EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
A House Without Windows
by Stevie Turner
A House Without Windows is the latest release by Stevie Turner. You can read an excerpt and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of this book.
Newly-pregnant Dr Beth Nichols had no idea she was being stalked by ex-patient Edwin Evans as she made her way home one evening after a late shift. After being anaesthetised she woke up in Edwin’s basement, held against her will, and eventually giving birth there without medical help.
The story is written from different perspectives; from Beth’s 9 year old daughter Amy who is born in captivity, from Beth herself, now pregnant with Edwin’s baby, from her fiancée Liam, and 16 years later from her son Joss and his father Edwin.
When Beth escapes the Press get hold of the story and Beth and Amy have their photo in the newspaper. Liam (who has made another life for himself back in his homeland of Canada with his new partner Patty and their son Toby) is shocked to see the photo, thinking Beth had been murdered years before.
Liam must make the difficult choice of either meeting up with Beth again and getting to know his daughter, or staying where he is in Toronto.
The story then runs ahead to the point where Joss finds out who his real father is, now a patient in a secure mental hospital. Joss wants to get to know him, and makes a journey against his mother’s wishes to see his real father. However, the much-anticipated meeting does not go quite to plan; Edwin still seems obsessed with Beth, and Joss feels unloved and unwanted. He makes the mistake of telling Edwin where the family are living, and when Edwin is eventually released he comes looking to claim Beth back again, the only woman he has ever loved.
The unprepossessing exterior of the suburban 1930’s end-of-terrace house was giving nothing away. Inspector John Hatton pushed past the usual group of ghouls and rubberneckers, dipped his slightly overweight body under the cordon, and opened the gate leading to the tidy pocket-handkerchief front garden.
“You get all the best jobs don’t you? Anyone in or out?”
“Not as far as I know, Sir.”
“Have you had a word with the neighbours?”
“The ones I’ve spoken to say he was always a bit of a loner; kept himself to himself. They don’t really know much about him.”
Stamping his feet as he sheltered from the January chill in the half–enclosed front porch, Ford looked to Hatton as though he was freezing his arse off. Hatton let a faint smile play around his lips as he realised that yes, this morning there was actually somebody worse off than him.
He curbed the impulse to wipe his feet on the welcome mat just inside the front door. Grimacing at the irony, he put on plastic overshoes and gloves and continued down the hallway into the kitchen.
Everything was still in its place, modern and clean. The door to the dishwasher was open as though it had been in the process of being emptied; there were still clean plates, bowls, and pots and pans stacked neatly. Knives, forks and spoons filled the cutlery compartment, all with their handles facing the same way. Hatton noticed the five large plastic containers still standing side by side above the dishwasher on the worktop, each full to the brim with a different breakfast cereal.
He could imagine guests (if there had ever been any) popping into the kitchen for a drink of water and wondering why somebody living on his own would have wanted to buy so many containers of cereal, and why they would have required such a huge American walk-in fridge. He opened the fridge door that stood next to the dishwasher; there were seven pints of full-fat milk in the storage space in the door, three large portions of raw fillet steak on the bottom shelf, and numerous types of vegetables, salad stuff and fruits filling the middle two. Various yoghurts sat on the top shelf in regimented lines, segregated into flavours, with the ones nearest their sell-by date at the front. Twelve raw eggs sat in holders slightly too small for them in the door above the milk.
Hatton took one last glance at the food that would soon begin to spoil; he could have just eaten that fillet steak with some chips, mushrooms and peas.
Walking around the central table he noticed the dishcloth folded neatly on the draining board, not just thrown down as he would have done. He opened the cupboards underneath the sink; bleach, Dettol, and washing-up liquid stood one behind the other on the left side, next to two large packets of sanitary towels on the right.
The guests would have really begun to wonder at the sight of those….
He sighed and closed the cupboard and looked around some more. Adjacent to the sink stood a washing machine still full of damp women’s clothing, and on the far wall was a long clean-looking worktop with cupboards underneath containing sweets and crisps, and what looked like a pantry just outside the kitchen door. Hatton checked inside and found shelves overflowing with rice, spaghetti, pasta, potatoes, more tinned food, and the door to what resembled yet another American type of walk-in-fridge, silver in colour, but built into a recess with a bolt on the outside. The bolt was pulled back into the open position, and the door was slightly ajar. He walked towards it, opened the door fully, and trod carefully down the narrow flight of steps.
He had to see it just once more, before the house was bulldozed and razed to the ground.
Mummy wonders if it will be Christmas soon, but I don’t know what she means. She says that when she was a little girl she would get lots of presents on Christmas Day, and there would be a big tree in her house with lots of twinkling fairy lights on the branches and shiny baubles that she could see her reflection in. I’ve never seen a tree, so Mummy drew one for me in my colouring book and showed me. I don’t understand why there was a tree in her house.
My name is Amy, and Mummy thinks I could be seven, eight or nine years old because my big front teeth are growing in. I have long blonde hair like Mummy that I can sit on. Mummy puts it in a plait and she showed me how to plait hers, and she taught me how to read. She says I can read and write really well, and I like writing stories. I write everything down in a secret diary and keep it under the mattress. Mummy writes things down too. The Man brings us paper, pencils, exercise books, and colouring books for me, but he doesn’t speak much. Mummy tells me to keep out of his way, so I run to the toilet when he comes. Sometimes he finds me and smiles, and says that I’m getting a big girl. I don’t like him. He’s nearly as tall as the ceiling and he has hair all over his face. Mummy told me his name is Edwin, but I don’t like him so I call him The Man.
Our house is small and dark. There’s a light bulb hanging from the ceiling that stays on all the time, even when we go to sleep. It’s too dark without the light on, and I get frightened. I get in bed with Mummy because there’s nowhere else to sleep. When I lay in bed I can see all the rest of the house except the toilet and sink, which is around a little corner and out of the way. All the walls are greenish-grey, and Mummy says they’re made out of concrete. When I touch them they’re cold.
Mummy sticks my pictures on the walls with something called Blu-tack, and she says they brighten things up a bit. My best picture is the one of Prince, a ginger cat that sometimes follows behind The Man when he brings our food. I’m allowed to stroke Prince until he goes back out, but then Mummy says I have to wash my hands before I eat anything.
Last week The Man brought me a reading book. I’d never had a reading book before. He said I had to look after it because he’d kept it safe for years since he was a little boy. It’s got thick pages, large letters, and a sort of yellowy cardboard cover. I’ve started to read it. A lady called Enid Blyton wrote it, and it’s called The Island of Adventure. It begins where a boy called Philip who loves animals is at some sort of summer school and is bored as he sits under a tree doing something called algebra (I asked Mummy what algebra is, and she said it’s a different kind of maths). He hears a strange voice telling him to blow his nose and wipe his feet. It turns out the voice comes from a parrot sitting in a tree nearby, and he follows it as it flies off down the hillside back towards his school. That’s the only bit I’ve read so far.
I asked Mummy what a parrot is, and why I can’t sit under a tree. She told me a parrot is a colourful bird that flies around in hot countries, but that some people in this country keep them in cages as pets. I think that’s cruel. If I had a parrot I’d let it fly about.
I had to ask her again why I can’t sit under a tree. Mummy sighed and told me that trees grew outside, and we weren’t allowed to go outside. When I asked her why, she said that The Man doesn’t want us to.
It’s boring in our house. I do maths with Mummy like Philip had to do at school. I know how to add up lots of numbers in my head and come up with the right answer, and Mummy says not many eight year olds can do that. She always asks me to spell words and read even longer words. She helps me with the ones I can’t do, because she’s a doctor and she’s cleverer than me. When my felt tips run out I have to wait for The Man to bring more. There’s no parrots flying around to look at, and I want to sit under a tree. One day I will get outside, but I’m not sure yet how I’ll go about doing it.
Stevie Turner follows up The Porn Detective and The Pilates Class with a study of lives affected by abduction. When Dr Beth Nichols is released from a basement after ten years of captivity she and her children are not the only ones forced to reassess 'life on the outside' as they adjust to freedom.
The story is told from the point of view of a number of characters, but rather than create a tangled plot of interweaving stories Stevie Turner breaks the book up into a separate section for each character, allowing the various personal experiences to be told in a concise and direct way. Lives and characters cross and intermingle, with the climax of the story bringing together every strand and storyline.
Based on the events surrounding a real life case in Lambeth, London, in which three women were held captive for thirty years, A House Without Windows presents some harrowing details early on when Beth and her daughter Amy are still imprisoned. The novel allows time to explore the various emotional reactions, from Beth's former boyfriend Liam, to her son Joss, and even those of the original captor Edwin Evans.
The subject matter is a potential minefield if handled badly, but A House Without Windows avoids cliché and melodrama to deliver a story of devotion overcoming obsession.
About the Author
Stevie Turner was born and raised in London, England. She began writing while still at primary school, but now her children have flown the nest she is able to devote more time to writing women's fiction. Her first novel, The Porn Detective, is loosely based on actual events and tells of the effect on a marriage of a man's addiction to pornography.
Her second novel, The Pilates Class, is a humorous look at the lives and loves of several different characters attending a Pilates exercise class for the first time.
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