I'm just putting the finishing touches to Fireworks in France, #7 in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon mystery series. It will be out next week and I can't wait to publish it.
Below is an extract.
Fireworks in France Extract
AWAY FROM THE main routes that connected cities such as Paris, Reims, and Calais, nestled in a valley of rolling hills, and small enough to be largely obscured from view by a cluster of oaks, it was mostly bad directions or lazy driving that caused visitors to discover the subtle charms of Ville d’Eauloise. Should a traveler ignore the many signs directing them toward the glamor and bustle of the far larger metro areas and decide to veer off the highway onto a narrow, rutted trail instead, they would soon find themselves descending an incline, gentle in places, steep in others, their route shrouded by ancient trees, and on sunny days, dappled with light that made its way through the canopy above.
And if they continued on, the travelers would, after a time, emerge from the woods to find a small village. From a distance, it looked like a higgledy-piggledy collection of buildings, but up close it was something quite different. Monstrous, stone villas loomed tall, separated by lanes and alleyways that weaved their way like a warren through the village. They cast shadows at all times of day. The buildings, some with turrets and crenellations, were dotted with windows, graced on either side with painted shutters and the occasional colorful window box, but which couldn’t hide their age or in some cases their decrepitude.
The village existed in a state of almost perfect preservation from centuries before. It was a study in history. The narrow, steeped cobblestone roads provided shortcuts and hideaways and surprise destinations that to a local were practical, sensible, and of little note, but which were to a visitor, unfathomable, mysterious, and exciting. The village was so discreet and unspoiled that it appeared at first glance to be so untouched by modern life that it was as if even time itself couldn’t find it.
On arrival, the visitor would almost certainly be drawn to l’Église de Saint-Mathieu, the oversized church that sat in the center. The church overlooked the village like a mother hen, dwarfing the much smaller civic buildings, homes, and businesses around it, and acted as a focal point for any gathering that took place. Every small alleyway and lane led directly to the plaza that lay in front of the church’s gigantic steps and its enormous oak entrance, while local cafés, a restaurant, and stores faced the church on all sides as if in supplication to God for bestowing prosperity upon them.
However, travelers rarely ignored the draw of the cities and only occasionally made the rickety journey off the main highway. For the most part, life in the village followed patterns and rhythms that were set in place long ago, and which were performed with the consistency of a grandfather clock. Today was no different.
Inside the somber, cavernous interior of the church, one so big that it dwarfed the congregation even when the entire population of the village attended as most did every Sunday, the stained glass windows amplified the light that streamed through them. The bright, mid-morning sun disseminated jewel-toned light so that it alighted on pews, on chipped stone walls carved with grotesque faces, and on shiny memorial plaques commemorating local lives lost in gold leaf. To churchgoers, it was like being inside a vast, complex kaleidoscope.
Today, however, the aged, medieval building had been decorated further. Broad white ribbons had been wrapped around the four pillars supporting the massive, vaulted ceiling, delicate arrangements of white flowers hung on the walls and at the end of the pews. A thick, crimson carpet smoothed the flagstones down the aisle that were as jagged and irregular as the day they were laid, the size of the congregation never sufficient to weather them despite centuries of foot traffic.
The smell of thick, melted wax filled the air. It made even the crisp, spring morning feel dense with heat between the church’s great gray cool walls. To the front, a large, wooden, elaborately carved altar table draped in white linen stood beneath a huge stained glass window that featured pilgrims on horseback and on foot. Gently flickering flames from what seemed an infinite number of candles provided an aura of calm.
There was silence except for the occasional hiss from a candle, but when a side door opened, the draft made the flames dance erratically before they settled down again. Even the great chandelier that hung low on a heavy chain above the altar was filled with the unmistakable light of a hundred tiny flames, albeit they plugged into the mains. The atmosphere was calm, the silence almost complete. Everything was ready.
Fireworks in France will be published next week. It will be available on Kindle, in paperback, and via Kindle Unlimited.
What early readers are saying about Fireworks in France…
“Your descriptions of even the most commonplace are beautiful.”
“The two French policemen are too funny.”
The action played like scenes from a movie.”
“Wow! Loved it! Best Annabelle ever! 5 Stars!”
Look out for next week's newsletter for links to the new book. Or check Amazon, just search on “Fireworks in France.”
I like to write in silence, but I listen to this track every morning (and weirdly before I go to sleep.) It gets me in the mood. British readers will be very familiar with it.