Written by Theresa Talbot
My thanks to publishers Aria for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour
First in a gripping new thriller series featuring investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil. Perfect for fans of Broadhurch.
TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil can sense a sinister coverup from the moment an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. Especially as his death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress what happened to decades of forgotten women. Is someone also covering their tracks?
DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest’s death. He and Oonagh go way back. But what secrets lie behind the derelict Institution’s doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the girls that survived the institution and vowed to stay friends forever?
From Ireland to Scotland.
From life to death.
My review is available HERE
Links to buy
The body had been wrapped in a piece of torn sheet, then stuffed into the box.
Sally came in from the cold; stopping at the back door to stamp her feet and shake off the wet earth caked to her boots. They were miles too big and tied around the ankles with string. Her skinny wee legs were mottled blue with the cold. She caught Irene Connolly watching her from a third floor window. Her face and hands pressed hard against the glass. She shooed her away – gestured for her to ‘beat it’ – hoping to God she’d go back to bed before there was trouble.
Sally’s footsteps sent the rats scurrying for cover as she opened the door. Tiny claws scraped and clicked on the stone floor, their tails slithered like big, fat worms. There were two boxes stored overnight in the pantry. She carried them through and laid them on the table beside a third. Each held a similar bundle. Tightly bound. Carefully wrapped. Like tiny Egyptian mummies, so small they could easily fit into one box.
She pushed a strand of hair from her eyes, wiping the sweat from her brow at the same time. Despite the cold, beads of perspiration clustered on her forehead, her thin shirt had become damp and it clung to her back from the sheer effort of digging into the hardened earth out in the yard. Her small wiry frame concealed a surprising physical stamina. The mental stamina came from knowing no other way of life.
Some said she was simple – ‘There’s a waant wi that yin,’ they’d say. Sally let them think what they liked.
The lid balanced precariously on top of the third bundle, which was still warm. It took all her weight to hold it down in place. A tiny bone cracked under the pressure, but she carried on regardless. She took a nail from between her teeth and hammered it into the wood. She did this with all six nails before being fully satisfied the lid was secure.
As she wiped the sweat and mucus from her top lip, she stopped dead in her tracks. She pushed her ear against the makeshift coffin and froze.
There was no mistaking the tiny cries from within.
‘Take this, all of you, and drink from it.’ Father Tom Findlay held the chalice above his head. ‘This my blood…’
The meagre congregation mouthed the words along with him. He looked out at his flock and could have wept. There were a dozen at best. They were mostly old; mostly women and most of them had nowhere else to go. All huddled around the pews closest to the radiators. Still, at least he had a job.
He took just one sip. Meticulously he wiped the rim of the chalice clean with a linen cloth and handed it back to the old priest by his side, before walking down the steps of the altar.
He wanted to believe he carried the sacred body of Jesus Christ in his hands. He wanted to, but couldn’t.
A handful of people shuffled sideways out of the pews to get their daily bread. He was desperate to give them more, but he really had nothing left to offer.
The first supplicant was too frail to shuffle the few feet to the altar; he went to her first. Walking over to her pew, he smiled, pretending not to notice the faint smell of piss, masked by thick musky perfume.
‘Body of Christ.’ He tried not to gag as he placed the communion wafer in her slack mouth, and looked away when her ulcerated tongue licked the crumbs from her parched lips.
‘Amen,’ she replied, then wound her shaky arthritic fingers round his, and bent to kiss his hand. ‘Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father.’
Tom felt like a complete fraud as he prised his hand away and left her rocking back and forth, her milky eyes spilling with gratitude that the priest had gone to all that trouble.
As he turned to go back to the altar there was a collective sharp intake of breath from the congregation. He turned as the old priest stumbled towards him and fell to the floor. The weak autumn sunshine streaming through the stained glass windows gave his ashen face an undeserved healthy pink glow. His catatonic stare was fixed on the crucifix. Tom rushed to his side and felt for a pulse. But there was none.
Father Kennedy’s frail body lay prostrate on the altar: the ultimate offering. The gold chalice by his side. The puddle of wine became a blood-red snake that trickled its way along the marble floor, reaching out for him, pausing briefly to lick its lips before creeping into his white cassock.
Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel. Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.
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