Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Folly Under the Lake - Book Excerpt - Chapter 1

Genre: Fiction: Crime and mystery
Author: Salema Nazzal

“We can’t possibly turn down an invitation to stay the weekend at Witton Park!” exclaimed Florence Brewer heatedly to her husband Joseph. “Walter and Blanche would be most upset. Walter has spent a small fortune getting the folly built, and he’s dying to show it off to us.”
“It’s not so much a folly as an underwater smoking room by all accounts,” mused Joseph, leaning back in his chair, and looking up at the ceiling. “They say the domed roof is made of glass and you can observe the fish swimming by while you’re puffing on your pipe. I must say I’m rather keen to view the thing, but a weekend with the Sinnet family is almost more than I can stand. I know he’s my father’s oldest friend, but the way he constantly clears his throat in that way. He never used to do it and I find it bally annoying. Blanche is pleasant enough but I just can’t fathom either of them. I must say, I think…”
“I don’t care what you think. We’re going and that’s final,” interrupted Florence, peering at her reflection in her powder compact through half narrowed eyes. “It’s not like we’re inundated with invitations, though I can’t work out why. The word about town is that he’s imported some marvellous marble statues that are dotted about all over the estate. I’d like to feast my eyes on them, plus all the improvements he’s been making to the house and grounds.”
“It certainly sounds like he’s been splashing his cash around,” said Joseph in a jovial voice. “I’ve heard the three lakes are quite fascinating.”
“Yes I can’t wait to see them,” said Florence wheeling round with an excited gleam in her eyes. “Apparently the first one is on top of one of Walter’s man-made hills. Fancy having so much money that you can move hills around! Anyway, there’s a square lake on top of the hill and he’s had pipes specially made to cascade water thirty feet down to the next lake.”
“That’s the bathers’ lake I believe,” interposed Joseph, squinting through his monocle and then rubbing at the glass with his sleeve.
“That’s right. Don’t interrupt me Joseph.” Florence stood up and moved to the window, gazing out with unseeing eyes, her mind already at Witton Park. “From the bathers’ lake there’s an eighty-tonne marble dolphin head statue. Imagine that Jo? Eighty tonnes! The water pours through the statue’s mouth into the largest lake. That’s the one with the folly underneath it. I can’t even begin to imagine what it all looks like.”
“More money than sense some might say.”
“Oh don’t be so boring Joseph,” snapped Florence. “Anyway, you said you wanted to talk to Walter about investing in Sinnet Industries so we have to go. He told you the investment would be a foolproof venture, and I need to be kept in the style I wish I’d become accustomed to. You seem to be extremely tight with the budget these days.”
Joseph raised his eyes to the ceiling and his monocle promptly dropped out. “Well really Florence, what a vulgar thing to say. You knew I had nothing when I married you.” He examined his fingernails in a critical manner.
“Yes, well that was five years ago and I’ve had plenty of time to reconsider,” sniffed Florence snapping her powder compact shut and getting to her feet. “Just look at this room. You don’t work but you don’t even help me keep this place clean.”
“My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance,” chortled Joseph.
“I’m fed up with being poor,” continued Florence, ignoring him. “We can jolly well go to Witton Park this weekend, and you can put what little you own into Walter’s company, even if it means selling my jewellery. If what he says is true, we’ll be rich this time next year.” She flounced out of the room leaving a trail of cheap scent in her wake.

“So who’s coming this weekend?” Rose asked her brother Harry with interest. “I know Mother has asked Aubrey Sapping up here. I haven’t seen him in simply ages. Mother always seems to be recalling antics with her naughty little childhood friend. She should have married him in my opinion, as they are a perfectly suited couple. Must’ve been fun to have a neighbour of one’s age, I’ve always felt cut off from the world living here. It must be at least seven miles to the village as the crow flies. No one to simply pop by.”
“Well I like being cut off,” answered Harry with a grin. “No one to bother one.”
“That’s because you live to read!” interjected his sister huffily. “You may as well ask Father if you can move your bed into the library.”
“Not a bad idea,” mused Harry looking off into the distance. “It is the perfect hideaway for a bibliophile like me!” He deliberately ignored Rose’s dig. “Anyway, you asked who was coming to join our pretty little house party.” Harry swept his hand through his thick brown hair and began to count up on his fingers. “Well, we have Jo and Flo for starters.”
“Jo and Flo?” 
“You know, Joseph and Florence Brewer.”
“Oh them!” said Rose, laughing up at her brother and pushing her dark hair out of her face. The curls jumped and sprang back across her cheeks as she moved her head. “Joseph’s quite nice but Florence only cares about money and she’s so bossy. Can’t understand what he sees in her.”
“Oh she’s alright. They both are in small doses.” Harry stood up from where they were sitting by the edge of the lake and looked across its smooth surface towards the house in the distance. “So there are the Brewers and we have cousin Cordelia here already. It’s nice to have her here all the way from America, albeit under horrible circumstances. Fancy being made a widow before you’re thirty!”
“Simply dreadful, poor thing,” said Rose, also standing up and looking in the same direction as her brother. “Shame we never met the chap, he sounded perfect for Cords. I tried talking to her about him last night but she just got up and walked away.”

“A thoroughly immersing whodunit” 

“A 1930s jape with witticisms on the one hand, and spine chilling scenes on the other. 
Thoroughly enjoyable.” 
…Polly Parr, Surrey

“A highly enjoyable whodunit in a traditional style. 
Great characters with a good mixture of fun and a shade of darkness. Kept me guessing to the end.” …Jessica Stroud, Surrey

“Immersive right from the start of chapter one. 
Totally believable plot with a good twist to keep us all guessing.” …Karen Edwards, Hampshire

"I didn't have a clue who the murderer was and guessed it wrongly! 
Loved the twist in the tail at the end." 
...Carmel Thayre, Surrey