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A Darker Shore
Author: Malia Zaldi
Genre: Historical Mystery
1926: A year has passed
since the events of "A Poisonous Journey" and Lady Evelyn has made a
home for herself in Greece, living with her cousin, Briony, her husband,
Jeffrey and Daniel Harper. Disturbing this island idyll is a letter, which
arrives from France with troubling information about the Daniel’s
long-believed-dead brother, Henry. A new journey awaits! With the shadows of
the Great War reaching out, Lady Evelyn and Daniel voyage to Amiens in Northern
France with the aim of discovering the truth behind the ominous letter. Upon
their arrival, they are met not with clarity but rather with crime. Murder, to
be precise. Is it linked to their presence in France, or even worse, to Henry
himself? Evelyn and Daniel must confront
their history as they try to make sense of the present before the killer can
strike again, and the secrets of the past are lost forever.
Near Pozières, France 1917
came here to die.
My heart beats the rhythm
of the shell blast. Boom. Boom. Boom. Ready to burst, ready to break. Boom.
An explosion of earth,
light, and fire twenty feet beyond our trench.
that?" McCragh bellows into my ear.
I only manage a nod. Too
many sounds echoing through my body, the steady pulsing of my heart, the tinny
ringing in my ears. But silence can be just as bad I have learned. Silence can
be death. My discovery weighs heavy on my mind. What will I do? Do I have a
"What are the
orders?" asks a young man, whose name I cannot remember, standing at my
other side, leaning heavily against the dirt wall of our trench, his feet
squelching thickly in the mud underfoot.
orders," says McCragh with a sneer. "Won't do us much good, waiting
'ere much longer, better get out, better to be moving."
The nameless young man
shies away from us, from the bitter words of the burly Scot
Before I can respond,
another man, the Runner, comes catapulting into the ditch. I help him right
himself. His face is smeared with dirt and dust, but this mask cannot conceal
his tender age. I shudder. We will all die here today.
"Orders are to stay.
Enemy—" he gasps for air, "enemy is
showing signs of retreat."
McCragh frowns. "Bleedin' cowards!"
certain?" I ask, feeling the quiver in my voice.
"Yessir, orders from
above. Told us to wait it out."
"Right, well done,
son," I say, though the boy could be my brother. "Go on, then. Best
make the rounds." I try to sound calm, reassuring, to keep my voice
steady, while I know I fail and only hope my fear is disguised by the screams
and blasts from above.
takes a breath and sets off at a brisk trot, as fast as the bodies crowded into
this tight space will allow.
"Another day to live
in hell, then. Lovely." Lewis, a Cornish fellow with a missing left ear
comments wryly as he materializes at our side.
right." McCragh rolls his eyes, but makes an involuntary sign of the cross
"Four months they
told us," Rawlins, another man with a raspy voice adds, sticking a
cigarette between his thin, flaking lips. "'Four months, lads, serve King
and Country', eh? Bleedin' liars."
"Watch what you're
saying, or I'll 'ave you for treason!" McCragh winks and rubs his beard.
Time passes slowly. The sky goes from gray to purple to black tinged
orange, and still the thrumming of the guns, the intermittent blasts, grow only
slightly fainter, move only slightly farther away. We crouch together in the
black, damp, misery of our trench, our only light is the flicker of orange at
the end of a cigarette.
"What will you do
when this is all over?" comes the whispered voice of a young nameless
soldier, who has drifted to my side.
"If I'm not—" I
"If yer not
dead," chimes in McCragh. "If we get out of this pile o' shite in one
bit, you mean, laddie?"
"Stop pissing about, McCragh," Rawlins
says sharply. It is an unspoken rule not to mention the very real likelihood of
us never seeing the end of this war.
comes McCragh's chastised reply. "I fer one will be gettin' back me ol'
missus. Seein' the kids."
"How many have you
got, then?" Lewis asks, keen for any distraction from the agony of numb
legs, and the even worse terror raging above us.
"Two. Two little
girls. Bessie and Mary. And I thank the Lord fer that. I'll never be sendin'
them off to be blown to bits. I won't let them out of my sight again. Future
We chuckle, though I do
not doubt the sincerity of his statement. Future husbands beware indeed!
"And you? How about
you, son?" Lewis asks.
"Just go home,"
I say. "See my mother, father. See my brothers."
"Two. One—" I swallow, a sudden tightness in my throat,
"one is here, somewhere . . ." I let the word float into the night,
knowing the others understand. Silence descends upon our group, and soon I hear
the faint sound of snoring. Can it be? Is one of them actually sleeping
while the sky is falling down on us?
After some moments, I sense a sudden motion to my right. I turn my head,
though I cannot see my hand before my eyes.
whisper, but before I can hear an answer, a sharp stab of pain swells in my
chest. I gasp, my hand flying up, meeting . . . meeting wetness. Wetness?
Sticky . . .
I can't breathe; I grapple
around, touching the soft, earthen wall, the rough fabric of a uniform.
"I-I . . ." I
swallow hard, pain explodes inside me, louder, more forceful than the shells
above. My mouth feels dry, I try retching, but nothing comes. I am on the
ground. "Help." I croak.
I feel a hand on my
shoulder. Hear voices, raised in concern. All I see is blackness and stars.
We came here to die.
About the Author
Malia Zaidi is the author of A POISONOUS
JOURNEY. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied at English at
Oxford University. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in
Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides, vicariously in
countries throughout the world. A POISONOUS JOURNEY is her first book in the
Lady Evelyn mysteries series. The sequel, A
DARKER SHORE, is her latest novel.
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