Written by Alex Dahl
My thanks to Victoria Joss of Head of Zeus for both proving me with the extract and inviting me to participate in this Blog Tour
The heart-breaking, heart-pounding new thriller from the author of The Boy at the Door.
How do you mend a broken heart?
It’s been three months since Alison Miller-Juul’s world fell apart when her six-year-old daughter, Amalie, died in an accident. Three months of sympathy cards, grief counselling and gritting her teeth, but it’s still only the vodka and pills that seem to help.
Across town, Iselin Berg’s life is finally looking up. Her seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, has survived a life-changing operation. After years of doctors, medication and hope, they can now start thinking about the future.
When Alison uncovers a dangerous secret, she is left in turmoil. She can now see a way to heal her broken heart, but will she risk everything to do so?
By eight, it’s long dark, and I go to bed. I haven’t taken anything, or had anything to drink. I consider getting up and taking Temazepam; my limbs would go mercifully leaden. I could get some real sleep, but I don’t like taking it when I am here along – th thought of Sindre arriving home and observing me in heavily medicated sleep unsettles me, as though he might scrutinize my uncensored face and be repulsed.
I think about Sindre on the plane, his broad feet planted on the carpeted floor, his big knees pressing against the seat in front of him, cradling a drink in his hand. He’ll be leaning against the window, watching the tiny lights below, like golden beads sewn into black cloth, as the plane heads north. After a while, when th lights become interspersed, his mind will clear – and the everyday noise of bills, transportation, relationships, cooking, parenting, and long-established routines will feel far away. The plane will settle into a smooth, quiet purr at cruising altitude, cabin lights dimmed, and Sindre will press his place to the plastic window, the stars almost as clear and close as high up in the mountains. I imagine that flying soothes him, that it helps him to let his mind run blank, life stripped back to the bare bones. But the truth is, I don’t know what soothes him, nor what my husband thinks or feels about anything anymore.
Hours pass before I hear his key in the lock downstairs. Hours spent counting and whispering to Amalie. I counted time as it happened, two hundred and nine minutes, and the number of sleeping pills I have taken so far this week – nine – and the unexplained sounds from outside that traveled through the open window into the bedroom: eleven. I counted the number of times I’ve been to see Amalie’s beloved little pony, Misty, in the last month: twice. I counted the number of birthday cakes I have bakes for my daughter – five – and summoned each of them to mind. I counted the number of times my phone bleeped – two – and then how many times I flew on a plane with Amalie: at least thirty-two. She loved it and would purse her mouth into a tight little ‘o’ as the plane rose above the clouds.
I begin to count the seconds between the key in the lock and Sindre’s footsteps on the stairs, but reach four hundred and still he has not come. What is he doing down there? I wait in the dark, wide awake, though I will pretend to sleep when he lies down beside me. He doesn’t come. I get out of bed and walk quietly across the room, listening at the door. I hear a muffled voice from downstairs; my husband must be on the sofa, watching TV, or dozing in front of its flickering light. There will be an empty bottle of wine at his feet, maybe two. I cross the landing and stand at the top of the stairs, looking directly across at the wall where the huge canvas photograph of Amalie used to hang. It has left a slightly darker, dusty rectangle on the wall, a ghost-frame. I glance at the door to Oliver’s room, wide open but empty, and at Amalie’s, tightly shut, also empty. I listen, and realize it’s Sindre’s voice I hear, not TV voices.
Meet the Author
Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thrill, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick.