A Martha Strangeways Mystery - Prologue
Silhouetted in the trees outside, birds caw loudly, reminding her of that night. She’s heard some say crows are the souls of murder victims; that they warn of evil to come. She shivers, instinctively reaching into her pocket, searching for the precious box that’s always tucked safely against her heart. Her fingers catch the rough edge as she slides it open, swallowing hard against the lump blooming in her throat. Carefully unwrapping the contents. Scared of what’s inside. If only she’d been there. If only she could hold them one last time.
A tear spills down her cheek. Drops silently on to the cloth. She lifts the matchbox to her face, hopes their scent might still hide amongst the folds; a torn edge off a blue blanket. Gently strokes them, grey tinged with ash, but still perfect, nestled like fragile eggs in the soft velvet. It’s all she has left to love. To remember them. If only she could bring them back. If only.
The idea for my book came during the first ever crime writing retreat I attended with Louise Welsh and Stuart MacBride at Moniack Mhor, when offered me a prompt - something rattling in a matchbox. That sparked a dark memory from a story I once covered involving fire and human remains That was the start of what became my debut novel One for Sorrow.
It’s a mystery set amongst the mountains and glens of the Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Park in central Scotland. It’s a place steeped in folklore and drenched in mist, where crimes can remain undisturbed for years.
Imagine how you’d feel if you lost everything.
Your family. Your home. Your future.
That’s what happened to ex journalist Martha Strangeways, who’s looking for redemption after her young twins died in a fire. She wasn’t there to save them and now carries their remains in a battered matchbox close to her heart.
Six tiny ash-stainedweighing heavy on her conscience.
Martha thinks she’s given up stories for good. But when she finds the body of a teenage boy hanging in a tree, with an old poem about crows inked on to his cold back, she is drawn into a police investigation - uncovering murky secrets from past and present.
When another teen Christie - a girl with a troubled background - goes missing, Martha teams up with DI Derek Summers and there’s a race to find the girl before it’s too late.
Lurking in the shadows is retired church minister, Elijah Locke, a fanatical old man with a dark secret from decades ago. Obsessed with crows, he collects their dead bodies, hoarded in piles at his remote hideout, while he watches families fall apart and a failing police investigation. His twisted mission is to control people around him. To stop them intruding in his life. He’s pushed on by voices from the past - but are they real, or something more sinister. Something he has lost.
Found in depths of the forest, the kidnapped girl has more lines from the poem scrawled on to her back. A third victim is needed to complete the verse and hysteria spreads in the community.
Elijah coerces a lonely child into his influence - taking the boy somewhere his own secret past lies buried, where Martha confronts him as the place burns down around them.
But when death surrounds you, how do you escape?
What happened to a girl who disappeared 40 years ago?
Why a poem about crows?
Can Martha save the boy, when she couldn’t save her own from fire?
Where’s the connection? What’s the key?
She’s endured much sorrow, but will there ever be joy for Martha?