Saturday, 2 September 2017

99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter with extract

From Elisabeth Carpenter comes a debut psychological thriller guaranteed to take your breath away. Perfect for fans of Broadchurch and The Missing.

‘An intelligent, taut and compelling thriller that throws you right at the end’

- SAM CARRINGTON, bestselling author of Saving Sophie.

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

This is a gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist that will take your breath away.

I have managed to get an extract for you to enjoy. 

Chapter 10 p.40-42

I’ve laid out all the cuttings from Zoe’s disappearance on the coffee table. There are only a few – there weren’t as many newspapers in 1986. Most papers used the photo of Zoe in her uniform – her first and last school photograph.

I try not to think about what she might have looked like if her picture had been taken every year after that. About how proud Sarah would have been of her. I try not to feel bitter every time I see her old school friends standing at the gates of the school down the road, adults now, waiting for children of their own. I simply let it stab me once, in the heart, before I bury it again. We used to talk about Zoe every day. I don’t get to talk about her any more. No one else knows her now.

I look at the clock. Jim’s late, but for once I don’t mind. It gives me time to look at all the different versions of her little face in the cuttings: small and grainy; black and white and brightly coloured, of which there’s only one. In the centre of them all I’ve placed the last photo of Sarah and Zoe together: my daughter and granddaughter.

I bury my face in my hands. It never gets any easier. It’s not the natural order. I’ve said that to myself a thousand times. I wish God would just take me to be with them. It’s too hard to be the only one left. Well, almost the only one.

Jim’s taps on the kitchen window halt the flow of my tears. I grab one of the cushions off the settee and soak up the wet from my face. This is why I hardly ever look at these pictures.

‘Where are you, Maggie?’

‘Where do you think I am? I’ve only two rooms.’

I place the cushion back next to me, but reversed.

Jim appears at the threshold and shakes off his coat.

‘You could’ve been in the lav,’ he says.

‘Well, you can’t ask where a lady is if you think she’s in the lav.’

‘It was just something to say,’ he says, ‘so you’d know I was here.’

He sighs and the settee sinks a little as he sits next to me. We don’t often sit like this together. I rub my right arm with my left hand to get rid of the tingling.

‘So this is what you’ve kept all these years,’ he says, looking at the pictures on the table.

He takes a folded newspaper from the inside pocket of his coat. The things he can carry in there. Last week he took out a tin of pease pudding because I’d never eaten it before. He should’ve kept it in there.

‘It’s today’s,’ he says. ‘She made the nationals.’

My intake of breath gives away my surprise.

‘Don’t look so shocked,’ he says. ‘I knew you’d want to read it.’

I take it from him.

‘I know. But don’t you think you’re indulging me? An old fool getting caught up in a story that’s nothing to do with her?’

He shakes his head. ‘You’re not the only one. They were all talking about it at the shop. And anyway, it’s not a story – it’s real life. You more than most know all about that. Stop being so ashamed about it.’

I feel myself flush. Am I ashamed? Ashamed we couldn’t find her? Guilty that she was taken in the first place? Or ashamed that I still think about her, that she might come back to me after everyone else has gone?

Jim picks up one of Zoe’s articles. ‘A sweet shop? Is that right?’

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘Like where this girl, Grace Harper, was last seen.’

Zoe should’ve been in the paper straight away. Perhaps she’d have been on the news all day too – they have news channels playing twenty-four hours a day now.

‘Have you been watching Sky News?’ asks Jim.

He read my mind.

‘I don’t have Sky News. Why would I want Sky? All I watch is Countdown.’

That’s a lie. I watch so much rubbish I couldn’t say. Channel Five do a true-life film every day that I usually end up crying to. I’d never tell Jim about that.

He winces as he stands up. ‘You’re the only person I know who keeps their remote control next to the television. What’s the bloody point of that?’

‘Mind your language,’ I say.

I wonder if Grace’s mother is waiting at the window, like Sarah used to.

‘You’ll have Freeview,’ he says. ‘Everyone does now. News 24 – it’ll be on there.’

I leave him to play with the remote control. I place all of Zoe’s articles back in the folder, except for one. It was the one that broke us: Search called off for missing Zoe Pearson.

No comments:

Post a Comment