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.

 

Feel the Fear and Write It Anyway – guest post by Cass Green

Category: Uncategorized

FEEL THE FEAR AND WRITE IT ANYWAY

Cass Green on why she draws on her own worst fears to evoke terror in her readers, the brilliant authors who inspire her, and what she’s just too afraid to write about…

 

In my new book, Don’t You Cry, my character Nina is on a miserable blind date with – frankly – a bit of an idiot. She is just plotting her escape when she pops an olive into her mouth and that is the moment her date clumsily propositions her.

Here’s what happens next:

A surge of hysterical laughter rises in my throat. I inhale sharply and the olive shoots backwards, covering my windpipe. I try to cough it away but my throat just spasms uselessly, silently, failing to budge it. The olive is a solid mass. There’s a split second of disbelief before I accept that I’m choking. My pulse thunders in my head and there’s a whooshing in my ears.

I can’t breathe . . .

I can’t breathe.’

When I wrote this, I got so hot and clammy I had to stand up and walk around a bit. Because you see, choking like this is one of my biggest fears. I once got a fish bone stuck in my throat (thank you, M&S goujon) and I swear I saw my life passing in front of me for the moments it took for me to hook it out again with a shaking finger.

In my last book, In a Cottage in a Wood, my character Neve has to let herself into a horrible creepy cottage in the middle of nowhere. In the dead of night, the lights fail, and she realises someone or something is in the room with her…

And there is another one of my more fundamental terrors, right there: the night-time intruder.

I have previous form for this sort of thing too, having started out writing YA and covering both a haunted fairground (roller-coasters and ghosts – check) and drowning (yep).

So why the hell do I keep writing about things that scare the bejaysus out of me? Maybe by forcing myself to imagine every second of that choking scene, for example, it will offer some sort of mental buffer if it ever happened in real life?

(Spoiler: it won’t.)

Perhaps it is more that I genuinely want to cause my readers to have clammy hands and thundering hearts when they read my books, and the best way I can replicate that is to dig deep into my own fears?

I’m not alone in taking this approach, it seems. Shirley Jackson, author of, among other things, the brilliant spine-tingler The Haunting of Hill House, once said, ‘I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.’

Master of the chills himself, Stephen King is not above roping in some of his own private horrors too. He has said in an interview, ‘There’s a scene in the book where they find this dumping ground where there are all these discarded appliances, and there’s a refrigerator… And one of the things I remember is we were all told: If you’re playing and you see a discarded refrigerator, don’t go in that, because kids can get in there and get locked in there and die. So I put a discarded refrigerator in the book and when one of the kids opens the door of it, it’s full of these leeches that come out… And that scared me…’

I’ll probably continue to explore the things that scare me in my writing, even if it does make me uncomfortable while I’m doing it. But if you are ever hoping for a book that features giant spiders, I’m telling you now that there are some places I’m just not prepared to go.

Don’t You Cry is out now!

Our Top Summer Picks

Category: Favourites

Make the most of the last of the warm temperatures with our pick of holiday thrillers – from the simmering heat and dark secrets of Bitter Sun, to bestselling author Alex Lake’s page-turner Copycat, these are the books to read before Autumn is in full swing!

 

The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

The Last Mrs Parrish packshot

How far would you go to make all your dreams come true?

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody: an invisible woman who melts into the background. She deserves more. She deserves a life of wealth, luxury and leisure.

Daphne Parrish is the golden girl of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. With her model looks, her picture-perfect mansion and her millionaire husband, Jackson, she has everything Amber wants.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive—if she didn’t have a plan. Before long, she has become Daphne’s closest friend, and is catching the eye of Jackson. But a skeleton from her past could destroy everything and, if discovered, Amber’s well-laid plan may end in disaster…

 

In A Cottage In A Wood by Cass Green

In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge late one night. 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 her dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…

 

Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis

Bitter Sun

It all started when we found the body. Then nothing was ever the same.

In the heatwave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder. But they dig too deep and ask too many questions.

Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest, and the people teeter on the edge of ruin.

As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex. The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control.

And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered…

 

Copycat by Alex Lake

Copy Cat

Imitation is the most terrifying form of flattery…

When an old friend gets in touch, Sarah Havenant discovers that there are two Facebook profiles in her name. One is hers. The other, she has never seen.

But everything in it is accurate. Photos of her friends, her husband, her kids. Photos from the day before. Photos of her new kitchen. Photos taken inside her house.

And this is just the beginning. Because whoever has set up the second profile has been waiting for Sarah to find it. And now that she has, her life will no longer be her own…

 

Killing Season by Faye Kellerman

Killing Season

He went searching for the truth. Now a killer has found him.

Three years ago, fifteen-year-old Ellen Vicksburg went missing in a quiet town in New Mexico. On the first anniversary of her death, her brother Ben found her body in a shallow grave by the river’s edge.

The police believe she was the victim of a known psychopath. But Ben continues to pore over the evidence and finds patterns that link Ellen’s case to similar unsolved murders.

Soon, a picture emerges of a ruthless killer, and Ben’s obsession marks him as a threat. Will he uncover the truth in time to keep him and those he loves safe?

 

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

The Lies We Told

Do you promise not to tell?

Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.

Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.

As Clara digs into the past she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late?