Body on the Island is the second book in Victoria Dowd’s Smart Women series. The book is releasing on 23rd Feb (tomorrow!). I hope you all are as excited as I am about this book. Written in mystery classics style, I have nothing but praises for this book. (Yes, Yes, I had a chance to grab the ARC.) Before the publication day special posts on my blog – an exclusive review and author interview, let’s have a look at the first chapter of Body on the Island by Victoria Dowd.
As I’m drowning, I see my dad’s murdered eyes below me. They are wide in warning. I hear his voice below the waves. ‘Do not come over to this side. There is nothing good here, Ursula. Stay alive.’
‘Stay alive,’ I call back. ‘Stay alive.’
‘I’m trying!’ It’s not Dad who answers but Mother’s voice shouting back at me, her mouth filling with icy saltwater, before she is thrown out from me on another high wave.
‘Don’t die!’ I shout.
‘That had occurred to me.’ Her eyes are wide like Dad’s. She spins out from me as if she’s been carelessly thrown away.
‘Mother!’ I scream. ‘Hold my hand.’
She reaches and grabs me. We are so small among this broken sea. The freezing spray pits my skin.
‘Ursula,’ Mother shouts. ‘Stay with me!’ Always a command. She scans the mineral black waters quickly. ‘Charlotte?’ Her mouth is wide but the sound is washed away in another wave.
I see a hand rise up across the bow of the listing boat. Aunt Charlotte’s fist, strong and capable above the waves.
‘Mirabelle?’ Mother calls.
I am that lost child in a crowd again, feeling her hand slip in mine.
I hear screams and see the faces of my other travelling companions full of panic. They don’t seem to see me. I lock with a pair of bewildered eyes for a moment. A woman’s, sea-green and two perfect mirrors of the water. Her head turns before I can make out the face. Then the hands grab her.
I’m thrown high again by another wave.
The hands are on Green Eyes’ shoulders, making their way spider-fast to the crown of her head. Her eyes are wide and pleading now. Fear, desperation reflect on their surface. Then the thin-boned hands push down on her delicate head and the green eyes disappear beneath a spume of white water. Her small hands reach up and twist with tiny dancer’s fingers.
Whoever reaches out and pushes the woman down again has their back to me.
She struggles free for a moment, her mouth gaping above the water, her head titled back against the waves. The mouth lingers open as if caught on a word that is instantly swept away. Her head is forced below once more.
In that moment, it’s as if I’m looking at them from the other side of a window. I see the final push below the waves. Those perfect stained-glass eyes linger on the surface of my thoughts before dissolving into the sea. She is gone.
Another swathe of water covers me. I’m washed below the waves and carried. I claw to the surface and scream out, ‘Stop!’ There’s no one there.
Green Eyes has gone, eaten by the sea. Was there even a man there at all or something else that’s in these angry waves? I look down. I’m being crazy. I try to calm my fast breaths. There were hands that pushed her down, I know there were. But whoever it was has collapsed into nothing but foam.
I can’t find the light of the green eyes anymore either. They linger in my imagination, thick with a film of watery fear, pleading for help. I was the last thing she saw before the sea took her. What can I do?
I feel the panic rise. I swing my head from left to right. Nothing. I try to shout but another great slope of water collapses on me, forcing me down. This time, I don’t surface.
I dream of Dad’s open arms beneath the waves. They are balm to me, weaving effortlessly through the fierce currents. I close my eyes so I can’t see the body falling lifelessly towards the sea’s deep floor.
I can’t see Mother or Aunt Charlotte anymore. I even look for Mirabelle. But they are all gone. I look into the dark green forest below. Such tiny, clean white bones we’ll make one day on this ocean floor’s abyss – then we shall form small fields of fragile coral. It is a calming thought as I drift down.
But not yet. There is more life to contend with. Death will have to wait. Death is always waiting.