Deadly Prospects is book 1 in the Scottish Mystery series
1869, Sutherland, Scotland. For years the people of this remote area of the Highlands have lived a hard life. Now a local Gold Rush has attracted the Pan-European Mining Company to the area, and Solveig McCleery is determined to re-open the Brora mines and give the population the riches they deserve. But when work starts on re-opening the mines, the body of a prospector is discovered, and odd inscriptions found on stones near the corpse. Before the meaning of these strange marks can be deciphered another body is discovered. Are these attacks connected to the re-opening of the mines? Will Solveig’s plan succeed in bringing peace and prosperity back to the area? Or has she put in motion something far more sinister?
In the river beyond the village, seven fishing vessels had not long been pushed from the pier to take advantage of the outrunning tide. Above the creaking of their oars, of wood on water, of ropes being pulled through badly oiled winches, sails rising up into the wind, the sailors heard other sounds, and looked up to see the vast cloud that was spewing out of Hekla. It came at them with the speed of an avalanche, a great black tongue unfurling down the mountain towards them, wiping out the morning as it blackened every stone, every field, every roof, every blade of grass, doused the day completely, subsumed them into night. Every man on every boat began to shout, to call out incoherent instructions or pleas, some tugging at the rudder ropes, unable to gauge direction, sails coming crashing down as knots were left incomplete, untied, everything unravelling, and soon came the crash and splinter of wood on wood as one boat ploughed into another, forced a third into what they called the Shallows, a sandbank at the river’s middle where the tide insisted on depositing tree boles, rocks and boulders, after every winter’s storm.
The air about them thickened, darkened, and men began to fling themselves into the water, lashing out for bank or pier, hurled on by thoughts of wives or children, treasured livestock or possessions, the water beginning to crust about them, sizzling and boiling with the fling of molten rocks, scalding their arms, their faces, the ash clogging their clothes and hair and lungs, weighing them down, narrowing their vision, constricting their breath. Into the cauldron went Lilija’s brother, tripping up the man they’d called the Bean Counter, who went headfirst in behind him.
And then above all the pandemonium, the crack of wood, the panicked shouts, the clashing of oars, the splashing of men in the water, the crashing of unsupported rigging, above it all there came another sound as of a bell at the starting of its tolling, a bell so vast, and its peal so low, that it came first as a vibration, making the smoother surface of the downstream water begin to shiver as the air compressed and began to move in gusty, unaccustomed ways, pocking at the sails that were still erect, growing in strength, as every tolling bell will do, until the noise of it was vast enough to become the whole world, as if every boulder on every hillside had begun to shift and roll, as if the earth itself was roaring. Hekla yawned and then was woken, breathed out another mighty exhalation, a new turret of burning ash that rose then fell towards its southern slopes, spat out a tarred-black rain that leached the light from the sky, swallowed the sun; released it, grey and greasy, for seven long and weary months into Storofshvoll’s future, vomiting out the last plume of ash from its cracked and broken summit, the last eruption of Hekla, at least, in the lifetime of Lilija Indridsdottir and her village.
Thank you, Clio Gray and Love Books Group Tours.
About the author
Clio Gray was born in Yorkshire but has lived for the last twenty years in the Scottish Highlands, her favourite place on earth. She has won many awards for her short stories, including the Scotsman/Orange, and her debut novel ‘Guardians of the Key’ won the Harry Bowling Award. Since then, she has published seven novels, an anthology of short stories, an adventure story for young adults. Her last novel, The Anatomist’s Dream, was longlisted for the 2016 Bailey’s and Booker prizes.