This week Crime Cymru member Ripley Hayes gives us an extract from Badly Served – the first novel of the Teema Crowe Mysteries. Definitely something to whet the appetite….
I think it was Dean Wesley Smith who said that a novel springs from a character, in a setting, with a problem. In the case of my novel “Badly Served” that is 100% true. I don’t know if other writers think of their characters as if they were real people, with an existence outside our imaginations, but Teema Crowe certainly sprang into my mind as a fully formed person. Young, androgynous, dark-haired and as she would put it, brown. She was in a setting — rural north Wales, and she had a problem — the police thought she’d killed a man.
In my mind’s eye, I could see Teema standing miserably in the rain outside a static caravan on an out-of-season holiday park. It’s dark and the place is deserted. She’s a city girl from Manchester; a process server sent to serve divorce papers on one Harry Smith. She’s just been dumped by her partner, and the caravan was simply a place to lay her head and lick her wounds while she tracks down Harry. Teema is smart, but the world has been giving her a battering, and it just goes on getting worse. I say battering with tongue in cheek, because Harry is the manager of a fish and chip shop, and that’s where Teema first catches up with him. It turns out that Teema isn’t the only one looking for Harry, and the other Harry-seekers aren’t very nice people. Teema decides to see what they’re up to, and one thing leads to another. In this case, another chip shop. And a casino, and a lawyer’s office, and the streets of Manchester and Crewe station, police officers both good and bad, via plenty of Welsh forests, mostly in the rain. What can I say, it’s a crime novel. They get complicated.
But it began with that image of Teema, miserable and alone, completely out of place, and every time I think of her, that’s what I see.
Anyway, here’s the beginning:
The first time I saw Harry, he was shaking a basket of chips in a vat of hot oil. He looked as if he knew what he was doing — lifting the basket, shaking it hard and plunging it back in with a sizzle that made me drool. Behind the warm glass cabinets, the staff moved in a steady dance around each other, frying, taking orders, serving and wrapping. Calls of Two Fish, Salt and Vinegar and More Jumbo Sausages made a wallpaper of sound until I got to the head of the queue.
The second time I saw him, the shop was silent. Harry was lying face down in a pool of oil, with a knife in his back, and I was on my arse, next to him, holding on to his legs for dear life.
It all slid very quickly downhill from there.
You can learn more about Ripley Hayes’s wonderful books on her website as well as on Amazon