Blog Tour: Read a extract from The Mausoleum by David Mark @davidmarkwriter @severnhouse @lovebooksgroup

07:00


1967. In a quiet village in the wild lands of the Scottish borders, disgraced academic Cordelia Hemlock is trying to put her life back together. Grieving the loss of her son, she seeks out the company of the dead, taking comfort amid the ancient headstones and crypts of the local churchyard. When lightning strikes a tumbledown tomb, she glimpses a corpse that doesn’t belong among the crumbling bones. But when the storm passes and the body vanishes, the authorities refuse to believe the claims of a hysterical ‘outsider’. 

Teaming up with a reluctant witness, local woman Felicity Goose, Cordelia’s enquiries all lead back to a former POW camp that was set up in the village during the Second World War. But not all Gilsland’s residents welcome the two young women’s interference. There are those who believe the village’s secrets should remain buried … whatever the cost. 


Extract:

CORDELIA

The words on the burnt paper stayed with me all night. I left Felicity’s just before 9pm and resisted John’s persistent offer to walk me home. I wanted to think. Wanted to feel rain on my face and cold air on my cheeks and see if the hunter’s moon would be red or blue. I never found out. The sky was too clogged with grey to offer a view of any lunar spectacle and in truth, the rain and the cold produced little in the way of sensory pleasure. I just ended up sniffly and damp. Two cars passed me on the way back up the hill. Neither one slowed down. The village seemed even quieter than usual as I trudged past the old vicarage, already beginning to go to seed, and past The Bridge. The place was silent. No clinking glasses, no muffled songs or mumbled back-and-forth. Left, past the garage with its fleet of buses standing idle at the kerbside; their paintwork gleaming with a gloss of raindrops. Round past the church. The new church. Pretty little place built on a slope: a curve of old graves around the entrance and long, straggly grass and weeds. Newer headstones further away from the door – smaller, whiter, sadder. Children. Babies from the hospital on the hill. 

I didn’t let myself linger there. The headstones were teeth, waiting to take a bite out of a part of me that was starting to come back to life. I quickened my pace. Up past the big old houses. Slender trees to my right; an inadequate fence for the miles and miles of green that stretched away to my right. Up to the hospital. The locals still called it that. It had been a convalescent home for nigh-on 20 years but during the war it had been taken on by the authorities as a safe haven where expectant mothers from bigger cities in the North East could come anfd give birth without fear of any bombs dropping. Close to 5,000 women did just that. Those that didn’t survive were buried, quietly, in the grounds of the new church: another layer on the endless strata of bones and blood upon which the whole vale seemed to have been constructed. 

Work was going on at the Spa. There was talk of it becoming a hotel. It was certainly a splendid old building; a colossal white edifice that would have looked more at home on the seafront at Brighton or Scarborough than in that little wooded area by the river. I barely looked up as I passed. I slouched my way down into the damp woods and slithered down the muddy footpath; the smell of the sulphurous water mingling with the scent of churned mud and mulched leaves. The river was raging. It took an effort of will to force myself over the bridge, placing my feet carefully on the wooden slats. Rain splattered hard and heavy on the few leaves that the Autumn had not stolen and I squinted in almost total blackness as I dragged myself up the footpath on the far bank towards home. Was I afraid? I don’t think I was, no. The worst thing I could imagine had already happened to me.

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