Good morning to you all, today I’m thrilled to be closing the blog tour for The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward and to celebrate the occasion I have a very intriguing extract from this novel, but first the book description……
The past won’t stay buried forever.
November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.
October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?
DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home.
Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧
- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (6 Sept. 2018)
Wednesday, 6 November 1957
The first week of November and Susan was already humming the Twelve Days of Christmas. She needed to get it out of her head before she reached home, as her dad would have no truck with carols until the night before Christmas. His Methodist upbringing had been left far behind as he’d gratefully abandoned the church services and interminable hymns. Some childhood habits are hard to shift, however, and the tradition of the tree going up with the minimum of fuss, and carols put on hold until after tea on Christmas Eve, was a convention from which he refused to budge.
Susan’s mum let him have his way, although Susan had recently caught her listening to a festive medley on the Light Programme. Don’t tell your father, she’d cautioned with her eyes before turning the dial of the wooden console with a snap. The hymn book with its meagre selection of carols had already been taken down from the shelf by Susan’s brother and left on top of the upright piano in readiness for their father’s heralding in of the festive season. Come seven o’clock, Christmas Eve, the routine would be the same. Their father, after much bother looking for his glasses, would fumble over the keys to pick out a tune barely recognisable from the ones sung throughout December outside the closed front door. For even well-meaning carol singers weren’t immune from her father’s edict. No Christmas about the house before the 24th. Even on the doorstep.
But carols need to be learnt. Susan, a high alto with a knack for holding a note in the face of her classmates’ flat and occasionally sharp pitch, was expected at Wednesday evening choir practice in the hut near the school gates. Warmed by only a three-bar fire, she and the other members of the fourth and fifth forms who were willing to practise in time for the school concert breathed out cold air as their lungs ached and chests heaved with the effort of singing in the damp fug. Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping.
The tune swirled around her head as she steered her bike through the autumn mist along the thin track that would take her across the bridge to her home on the other side of Bampton. The wheels bumped and squeaked over the uneven path, startling the few birds prepared to stay in the Peak District for the winter. Frost had begun to settle on the fields, giving the landscape a shimmering glow. As the temperature dropped, Susan tightened the ends of her headscarf under her chin, pulling the thin material away from her ears so that she could hear any encroaching sounds. Her thick blazer warmed her body and she dragged the sleeves of her jumper down over her cold palms, which grasped the metal of the handlebars.
Susan kept a wary eye on the fields around her. She’d been told not to come this way ever since her friend, Iris, had seen a man standing in the field far off, completely naked. Iris had rushed back to her house in the street next to Susan’s and some of the fathers, Susan’s included, had gone in search of the pervert. Of course, he’d gone by the time the men arrived. Disappeared into the mists but not forgotten by the community. Don’t go the back way home from choir, she’d been warned. First by her dad and afterwards, more sharply, by her mother, who’d looked like she wanted to expand the conversation into something more meaningful. Susan had hung about in the kitchen but nothing further had been revealed.
When she got home, she’d pretend she hadn’t come this way. Would tell her mother that, of course, she’d taken the way up Bampton High Street, cycled behind the cottage hospital and continued along the main road over the railway bridge to the entrance of the new housing estate. However, no matter how quickly she cycled, the fact was that this back way would get her home quicker on a cold November evening, despite the uneven path. The route was a direct line from her school to the back of her estate where she’d have to lift her bike over the chained five-bar gate.
She looked around the chilled landscape but could see nothing through the grey mist. She pinched the bike’s tyres to reassure herself that they were rock solid. Any problems and she’d hop on and make a quick getaway, confident she could ride faster than any man, especially a naked one, could run.
Sarah Ward is the author of four DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw, A Patient Fury and The Shrouded Path set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.