a gripping tale
Celtic Connexions is happy to welcome Helen Forbes, author of Unravelling ~ a gripping tale of dark secrets, lies and murder.
And just look at that cover! If that doesn’t draw you into this gripping tale, then perhaps the blurb will.
Incarcerated in the gloom of a Highland asylum,
a young mother finds illicit love. And death.
Kate Sharp’s family is a mystery. Her mother, Ellen, disappeared into the shadows of Craig Dunain psychiatric hospital when Kate was a child. When her grandmother dies, Kate is desperate for answers. What were the circumstances of her mother’s life and death? Who is her father?
Kate’s not the only one trying to uncover the truth. The remains of two bodies with murderous injuries have been found buried in the forest next to the former hospital.
And someone else is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them.
As the tale of Ellen’s tragic unravelling unfolds, the secrets that led to her death are exposed, along with the shocking truth about Kate’s father.
Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search.
Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?
Go, a voice cried in my head. Run. Before it’s too late. A little overdramatic? Not really. Who wouldn’t run from a seven-hour shift of spooning mushed-up food into gaping, toothless mouths, wiping backsides, and mopping up body fluids? But I didn’t have a choice. Not without another job, and I lacked the energy or motivation to find something else. Pushing open the front door, I caught the scent of tangerine and lemon. Mrs Shelby had been at the homemade air fresheners again. It made for a pleasant welcome to the foyer of the care home, but a few essential oils couldn’t cover up the natural scents of warm cabbage, bed sores and incontinence. Not that it was a bad care home. A large Victorian villa with high ceilings and big rooms, clean and well-managed, it was one of the better ones. There were just some scents that couldn’t be shifted. And some residents.
I heard Smyth before I saw him, his entitled plummy tones and the squeak of his wheelchair grating through me. Scarcely a shift passed that I didn’t fantasise about smothering him with a pillow, but that would be far too kind. He needed to be strung up and eviscerated.
‘Pole, you come here right now.’
Stefan was at the reception desk. He ignored Smyth and smiled at me. Deep in my belly, something primitive tugged and taunted. It was another good reason for running, but I’d left it far too late.
‘Pole!’ Flecks of spittle shot from Smyth’s mouth. His face was twisted with venom. There were bulging veins on his forehead, a crimson flush creeping up his wrinkled neck. I willed Stefan to pull the old man from his wheelchair and throw him on the floor.
He didn’t. Of course, he didn’t. He held out his hands. ‘Mr Smyth. What may I do for you?’
Smyth’s eyes narrowed. ‘What is your name?’
‘Why are you here? Aren’t there care homes in your own
Stefan nodded. ‘There are, Mr Smyth. Remember, we
talk yesterday and I tell you all about them. The story of my grandmother and the tattoo?’
‘Yesterday?’ The old man’s eyes shifted between us. ‘A tattoo? Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve never seen you before in my life. I couldn’t believe it when Matron said you came from Poland to work here.’
Stefan’s smile didn’t falter. ‘I did, Mr Smyth, with others.’ ‘There are others? My God. Matron, get me out of here.’
As Smyth’s frantic hands wheeled his chair down the corridor,
I apologised to Stefan, and not for the first time. He waved his hand. ‘Kate, it is not your fault. There are many head-dicks.’
He laughed. ‘Ah, yes. I will learn.’
‘What’s this about your grandmother and a tattoo?’
‘My grandmother is… was… in a care home in Warsaw. My
young wild sister – you know, I tell you about her punky hair and purple lips – she take my grandmother out one day and she comes back with a little black cat on her ankle. There is… what do you say? Hell to pay. My father, he doesn’t speak to my sister again. Yesterday, Smyth, he almost die laughing when I tell him this.’
‘Almost died?’ I shook my head. ‘Stefan, you have to try harder next time.’
He laughed. ‘Today, he remember nothing. His head, it is full of holes.’
‘Full of shite.’
‘This too.’ Stefan smiled. ‘Forget him. He is just an old man. Tomorrow he will be my…’ He frowned and fished his notebook out of his pocket. He thumbed through the pages of scribbled vocabulary. ‘Ah, he will be my beastie.’
I couldn’t keep my laughter in. Stefan looked devastated. ‘This is not right?’
‘Let me see.’ I looked at his notebook. ‘I think you mean bestie, though you’re not too far wrong with beastie.’
‘Whatevers.’ His hand rested on my arm. ‘You are tired, Kate. How is she?’
I would have told him. I might have cried, and he might have held me, but our conversation was severed by the shrill voice of Mrs Shelby, a cloud of stale perfume, the crackle of starched polyester, and then the woman herself. She looked about to cry. ‘Stefan, whatever have you said to Mr Smyth? He’s in quite a state. His daughter will be here shortly and we mustn’t upset her. She’s very generous…’
Stefan shrugged. ‘I no know what you ask, Madame Shelby, but you look very… how you say…?’
‘Haggard,’ I muttered.
Stefan sighed. ‘Very beautiful, Madame.’
Mrs Shelby blushed and waved her hand. ‘Oh, Stefan. Just be
more careful. It’s not your fault things get lost in translation. Kate, there’s a new resident in room nine. She’s a little fragile. Younger than our usual clientele. She’s refusing to get out of bed. Says she can’t walk, but she had no problems yesterday on arrival. Perhaps you could have a chat, see if you can get her up and dressed, and into the dayroom.’
I nodded. ‘I’ll try. What’s her name?’
‘Lucille Leonard. You’ll need the key. She wants the door kept locked.’
That was understandable with the likes of Smyth roaming around, interfering with everyone else’s business.
‘What’s wrong with her?
About the Author
Helen Forbes is a mystery author known for her crime novels Madness Lies and In the Shadow of the Hill. The author has also written a few contemporary and historical fiction pieces as well as short stories. When she is not writing, Forbes enjoys her work as a lawyer in Inverness. She published the first two novels based in Outer Hebrides and Inverness, two areas that she feels have not been given enough attention in the crime-fiction genre. Forbes also has a deep liking for the Gaelic language and island communities, which explains her choice of characters in her stories.