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Excerpt from The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Other Passenger

by Louise Candlish

The Other Passenger by Louise  Candlish X
The Other Passenger by Louise  Candlish
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    Jul 2021, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Jane McCormack
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Print Excerpt

Chapter 1
December 27, 2019

Like all commuter horror stories, mine begins in the mean light of early morning—or, at least, officially it does.

Kit isn't there when I get to St Mary's Pier for the 7:20 river bus to Waterloo, but that's not unusual; he's had his fair share of self-inflicted sick days this festive season. An early morning sailing calls for a strong stomach at the best of times, but for the mortally hungover it's literally water torture (trust me, I know). In any case, he always arrives after me. Though we live just five minutes apart and he passes right by Prospect Square to get to the pier, we gave up walking down together after the first week, when his spectacularly poor timekeeping—and my neurotic punctuality—became apparent.

No, Kit prefers to stroll on just before they close the gangway, raising his hand in greeting, confident I've secured our preferred seats, the portside set of four by the bar. At St Mary's, boarding is at the front of the boat and so I'll watch him as he moves down the aisle, hands glancing off the metal poles—as much for style as balance—before sliding in next to me with an easy grin. Even if he's been up late partying, he always smells great, like an artisan loaf baked with walnuts and figs ("Kit smells so millennial," Clare said once, which was almost certainly a criticism of me and my Gen X smell of, I don't know, stale dog biscuits).

Get us, he'll say, idly scanning the other passengers, snug in their cream leather seats. It's one of his catchphrases: Get us. Pity the poor saps crushed on the overland train or suffocating on the Tube—we're commuting by catamaran. Out there, there are seagulls.

Also, sewage, I'll reply, because we've got a nice sardonic banter going, Kit and me.

Well, we used to.

I clear the lump in my throat just as the boat gives a sudden diesel rumble, as if the two acts are connected. On departure, information streams briskly across the overhead screens—Calling at Woolwich, North Greenwich, Greenwich, Surrey Quays—though by now the route is so imprinted I pay little attention. Through the silver sails of the Thames Barrier and past the old aggregate works and industrial depots of the early stretch; then you're at the yacht club and into the dinghy-strewn first loop, the residential towers of the peninsula on your left as you head towards the immense whitehead of the O2 Arena. Strung high above the river is the cable car that links the peninsula to the Royal Docks, but I won't allow myself to think about my only trip to date on that. What was done that night. What was said.

Well, maybe just briefly.

I turn my face from the empty seat beside me, as if Kit is there after all, reading my mind with its secret, unclean thoughts.

"Back again on Friday," he grumbled on the boat on Monday night, bemoaning his firm's insistence on normal working hours for this orphan weekday between Boxing Day and the weekend. "Fucking cheapskates." Normally, if he misses the boat, I'll text him a word or two of solidarity: Heavy night? Maybe some beer emojis or, if I was involved in the session, a nauseated face. But I don't do that today. I've hardly used my phone since before Christmas and I admit I've enjoyed the break. That old-school nineties feeling of being incommunicado.

We're motoring now past the glass steeples of Canary Wharf towards Greenwich, the only approach that still has the power to rouse my London pride: those twin domes of the Old Royal Naval College, the emerald park beyond. I watch the bar staff serve iced snowflake cookies with the teas and coffees—it's surprising how many people want to eat this stuff first thing in the morning, especially my age group, neither young enough to care about their silhouette (such a Melia kind of word) nor close enough to the end to give a damn about health warnings. Caffeine and sugar, caffeine and sugar: on it goes until the sun is over the yardarm and then, well, we're all sailors in this country, aren't we? We're all boozers.

Excerpted from The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish. Copyright © 2021 by Louise Candlish. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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