Monday, 17 December 2012

The Valley of the Shadow: out at last!

by Carola Dunn

The Valley of the Shadow came out last week. It is an Indie bookseller pick and on the USA TODAY Books: New and Noteworthy list.

 Here's a scene where my chief protagonist, Eleanor Trewynn, is trying to discover where the victims may have been abandoned to die:

The Tregeddles' cottage opened directly onto the narrow street. A large grey cat was asleep in the sun on the slate windowsill, its tail hanging down. The tip twitched. Teazle was usually very good with cats, but this was too much for her.
Barking, she reared up against the wall, dancing on her back legs. The cat whisked its tail away just in time and stood up, back arched, hissing and spitting. Naturally this incited Teazle to further frenzy.
As Eleanor pulled her away, the front door swung open.
"What the...!?" The small, wiry, weatherbeaten man recognized Eleanor. "Oh, it's you, Mrs. Trewynn. Sounded like there was an Alsatian going for our Smoky. Quite a voice your little un's got, hasn't she?" He bent down and scratched under Teazle's chin. By now the Westie's rear end was wagging madly, while the cat was already apparently asleep, his tail carefully tucked up under his chin.
"I'm sorry. It was very naughty of her."
"No harm done. Out collecting, are you?" He peered into her basket. "Looks like you're doing nicely. Come in, come in. The wife was saying just now she has summat or other for your shop and she hoped you'd drop in soon."
Eleanor hesitated. He had his cap in his hand, apparently on the point of going out, and he was the one she really wanted to talk to. But as he waved her in, Teazle accepted the invitation, dragging on the lead. Taken by surprise, Eleanor followed. Abel Tregeddle shut the front door and came after them.
Naturally, Teazle headed straight to the kitchen. The door was open and she trotted in, Eleanor in tow. Mrs. Tregeddle, a stout woman busy at the kitchen table, looked round at the click of toenails on the lino.
"Mrs. Trewynn, how nice to see you. Set yourself down, do." She tossed a scrap of the meat she was chopping to Teazle. "We bin dying to hear what happened yest'day."
"I told Mrs. Trewynn as you got summat for her shop," Abel chided.
"I 'spect I can find something. You'll have a cuppa, Mrs. Trewynn." She filled the kettle at the sink and set it on the gas.
Eleanor was still sloshing about inside from the tea she'd already drunk, but Abel was more likely to stay and chat with a cup in his hand, she thought, so she accepted. Too late, she realised that having invented a donation to inveigle her in, he wasn't likely to leave before hearing about the rescue. Resigning herself to further liquid intake, she recounted the story again, her own minor part and what the others had told her.
All the talking was giving her a dry throat. When the tea was made, she sipped it gladly.
As before, she omitted the young man's race. She stressed the drama of Megan risking her life to save a stranger. "It's a beautiful spot, but dangerous. Do you know it, Mr. Tregeddle?"
"Yas," Abel admitted. "Took a boat in once, when I were a young duffer. But it's risky even at high tide in a calm sea. No use setting pots if you can't be sure when you'll be able to check 'em."
"A funny place to go for a swim," said his wife, "but these young lads'll do anything for a bit of a thrill. In a bad way, was he?"
"He was still unconscious when the ambulance took him away. But I heard later that he came round, just briefly, and he said something rather odd."
As one, the Tregeddles leant forward eagerly. "What'd he say, then?" asked Abel.
"He said his family were stranded in a cave. What no one can work out is how they reached the cave in the first place, and if they could get in, why can't they get out?"
"That's easy. Went in by boat, climbed out to explore, didn't tie it up secure. Landlubbers in a hired boat, could be. First thing a seaman learns is to be sure of his knots."
"Oh, yes, that might explain it. The awful thing is that the lifeboat won't be able to go looking for them because of the fog."
"Whereabout is this cave supposed to be?" he asked warily.
"The boy couldn't explain. It must be somewhere in Bossiney Cove, don't you think? He couldn't have survived a swim from farther away."
"Likely not."
"There are lots of caves. If they have to search all of them, I hate to think what condition the family will be in by the time they're found—if they're found. I've been told there are hidden caves, used by smugglers. I remember you saying, Mr. Tregeddle, there's still some smuggling going on."
"That's as may be."
"Suppose they chanced to come across one of the smugglers' caves, and that's where they're stuck? That could be why no one has seen or heard them. They might never be found."
Mrs. Tregeddle was aghast. "Oh, Abel, the whole family dead!"
Abel's lips set in a thin line.
Eleanor played what she hoped was her ace in the hole. "The boy said his mother is dying. Even if he was exaggerating, even if they find them in the end, any unnecessary delay—"
"Abel, his mam! You can't..." She faltered as her husband glowered at her.
"My niece risked her life." Eleanor spoke quietly. He met her eyes, and she held his gaze. "What would you risk? Information given to me in confidence would be passed to the authorities without any mention of where it came from." She paused. He looked down sulkily at the table, his weathered cheeks flushing. "What would you have to lose? A couple of convenient hiding-places. Against several lives."

Available from all booksellers and in ebook formats.

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