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Opening Lines: Uncommon Cruelty by Liz Mistry

Thursday has come around again – which means it is Opening Lines blog day!

This week I’m welcoming Liz Mistry to my site with the first 500 words from her crime novel, Uncommon Cruelty.

Over to you Liz…

Uncommon Cruelty is a gritty police procedural based in Bradford, West Yorkshire and is the fourth in the DI Gus McGuire series.  It was released on April 14th 2018.

Inspiration comes from a variety of places for most writers. In this instance, a teenage house party gone wrong, raised the question, I’m always asking myself… What if …?

It was from that seed that Uncommon Cruelty was born.

Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BQVLGNQ/ 

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Uncommon-Cruelty-McGuire-case-Book-

Uncommon Cruelty Blurb

DI Gus McGuire and his team are called in to investigate the disappearance of a teenage boy after his parents return from a weekend away, to find their home trashed and their son missing.

But that is just the beginning.

As the investigation unfolds, Gus must discover what links a violent bikers’ gang, a Muslim youth group and a fundamentalist American based Christian church.

Alongside this, two cases from the past come back to haunt DI Gus McGuire and his DS, Alice Cooper.

Gus has a lot to juggle, but will he cope?

Uncommon Cruelty is the fourth in the DI Gus McGuire series set in Bradford West Yorkshire and is a gritty, Northern Noir read.

***

So, here’s the first 500 words of Uncommon Cruelty:

Prologue

Leeds, 2012

Mushrooms of dense throat-clogging smoke hung in the air. Every breath was like sucking through cotton wool and, even after gargling with mouthfuls of cold water, Detective Inspector Sandy Panesar could still taste it; a coating of ash, sharp and acrid on her tongue.

‘Have they got the child?’ Her voice was shrill as she rushed forward towards the dark figure of a firefighter wearing breathing apparatus leaving the blaze.

The figure carried an amorphous bundle that was wrapped so completely in a blanket that it was impossible to tell if it was even human. With practised ease, the package was transferred onto a stretcher trolley, leaving Sandy to watch, her heart hammering in her chest as the paramedic unwrapped the small, still body. Her heart plummeted. The child’s face, beneath its mucky streaks, was pale and its eyes remained closed, its body unmoving. Sandy focussed on the child’s chest but could detect no movement as she willed the paramedics to make a miracle happen. Their examination seemed to take forever and Sandy’s view was obstructed as they started chest compressions and fitted a drip. Their muttered words meant nothing to her as they worked with an economy of movement she would, in different circumstances, have admired. Just when she’d given up hope, one of the paramedics turned towards her with a smile and stepped away from the child; ten years old yet, the size of a three-year-old, with an oxygen mask dwarfing its tiny face.

Sandy, realising she’d been holding her breath, took in a huge gulp of air and sent a quick prayer heavenward before bending down and gently ruffling the child’s matted black hair. Two huge unblinking eyes stared right through her, seemingly lost in whatever hell played out in its mind. Her heart almost broke. Surviving the fire was only half the battle for this little one. The biggest battle lay ahead. She patted the kid on the arm and stood back.

The paramedic smiled. ‘It’s the shock, that’s all. It’ll pass with a good night’s rest and some food.’

Sandy wondered if he was referring to her or the child. Watching them take the child away, she thought, Yeah, a good night’s rest, some food and a lifetime of counselling. Pulling herself together, she glanced through the darkness at the crowd. The tall distinctive figure of her detective sergeant, with his head of three-inch-long dreadlocks, rose like a sphinx above everyone else. He tilted his head to let her know he’d seen her and continued directing the uniformed officers to control the gathering crowd before striding over.

He pointed to the departing ambulance. ‘Was that the kid, then?’

Sandy thrust her hands in her pockets, and glowered, ‘Yep, uninjured bar some smoke inhalation and shock, according to the paramedics.’

DS Gus McGuire acknowledged her words. ‘Yeah, although not unharmed.’

‘No, not unharmed,’ she agreed and kicked a loose stone towards the blazing house. ‘When the fire service have left and their assessors …’

Liz is contactable here:

Facebook: @LizMistrybooks

Twitter: @LizCrimeWarp

Blog: https://thecrimewarp.blogspot.co.uk/

Website: https://lizmistrycrimewriter.wordpress.com/

 

Liz’s Books  available here

Book 1   Unquiet Souls       http://ow.ly/1NLZ30iSwY4

Book 2   Uncoiled Lies        http://ow.ly/YOD630iSx4K

Book 3   Untainted Blood   http://ow.ly/fTtn30iSxa5

3 book Set  1, 2 & 3            http://ow.ly/FtpC30iSxeM

Book 4  Uncommon Cruelty

Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BQVLGNQ/ 

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Uncommon-Cruelty-McGuire-case-Book-

***

Many thanks Liz. Fabulous stuff.

Come back next week for the first 500 words from one of Vicki FitzGerald’s novels.

Happy reading, 

Jenny x

 


Opening Lines: The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

It’s time for another in the popular blog series “Opening Lines.”

This week I’m delighted to welcome Linda MacDonald to my site to share the first 500 words (precisely) of her novel, The Man in the Needlecord Jacket.

Over to you Linda…

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is told from the perspectives of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership.

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

I was inspired to explore the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical.  Here are the first 500 words …

Sarah’s Story – July 2013

In early December last year, my life took an ominous turn. It was a time of grey skies and drizzle-filled days and when Coll came over to my place for a midweek supper. I had finished decorating the small Christmas tree, tidied leftover tinsel and trinkets into a carrier bag and was sitting at my dining table putting stamps on my cards ready for posting. He arrived with a local Exeter paper in his hand and he waved it at me with a flourish before plonking it down in front of me, scattering my neat pile of cards.

No hello or how are you? I could tell he was on one of his missions. I would have to listen before I spoke, and then perhaps feign enthusiasm for yet another wild scheme which would take a good half hour in the telling. His eyes were excited and there was a smear of green paint on the back of his left hand. It’s interesting how one remembers trivial details surrounding major events.

He said, ‘I want to find an outlet for my paintings and try to seize some of the Christmas present-buying market. There’s a new restaurant opened this side of Pinhoe. I might try there, if someone hasn’t already beaten me to it. Look, it says “locally sourced produce”.’ And he jabbed a finger on the advert in question, demanding my scrutiny. ‘The clientele might appreciate local art too. Can’t get much more local than me. I’ll go and have a meal there on Friday and see what it’s like.’

I noticed he said ‘I’ll go and have a meal.’ Not ‘we.’ He saw my narrowed eyes.

‘You won’t want to be hanging around while I talk pictures,’ he said.

It would have been nice to have been asked. He was always inclined to do what he wanted without considering my feelings. A man of impulses. Highly annoying but also part of the attraction because when the impulses included me – which they did often at the start of our relationship – life was sublime.

‘Good idea,’ I said. I thought it was. I had no inkling that it was going to be the worst idea in the world.

Felicity – Early December 2012

My new restaurant has barely been open a week when I am hovering near the entrance lobby and a table for one is requested by an attractive middle-aged man. I assume he is on business, but as we are outside the centre of Exeter on the edge of a small village, this is unusual. Also, he is clad

like a rock-star in faded denim and a dark grey needlecord jacket. Not the favoured garb of my clientele who are usually besuited or, that most broadly interpreted of phrases, smart-casual.

I show him to a small table by the window and give him a menu. He requests a glass of house white in a voice of liquid gold. In my mind, I begin to elaborate on…

***

You can find out what happens next by purchasing The Man in the Needlecord Jacket from – Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Needlecord-Jacket-Linda-MacDonald/dp/1788037111/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

About the Author

Linda MacDonald is the author of four independently published novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket. They are all contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues.

After studying psychology at Goldsmiths’, Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham, Kent.

Twitter: @LindaMac1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindaMacDonaldAuthor/

***

Many thanks Linda. Great extract.

Come back next week to read the first 500 words from Liz Mistry.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Opening Lines: The Allotment Girls by Kate Thompson

It’s time for this weeks “Opening Lines” blog!

This week I’m delighted to welcome Kate Thompson to my site to share the first 500 words (precisely) of The Allotment Girls…

During the Second World War, life in the iconic Bryant & May match factory is grimy and tough. Annie, Rose, Pearl and Millie carry on making matches for the British Army, with bombs raining down around them.

Inspired by the Dig for Victory campaign, Annie persuades the owners to start Bryant & May allotment in the factory grounds. With plenty of sweat and toil, the girls eventually carve out a corner of the yard into a green plot full of life and colour.  In the darkest of times, the girls find their allotment a tranquil, happy escape. Using pierced dustbin lids to sieve through the shrapnel and debris, they bring about a powerful change, not just in the factory, but their own lives. As the war rages on, the garden becomes a place of community, friendship – and deceit. As the garden thrives and grows, so do the girls’ secrets . . .

Prologue

January 1897

It must be said, nowhere does a funeral quite like the East End. This one, taking place on a bitter Monday in January, quite surpassed anything the poor folk of the parish of Bethnal Green had ever before seen. Even in the depths of his guilt, he had to acknowledge this fact.

The entire funeral route was lined with thousands of people, a respectful crowd largely, all dressed in their best clothes and washed for the occasion. The sea of black bonnets, shawls and caps was chequered with the odd cluster of bright colour from the hats of assembled factory girls.

Even the weather had put on its funeral best, with scrawls of black cloud dirtying the sky and a rattling wind hammering the windows like fists. The police had been deployed in great numbers, but their presence was not required, he noted, as he tried to blend into the sea of faces.

He had never seen so many people before, sitting on walls, clinging to gas lamps and perched on sills, all craning their necks for a better view.

‘Almost be worth being burnt to have such a handsome turnout,’ muttered a man in the crowd next to him, before his wife slapped him into silence. ‘Wash your mouth out,’ she hissed. ‘The cortège is coming.’

A hush fell over the crowd. A painful lump lodged in his throat as the first notes of ‘Dead March in Saul’ drifted over the cobbles. The cortège was led by the Wapping Gas Workers’ brass band, the dramatic clash of their instru­ments driving deep into his heart.

And then came the bodies. A mixture of horror and awe settled over the crowd. For once, no one was looking at the lavish wreaths or the magnificent black horses, resplendent in their rich purple plumes and velvets. All eyes were fixed only on the coffins, growing gradually smaller in size as they passed by.

‘Just children,’ wept the woman next to him, pressing a broad black handkerchief to her mouth in dismay. But to him they had names, and he murmured them quietly, like an undercover priest, as each coffin filed past.

Eliza, fifteen. Mary, twelve. Alfred, ten. Beatrice, nine. John, seven. Margaret, five. Marie, three.

By the time baby Emily’s body passed him, he could no longer hold back his anguish, and a strange cry escaped him. In comparison to her parents’ coffins, Emily’s seemed absurdly small, and he longed to reach out and cradle her, to save her the journey into the cold, dark earth.

But they were already gone, one step closer to the closing scene of the mass burial that would be discussed in every public house in the borough for months to come.

And then came the mourners. And how! Conveyances of all descriptions, filled with anyone who had a connection to the dead. Mourning carriages, hansom cabs, broughams and even three omnibuses, willing to take passengers, mainly women it had to be said, to the final resting place.

 ***

The Allotment Girls is available now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Allotment-Girls-Kate-Thompson/dp/1509822259/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520333328&sr=8-1&keywords=the+allotment+girls

Paperback can also be purchased at Sainsburys, WHSmith and other retailers.

Connect with Kate:

@Katethompson380

www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk 

Many thanks Kate. Great stuff.

Come back next week to read the first 500 words from a noel by Linda MacDonald

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Opening Lines: The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May

It’s Thursday – which means it is ‘Opening Lines’ day.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Nicola May back to my site to share the first 500 words (exactly) of her brand new novel.

Over to you Nicola…

Blurb

Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy.  While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, the will states that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

 Rosa decides to throw herself into getting the shop up and running again. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed – and who among the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay will work secretly to see her fail?

With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, slowly unravels the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also brings her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.

***

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay – The First 500 words

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’

Rosa took off her bright blue woolly hat and scratched the back of her head, causing her dark brown curls to become even more unruly.

The tall, pinched-faced solicitor nodded. ‘Yes, of course we have. Evans, Donald and Simpson do not make mistakes. You, Miss Larkin, are now the official owner of the Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay.’

He handed the bewildered twenty-five-year-old a battered leather briefcase and pointed to a small combination padlock on its brass clasp.

‘Here. The will stated that you – and only you – can open this, using your date of birth.’

‘This is all very strange,’ Rosa said.  ‘And where exactly is this Cockleberry Bay?’

‘Devon, dear, Devon.’  The solicitor looked under his rimless glasses. ‘I take it you know where that is?’

‘I may have a cockney accent, Mr Donald, but I’m not stupid.’

‘Well, open it then.’ The solicitor was shifting from foot to foot in anticipation. He confided, ‘We’ve been wanting to know what’s in there for days.’

Showing no emotion, Rosa gazed at him with her striking green eyes and asked coolly: ‘Is there anything else I need?’

‘Er, no – but are you not going to . . .?’

‘I need to get to work.’ Rosa put her hat and scarf back on, zipped up her fur-lined bomber jacket and headed for the door. ‘Thank you so much for your help.’

And she was gone.

‘Rude!’

The solicitor peered crossly out of the window of the offices in Staple Inn and watched as the young woman, the briefcase in her arms, strode across the frosty cobbled courtyard and out into the bustle of London’s ancient legal quarter.

*

‘You’re late again, Rosa. This is a discount store, not a charity shop.’

‘Oh, turn that frown upside down, Mr Brown. I’m here now, aren’t I?’

But there wasn’t even a glint of the usual smile from her now reddening supervisor.

‘I’m going to have to let you go, Rosa. I need committed staff and to be honest, I don’t think you know what that word means. You’ve had all your warnings. I will speak to Head Office, and they will settle your final pay.’

Rosa sighed. ‘Really?’  When Mr Brown said nothing, she picked up the briefcase from the floor and added: ‘Whilst you’re at it, maybe you could tell them I’ve been wanting to stick this shitty, unfulfilling job right up their pound-coin-shaped backsides for weeks anyway.’

*

Rosa’s elderly neighbour was putting a holly wreath on her front door when she arrived at home, mid-morning.

‘You’re back early, dearie.’

Rosa murmured under her breath, ‘And Ethel Beanacre wins the award for the Nosiest Neighbour of the Year.’

‘What was that, love?’

‘Nothing, Ethel, just talking to myself.’

The sight of the worn briefcase secured further interest.

‘Robbed a bank, have you?’ Ethel’s awful cackle reminded Rosa of Catherine Tate’s ‘Gran’ character.

Rosa scrabbled for her key. ‘Don’t tell anyone, will…

***

Available from 9th April – you can pre-order your copy of The Cockleberry Bay here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corner-Shop-Cockleberry-Bay-ebook/dp/B07B8KML35/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Bio

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay is Nicola May’s ninth novel. In 2012 she won Best Author Read at the Festival of Romance for The School Gates and again in 2014 for Christmas Evie. Nicola likes to write about love, life and friendship in a realistic way, describing her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick’.

Nicola May lives near the famous Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.  Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.

Follow Nicola on Twitter: @nicolamay1

See her on Instagram: author_nicola

She also has her own Nicola May Author Page on Facebook

Find out more about her and all of her books at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicola-May/e/B004QUBKWW

***

Fabulous stuff. Thanks Nicola.

Come back next week to read the first 500 words from one of Kate Thompson’s novels.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Opening Lines: CRONE by Jeannie Wycherley

Welcome to my brand new ‘Opening Lines’ blog series.

Each Thursday an author will share a little about their work – and JUST the first 500 words of one of their novels – even if that means leaving things mid-sentence…

I’m delighted to welcome Jeannie Wycherley as my first guest of the series.

Over to you Jeannie…

Crone is my debut novel, set in and around Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth in Devon (the fictional Abbotts Cromleigh and Elbury of the novel). It’s a story that emanates very much from the landscape. The physicality of Aefre, whom we meet as she is being reborn in the opening lines, is actually drawn from the detritus of the forest floor.

Birth and death are central to the novel, and in between those events some of the intriguing characters, such as the enigmatic Mr Kephisto (also known as the Story Keeper) live extremely long lives. Crone is a dark fantasy novel, so as the author I was able to play with the longevity of each character’s existence, but at its heart it is actually a mystery with supernatural elements, and I have been contacted by many readers who start their email with the words, “This isn’t the sort of book I would normally read, but …” I am so thrilled that Crone has drawn such a diverse audience and appeals to such a cross section of readers.

It was vitally important to me to maintain truth within the supernatural, so yes, you have to suspend some disbelief as you do in any fantasy novel, but all the magic involved, among the elderly Guardians who are hunting Aefre for example, is ultimately feasible. I wasn’t interested in writing about sparkly wizards, and glittery unicorns. This is witchcraft with dirty hands and broken nails. It’s about real human experience. But ultimately, it is the age old story of a mother’s love for her child.

Crone Blurb

Heather Keynes’ teenage son died in a tragic car accident. Or so she thinks. However, deep in the wilds of the Devon countryside, an ancient evil has awoken … and is intent on hunting the residents of Abbotts Cromleigh.

No one is safe.

When Heather delves into a series of coincidental deaths, she is drawn reluctantly into the company of an odd group of elderly Guardians. Who are they, and what is their connection to the Great Oak? Why do they believe only Heather can put an end to centuries of horror? Who is the mysterious old woman in the forest and what is it that feeds her anger?

When Heather determines the true cause of her son’s death, she is hell-bent on vengeance. Determined to halt the march of the Crone once and for all, hatred becomes Heather’s ultimate weapon.

Furies collide in this twisted tale of murder, magic and salvation.

 

 

500 words – Opening Lines

Prologue

The cracking and snapping of dry bones reverberated through the stillness of the night. In the freezing air, at the very heart of the wood, in the slumped ruins of a long-forgotten dwelling, something dark began to manifest itself.

Little more than a mummified corpse, she unfolded her outer layer in a shower of dust and dry mould. Her skin, what remained of it, creaked like ancient leather and her flesh stretched taut over foul stringy innards. Then reaching, stretching, groaning, retching—she hauled herself upright. Once risen, she floated inches above the ground, while the mist—salty from the nearby sea—enveloped her like a pall and covered her foul nakedness.

She slipped out of her shack, and the wildlife in the undergrowth shrank from her black charisma, keeping their distance from her rancid stench, the stink of putrefaction.

In the treetops, caught out by her rapid manifestation, an owl blinked uneasily. Fearful, he observed her as she moved beneath him, then hopeful of evading her gaze he casually pivoted his head, pretended she was unseen and he was unseeing. But Aefre, even in her newly woken state, was both observant and deadly.

She was fast, lashed out at the owl, a missile of energy directed from her mind. His body exploded in a cloud of downy feathers. Her deformed claw-like fingers caught his remains as he fell from his perch, and she stuffed him into her mouth, whole. She chewed once, twice. Swallowed. A single line of blood dribbled from her chin, and the thinnest layer of fresh skin started to form a mouldering translucent veneer.

There was a halo of light to the east. Civilisation. For Aefre, the time was ripe. She was awake. It was time to bask in the thrill of the hunt. This time she would locate her sisters and join them in a merry dance of carnage.

First things first, however. She needed sustenance. She headed for town. She would find everything she needed there.

***

The boys tumbled out of the multiplex, blinking in the garish sodium lights of the car park, high on an adrenaline kick after enjoying the latest blockbuster. Max was grateful that James now had a driving licence and a car to go with it and they weren’t dependent on the non-existent bus service. It was hell being stuck in Abbotts Cromleigh with nothing to do.

Max was completing his A levels this year, and come September he would be off to University in a city where you didn’t need a car. Everything he needed would be on his doorstep. Live music venues, sporting facilities: Sheffield promised to be everything his small Devon home town couldn’t be.

He’d miss The Storykeeper though. Sheffield had bookshops, sure, but The Storykeeper was something special. It was housed in a higgledy-piggledy Elizabethan structure that had been added to time and again over the years, and thus appeared to stretch back and up endlessly. Shelves meandered like mysterious rivers throughout the building…

Buy link

Crone: myBook.to/CroneJW 

Jeannie Wycherley Bio

Jeannie Wycherley is the author of Crone (2017) and Deadly Encounters (2017) and numerous short stories that favour the weird including A Concerto for the Dead and Dying (2018). Crone is the recipient on an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion, and a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award. Jeannie’s next novel Beyond the Veil is due April 2018. Jeannie runs a gift shop with her husband in Sidmouth, adores her dogs, and make her evening meals in a cauldron. She lives somewhere between the forest and the sea in East Devon, England and draws literary inspiration from the landscape.

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/jeanniewycherley/

Website: https://www.jeanniewycherley.co.uk/

Thank you for such a fabulous blog, Jeannie. Intriguing first 500 words…

Next week, Opening Lines, will feature contemporary fiction/romance writer, Nicola May.

Happy reading,

Jenny

 


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