Excerpt from Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Quiet Neighbors

by Catriona McPherson

Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson X
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2016, 360 pages

    Apr 2018, 360 pages


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Mollie Smith Waters
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"I could close up early and drive you home," said the man. Jude blinked herself back to the bookshop; she'd been in the tearoom at work, listening to the hard words, deciding she'd never call the Samaritans again. "Although, dear me, I do have my assistant coming at four, but as long as I pay him . . ."

"Home," said Jude, and her eyes filled again.

"I rather thought, last time, that you were a guest," he said, looking her up and down. Now that he wasn't embracing her, he had stepped back to a more normal distance. "A tourist, as used to be. Tourist has gone the way of passenger and patient, I rather think. Everyone's a guest now. Can't see that it makes a scrap of difference, can you?"

Jude nodded then shook. "Home's London," she said. "I ran away."

He took that in with a series of slow nods, his lower lip stuck out and his mouth turned down. "I ran away to home a few times," he said. "From school." When Jude said nothing, he tried again. "What happened?"

How could she even begin to tell him? "Funeral," she said, spreading her arms to display the cheap black suit.

"Who died?" he asked gently.

Jude hesitated. She didn't know and couldn't bear to imagine. She spent the journey not looking at the headlines on other people's papers, had let the long hours yesterday evening in the sad hotel room limp past without putting the telly on.

"My parents," she said and, because it was true and because she hadn't thought of them since she left the crematorium two days ago, she could feel her face begin to melt again. One tear, the only one she had left inside her maybe, crept out and down her puffy cheek.

"Oh, you poor child," said the man. He rummaged in his trouser pockets, eventually drawing out a second handkerchief that he inspected and then dismissed. He cast his eyes around, but by the time he had concluded there was nothing else absorbent he could offer, she was calm again.

"I'm just so tired," she said. It wasn't meant to be a plea. She would have said it in an empty room. But he drew up his brow and chewed his lip.

"Could you manage a five-minute walk?"

She shrugged.

"Here," he went on, lunging for the desktop and snatching up a bunch of keys. He worked a strong yellow fingernail into the double ring, freeing one of the smaller keys in the collection. "My house is round the corner. Have a drink of water and lie down. Try to sleep."

"I can't—You don't—" she said.

"Help yourself to whichever bed or couch you fancy," he told her, pressing the key into her hand.

"Why would you let—?"

"It's quiet and the shutters close."

"We don't even . . ."

He turned her round and gave her the gentlest of pushes. She turned back.

"Why would you trust me?"

"You're not in London now," he told her, looking at her over the spectacles, which had fallen back down from his forehead.

"I could leave my wallet here as . . ."

"Surety," he supplied. "Unnecessary, my dear."

"I can't just . . ."

"Very well," he said. "Your walled for my latchkey."

She opened her bag and then closed it a little so he wouldn't see her passport in there. She drew out her purse and handed it over.

"You won't ghost my cards, will you?"

"My dear girl, I have a schoolchild coming at four whom I must pay handsomely simply to add books to the catalogue on that loathed appliance. No, I shan't 'ghost your cards.' And you shan't ransack my family silver. None of Miss Buchan's admirers would be capable of such a thing."

She managed a smile.

"Follow the left fork round and down," he said, pointing. "And it's left again at the end. Jamaica House. You can't miss it."

From Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson. © 2016 by Catriona McPherson. Used by permission from Midnight Ink, www.MidnightInkBooks.com.

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