Hi and welcome to my stop on the tour for The First Lie! It is my absolute pleasure today to share with you the first chapter of this pageturner!
But first, let’s have a quick look at the blurb:
We’ve all had sleepless nights thinking about it.
You’re home alone. Someone breaks in.
In defending yourself, you end up killing the intruder.
Now you’re the one the police want.
That is the situation that criminal barrister Paul Reeve arrives home to find.
His wife Alice stands in the bedroom, clutching a bloodied letter opener in her shaking hand.
“What have you done, Alice?”
“I didn’t have a choice…”
We would all believe the person we love most.
But would we all make the same choice Paul and Alice make next…?
Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it! And here’s the first chapter, told from the POV of Paul:
When I see the front door is open, I slam on the brakes.
Six missed calls.
I grab my mobile from the passenger seat and leap out of the car.
Why didn’t Alice answer any of the times I tried calling her back ? Why the hell is the front door open ? Why is the house pitch-black inside ?
It’s 9 p.m. and just as dark outside.
As I charge towards the front door, passing Alice’s softtop Mercedes, everything replays in my mind : I’m returning late from work, I’ve had six missed calls from my wife, I haven’t been able to reach her since noticing them, and I’ve arrived to find the house completely dark with the front door open.
Alice would have been expecting me three hours ago, but I was called back to work. I should have let her know I’d been delayed, but work is busy and things got the better of me again ; I was putting the finishing touches on what will hopefully be my final case as a barrister for Blacksmith’s, one of London’s leading law firms, before the committee interviews and then the panel’s final decision about who will be named the UK’s next Circuit Judge. If I’m chosen, at thirty-seven, I’ll make UK history by becoming the youngest ever, and I’ll be based in part at the Central Criminal Court, or the Old Bailey as it’s more commonly known, and in other courts around the south-east of the country.
Alice is patient with me ; she knows the pressure I’m under, so she never calls to badger me if I get held up. Which is why six missed calls means something’s very wrong. And now I find myself at the edge of a black hole, not knowing what I’m about to encounter.
I leap into the house, barely able to discern any of the objects in the reception area, even though I know the location of every item and feature. I call out Alice’s name, trying to contain my alarm, but failing I’m sure. My heart skips a beat when there isn’t a response. I flick on the corridor lights and barge into the toilet, which is on the right. Then the kitchen, which is straight ahead. And then around the corner to the lounge, and to the right beyond that, the spacious dining room.
Nothing, no sign of Alice.
The house would normally be lit up like Christmas. Alice would normally be in the lounge, a glass of red wine in her hand. The television would normally be on.
She’d normally walk towards me as I enter. We’d normally share a kiss, my hands on her hips, her hands tracing my face, sensuous as the day we first met thirteen years ago.
Normally, but not today.
I take the stairs two at a time, moving too quickly to catch the light switch on my way up. Reaching the landing, there’s a wall of silence, so I stop, every door before me closed. ‘Alice ?’ I repeat, more tentatively this time. Something doesn’t feel right.
I try the two nearest doors. Nothing. Then the third, my office. As my head’s in it, a sound, something muffled, emanates from our bedroom at the far end of the corridor. I move towards it, passing the bathroom on the left-hand side. ‘Alice ?’ I repeat, almost in a whisper.
Reaching the door, I breathe in deeply, clasp the handle and turn it, opening the door onto thick darkness. Suddenly, without much thought, I shoulder-barge my way in, fists clenched, body tense. Expecting something, but I don’t know what.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the black cloud. Something comes into focus.
Someone’s sitting on the bed.
‘Alice,’ I say softly. I can tell it’s her because of the shape of her silhouette. She’s facing the built-in wardrobe, her head in profile to me. She hasn’t seen me, or if she has she doesn’t react to my presence.
‘Alice ?’ I say, now at normal volume, no longer as alarmed.
She turns slowly.
When she doesn’t reply, I reach for the light switch.
‘No !’ she screams suddenly, a painful sound. ‘Don’t switch on the—’
I step back, but my hand remains outstretched and touches the switch. The room lights up.
Her face is pale, her cheekbones and eyes moist. Her white shirt, which is undone, is covered in blood, her exposed skin also smeared red. There’s blood on her hands, in her hair.
Specks of it are on her face. She looks like Lady Macbeth after Duncan’s murder.
The sight of her shocks me and I struggle to catch a breath. ‘Alice, what’s hap—’
‘The bathroom,’ she sobs. I try to reach out to cradle her, but she swipes a hand at me. ‘Please, the bathroom !’
I leave her there and rush to the bathroom. Pushing open the door, I switch on the light, and double over at what I find.
There’s a man draped over the edge of the bath, his face in its water. There are bubbles in the bath, and blood. The back of his neck has been torn to pieces. Protruding from it is my letter opener, whose design is the shape of a dagger. It’s normally on my office desk, but this morning, after opening yesterday’s post while in the bedroom, I left it on Alice’s dressing table.
I want to call out but, struggling to take in what I’ve walked into, am without voice. Then, suddenly, hands are pulling me away from the mess. In the doorway, Alice presses me up against the wall.
‘Paul,’ she says, squeezing my shoulders.
All I can see is the blood that layers her skin and clothing.
‘It’s not what it looks like,’ she says in a panic, sensing my concern and confusion. She looks me deep in the eyes, making sure I see her. ‘You know me. I’m your wife. Please believe me.’
I try to hold her gaze, even though my mind is wandering and it’s difficult. ‘Alice,’ I say, ‘what have you done ?’ Then more slowly : ‘What have you done ?’
Want to continue reading? Not a problem, The First Lie is available to buy right now!
Thanks for stopping by and do check out the other stops on this tour!
Many thanks to Alex at Orion for the tour invite and the excerpt!