotted him too close to the building, parked in his car overlong, kept an eye, and when you came out of the apartment, saw him follow you,” Paxton said.

“Yep,” Lily said. “So we have the tape if we need it. I guess that depends on what you tell me.” By this time, he’d started working out the stress points of her other foot. She made soft sounds of pleasure. “My God, where’d you learn to do that?”

“Reflexology book.”

“Hmmm. It’s better than vodka.”

 “You want a refill?”

“I want Chinese food. I forgot to eat today.”

“What about the pizza earlier?”

“Look at your watch.”

He did. It was after midnight. Okay, so pizza was yesterday. She was already on her phone, ordering a string of dishes, all their favourites. When it occurred to him they already had their favourites, their habits and routines, it made him happy and a little afraid.

 

Our Review

“Many thanks to the author for the advanced digital copy of this crime suspense book. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.”

Lily White is a private investigator but there was a time when she was someone else.

These days she is recovering from post-traumatic stress caused by a gruelling incident in her past and is definitely in the wrong job. Far too much spying on guilty wives and handling distraught husbands for her liking. She much prefers honest investigating.

Now there is a dead body.

And she had just been hired to find the killer.

This was well out of her comfort zone, especially for her PTSD, but too exciting to miss.

I loved the American setting, walking around Detroit with the characters seemed as natural as breathing, so the author must know it well.

All of the characters are well written and real, but I especially liked the two main characters, Lily and Paxton and the way they interact with each other. Such lovely chemistry between them.

The story had just enough subtle tension to keep me turning the pages and I have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of Lily and Paxton. At least I hope not…


 

#ThrowbackThursday ~ The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne @Abigail_Author #PsychologicalSuspense

 

Abigail Osborne’s unmissable The Puppet Master, a stunning thriller full of twists and turns.

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Billie is hiding from the world in fear of a man who nearly destroyed her. But a chance meeting with a budding journalist, Adam, sparks a relationship that could free her from her life of isolation and fear.

Unbeknownst to Billie, Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives he believes she has ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him. As an unwanted attraction blossoms between them, Adam comes to realise that all is not as it seems. 

Who is really pulling the strings? And are Adam and Billie both being played? 

One thing is for sure, The Master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them

Our Review

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Puppet Master, despite the sometimes-harrowing content that made it an emotional roller coaster!

Right from the beginning, I empathised with Billie, the sad and traumatised leading lady. I wanted to know why she was so terrified of being found, and who by.

When Adam, the newspaper reporter enters the story, determined to expose Billie for something she was supposed to have done, the tension as he tries to break down her defences is heart-breaking. Gradually, he peels back her protective layers, exposing the raw emotions that hid underneath her fear.

I kept hoping Adam would change his mind when his feelings for her began to grow, and take pity on someone who has already suffered enough, but his need for justice seemed too strong.

There is an unpleasant element to this story, but it is handled with great care by the author. By the time I had finished reading the second part of the book, I was desperate for some happiness for Billie. All the signs were there, but I knew it couldn’t happen, not yet.

Watching Adam when he finally learns the truth about Billie was almost as painful as the lie he originally believed.

The last part of this book piled on the tension yet again, and I geared myself up for a gripping ending. But the ending totally caught me by surprise.  It made my blood run cold!

A very absorbing well-written plot, the evil winds its way throughout everything, strangling and contaminating everything in its path…

Excerpt from The Puppet Master

He took her silence as an agreement and moved over to her; kneeling in front of her. She didn’t stop him as he slowly lifted her top until he got to the large, nasty looking red mark that the bike wheel had left on her side. Already it was beginning to swell and bruise. Trickles of blood leaked out of a few cuts where the wheel had twisted her skin. As she looked at him, she saw a fury burning in his eyes that brought a tear to her eye. He barely knew her but he had shown more care for her than any of her family ever had.

She knew more than anyone that men could make you feel like the centre of their universe then throw you away once they had got what they wanted. The logical part of her brain was insisting that this was Adam’s agenda, that he was no different, but at that moment she simply couldn’t believe it. “I don’t think you’ve broken anything.” He got up to go to the bathroom and came back with a wet flannel. He gently washed her side with a tenderness that she didn’t know men were capable of. Once finished, he lowered her top and sat back on his knees. “Can I get you some painkillers or something?” “I can’t have any.” He shot her a surprised look and she added, “I’ll be okay.” “Why can’t you? Allergies?” He had answered his own question so she just agreed and then lay back on the bed. It was tiring trying to mask the extent of the pain she felt. She knew that she would need to clean up her legs too, but there was no way that she was doing that in front of him.

Adam took his phone out of his pocket and passed it to her. “You need to call the police.” She couldn’t face sitting up so she reached out to take the phone—even though she had no intention of using it. While she weighed up what she could say to convince him, she couldn’t help but notice how the locks of unruly blonde hair that had fallen on to his forehead augmented his handsome features. Why did someone like him even care what happened to someone like her? She was a nobody…

 

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Abigail is originally from the Lake District but moved to the West Midlands for University where she completed an English Literature & History degree and also met her husband. She is a passionate reader and has an unsustainable collection of books. This obsession with books has led to her creating her own Dewey decimal system and she has been known to issue fines to family and friends if her book is not returned on time. Writing The Puppet Master has unleashed a love of writing and Abigail hopes to put her scarily crazy imagination to good use. She is currently working on book 2 and 3 and looks forward to publishing these soon.
You can follow me on @Abigail_Author
Website: http://www.abigailosborne.co.uk

 

 

#TuesdayBookBlog ~ Secrets… #DarkFamilyMystery

 

SOME SECRETS WILL KILL YOU…
and some are about someone who is already dead.
A mother must find the truth before the secrets destroy her family…

Secrets, a haunting family drama, is about deeply buried guilt and all the secrets and suspicions that invade and control our lives.

Many children have an invisible friend, and sometimes they can be a necessary part of a child’s life for many reasons.
But when this ‘friend’ starts to cause more than just mischief, it is time for his mother to investigate further.

Maggie Swan loves her little boy Danny, but his new playmate was becoming something of a problem. It was almost as though something was wrong and he was trying to fix it.
Her husband Jack, was no help at all, dismissing her ideas as rubbish. But was he merely trying to hide a guilty secret? One that Danny’s new friend knew all about?

Amazon Review:

I’ve been thinking about this review for a few days. I finished Secrets a short while ago and I’ve been trying decide how to express what I felt about it, but now my heading really says it all. This is a strong and powerful story, very well told. The characters are well-drawn and empathic; you have to like and sympathise with them fully, and the main plot, being that of a child who has an invisible but somewhat malicious ‘friend’, is very compelling. If you enjoy and read a lot of paranormal suspense, then you will really love this book. It isn’t my usual choice but I still found myself ‘turning the pages’ on my Kindle till I reached the end. In fact, it is very good!

I won’t say too much about the story as I don’t want to spoil the suspense and excitement for the reader, so this review is quite short. However, I think Anita Dawes has tapped into subjects that are very topical today and it’s well worth reading this book to see what can happen when we bury secrets for too long.

Excerpt of Secrets…


Deep in thought, Maggie started to play with her breakfast and it was Jack’s turn to watch fondly as she doodled with the egg yolk, spreading strange and bizarre patterns across the plate. The early morning sunlight streamed through the kitchen window bathing the breakfast scene in a cosy glow. She looked like a child sitting there in a pretty cotton housecoat, pale honey-coloured hair falling around her shoulders like a halo. She had something on her mind, he was sure. Knowing he didn’t really have the time and hoping she’d say it was nothing, he said, ‘What’s up, love, did you have another bad night with Danny?’

She slowly looked up at him from the mess on her plate, and he could tell by the way her usually bright blue eyes had darkened to the colour of the sea that he wasn’t about to hear anything like what he wanted to hear.
Looking back down at her plate, she said, ‘I’m very worried about him, Jack. These terrible nightmares are getting him down; and now this thing about an imaginary friend, I don’t like it, something’s wrong.’
Jumping straight in, hoping to get it over with quickly so he could get out of the house, he said, ‘You know what the doctor told us, he’ll grow out of it soon enough. It will only make things worse if we try and make Danny let go before he’s ready.’

‘Yes, I know what he said,’ an edge creeping into her voice, ‘but he’s not God. You don’t have to take everything he says as gospel. I don’t happen to think this thing with Toby is the same as a comfy blanket or a favourite teddy a child drags around with him. Can’t you see how he’s changed?
‘… he’s destructive, rude and downright messy. Don’t you think dragging half the garden into the kitchen last week was going a bit too far? You saw his face when I tried to tell him off, he wasn’t the least bit sorry. Judging from the skid marks all over the place it was plain to see he’d had a whale of a time, and what did he say when I asked him why he’d done it? … because Toby wanted him to.

‘… Jack, can’t you see we have to make him understand this Toby is only in his mind and he’s too old to play these pretend games?’
He took a deep breath, painfully aware the time was getting on. ‘Maggie, he’s only seven. You’re making too much of it. The doctor said to give him time and not to bully him into giving up Toby. It might make his nightmares worse.’
She opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, he reminded her again that she had agreed the gentle approach was best.
‘Plus, you haven’t given that idea of yours idea a chance. Having Cathy take Danny to school with Michael may work. He’ll soon see that having a real friend is lots more fun. Have you asked him again about joining the cubs?’
She snorted. ‘I did, and his answer was the same as before. Toby doesn’t want him to.’
‘Give him time, Maggie, he’ll come around.’

Maggie seemed to have run out of wind for the time being, so he took his empty plate over to the sink and left it on the draining board. Straightening his tie as he turned to her again, he said, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have time to talk this morning. I have four books waiting a final decision and what with the deadline and our new budget, I think I’ll have to reject two of them, you know how I hate sending out rejection letters. It doesn’t make for a nice day, especially when a book is worth publishing. If you’re that worried about Danny, we’ll talk about it tonight.’
Maggie frowned and gave him the kind of look that said, sure we will. Jack had seen it many times and responded in a way she had grown used to over the years. He pulled her into his arms, squeezed her gently, saying, ‘I promise we’ll talk about it later.’
Then he kissed her goodbye, grabbed his briefcase and left.

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#Throwback Thursday for CrossFire #MysteryThriller by Jaye Marie

 

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DI David Snow has a serial killer to catch, a killer as mysterious as the crimes he commits. Snow is due to retire, but not before he discovers why someone killed his sergeant and is now coming after him.

The killer seems to have a personal vendetta against Snow, but he is determined that no one else should die because of him. His efforts are hampered by the arrival of a new sergeant, ‘ruthless’ Ruth Winton, for she is not what she seems. Alarm bells start to ring when Snow realises she is after more than just his job.

Book Excerpt:

‘Do you know why we have brought you here today, Ann?’

Ruth thought she would ease her way in, rather than accuse her straight off, for triggering any hostility wouldn’t get them anywhere.

The woman stared at Ruth, her pale, colourless eyes searching for clues. ‘Nah… but I ‘spect you’ll get to it pretty quick…’

Ruth indicated a brown paper bag on the table beside her. ‘We found a pair of work boots at your house, Ann. According to your husband, they’re not his. Are they yours?’

Ann Taylor glared at Ruth. She seemed to be enjoying the interview, her arrogance showing through the previous nervousness. ‘Dunno, can’t see them can I?’

Ruth undid the bag and placed the dirty boots on the table. Most of the mud had dried and fallen off, but still didn’t seem like the kind of boot a woman would wear. ‘Are these your boots, Ann?’

Without looking at the boots, she shook her head. ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’

Ruth looked at Snow, but not for confirmation. She wondered why he was choosing to stay silent. What was the point of sitting in if he wasn’t going to contribute? Not that she cared, one way or the other. She had only looked at him to signify inclusion.

She looked back at the woman. ‘Are you quite sure, Ann?’

The woman shrugged her shoulders and refused to speak.

‘For the benefit of the tape, Ann Taylor has refused to answer.’

Ruth decided to read out the coroner’s report, detailing every bruise and damage to the child’s body. When she read the part about the boot imprint on the child’s back, she slid the photograph across the table in front of the mother.

‘Did you do this, Ann?’

When the woman didn’t answer, Ruth decided it was time to play the ace card, and she looked forward to it. This cold-hearted bitch of a woman was about to be arrested, but not before Ruth had enjoyed herself. ‘Are you aware that the person who wore these boots would have left significant DNA inside them?’

Ruth paused, watching as the realisation sunk in.  ‘And are you also aware that we have tested your DNA and it has been proved that you are the owner of these boots?’

The fear and shame were beginning to show on the woman’s face, and Ruth watched, wondering what she would do now. She didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Ann Taylor’s face seemed to implode, as the terror of being found out took effect.  ‘I swear I don’t remember that part… I know I were angry, but when she fell over and banged her head, I thought she was dead…’

‘So what did you do then, Ann?’ Ruth knew what had happened next, but not which one of them had done it.  ‘Were you aware that Amy was still alive when you dropped her into the canal?’

The horror was all-encompassing, as the woman realised the enormity of what she had done. She looked around the room, just once, before she started screaming…


 

#Writephoto ~ Destination

Thursday photo prompt: Destination #writephoto

 

 

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Image by scvincent.com

 

For visually challenged writers, the image shows a path between an avenue of trees. Shadows from hidden sunlight fall across the path, but mist obscures the way forward…

 

Through the sunlit cathedral

Could I be looking at the mists of Avalon?

Are Arthur and Merlin waiting beyond the veil?

If I continue walking, would I finally find Camelot?

Would the true mysteries be revealed to me?

My heart was pounding, my footsteps slow to a crawl

If I entered the mist, would I return, would I want to?

Part of me willed the mist to clear, to see nothing more

than the continuing avenue of gold tipped trees

I reached the tree where the half-clipped moon shone through

I stood still, hardly breathing

My soul longing to walk through the mist

Find Camelot and beg the Gods to let me stay.

My true thinking mind knew better

Some mysteries must remain unknown…

Anita Signature

 

#writephoto

#TuesdayBookBlog ~ Not My Life, by Anita Dawes #Fiction,YA

SOMEONE HAUNTS Sarah’s dreams, someone who looks just like her.

Her name is Kelly and her life is a nightmare.

Are these dreams a message for Sarah’s future, or a glimpse of Kelly’s past?

Or are they both trapped in a world that isn’t their own?


Excerpt from ‘Not My Life’

Their house seemed like any other house, without them in it.  As I walked around to the back door, I couldn’t believe my luck at finding the small side window in the hall was open a crack.  You had to get close to notice it.  The question was, could I climb in?  Did I still remember how?  It had been so long since I had climbed anything.  Looking around, there was no one in sight.  I found a milk crate, one big enough to give me the boost I needed.

Climbing through the small opening, which in a few more months would be impossible, I thought of Jimmy.  He would kill me if he found out, because of the baby.  Mother would simply kill me before dying of embarrassment.  Dad would probably hang his head in a dark corner of the pub and wonder where they had gone wrong.

Once inside, I looked around.  Curious as to what they thought was a normal home.  Mother had mentioned that Sally Woodford would be giving up work soon, as he didn’t want her continuing in the Bank, carrying heavy money bags around. I was surprised he hadn’t thought of a way for her to carry them home, judging by the video collection I was standing in front of. 

There were many old gangster movies; I recognised some of the titles.  I also found several ‘video nasty’s’.  There was ‘Spit on your grave’, ‘Silence of the lambs’ and ‘The Devils’, amongst others. No romance or comedy, nothing light-hearted.  I wondered if Sally watched them with him.  Did they sit here late at night, imagining themselves in the lead roles?

I would have liked to find the place covered in dust and cobwebs, but the house was clean and tidy. Downstairs, there was a faint odour, which gave me a funny taste in my mouth, but I put it down to what I felt about the house.

There was little in the way of ornaments, two cookbooks, an A-Z, and one large, heavy book on old English tortures. Complete with horrible pictures of the rack and other devices.  With details of exactly what happened to those unfortunate enough to fall foul of them.  Horrible things done with hot coals and pokers; it turned my stomach.  I knew I shouldn’t be looking at this disgusting stuff.  A history book or not, it should be burnt.

Making sure to leave everything as it was, I tried the front door and found it hadn’t been dead-bolted.  I couldn’t believe he had been so slap-dash, after telling my mother she was far too trusting.  Open windows and unlocked doors were an invitation to those less desirable.  That was me; I was undesirable.  I was in their home, their sanctuary, a place I shouldn’t be unless invited.

On the way back to my house, I felt decidedly odd and my legs were shaking. People passing by had me jumping out of my skin.  My heart was racing, adrenaline rushing, terrifying and exciting me all at the same time.  Do burglars feel this way, I wondered; when they sneak out with their ill-gotten gains?  Is that what makes them do it again?  For the feeling of excitement, as well as the family silver?

Hoping no one had seen me leave, I crept into my own house.  I couldn’t be sure, but I thought the neat curtains of the house opposite had twitched.  I could always say I had absent-mindedly walked through the wrong gate.

Our front door was unlocked as usual; something that had me wondering if my mother could ever change the habits of a lifetime.  I found her in the living room knitting baby things, all pale yellow and white. I could have told her to go ahead and buy blue wool.

I sat in the room with her, flicking through a magazine to the sound of clicking knitting needles, my mind unable to shake the images I had seen in his book.  One, in particular, stuck fast in my mind. It was a picture of a merry-go-round, a high wooden platform with cruel metal spikes.  How it was meant to be ridden was left to the reader’s imagination, but the poles protruding from the side of the platform allowed the men to rotate the device.  Several images of how it worked flashed through my mind. The caption underneath the picture read, ‘Round and round she goes, where she stops, no one knows.’

The magazine was open on my lap, but I had no idea how long I had been staring into space when mother said, ‘Penny for them, Sarah?’

As if I could tell her what I had done, what I had seen in that book?


 

The Dying of the Light…

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The Dying of the Light

The trick is to avoid all the things she knows she cannot do anymore, but this is easier to do than keeping her hands out of the biscuit tin.

She is becoming an expert at ignoring the elephant in the room. She sees him, watching her with that wise knowing look in his eyes, but if she doesn’t acknowledge him or admit his presence to anyone, she can go on pretending that everything is fine.

Pretend that the painful, spiteful remarks don’t slice her soul to the bone, making her want to curl up and die in a corner, or scream louder than the pain, in an effort to keep her temper from overwhelming and drowning her.

Somehow, she maintains a humorous attitude, something she has carefully cultivated. Smiling at her tormentors, even laughing at their cruel jokes and the things they say. She has learned that to show the damage they do only increases their enjoyment at her distress.

She knows they are waiting for her to die, to be finally rid of her and the elephant in the room, the constant reminder that they too will grow old.

She must ignore them, for she cannot find the will or the strength to walk away from them. One of these days she hopes she will manage to summon some vestige of effort, before her time runs out. She dreams of spending her last days in peace and tranquillity, far from all the hatred and cruelty and the critical gaze of the large grey animal in the corner of the room…

Our Review for Tales from an Irish Garden by Sally Cronin #FantasyRomance @sgc58

 

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The queen of Magia and her court have fled their sun filled Spanish homeland and the palace beneath the magnolia tree.

Arriving on the backs of geese and swans, they seek sanctuary in the magic garden of The Storyteller who welcomes them to the Emerald Island, a place where rain is almost a daily feature.

Grateful for their safe haven and the generosity of their host, the queen and her courtiers embrace their new surroundings with delight.
As the seasons change throughout the year, they come into contact with many of the human and animal inhabitants of the garden and the surrounding forest, all of whom have a story to tell.

This is a magical fairy story infused with fantasy and romance, as well as opportunities for mischief in the company of goblins, witches and Lerpersians.

(Lerpersian, I have discovered, is another name for a Leprechaun.)

 

Our Review

 

Tales from an Irish Garden begins at Christmas time in the magical Spanish garden. Queen Filigree was looking forward to the festivities, but bad news arrived first.

The Queen and all her subjects could no longer stay in Spain and would have to leave their beautiful home and find another with the help of the Storyteller.

At the eleventh hour, another location was found in Ireland, where they will need to adapt to the new surroundings and very different weather.

How this was achieved was beautifully described in perfect detail in a series of magical stories. I loved all these stories, but will always remember one, The Kindness of Mice…

Excerpt from The Kindness of Mice…

After the piglet race, the leaves in the forest and the magic garden began to turn brown and cold winds whipped across the treetops with a whistling that alerted all who lived in this special place. Stores were being collected and added to special chambers in the bowels of the royal palace. Seeds, dried summer fruits, flagons of amber nectar and small hessian bags of the finest flour, milled along the river to the south of the forest. The Storyteller had recommended this particular mill because of fine qualities of Herbert who ran it with his son Calum.

One night as the storyteller joined the queen and her husband for a light supper, he related the story of how mice, which are usually the much preyed upon pests in most mills, were actually protected and revered in this particular grain crushing establishment. It is common for mice to be caught up in the hand threshing at harvest time and be swept into the back of horse drawn carts that transported the grain to the mill. Usually several cats, and rat-catching dogs, would patrol the building and its surroundings; grabbing any unsuspecting rodent silly enough to hitch a ride. However, Herbert was a very kind and gentle man, and did not want to cause unnecessary suffering to these little creatures.

Before any crushing of the grain was begun, he removed small stones, leaves and other unwanted materials through giant sifters. There were usually four or five of the little rodents left running around looking for an escape from the high sided prison. They were scooped up by a leather gloved hand and placed gently into a wooden box with holes drilled into the sides. At the end of each day, the miller’s son Calum would harness their horse Ned to the cart and head off to the next county. There he would open the lids, tipping the mice out into a wild meadow that would never be mown, and was covered by luscious wild grains and flowers.

You might think that this is rather laborious, and that a couple of feisty farm cats would have made short shrift of the forty or so mice that the miller caught every day. However, there was a special reason for his thoughtfulness. When he was a small boy, his parents had been very poor. His father had broken his leg badly during harvesting one year and could no longer work. His mother would toil in the fields instead, but if they didn’t save enough or grow enough in their small garden, it would be a very lean winter. One Christmas night the little boy was huddled in his cot, shivering with hunger and the cold. In the flickering candlelight he saw movement on the old stool by his bed. At first, he thought he was dreaming, but rubbing his eyes in amazement, he saw three mice scurrying back and forth up the legs and down. When he looked closer, he saw that they were leaving little morsels of bread and bits of apple. As you can imagine he wolfed down the food, and through the night it kept coming. In the morning he told his mother of this strange event and she felt his forehead fearing that he had caught a fever.

She went downstairs to boil some water to give him and was astounded to see that the kitchen table was laden with all sorts of crumbs and bits and bobs of fruit, including some late blackberries. By the fire were hundreds of small pieces of coal and with a shaking hand she placed some on the fire with a few sticks collected from the forest. She went out to the shed where their one hen was kept safe at night to find an egg still warm to the touch.

She found a little drop of brandy in the bottom of a long-discarded bottle and took out the packet of lard and a small pack of flour she had managed to buy for their Christmas dinner. Putting all the offerings and the scraps she had found into a large bowl, she mixed it together with the egg. She used a little lard to grease an iron pot and poured the mixture in, tying muslin over the top to seal it. She put a large pot of well-water on to boil and placed the bowl over the top to steam. That Christmas lunch was the best ever, and the pudding was delicious. The family sat back with full stomachs for the first time in weeks and all of them gave thanks to the little rodents that had showed such kindness to them. It was clearly a change-of-luck gift, as the day after Christmas, a knock on the door startled them as they sat eating the leftovers in front of the fire. Herbert’s father limped across the stone floor; partially opening the door so as not to let the cold wind into the house. He found a tall man, finely and warmly dressed, on the doorstep carrying a large hamper and who, smiling at the bemused man, asked if Betty was home. On hearing her name, he ran to the door and flung herself into the stranger’s arms. ‘Oh, my goodness, can it really be you, Ciaran… I thought you had been lost at sea?’

The tale took two hours in the telling, but to cut things short, since I know you are keen to know more about the mice. It turns out that Ciaran was Herbert’s uncle, who had been shipwrecked many years earlier and given up for dead. In fact, he had been washed up on a beautiful desert island, and in the course of his explorations, had discovered a chest of treasure. He had been rescued this summer and had returned to Ireland a wealthy man. You see what I mean about the change-of-luck gift from the mice.

Ciaran bought and renovated the local mill and Herbert’s father worked alongside him. Once he left school, he joined them, and when they passed away, he was left with this excellent business. As his father had done before him, he swore never to harm a mouse, and over the years thousands had been rescued from the grain instead of being put through the hopper onto the grinding stone. Eventually, fewer and fewer mice found their way to the mill. The areas that Calum deposited them in were left wild and undisturbed, with plenty of food all year round and plenty of safe places to nest and bring baby mice up safely. Offers were made to buy the land by the farmers in the area, but they were always told that the land was not for sale at any cost. If you are wondering where the rest of the treasure went that was found on that far of desert island, wonder no more. It bought many acres of meadow where not just mice, but animals, birds and insects thrived whilst enriching the surrounding countryside with their pollen gathering and droppings.

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