Friday, 14 July 2017

Blog Tour: Last Seen by Lucy Clarke

In a small seaside community there's always somebody watching...
Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea - and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah's son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah's search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows - and she's right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they'll do anything to keep the truth buried.

Excerpt

Once I’ve made myself a coffee, I use the rest of the hot water to wash my face. There’s a toilet block nearby, but the sinks are usually mapped with sand or the white trails of spat-toothpaste. Diane and Neil next door have installed a water tank beneath their hut, and rigged up a heater from their solar panels so they can have hot running water at the flick of the tap. Isla thinks it’s an extravagance – another sign of the beach huts becoming too gentrified – but I’d laughed and said I’d be adding that to Nick’s To Do list.
I pat my face dry, then move to the windows, pulling up the blinds. Sea, sky and morning light spill into the hut and my breathing immediately softens. The early sun lies low to the horizon, the glassy sea tamed beneath it.
Stepping out on to the deck, the air is fresh and salted. I love this time of day before the breeze picks up and stirs white caps, when the light is soft against the water and the sand is empty of footprints. If Nick were here, he’d take his daily swim before leaving for the office, but right now he’ll be waking in a hotel room. I picture him shaving off the weekend’s stubble in a windowless en suite, then making an instant coffee with one of those silly miniature kettles. I don’t feel sorry that he’s there; he thrives on that kick of adrenalin that will be firing through him as he runs through the pitch for a final time, making sure he’s got just the right blend of humour, professionalism and hard facts. He’ll be brilliant, I know he will. His agency is pitching for the print advertising for a confectionery company that he’s been wooing for months. I’m keeping everything crossed for him. I know how much Nick needs it.
How much we need it.
Standing at the edge of the deck, I glance across to Isla’s hut. It stands shoulder to shoulder with ours – exactly five feet between them. In the summer that our boys turned seven, Jacob and Marley had fastened sheets above the shaded pathway running between the huts, calling it their Secret Sand Tunnel. Their games usually involved wanting to be in the water, or making dens in the wooded headland at the far end of the sandbank, so Isla and I were delighted to have them playing close by where we could hear the soft murmur of their chatter through the wooden walls of our huts, like mice in the eaves of a home.
In the clear morning light, I notice how tired Isla’s hut looks. The plywood shutters, which were hurriedly fixed across the windows last night, give the air of eviction, and the deck is empty of her faded floral sun-chair and barbecue. Several planks of decking are beginning to rot, mould lining the grooves. The yellow paintwork of the hut is peeling and flaking, and the sight saddens me, remembering how bright and vivid her hut was the first year she owned it – sherbet lemon yellow, she called the colour.
I feel my throat closing. Everything felt so fresh at the beginning. That first summer we met, I remember my father asking hopefully, ‘Is there a boy?’
I’d laughed. In a way, meeting Isla was like falling in love. We wanted to spend every free moment together. We would call each other after school, and have long, laughter-filled conversations that made my cheeks ache from smiling so hard, and my ear pink from being pressed close to the phone. My exercise books were filled with doodles of her name, and I’d find ways to bring her into conversation, just so she would feel present and real to me. Our friendship burst to life like a butterfly shedding its chrysalis: together we were bright and beautiful and soaring.
What happened to those two girls?
You didn’t want me here, Isla hissed last night before leaving to catch her flight.
I wondered if I’d feel guilty this morning. Regret the things I’d said to her.
I pull my shoulders back. I don’t.

I’m relieved she’s gone.


Lucy Clarke has a first-class degree in English Literature and is a passionate traveller and diarist. She has worked as a presenter of social enterprise events, a creative writing workshop leader, and is she is now a full-time novelist. 
Lucy is married to James Cox, a professional windsurfer, and together with their children they spend their winters travelling and their summers at their home on the south coast of England. Lucy's debut novel, The Sea Sisters, was chosen for the Richard and Judy Book Club. Last Seen is Lucy's fourth novel.



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