This is embarrassing, right? I have not posted on my novel-in-progress since late October [I forced myself to check the date].
Do any of you remember what was happening to our lovers? Well, in case you do not, they are in south western France and Tom suspects that Anika is murdering pilgrims on the Camino and is torn between his love for her and trying to solve the mystery of the killings.
What to do?
Keep quiet and pursue the truth on the Camino?
Is there ever a single truth?
Tom has been attacked and may be in danger; should he give up and slip quietly away?
So, what have I been doing in the last x months? Apart from living life and earning a few dollars consulting?
November was NaNoWriMo 50,00 words in a month and I have revised my effort down to a 25,000 word novella which I intend to submit to a competition in May. I have experimented with 6 and 100 word flash fiction, partly as a bit of fun and partly as practice in writing intense moments of prose with no verbiage, explanation, backgrounding etc.
Is this a list of excuses for inactivity on my Camino novel? Fortunately not.
Most days I have been writing the 4th draft of ‘Love and Death on the Camino’ and have revised to that point of the story where Tom is forced to face the very real possibility that his lover is a serial killer. Yes, we are back to where we left off.
So, watch this space!
Oh, am I happy with my revision? Hmm. the plotting is tighter and the characters more rounded and sympathetic [says me]. It will need at least one more total rewrite after this and I shall be ready to send it out maybe by the end of 2015.
So, once upon a time two people crazed by grief fell in love ….what could possibly go wrong?
No, I am not talking on this post directly about my novel, though precisely this does happen to Tom on the Camino, nor about Gone Girl which is a neat re-working of the theme. In the so-called real world, the non-literary world let us call it, what would you do if you become suspicious and then convinced that your lover is a killer?
Infidelity leaves love a twitching corpse, but there is expectation of a full recovery [in time, as they say]. With murder, dead is dead.
Do you confront your lover? Well, you had better be right in your suspicions because if you are wrong you can kiss that relationship good bye.
Do you empathise and understand? Maybe the victim ‘deserved it’ or you convince yourself it is so; maybe it happened a long time ago, maybe you can find extenuating circumstances.
Do you simply love them and accept it – ‘love conquers all’
What is your moral responsibility?
Do you turn a blind eye because it is all too hard and horrible?
Do you watch and hope to learn more,sleeping with one eye open?
Do you ‘do your duty’ and turn them over to the law though it tears your heart apart?
And what if you are wrong?
Having used the Austen device to tear my lovers apart, it is time to use that old standard in mysteries, namely, the RED HERRING. Heaps of them!
By the way, from whence comes the term ‘red herring’? Someone out there will tell me.
So, for those who have been paying attention (thank you, thank you!) who are the obvious red herrings upon which suspicion may fall for the deaths of the pilgrims?
Now that we see a possible religious theme and the playing out of a macabre ritual through the placement of corpses on various church steps and patios, who is our most likely red herring candidate?
Given the usual twists and turns of mystery stories, will one of the aforesaid herrings actually be the killer?
Will it be like ‘real life’ where there is rarely one truth? Don’t be alarmed, I am not going post-modern on you (in any event, so passe), but it may be that there are competing truths….
Oh and to make it clear, I am going to be a complete rat and not give any answers. I do want you to read the book when it does appear – no holding of breath though 😉
Tom learns bizarre details of two pilgrim deaths on the Chemin near where he is currently walking. The deaths had been almost an intellectual puzzle to solve, now they take on a grisly reality.
The bodies of two elderly female pilgrims have been found in nearby villages, meticulously posed on the steps of little village churches in positions of prayer. It is as though they have fallen asleep and been taken by the angel of mercy whilst in the act of prayer; calm, meditative expressions on their faces and no sign of struggle or harm. No sign of violence and one could be simply the death of an old pilgrim struggling to reach the church for succour and shelter; two deaths the same is stretching coincidence too far.
Nobody except Tom seems to know or to care.
What is he to do?
Eventually the pieces fall into place. Mel recalls some story of Ralph leaving Iraq in hush hush circumstances and DI Kate and her team track down the truth. Jean in a previous life was a Sobranie Black Russian smoking temptress working undercover for MI and she has more to add to the story. Jeri and Jean are cleared. Bruce is eliminated as a suspect and now only a few of us are left as ‘persons of interest’. Investigations continue around the clock ( as all good police enquiries should do). Will is cleared, to Kate’s immense relief ( for there is love in the air).
Finally the breakthrough! There is a connection of names, dates and places between Ralph and one of the group and after hours of intense interrogation David cracks and confesses. Yes, David killed Ralph!
It is me! For it is Ralph who was responsible for my young brother’s death years ago in Iraq, the victim of a covert US operation gone dreadfully wrong. I could not believe my luck when I heard his name on that first day in Saint Bees; to have him before me and I simply had to wait my chance to perform the deed. I never wanted to kill sweet Maggie and smart and funny Matilda, but I had no choice. They got in the way. Collateral damage, as they said of my brother.
Ah, cruel twist for all such stories have a twist at the end. I have killed the wrong man! It was Ralph’s crazy twin brother who was responsible, not the poor innocent man I murdered! Ralph had not even seen his brother for years as he is a survivalist hiding out in the remotest part of Montana.
There is one final twist, for such stories always have one twist just when you think you have seen the last one. Bruce and Denise worked out long before DI Kate that I was the mad murderer and, under the pretence of offering me kindly morning cups of tea, have been systematically poisoning me with foxglove. Oh unhappy me!
I finish my tale and as the pen falls from my hand and the coldness enfolds me, I have a vision of the group completing their walk in Robin Hoods Bay and returning home without a backward glance to my lifeless body and of Kate and Will in the year ahead, raising a family of little adventurers in the wilds of the Antartic.
Thanks to a wonderful group for being such good sports and fine walking companions who allowed me to pen and disseminate this bit of fun. Thanks guys!
Isolated in our rooms except when questioned by DI Kate, time passes slowly as the rain tumbles down. There is unexpected good news. Jeri is out of danger and it was not poison, rather a rare allergy to the Mozambique toffee used in the desert and Jeri is due to rejoin us in a few days. So we are back to two deaths and we cling to the hope that maybe it can all be innocently explained. We all have our theories and Matilda’s astute observations of us has led her to focus her suspicions on one member of the group. Oh foolish woman! That evening on the stairs she tells one of our group of her conclusions and that she plans to share her thoughts with the lovely Kate first thing in the morning. A terrible mistake indeed.
The next morning one person is missing at breakfast – Matilda. There is a frantic search and she is found dead in the drying room, cooked to death with the temperature set at maximum and the door jammed shut. With her own blood and in her dying moments she has managed to scratch one word on the inside of the drying room door. The police will not reveal that fatal word; at least now they have a real clue and we must put aside our childish hopes of an innocent explanation and accept that we have a cold blooded murderer, perhaps a lunatic, in our midst.
Tentative connections emerge. Ralph worked with the US military in Australia. Jean was in the Australian army. Mel was a crack investigative war journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan before choosing a quieter and slower life in Western Australia. Jenny says that Bruce had army connections, but this proves untrue; why has Jenny tried to shift attention to good old Bruce? Denise has come to Australia from South Africa and there are whispers of dark secrets but she divulges nothing. Has Jeri deliberately staged her seizure to distract us all from the truth, for she also has wandered the world and is a mathematical whizz. More details are unearthed of Ralph’s undercover military work across the globe and Kate understands that it his death which is the key and that the other deaths resulted from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. It is in Ralph’s history that the answer must lie.
And at night time she walks and talks with Will and the passion which never died is rekindled in the moonlight as we wait in fear, the old grandfather clock in the front parlour measuring out our time.
The concluding episode is upon us …
We creep down to breakfast, dreading what we may find. Jeri is clinging to life in intensive care, Jenny has returned from one of her mysterious absences and nobody else has been harmed during the night. We sniff suspiciously at our food and drink and eat only what is sealed and presumably safe. Tempers fray. David is ordered to stop writing his damned notes and Matilda to stop observing us like ants in an ant farm.
The police arrive, led by DI Kate McCuddley with her piercing blue eyes and her steely gaze and we are instructed to stay in our rooms and await questioning. Our hotel is sealed off.
Nor is the drama over yet! The DI announces that the autopsy showed that Maggie had been poisoned! Foxglove poisoning! What a cunning method. We look at each other open-mouthed and struggle to recall who had spoken before of foxglove as a poison. It is Denise and our eyes turn towards her as she protests her innocence. Jean, Jeri and Mel also had displayed impressive botanical knowledge, not to forget Will himself. And had not Jean argued with Ralph? We have our suspects and we draw away from them.
But there is more!
Will walks into the dining room and he and Kate see each other and reel back in shock, their faces pale. For what seems like hours, both are speechless and then the truth is revealed. Will and Kate had been inseparable childhood friends and then young lovers deep in the remotest part of Scotland: soul mates who should have been together for ever. But young Will yearned to be the first person to swim around the world non-stop and Kate wanted to move to the big city to fight for fairness and justice and to make the world a better place and so they parted and have not seen each other lo, these many years though always they had kept a secret part of their heart for the other and lived with the regret of ‘if only’.
Destiny has flung them together again.
Will their old love be rekindled? Will they seize this second chance of happiness?
Will any of us survive this dreadful walk?
Who is the crazed killer?
Read on, dear reader …