Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove where it is my absolute pleasure to share with you an excerpt from So Pretty! Check out my review here if you missed it the first time around, but the long and short of it is that So Pretty is a marvellous thriller and absolute gothic perfection and if you enjoy gothic thrillers, I’m here to tell you that So Pretty should be at the very top of your list! It was one of my favourite books last year and I can’t wait to reread it.
But of course we’re here to whet your appetite, so let’s get cracking!
Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour, and to Orenda Books for the excerpt.
Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:
The arrival of a young man in a small town sparks, hoping to leave his past behind him, but everything changes when he takes a job in a peculiar old shop, and meets a lonely single mother… A hypnotic gothic thriller and a mesmerising study of identity and obsession.
When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.
Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.
Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.
As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.
Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.
Okay! Ready? Here’s Teddy:
I’m slouched over a plate of fish and chips in The Mermaid, the salt and vinegar pricking my nostrils, but I can’t stomach it. Sweat has dried on my skin, a covering of it that makes me itch. How does he afford his collection? How does he pay for the shop? Is he funding it with his own money? There are no customers.
Charlotte smiles at me from across the room. I wave and she reluctantly comes over, grey curls bouncing on her neck. I offer her a seat. ‘Something the matter with your meal, son?’
‘It’s fine. Can I ask you about the shop?
‘No. Not about the shop. I’ve told you that already, son.’
I touch her hand, then snatch it back. I’m overstepping the mark but I am desperate. ‘Please.’
She glares at me, folding her arms. ‘Fine. Because I don’t think you’re fully aware of the job you’ve taken on.’
‘I don’t think I am either.’
‘What do you want to know?’
‘When was the last time you went in the shop?’
Her mouth pops open. ‘It … well, it was years ago.’
I lean closer to her. ‘How many years ago?’
‘Around the time Berry left. Why?’
‘What was the shop like when Berry lived here? What was it like inside?’
‘Well, it was just a shop. Lots of tat. It was a bit cramped. Stuff everywhere. Toys and old clothes. Jewellery, clocks, even had a unicycle. The kids used to go in there and mess with it, spin the wheel round and round. Berry thought it was hilarious. He’d let them do whatever they wanted, as long as they were careful.’
‘Where was Mr Vincent?’
‘He used to just stand behind the counter or disappear into the back room. He never spoke to us.’
‘Do you remember anything odd inside? Anything that seemed like it didn’t belong in a little junk shop in Rye?’
‘What are you talking about? It was just full of crap. Stuff the kids liked and the tourists bought cheap.’
I nod. It changed after Berry left. That was when he must have started his collection. When the shop became his.
‘You look very pale. Just a minute.’ She goes to the bar. ‘Here.’ She passes me a glass of water, three fingers I wish were vodka. I gulp it down nevertheless, and suddenly there is an ocean inside of my stomach, waves roiling, curling, restless. It makes me sick.
‘My old friend came to the town a few years back. To stay with me and my husband for the week. She wanted a break from the city.’
‘Hastings. Why do you keep asking that?’
‘Anyway. She told me she went in the shop, but the whole time she just wanted to bolt. Said it creeped her out. When she went to pay, she said the man, the proprietor, was behaving weird. Kept fidgeting, twitching, sort of. She told me it was like he didn’t want her to have the books. Like none of the stuff in there was for sale.’
Hungry for more? Not a problem: So Pretty is out now in digital formats and paperback. Order it directly from Orenda Books here.