This week we feature a sneak preview of Mary Grand‘s next novel – due out in May, so not long to wait!
I live on the Isle of Wight and am so lucky to be able to set my murder mysteries here. The location of my next book, Good Neighbours, is in one of my favourite island towns, Yarmouth,
Yarmouth is a very compact, picturesque harbour town. The narrow streets, the unique wooden pier and the small stony beaches all inspired me to set the story here.
I was fascinated by the idea of a small community living in such close proximity. I created a fictitious close in the town, where people either live above their businesses – a veterinary Surgery, an art gallery, a hairdresser and a café, or in one of the small, terraced cottages.
It is to this close that I introduce Nia, the central character in Good Neighbours. She is running away from a failed marriage in Cardiff where her husband is the head of a large High School. Nia comes to stay in a vacant property in the close. She quickly gets to know her new neighbours believing she has come to a place of safety, somewhere to recover and start again. However, this illusion is shattered, when, one morning, she is walking her dog and discovers something truly horrendous has happened to one of her neighbours. This is where we pick up the story.
An excerpt from Good Neighbours
Nia and her dog, Romeo, walked along the harbour and then finally made their way towards the pier. Lighter shades of blue were starting to push their way through the darkness of the sky; the streetlights would turn off soon. There was a gentleness about the light that morning. The town looked at peace with itself. Through the windows of the post office, she saw two young boys being given their papers to deliver.
She approached the entrance to the pier, planning to walk along, but, as always, Romeo pulled her towards the beach.
They went down the steps and Nia leant down to let Romeo off his lead. However, as she did, she glanced over to where they’d sat the night before and to her horror, she saw Ruby lying there. Nia dashed over: had Ruby had been down there all night?
‘Wake up!’ she shouted. Ruby didn’t respond. Nia leant down and gently squeezed her arm, but as she did, she took in Ruby’s open but unseeing eyes staring at the sky, her beautiful hair tangled and splayed across the pebbles. Beside her lay an empty whisky bottle and her hemp bag, with a letter poking out, and a candle propped up in a circle of stones.
Nia grabbed her chest, then she covered her mouth, scared she was going to be sick. She kept Romeo close to her, touched Ruby’s hand lightly. Like the pebbles on the beach, it was stone cold.
‘Oh, God, Ruby, I am so sorry. I should never have left you,’ she whispered.
With shaking hands, her eyes blurred with fear and tears, she fumbled for her phone, and rang for an ambulance. The operator spoke gently but firmly, and somehow Nia managed to give details of what had happened.
‘Are you alone?’ the operator asked. ‘Do you feel safe?’
For the first time since finding Ruby, Nia looked around. It was early, and, yes, she was alone and, no, she didn’t feel safe, but nothing would induce her to leave Ruby.
‘Come back, Ruby, please come back,’ she begged. ‘You can’t have died here, not on your own, alone in the dark. What happened?’
Slowly, she started to take in the rest of the scene. Ruby’s body was above the tideline. The sea hadn’t touched her. The empty bottle disturbed Nia. Would Ruby really have drunk all that? Would that have caused her death?
The operator had gone now. Nia sat next to Ruby; Romeo close to her. She could hear Ruby’s words: ‘the hate is still here’. Looking at Ruby now – no breath, no life – Nia knew that, despite saying she was going nowhere, Ruby had gone. Ruby was no longer here.
All Nia could hear was the sea crashing onto the shingle and she turned to face it. ‘You know, don’t you? You saw what happened to Ruby. Why didn’t you look after her?’
You can read more about Mary and contact her on:-
Twitter: @authormaryg https://twitter.com/authormaryg