Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood #BookReview

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They say you killed…BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE WRONG?

Sixty seconds after she wakes from a coma, Maggie’s world is torn apart

The police tell her that her daughter Elspeth is dead. That she drowned when the car Maggie had been driving plunged into the river. Maggie remembers nothing.

When Maggie begs to see her husband Sean, the police tell her that he has disappeared. He was last seen on the day of her daughter’s funeral.

What really happened that day at the river?
Where is Maggie’s husband?
And why can’t she shake the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, her daughter is still alive?

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An excellent novel! This is the second novel I read by Nuala Ellwood, the first being the absolutely amazing My Sister’s Bones. It’s so tricky to write a great sequel after such a debut but she pulled it off with great ease it seems, I wanted to keep on reading. The prologue alone is enough to draw you in, it opens with Maggie (Margaret) in court taking the stand and she’s determined to make things right now…

The story then cuts back to Maggie waking up in the hospital and being told her daughter is dead. She locked her car condemning her daughter to die! How could she? It doesn’t make sense because the love for her little girl is spilling from the pages. Her husband disappears quite literally out of the picture and she is left on her own devices – without a home even – with nothing but the tiniest snippets of flashbacks.

The mystery was really well developed and Maggie was a very likeable character. Is she reliable though? I felt sorry for her and rooted for her to find some answers. There are fragments of her memory that come to her and help piece together what happened on that day but there are also letters written by a little girl who misses her mother enormously and pleads for her mother to take her home. The emotional letters tugged at my heart but did not make it easier to work out what happened. They only created more doubt and confusion actually because enthralled as I was by them, it remained a mystery who the author was. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions but if it wasn’t Elspeth, then who would it be? Maggie is convinced her daughter is alive and there are a few strange events that could be a sign she just could be right…

The Day of the Accident had a tantalising plot with great twists and turns making it even unpredictable for me to figure out where to search for answers or know who held them. It was difficult to know who to trust, Ellwood kept me guessing throughout and it all built up to a devastating finale.

The story ends in court the way it begun, making it a full circle. Knowing the story though, you’ll look at it with a whole new set of eyes. Brilliant conclusion.

Even though My Sister’s Bones is still my number one novel, I thoroughly enjoyed The Day of The Accident and I look forward to her next novel already!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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The Lingering by SJI Holliday #BlogTour #BookReview

The Lingering

Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for The Lingering by SJI Holliday. My thanks to the author and to Anne Cater and publisher Orenda Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

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The Lingering is a ghost story but also a story about manipulation and control. I usually stay far from novels that even just hint at something paranormal, ghost stories are simply too unbelievable for me but there are exceptions for everything and this novel is definitely one I’m happy to have made. This is one novel that hooks you right away and impossible to put down. I was completely engrossed from the beginning thanks to Holliday’s amazingly suggestive writing. I never quite knew what was going on exactly.. she introduces a ghost – or two, three – into the story, unless they are hallucinations of course, who’s to say ;-)? It was a thrill to find out is all I can say.

The story was oh so creepy and unnerving! Should this story ever be made into a movie then I’m not sure I’ll watch it because it’s the kind of movie I’m usually too afraid to watch. Holliday brings so many terrific gothic/horror-elements together in this novel that you really can’t escape that ominous feeling of foreboding. Something is amiss and you don’t know what it is and where it will lead but it made me very nervous.

Rosalind House is an old building – a former asylum – and if the walls could speak they’d undoubtedly have many disturbing stories to tell. Some of what happened in the 1950s is told by reports that a doctor made in the past, when he was sent to evaluate how patients were treated and what methods were used. Even further in the past the village had witches to deal with as well, so as for setting, it counts as unbelievably atmospheric.

Add to this a community with their own rulebook, quite reminiscent of a sort of cult, and residents you don’t know anything about and you have the perfect ingredients for this scary story. To top it all off, one of the residents, Angela, strongly believes in ghosts and spirits and she’s determined to prove it. Two newcomers Ali and Jack also join the commune and Angela jumps at the chance to make friends but Ali is closing herself off from contact. There’s definitely something going on with Ali and Jack as well and the reasons for leaving everything behind in such a hurry is shrouded in a big mystery and take their time to unfold.

The story builds up tension and Ali, a firm non-believer, experiences some unsettling and strange events that left me doubtful. Is someone playing tricks, is she mental or are there really spirits from the past trying to make contact? It’s definitely one of the former but Holliday kept me in the dark until my nerves were frayed and my nails almost bitten to the quick. The only regret I have is that I would have liked perhaps more insight and backstory into some of the other characters too, like Rose. It’s just a small niggle though, because I couldn’t get enough and they all intrigued me.

The Lingering is one helluva page-turner that you better not read in the late hours of the night if you still want to have some sleep. If you enjoy scary reads then I can very recommend this one!

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

*** Don’t forget to check the other blog tour stops too ***

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The Dark Place by Stephanie Rogers #BlogTour #Review

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My thanks to the wonderful Tracy Fenton and publisher Manatee Books for my copy of The Dark Place by Stephanie Rogers and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour!

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When you look at those you love, what do you see?

When Issy, young mother and beloved daughter, seemingly kills herself her family is devastated.

Believing she would never leave son Noah willingly, Jon and Mel determine to discover what really happened to Issy. As they and the rest of the family struggle to come to terms with tragedy, Jon and Mel start to realise Issy’s secrets come from a very dark place…

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The Dark Place is a compelling and harrowing novel about the aftermath of someone’s death. If you care for a little warning, there are definitely a few sensitive topics included in this novel, so beware.

When a loved one commits suicide the people left behind invariably want to know why so it’s only natural that Issy’s parents, Jon and Mel, ask themselves that same question. Why would a young girl, mother of a small child, with a promising life ahead of her, willingly kill herself? It was a strange sensation to be a witness to Issy’s last moments, I didn’t want it to happen but I couldn’t divert my eyes either and in the end I think it was necessary to feel the conviction in Issy. If I hadn’t, I could have had doubts myself perhaps but it was clear that Issy didn’t hesitate, there was no doubt in her mind whatsoever. So she must have had a damn good reason was what crossed my mind because that scene was heart-stopping and I thought a lot about it throughout reading the novel. I immediately asked myself what had happened in her past to result in such a drastic act. I couldn’t fathom what it was but wanted to find out why as much as her parents.

Besides a search for answers A Dark Place is also a story of dealing with grief. With their binding factor not longer there to keep them a tight little family, the tragedy makes Jon and Mel’s question their relationship soon enough. Their relationship was already in some muddy waters before so I was eager to find out if this would break them or pull them closer together. Even though Jon and Mel blamed themselves for not seeing what was going on with their daughter, I didn’t judge them for it, not even when I knew all there was to know.

The story is told in dual narratives by Issy’s mother and father. They both deal with their loss in their own way and both POVs were different in their approach; it helped to see it both from an emotional side and a more hands-on side. While Mel gets a lot of support from her sister Pam, Jon is handling it in his own way and he’s on a mission to find out why she did this with a little help from a detective. Throw in an overly present lorry-driver Greg who gave me shivers every time I read about him and I was getting more paranoid by the minute.

After a while there was an idea that was starting to take form in my head about Issy’s reason for taking her own life, even with the author’s attempts to mislead me with a few clever red herrings, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise but I was still unprepared for how hard it was to hear what it was all about.

The Dark Place is a compelling story that definitely takes a dark turn in the end. I also admire the brave decision of the author to handle several difficult topics in this novel.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour ***

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The Corset by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

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I think I can count the number of historical novels I read so far on one single hand but after reading The Corset I have absolutely no idea why that is anymore. I enjoyed this novel so much! I was truly fascinated by the setting and Ruby’s job as seamstress. Laura Purcell was able to transport me to another era with her detailed and atmospheric writing and although life then was indeed bleak and dreary for many, as I imagined it would be in that Jack The Ripper time-period, the writing and the characters were anything but that. I was hooked right from the start and the whole reading experience was positively amazing!

At first sight the two women in this novel couldn’t be more different from each other as they both had a vastly different upbringing and while one has a sad and tragic life and it resulted for 16-year old Ruby in awaiting trial, 25-year old Dora (Dorothea) is used to a much different lifestyle with a servant following her every move and at her beck and call. Dora doesn’t really ‘work’ but spends her time visiting women at the Oakgate prison so she can subject them to her phrenology hypotheses. She believes that if they change inside then the shape of their head, the areas responsible for their crimes, change too and this can be measured physically. It’s how she meets Ruby and she’s eager to subject her to her theories.

The title of the novel is so enormously apt for this book because it goes far and beyond the sewing of a corset in the novel… it is also a most fitting metaphor for the position of both women in society, whether rich or poor they both don’t have a lot of room to be free and live their life at their heart’s content. The corset itself is an important object though and Ruth’s talent for sewing takes a very unsettling and mysterious turn when she claims she can kill people through her stitches.

The Corset kept me addicted and although I liked how Dora’s entries were a welcome salvation from all the tragedy happening, I have to admit that I was slightly more drawn to Ruby’s account of events, it was quite an emotional and detailed story with one tragedy happening upon another, which made it virtually impossible not to grow fond of her. Why did she do it and most of all is she really responsible for murdering someone? As the story progressed and it moved in a certain direction I had a sense of a possible motive but the question still remained if she really had the power to inflict pain and death with her stitches or not. It was wondrous to find out if her vengeance on the people who weren’t kind to her was inflicted by herself or not. I’m really not a fan of anything supernatural or impossible happening but this uncertainty was very well-developed and it most definitely will keep every reader busy to find an answer to its true nature. I was soon hoping for some divine intervention so that Ruby could be free and finally live a good life because she really wasn’t a murderer to me.

The novel didn’t lose its grip on me till the end with so many unforeseen events. It surprised me countless times with plenty of twists and turns and the ending was brilliant!

I was able to read a free copy of this novel through The Pigeonhole website and this is my honest opinion.

My holiday reads reviewed

I took 3 reads with me so you’re getting 3 reviews in one go. I compared them to each other too and that’s why you get a 3, 4 and 4.5 star review ;-). I’m showing them in the order I read them btw 😉

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She has a loving marriage.

But she has no friends.

Everyone knows her name.

But no one will speak it.

Why?

Cornelia Blackwood is about to do something very wrong, for reasons she believes to be right.

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The Flight of Cordelia Blackwood was a poignant novel with a tragic tale at the heart of it. The genre of novel was different from what I expected it to be but it was a gripping read and I really enjoyed reading it. Even without the experience of being a mother myself, I was drawn into the story right away and I could feel Leah’s agony and longing for a child.

The story is told via alternating chapters and shows Leah meeting Adrian in the past, going through some of life’s tragedies together and a new storyline that runs from the present onwards and hints at something bad happening in the past that made her lose all credit, all of her friends too. The author deftly steers the story in a certain direction and it’s impossible to miss where the answer lies. I couldn’t help conjuring so many worrisome thoughts and I held my heart at least a few times when I read about some of Leah’s life changes, but the author made me squirm in my seat with all the twists and turns in the story before getting to the exact heart of it.

I just couldn’t compute Leah’s treatment with the image that I was building of her in my head… surely she wasn’t capable of doing anything evil? Her story reads as one tragedy happening upon another and made me feel sad for her. But how did she end up so injured and broken, walking around with a cane, and why is she getting these looks? I was trying to get an idea how things added up but it was a well-kept mystery until the end and given her deteriorating state of mind I knew something was coming but I never expected that.

The Flight of Cordelia Blackwood was a story of grief and love and that feeling when it just all seems to be too much. It’s sad and heart-breaking at times and that ending, it left me reeling.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I had the intention before I left to leave one good read behind so I left my copy in Kos for another reader to enjoy :-).

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After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?

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I expected a mystery but I had no idea the story would hold SO SO many secrets and lies. EVERYBODY here is hiding something or other and I absolutely loved all these surprises that follow up at warp speed. And then there is the lie of all lies.. I had no idea who’d turn out to be the biggest liar of them all so around midway the most stunning twist just happened that put everything into a new perspective. I had absolutely no idea and didn’t expect the direction this story was going in. It’s just the things you take for a truth and don’t question that can surprise you the most if they turn out to be a lie, isn’t it. I guess that’s also why we are surprised when someone tells us they don’t love us anymore, right?

The story kicks off right away with Daisy’s abduction and when the police question Jess, who was babysitting, and her parents, Emily and James, there’s already some little white lies here and there about their whereabouts and the circumstances. It starts small but after a while I couldn’t help wonder why they would lie about anything at all and then before you’re even very well aware of it one stone after another is thrown at each other and my paranoia was all over the place. I do love big happy families who come apart like that :-). You can really trust nobody here and I was keen to keep it that way too. Someone did earn my sympathy and trust little by little, and I also started to loathe another character quite vehemently at the same time when my feelings turned out to be viable in the light of some actions.

Little Sister turned out to be not only a story about abduction, the opening storyline even takes a backseat for a while when another timeline is followed taking place during the teenage years of Jess and Emily, but about what happened between the two sisters so many years ago as well. The picture becomes clearer with every flashback about the nature of their sibling relationship and the reasons why Jess left home at the age of 17.  This plotline was just as riveting to read and had its own shock-factor too.

If you’re talking about authors who can deliver an amazing twist then I have to count Isabel Ashdown among them. It took me by surprise how much I enjoyed this one and I already look forward picking up another book from this author. If you have any of her books you want to swap for something I have, you let me know!

I received a free copy of this novel from another blogger in a book swap. This is my honest opinion.

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Dr. Irini Harringford was given away by her parents just before her fourth birthday. Although she has spent her whole life trying to convince herself she doesn’t need them, deep down Irini longs to understand why she was abandoned, while her parents kept her older sister, Elle.

So when Elle gets in touch with news that their mother has died, Irini reluctantly agrees to return to the family home. But she is ill at ease. She and Elle are not close. Irini knows only too well what Elle is capable of. Inexplicably drawn to her enigmatic sister, yet terrified of the sway she holds, Irini tries to protect herself even as she is sucked back into her family’s toxic web of secrets…and soon realizes that the past is more complicated than she imagined, and that her very future rests upon discovering the truth about why she was really given away.

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Irini’s haunted by her past and this has serious repercussions for her love life as it makes her doubt the person currently in her life. Just thinking about what her parents did, giving her up at the age of 3 and keeping her sister, Elle, made me instantly sympathetic and cautious of her parents. Was it because she had a handicap, was it because she was unlovable, she never knew the reasons. What she does know is that she doesn’t want to have children of her own, that’s how big the toll is because of their decision in the past. Truth be told, there was one member of the family who wanted her in her life, her sister has tried to find her again and again and she also succeeded. Isn’t it ever so strange though that she ran from her sister so many times then, going so far as moving and changing her phone number? I was wondering what happened right away. Now that Elle finally caught up with her again Irini decides to take the opportunity and find out the answers she’s always been craving.

This need to know her parent’s motives and the reason why Irini would run from her sister are at the core of the novel and there’s a lot of darting around the answers throughout the story. It was a bit transparent for me though why her mother and father sent her off and the biggest mystery was discovering why she and her sister have such a dysfunctional relationship and what happened in the past between them to cut all contact.

Sister relationships are always interesting to read about and the push and pull between the two sisters was no different. Their interactions make great waves and especially the domineering personality of Elle over Irini. Even though I sympathised with Irini at first and how she was hurt like that, the feeling waned and I can’t say I liked either of the sisters in the end, but Elle really is the worst character I’ve come across lately. Elle’s issues make her very manipulative and controlling and Irini is of course the perfect victim. It was impressive what Elle was capable of and fascinating to watch their interactions.

However, I didn’t always understand why Irini just went along with everything and not once stood up against her or told her off. I knew quite soon that there was something off about Elle so why she got so much credit from Irini I never fully understood. I also found it slightly unbelievable that nobody told her anything throughout her life about the reasons why her parents made the decision and in hindsight also why they didn’t even follow up on her from a distance, they could have at least sent a birthday card each year, right?

There were quite a lot of events unfolding in the last part of the novel and that’s the part that I really enjoyed best, the more you read the better it gets. I’m still not entirely sure about Elle in the end though, is she evil or disturbed, I’m still doubtful. Maybe a bit both.. you’ll have to make up your own mind.

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Her Last Move by John Marrs #BookReview

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She’s chasing a killer. He’s watching her every move.

He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.

Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career—and she knows that it will make or break her. But she can’t catch the culprit alone. Together with facial recognition expert Joe Russell, she strives to get a lead on the elusive murderer, who is always one step ahead of them.

Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?

amazon uk amazon com

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Without exception, I very much enjoyed each of the author’s previous novels. It’s no secret either that John Marrs is one of my favorite authors who I often recommend to other readers. Well if someone’s looking for a new detective novel I can now recommend Her Last Move as well. This novel is his first foray into the police procedural genre, using a detective’s point of view and I have to give him another round of applause because he pulled it off in a genre I read plenty of books in: the plot is original, the cast authentic and the writing superb.

Detectives usually pair up in novels, that’s a standard deal, but I’d never read a novel about a duo like the one (Detective Sergeant) Becca forms with Joe Russell. What am I saying, I hadn’t even heard about the job of a super-recognizer before. Joe Russell is the bunny in the hat and it works brilliantly. I was sceptical of his role and his usefulness but quite fascinated as well.

I didn’t even read half the novel before I absolutely had to know if super-recognizers are really employed in the police force. Google and Wikipedia showed that Scotland Yard has a squad of over 200! Huh! The internet also provides many tests as well apparantly if you want to check if you are in doubt (or convinced) that you have this very special ability of being able to recognise 80% of faces, whereas normal people only score a good 20%.

The author peppers Her Last Move with plenty of revelations and both of the main characters have very interesting backgrounds and family relationships that are out of the ordinary and make you sympathise with them right away as they both have their own personal issues as well. I can’t say much about the investigation but I can tell you that I was hooked as soon as the first murder occured in the very first chapter because I felt I could almost touch the murderer myself. The setting of the unfortunate event was a metro station so the thought that someone can harm someone else so easily if it’s a bit crowded makes me want to keep my distance from everyone from now on, even more than before ;-). The second murder was already more gruesome and I could only guess at the reasons why the killer let his victim suffer without remorse. Marrs kept me on my toes the whole time as I was trying to figure out what connected these people and who might have been doing this but the underlying reasons are of course not easy to spot. Just when Joe’s closing in on the suspect and the story shifts into its highest gear, there’s that one big twist that happened that I was totally unprepared for and it completely knocked me out of balance. I’m talking about one VERY intense scene. I still can’t get over it. There were so many thoughts running through my head at the time and I was holding onto my dear heart too. The author kept me guessing about the outcome for sooo long, it was bloody torture and I could only think nooooo in my head. I didn’t expect this turn of events AT ALL and I loved it as much as I hated what came out of his twisted mind.

Overall, Her Last Move was amazingly entertaining so I definitely recommend!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Kiss Her Goodbye by Susan Gee #BlogTour #Extract

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Kiss Her Goodbye by Susan Gee. My thanks also to Vicky Joss and publisher Aria for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I think this book sounds amazing and it has a quite intriguing tagline that makes me want to know more.

I have a little taster of this book coming up where DI Beverley Samuels is talking to the mother of a missing schoolgirl, so check it out after reading the blurb here.

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Seventeen year old Hayley Reynolds is unwanted at home, and an outsider at school. Pushed away by her best friend Kirsten Green, she makes a deliberate, chilling decision – if Kirsten can’t belong to her, then she won’t belong to anyone….

DI Beverley Samuels has the body of a schoolgirl on her hands – a murder that brings back the hauntingly painful memories of the case she’s tried so desperately to forget.

There’s something deeply disturbing about this crime – and yet with little hard evidence it’s up to her to decide who she will believe….

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Author

Susan Gee

Susan Gee was a finalist in the Daily Mail Write a Bestseller Competition as well as a finalist in The Good Housekeeping fiction competition. This is her first novel.

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Extract

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DS Beverley Samuels

Kirsten’s mum, Mrs Green, is a small woman with a soft Irish accent. There’s a quiet dignity about her as she waits in her armchair in an olive dress and matching shoes, while we pretend that Kirsten will be home soon. When hope flickers in her eye I have to look away. I know that time is running out and my head is filled with past cases. It’s been a week since Kirsten went missing and the focus of the investigation has changed. I glance at the small ornaments that she has neatly arranged on the shelves in front of me: glass owls, pottery rabbits and other creatures. She is a meticulous woman, a woman who likes things in place, but there’s no way to make sense of this. It doesn’t fit in a neat place on a shelf; it is unthinkable. A waft of cooking comes from the kitchen: a smell of onions and gravy that makes my stomach rumble, but even that seems wrong. The homely smell in a broken place.

‘It’s just not like her, Beverley,’ Mrs Green says, but I already know that. I’ve spoken to her teachers at college and the girls in her form. I’ve built up a picture of Kirsten from everyone who knew her and she wasn’t the type to run off and disappear.

The last sighting we have of her is when she walked out of college in tears. There’s been nothing since. I glance at the clock, wanting this to be over. I’m not just here for her, I’m here for the case and I need to know everything about Kirsten that I can. As I look at Mrs Green I wonder if she had anything to do with her daughter’s disappearance. She offers me cups of tea and my eyes are on her body language and mannerisms whenever I mention Kirsten’s name. I ignore her looks of hopeless desperation as though it’s a mask she’s worn for my benefit, but there’s nothing to suggest that she’s anything other than a worried mother.

‘Any friends that she may have gone to? Relatives? Boyfriends?’

We’ve been through these questions before, but I need to make sure that the answers are the same.

Mrs Green sighs and wipes the underside of her eye with her finger so that she doesn’t smudge her mascara. She keeps herself as ordered as she does her house.

‘She didn’t have any friends. A few from Guides that she kept in touch with.’

‘Anyone she’d confide in? Anyone at all?’

Mrs Green looks towards the window and inhales. Talking to her feels like digging out a splinter, both necessary and painful.

‘She was close to her cousin. They moved down south six months ago.’

‘Do you have a phone number?’

Mrs Green’s eyebrow furrows as she turns to look at me. ‘They know she’s missing. My brother would tell me if she was there.’

‘She may have confided in her cousin about something.’

‘Yes, sorry,’ she replies. ‘I’m just not myself.’

It’s me that should be sorry and I shake my head to dismiss it. She could be at her cousin’s house, but I don’t think she will be.

‘I’ll get the phone book,’ she replies, getting up.

While she’s gone, I look around the room. There’s a framed picture of Kirsten on the mantelpiece. She’s in a field with an old man that may be her granddad and they’re laughing. I imagine that one of her parents took it, but her dad isn’t around any more. He died when she was a baby.

The room is too warm and I glance over at the locked windows. The stuffiness in here, along with smells from the kitchen, makes my head ache. Mrs Green returns with a piece of paper with the phone number on and a photo album.

‘This is the picture of the necklace she was wearing too,’ she says as she sits down and opens the red leather-bound book. As she flicks through the album, she presses her lips together and blinks as though trying not to cry.

‘It’s in here somewhere,’ she says, with a shaking hand.

Mrs Green stops on a page and lifts her index finger as though she’s about to touch the photo and then passes the book to me. ‘You can see it best in this one.’

She gives it to me quickly, as though she doesn’t want to hold it any more. It’s a good photograph and the silver locket is clearly shown. The engraved initials KG in beautiful scroll are edged in ivy leaves.

‘Can I take this?’ I ask.

Mrs Green’s eyes open wide and I can see that she doesn’t want me to have it. She blinks rapidly and holds her hands tightly together.

‘I’ll get it straight back to you,’ I tell her.

‘Yes, of course.’

She winces as I take the photograph out. It comes off the backing in one easy peel and I place the book face up on the coffee table, next to me. Mrs Green’s eyes stay fixed on the photograph in my hand as she closes the book over the now empty space.

‘I gave it to her for her birthday. She never takes it off.’

I hold the photograph by the edges and nod. ‘There’s nothing engraved inside or on the back?’

‘Ivy leaves on the back too and a baby picture inside. From when she was about six months.’ Her voice wavers, but she clears her throat and continues. ‘I don’t know if I have a copy of it. I’ll let you know,’ she says, with her voice back in control, pre-empting me.

‘Right. Thank you. This has been very helpful.’

We sit opposite each other for a minute in silence and I decide not to ask for another look at Kirsten’s room. We’ve been through it before and I’m worried that she’ll break down.

‘Have you looked near the church? She may have gone there if she was scared.’

‘We’ve been there. We’ve checked the embankment by the bridge and the areas on the bus route back from college.’

Her face drops. ‘The embankment? Why?’

‘We need to cover everything.’

Mrs Green stiffens. ‘And did you find anything?’

‘No. You’ll know as soon as we do.’

She stays seated as I stand. Her frame is small and birdlike, but she’s made of stronger stuff than most. Kirsten was a similar build. In her old school photographs she was always sitting near the front, hands on knees, with the taller children behind her, a petite and skinny girl who couldn’t have weighed much.

‘I’ve done her favourite dinner on in case she comes back. Lamb stew with arctic roll for afters.’

I remember the smell of stew cooking from the kitchen the last time I was here. The thought of her making that same dinner over and over makes me nauseous. I wish I were better at comforting people, but I’m not. I prefer facts to emotions and while various replies come into my head I dismiss them all.

‘Did I give you the number for our counsellor the other day?’ I ask, already knowing that I did.

She looks disappointed. ‘I don’t need counselling, Beverley. I just need my daughter back.’

I pick up the photograph from the table.

‘You should try not to be on your own too much. Perhaps have someone to stay so you’ve got company for a few days?’

She nods and doesn’t reply. It’s something that I’ve heard other people say, but I don’t know if it’s the right thing. I imagine that she wouldn’t want anyone else here. I picture her polishing the tiny ornaments as soon as I’ve gone, cleaning the windows as she waits for her daughter to come home.

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