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Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan – Blog Tour

I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan and am pleased to be able to share this extract to whet your appetite.

Set in Nottingham, Dead Flowers follows Dr Sian Love as she moves into a new house. After ten years on the police force as a detective she is no stranger to murder victims. However when she find human remains in her new home, having left the force behind her things are different. This time it’s personal…

Dead Flowers was shortlisted for the 2019 Little Brown, UEA Crime Writing Award and Nicola Monaghan has previous won the Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read. I for one can’t wait to read this!

EXTRACT FROM DEAD FLOWERS BY NICOLA MONAGHAN

Cellar

Narrow Marsh, Nottingham

Sian came down the steep steps past the Contemporary art gallery, her eyes tracing the Nottingham lace patterns in its concrete walls. She could feel the history around her; Narrow Marsh, as it used to be, full of crime and squalor. She felt separated from the slums and violence by the finest membrane, like if she pushed hard enough she could burst through and find herself years back in time.

The sign from the old Loggerheads pub was rattling in the wind, making a crashing sound against its frame. Sian checked up and down the street for any signs of trouble but could see nothing except leaves being blown and buffeted against the pavement. She could hear Elvis, barking and howling the other side of the door. He wasn’t usually that bothered when she went out for a couple of hours but the combination of the high winds and being somewhere new were probably to blame. She dug into her bag to get her keys and his barking got more urgent. ‘It’s just me, you silly sod,’ she said. She opened the door and he came bounding over, doing the dance of love he did whenever she came home, nuzzling her, then rocking from back to front paws. She leaned down to gives the German Shepperd a proper scratch behind the ears and let him lick her nose, then locked and bolted the front door, shutting out Narrow Marsh and the dark.

Elvis ran though the hallway to the back door. Sian grabbed the key from a hook on the wall; he was trying to force the door open before she could unlock it. Finally, he burst outside and jumped into the air, barking at the night sky. The house felt damp and chilly so Sian went into the kitchen and tuned the heating on. She wasn’t sleepy enough for bed. She rooted through the boxes searching for something to drink, and glasses. She could only find old bottle of amaretto and the plastic beakers from the bathroom. She poured herself a drink and slipped through to the living room, collapsing on the sofa and kicking off her shoes.

Sitting back, Sian tried to relax. She took a sip from her drink. It had a thickness and a rich, high taste. She couldn’t shake the idea that part of the slick flavour was old toothpaste. She heard Elvis, scratching at the cellar door again. She ignored him for as long as she could. Then he popped his head into the room and stared at her. ‘Fine,’ she said, putting down her drink and walking back through to the hall. She closed and locked the back door. ‘I can see I’m not going to get any peace here. Let’s go and find out what’s down there’

Sian moved her toolbox and opened the cellar door, flicking on the light switch. There was a bright flash below and then darkness as the bulb blew. ‘How’s that for a sign,’ she muttered, with a nervous laugh. She tilted the door back and reached into her toolbox, finding a torch. Then she picked up the box in case she needed tools when she got down there. Elvis scratched at the door again then looked up at her expectantly. ‘You know, boy, the rule is never go down into he cellar.’ She smiled at her own joke. And then she pushed open the door and he barged past her and rushed down the stairs, barking. Sian followed him, shinning the torch ahead of her. She tripped slightly as she misjudged the last step then righted herself. At the bottom of the stairs there was a high, sweet smell, reminiscent of old bins. She put the toolbox down on the floor. Elvis was scratching at the far wall and turned towards her, barking. He started to whimper and then pace the floor in a way she’d never seen him do before.

Sian felt the temperature of the room drop. She knew this was the effect of adrenaline on her body but the feeling stuck home, nonetheless. Because Elvis wasn’t any old retired police dog. He was a cadaver dog. Elvis had been trained to find the dead.

Dead Flowers was released on the 5th September and is available here

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Food to die for

As you might know I am a huge book lover (in terms of numbers of books not my size) However what you may not be so aware of is that my slightly obsessive book collecting goes beyond crime novels, I also have quite a substantial collection of cookery books. Of course these are not just for reading, a fact which I suspect makes Mr F rather wish I stuck to crime books as he has to try the results of my cookery experiments. However for someone who includes Lancashire black pudding on his list of favourite foods I’m pretty certain any of my concoctions are a step up.

For obvious reasons (i.e me being a vegetarian) most of the books I own are non meat related although I do have a few themed ones and a smattering of celebrity. One of my latest acquisitions was Paul Hollywood’s ‘Bread’. Unfortunately my only trial out of this so far was not a particular success. The naan breads I attempted would have worked much better as small missiles than as edible curry accompaniments. Yet I suspect that it was my execution of the instructions that was at fault rather than the recipe. Therefore I was very excited this week when a friend brought me a ticket to see Paul on tour at the Barbican.

This wasn’t our first food related outing to this venue. Many years ago me and same friend went to see the student TV staple, Ready steady cook. This was at the height of its fame (is it still on?) and for those of you who haven’t heard of it the idea was that two people made something edible out of a few tins of tomatoes and a watermelon then the audience voted. Whilst it may not sound much now, this was 20 years ago when daytime television consisted of ‘This morning’ and endless repeats of Columbo. Plus I suspect the excitement of red tomatoes or green peppers was no doubt heighted by the consumption of a few pints. However now slightly older and a great deal more sober, we had no idea what to expect from Paul.

Luckily it was a good night and he turned out to be very entertaining with a mix of demonstrations and chat. We were sat right near the back, which I suspect was a good thing judging by the number of hormonal woman of a certain age that made up the audience. Any closer and there was probably a significant danger of being hit over the head by flying pants.

Sadly he didn’t demonstrate the art of making naan bread, although there was a very nice seeded loaf I’d like to try next. So like with everything I’ll just have to keep practicing, and buying new books in the belief that I am a good cook. In the meantime Mr F will just have to keep trying my attempts and pretending they are edible.

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