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Read An Extract…

Little Bones

Chapter 1

The door to the back bedroom hung open.

Pausing at the top of the narrow wooden stairs, Garda Cathy Connolly could just see inside, could see what looked like the entire contents of the wardrobe flung over the polished floorboards, underwear scattered across the room like litter. The sun, winter weak, played through a window opposite the door, its light falling on something cream, illuminating it bright against the dark denim and jewel colours of the tumbled clothes on the floor.

Cathy’s stomach turned again and she closed her eyes, willing the sickness to pass. There was a riot of smells up here, beeswax, ghostly layers of stale perfume, something musty. She put her gloved hand to her mouth and the smell of the latex, like nails on a blackboard, set her teeth on edge.

Until thirty-six hours ago Cathy had been persuading herself that her incredibly heightened sense of smell and queasiness were the start of a bug. Some bug. But right now her problems were something she didn’t have the headspace to deal with. She had a job to do. Later, when she was on her own in the gym, when it was just her and a punchbag, that was when she’d be able to think. And boy did she have a lot to think about.

Pulling her hand away from her mouth, Cathy impatiently pushed a dark corkscrew curl that had escaped from her ponytail back behind her ear. Too thick to dry quickly, her hair was still damp from her early-morning training session in the pool, but that was the least of her worries. She folded her arms tightly across her chest and breathed deeply, slowly fighting her nausea. Inside her head, images of the bedroom whirled, slightly out of focus, blurred at the edges.

When the neighbour had called the station this morning, this had presented as a straightforward forced entry. That was until the lads had entered the address into the system and PULSE had thrown up a report from the same property made only the previous night. The householder, Zoë Grant, had seen a man lurking in the garden. Watching her. Cathy would put money on him doing a bit more than just watching. One of the Dún Laoghaire patrol cars had been close by, had arrived in minutes, blue strobes illuminating the lane. But the man had vanished. More than likely up the footpath that ran through the woods from the dead end of the cul-de-sac to the top of Killiney Hill.

And now someone had broken in.

It was just as well Zoë Grant hadn’t been at home.

Cathy thrust her hands into the pockets of her combats and fought to focus. Christ, she was so sick of feeling sick. The one thing that Niall McIntyre, her coach – ‘The Boss’ – drilled into her at every single training session was that winning was about staying in control. Staying in control of her training; her fitness; her diet.

Staying in control of her breakfast.

And she’d got to be the Women’s National Full-Contact Kickboxing champion three times in a row by following his advice.

Below in the hallway, Cathy could hear Thirsty, the scenes-ofcrime officer, bringing in his box of tricks, its steel shell reverberating off the black and white tiles as he called up to her.

‘If this one is Quinn, O’Rourke will be delighted. Have a look at her shoes; he’s got a thing about bloody shoes. Lines them up and does his thing . . .’ The disgust was loud in his voice.

Trying to steady herself, Cathy took a deep breath. DI Dawson O’Rourke might be dying to nail ‘Nifty’ Quinn, but she knew he wouldn’t be at all impressed if he could see her now. Dún Laoghaire was a new patch for him, but they went way back. And . . . Christ, this wasn’t the time to throw up.

Shoes. Look for the shoes.

‘The place is upside down, there’s . . .’ Her voice sounded hollow. But what could she say, there’s a bad smell? No question that would bring guffaws of laughter from Thirsty. And she was quite sure no one else would be able to smell it; it was like the kitchen back at her shared house. If Decko, their landlord, or one of the other lads she rented with had left the fridge open or the lid off the bin, she couldn’t even get in the door. Thank God they hadn’t noticed. Yet. Decko fancied himself as an impersonator and there was no way she was ready to be the butt of his jokes.

Taking a deep breath, Cathy edged through the door, the heels on her boots echoing on the wooden floorboards. Downstairs she heard another voice. The neighbour this time, calling from outside the front door.

‘How are you getting on?’

‘Grand, thanks. A member of the detective unit is examining upstairs.’ Cathy could tell from his response that Thirsty had his public smile in place. ‘Any sign of Miss Grant?’

‘Zoë? Not yet. I’ll try her again in a minute. It’s going to be an awful shock. He didn’t take that big painting, did he? The old one of the harbour? I’ve always loved that.’ The neighbor paused, then before Thirsty could comment continued: ‘Is there anything I can do? Can I get you a cup of tea?’

Listening to Thirsty making small talk, Cathy focused back on the room. She needed to pull herself together and get on with this. They couldn’t hold Nifty Quinn for ever. She could hear O’Rourke’s voice in her head.

What had he been looking for? Cash? Jewellery? Or some sort of trophy? This didn’t feel like a Nifty job to Cathy, and she’d seen enough that were. Whatever about him being picked up in the area this morning acting suspiciously, and his thing for single women, this felt different, more personal. But only Zoë Grant would know for sure if anything was missing. A lipstick? A pair of knickers?

Cathy had seen worse, but standing here in the ransacked bedroom, her six years on the force didn’t help make her feel any less unclean. How would the woman who lived here feel when she got home? Someone had been in her bedroom . . .

Cathy scanned the tumble of fabrics on the floor. The cream silk was a misfit with the blacks, purples and embroidered blue denim. The colour of sour milk, it looked like a . . . wedding dress?

Bobbing down on her haunches, Cathy let the folds of milky fabric play through her fingers. The disturbance released more of the ancient perfume, the scent jangling like a set of keys. The silk had torn where it had caught on a nail in the wardrobe door, minute stitches unravelling along the hem, opening a deep cleft in the fabric. Tugging gently, Cathy tried to lift it from the pin. The seam widened and she caught a glimpse of something dark inside.

What the feck was that?

Whatever it was had fallen in deeper as she moved the silk. Leaning forward, Cathy teased the two edges apart with her fingertips, trying to get a better look.

She needed more light.

‘Thirsty, have you got a torch down there?’ Cathy’s voice was too loud in the stillness of the room. Then she heard Thirsty’s footsteps on the stairs and a moment later his greying head appeared in the doorway, a heavy rubber torch in his hand.

‘Got something?’

‘Not sure.’ Frowning, she stood up to take the torch. ‘There’s –’ A voice calling from downstairs interrupted her.

Thirsty rolled his eyes. ‘Jesus, it’s the bloody neighbour back. Call me if you need me.’

Cathy flashed him a grin and, crouching down again beside the pile of clothes, played the torch over them, double-checking before she went back to the dress. Looking for what? She wasn’t sure. Fibres? Blood? She shook her head half to herself.

This was something different. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach, could feel the hairs rising on the back of her neck.

What was she expecting to find? Had the guy who had been here left some sort of gift? Like Nifty? Christ, she hoped not. Normally she could take all of that in her stride, but today she wasn’t so sure.

Cathy suddenly realised she was feeling nervous – which was stupid. What could possibly be in an old dress, in a room like this, that was making her heart pound? She’d been in the force too long, had seen too much for this to spook her. But for some reason it was, and spooking her badly. Cathy could feel her palms sweating, absorbing the talc on the inside of her blue latex gloves. Were her hormones making her supersensitive? This was crazy.

Clearing her throat, she swung the beam of the torch onto the gap she had made in the creamy silk. There was definitely something there. Cathy eased back the seam, opening the fabric to the torchlight.

Pale grey shards. Hidden deep within the folds.

Shards of what? Something old. The rhyme took off like a kite inside her head. Something old, something new . . . Shaking it away, she lifted the weight of the silk and, holding the torch up, slipped her fingers into the seam, prising it apart. The stitches were minute, little more than a whisper along the hemmed edge.

Then she saw them. More shards. Tiny, twig-like, tumbling as the fabric moved. And in a moment of absolute clarity she realised what they were.

And the nausea came like a tidal wave.

Bones. Tiny bones. The unmistakable slant of a jaw, the curve of a rib.

‘Thirsty, I need you up here now!’

This was going to make O’Rourke’s day. First the FBI – and now this…

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Writing Crime

In her day job Sam Blake works with authors across all genres, so why does she write crime?

She explains: “I’m fascinated by what makes people tick, by how they interact and react, and by the thin, sometimes blurred line between good and evil. What makes someone kill? Is it nature or nurture, passion, anger – or revenge?

Writing crime fiction is like creating a crossword puzzle. Characters intersect, their actions causing events that become as entangled as the black and white squares on the page. An idea starts with a headline, or an overheard snatch of conversation, an ‘ooh, now that’s interesting’ moment, and a lightbulb goes on in your head. Joining the lightbulb moments together, giving the characters time to reveal themselves and their part in the drama is the most exciting part of the process. Like looking at the empty squares in the crossword and slowly filling  in the blanks.

Why crime? Perhaps because I’m naturally curious, perhaps because I’m interested more by what is going on inside someone’s head than by their outward appearence, perhaps because I’m married to a ex-cop….recently retired from An Garda Síochána.

Are criminals any different from you and me? Every day ordinary citizens break the law – use their mobile phone in the car, drive that little bit too fast to get to a meeting – are they criminals? Could they go one step further?

I think so. I think we all have a tipping point.

What would make you kill….?”

 

Huge thanks to Cross Pens for the beautiful Botanica Red Hummingbird Vine pen photographed here – I use it every day! Check out the whole collection here.

For additional logos and branding resources, check out Logojoy.

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Introducing Cat Connolly

Ever since she was twelve years old and saw a little girl alone on the green in the middle of her estate – a man in a hoodie heading towards her, Cat Connolly wanted to be a cop.

Following in her older brother Aidan’s footsteps she joined An Garda Síochána at 18 and the Detective Unit at 22. One of the lads, she’s a  triple National Kick Boxing Champion but finds time to fit in her training and take a distance learning degree in criminology in her spare time.  She’s bright, focused and determined, but she’s also an impetuous risk taker and when she’s up against it, will follow her heart over her head.

Dawson O’Rourke worked with Cat in her first posting when she was an observer in the patrol car he was driving – they have a deep bond. O’Rourke knows Cat has huge potential in the force, and while her impetuousness is frowned upon and has led her to make ‘bad’ decisions, her fearlessness is something he loves about her – and it saved his life.

Cat knows she’s strongly attracted to O’Rourke, but with a twelve year age gap, she’s convinced it’s a relationship that will stay in her head.  As Cathy plunges from one disastrous relationship into another, going from one ‘wrong sort of guy’ to another, O’Rourke is always there for her.

Despite her rollercoaster love life, Cat is passionate about her job and catching the bad guys. She has no tolerance for law breaking and believes that the ultimate betrayal is a bad cop. If you can’t  trust those with the responsibility to uphold the law, who can you trust?

So what’s Cat’s full name?

Known as Cathy to her collagues and Cat to her friends, in IN DEEP WATER we find out Cat’s full name is Catherina Anna Maria Connolly.

 

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The Story Behind Little Bones…

Stephen King talks about story being the collison of two unrelated ideas – the ideas behind Little Bones weren’t entirely unrelated but they collided one sunny Sunday afternoon as I was driving back from a Readers Day that author Sarah Webb and I had programmed at a hotel in Dublin Airport. It was about 5pm in the afternoon and pre M50 so a LONG drive home (I once counted 35 sets of traffic lights) but as I put on the radio and pulled out of the car park a documentary was starting on RTE about Kerry born playwright George Fitzmaurice. Fitzmaurice is best remembered for his play The Country Dressmaker which he submitted to the Abbey Theatre. It was such a success that it rescued the theatre after the problems of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World in the same year. Born in 1877, Fitzmaurice became introverted and isolated as he grew older and died in 1963, in a rented upstairs room in No.3 Harcourt Street, Dublin. He was aged 86 years and left no will and few personal belongings – apart from a copy of every play he had ever published and a few in draft form, which were in a suitcase under his bed.

It was Fitzmaurice’s suitcase that caused the collision of ideas.

Several years previously I’d watched an RTE TV documentary about a young  Irish girl who was living in lodgings  in Manchester. Belinda Agnes Regan discovered she was pregnant before she left Ireland but,  unmarried, had no choice but to hide the pregnancy. She delivered the baby herself, incredibly in a room she shared with another much younger girl who apparently slept through her ordeal. Wrapping the baby in a shawl, she crept to the bathroom but when she returned, the baby wasn’t breathing.  Hiding the body in a suitcase, she left it under her bed, returning home to Ireland to talk to the family priest. While she was away, the body was found  by her land lady and she was arrested for infanticide.

These two stories, quite separately lit a light bulb in my head and on the drive home I started wondering about dress makers and what would happen if the bones of the baby had ended up in a dress – a wedding dress – the crucial thing that Belinda Agnes Regan must have yearned for, for nine long months. At that point I had no idea who owned the dress, or how the bones got there, or WHY…

Stories can take a long time to develop, and to find their way. I was struck by the image of the bones being found by accident in the home of a beautiful young artist. Cathy Connolly jumped off the page as a character from early in the very first draft – her quest for the truth becoming a theme for the book. More often in trouble than out of it, she is so real to me now that I can hear her talking whenever I think of her.

Writing and rewriting what started life as The Dressmaker , the characters and story grew, developing over time. While the story didn’t change, when Bonnier’s Twenty7 signed the Cat Connolly trilogy, the title of the first in the series did – to Little Bones.  And very soon  Little Bones will out in the wild, and you can meet Cat Connolly, laugh with her and cry with her, and step right into her world.

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