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.
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….
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.
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.