Extract | While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

Category: Extract

While You Sleep

 

Prologue

 

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming.

You can’t tell at first if it’s pleasure or pain, or that tricky place where the two meet; you’re almost embarrassed to hear it, but if you listen closer it comes to sound more like anguish, a lament torn from the heart: like an animal cry of loss, or defiance, or fury, carried across the cove from cliff to cliff on the salt wind.

If you stand on the beach with your back to the sea, they’ll tell you, looking up at the McBride house, you might catch, behind tall windows on the first floor, the fleetest shift of a shadow. All the rooms dark through glass; not even the flicker of a candle, only the shape that shivers at that same window and vanishes, quick as breath, under the broken reflections of clouds and moon. They’ll say the woman’s keening grows louder as the gale seeks unprotected corners of the house, swirls around the pointed gables, shakes the weathervane on the turret and rattles the attic windows in their frames. But listen again; when the wind drops, there is nothing but the wild sea, and the occasional drawn-out moans of the seals beyond the headland.

Only on certain nights, the islanders will tell incomers; when the moon is high and the air whipped up like the white-peaked waves in the bay. Be patient and you might hear her. Plenty will swear to it.

 

The two boys crouch by a ridge of rocks at the foot of the cliff, watching the house. It is still half a ruin; naked beams poke into the moonlit sky like the ribs of some great flayed beast. They hesitate, each waiting for the other to move. They have come this far to test the old stories, they can’t lose face now. The summer night is mild and clear; too balmy for ghosts. They are girding themselves when the screaming starts. They turn to one another in astonishment; fear makes them giggle.

‘Let’s go,’ whispers the nimble, ginger boy. He has his phone in his hand, ready to capture it on film.

But his companion has frozen to the spot, stricken, his eyes stretched wide and fixed on the house.

‘Come on, we’ll miss it.’

The heavier boy retreats a few paces, shaking his head.

The ginger one hesitates, his lip curling with scorn. ‘Pussy.’

He sets off over the sand and marram grass to the half-open door, his phone held out at arm’s length. Left behind on the beach, his friend watches him disappear into the shadows.

The waves break and retreat, over and over, dragging layers of shingle into the restless water. A new scream echoes across the beach, a child’s cry this time. The last traces of light ebb from the sky and behind the windows of the McBride house there is nothing but solid darkness.

***

 

On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched.

The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides’ dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand, and all too real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

 

This Halloween read the chilling, unputdownable thriller that will send shivers up your spine! OUT NOW and only £2.99 in eBook.

 

Our Spookiest Reads

Category: Favourites

With Halloween just around the corner, we’ve put together our edit of seriously spooky reads. Bestselling psychological thriller While You Sleep is sure to give you chills, and prepare for a sleepless night or two with the truly terrifying serial killer thriller Stalker. Don’t miss out on our pacy debut of the season Forget Me Not – which you can nab in ebook for just 99p!

 

While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

While You Sleep packshot

A house full of secrets. A woman alone at night. A threat that lurks in the shadows.

The McBride house lies on a remote Scottish island, isolated and abandoned. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there. Last year, a local boy – visiting for a dare – disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, the house offers an escape from her failing marriage. But when night falls, her peaceful retreat is disrupted—scratches at the door, strange voices—and Zoe is convinced she is being watched.

The locals tell Zoe the incidents are merely echoes of the house’s dark past. Zoe is sure the danger is all too real—but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

 

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney

The Quaker packshot

His name fills the streets with fear…

Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer who hunts in the shadows: the Quaker. He takes his next victim – the third woman from the same nightclub – and dumps her in the street like rubbish.

The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider.

When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…

 

Forget Me Not by A.M. Taylor

Forget Me Not ebook

What happened to Nora?

When Maddie met Nora, their friendship felt as easy as breathing. And when Nora disappeared, all the air went with her. Without her best friend, Maddie’s life became impossible.

Ten years later, Nora is still missing and Maddie is still searching. People have been questioned. People have even been accused. But no one has found Nora.

Then, in the same spot where Nora went missing, the murdered body of Nora’s little sister is found. Convinced this is no coincidence, Maddie resolves to uncover the killer and find Nora – dead or alive.

But will she be able to cope, when she learns what really happened to Nora…?

 

Stalker by Lars Kepler
Stalker packshot

You thought you were alone. Think again.

A film arrives at Stockholm’s National Crime Investigation Department showing a woman in her own home, plainly unaware she is being watched. The police don’t take it seriously … until she is found murdered.

When the next video arrives, Detective Margot Silverman frantically attempts to identify the victim. But it’s already too late. Because at the time the video was sent, the killer was already inside their house…

Soon Stockholm is in the grip of terror. Who will the Stalker target next?

 

The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood

The Hangman's Hold packshot

There’s a killer in your house. He knows your darkest secrets. And he is closer than you think.

The Hangman waits in the darkness. He’ll make you pay for all the crimes you have tried desperately to forget.

DCI Matilda Darke is running out of time. Fear is spreading throughout the city. As the body count rises, Matilda is targeted and her most trusted colleagues fall under suspicion.

Can she keep those closest to her from harm? Or is it already too late?

 

In A Cottage In A Wood by Cass Green

In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

Late one night, Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death into the icy Thames below.

Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.

But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And the house of her dreams quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…

 

 

Extract | Forget Me Not by A. M. Taylor

Category: Books

“Maddie,” Ange said over the phone, her voice a breathless straight line.

“Yeah?” I said, suddenly sitting up a little straighter. There was something about the shape of her voice that instantly shook me, old memories rattling around in my ribcage making my heartbeat pick up.

“I … I—”

“Ange, what’s going on? What’s happened? Are you okay?” My voice was snappy and sharp, but I couldn’t help it, I knew where conversations like that went and my fear translated to frustration all too easily.

“I was just driving through town to come get you and all these police cars passed me.”

There was no way I could have possibly known, so of course I thought of Nora, blindly following my memory back, racing those cop cars as fast as they could go to a morning so vivid it could have happened yesterday.

I could feel the same grip of panic and loss that had folded and tightened itself around me ten years before when I said to Ange: “Where were the police cars going?”

“They were headed towards the old highway, so I turned round and followed them because—” Because that was where Nora’s car had been found, and Ange was a reporter and certain habits are hard to break.

“Are you there now? What’s going on? Is it Nora?”

“Mads, it’s not Nora. It’s not Nora, but there’s a body and I think … I think it’s Nora’s sister, Noelle.”

All the air I had in my body was pulled out of me and replaced with lead, or granite, or concrete, or something heavy and immovable that dragged me down, down, down. My vision swam, images of Elle rising to the surface. She’d looked so young at the memorial and yet so weary, the weight of the world crowding her shoulders. How could this be happening again? A little over a week earlier I’d met her at CJ’s, treating her to a hot chocolate which had always been her favorite. She’d been filled with a razor-edge energy, cracking jokes and telling me stories about her girlfriend, Jenna, but then something had shifted in her and she’d started asking me questions about Nora. I’d put it down to the anniversary coming up so soon and had been happy to answer them. Normally when anyone talked about Nora I clenched up, went into lockdown, but it was different with Elle. I didn’t have to guess what her motives were when she brought Nora up, unlike with so many other people who just wanted to indulge in their morbid curiosity, to gossip about a missing girl as though she were a celebrity spiraling out of control.

I closed my eyes and tried to keep that picture of her in my mind: sitting in a booth at CJ’s, skimming the edge of her mug with her forefinger so that a pile of whipped cream and mini marshmallows appeared there before she stuck it in her mouth, while I groaned in faux disapproval and she grinned wickedly at me. I wanted to hold it there forever, but I knew how quickly that memory, that moment, would be eroded, degraded, twisted and turned into something else. I knew how quickly she’d go from Elle—the girl I’d helped teach how to ice skate and roller­blade and who’d hated to lose at Scrabble but still tried her best to win every time—to yet another person I’d be forced to mourn.

I was struggling to keep my head above the water when Ange said: “Mads, are you there?”

“Yeah,” I gasped. “I’m here.”

She talked me through what she was looking at: two cop cars and an ambulance. She recognised most everyone at the scene, including Bright and Leo and Leo’s father, Chief Moody. She knew better than to ask me if I was okay, and I knew better than to ask her. She spoke slowly, taking her time, but each word was weighed, freighted down and heavy. She’d spent a couple of years on the crime desk of a Milwaukee paper when she first graduated, but had since moved to the news desk, where if a grisly or interesting crime came up, it was invariably scooped up by one of her colleagues still working on crime. Every time she’d had to cover the death or murder of a woman or girl she saw Nora was all she had said to me at the time; it was all she needed to say. But she was clearly trying to pick up the pieces of her training there, still a reporter at heart, even as she tried to make sense of something that would never make any sense.

“And you’re sure it’s Elle?” I asked eventually, my voice small and young-sounding in the enveloping warmth of my parents’ kitchen.

“I don’t know for sure obviously, but I overheard the cops talking. They all know her, Mads, they know what she looks like. It must be her.”

I nodded, even though she couldn’t see. There wasn’t a single officer on our police force who wouldn’t know who Noelle Altman was.

“I have to go, Leo’s coming over. I think he’s going to ask me to leave.”

“Okay,” I said.

There was a small beat and then, “Should I still come over?”

“Yes,” I said, even though both of us knew we wouldn’t be leaving Forest View anytime soon.

The gripping psychological debut FORGET ME NOT by A.M Taylor is out now for only 99p.