Extract: Written in the Blood by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Tuesday, 4 November 2014
The new, enthralling supernatural thriller from Stephen Lloyd Jones, following his highly acclaimed debut THE STRING DIARIES

High in the mountains of the Swiss Alps Leah Wilde is about to gamble her life to bring a powerful man an offer. A promise.

Leah has heard the dark stories about him and knows she is walking into the lion's den. But her options are running out. Her rare lineage, kept secret for years, is under terrible threat. That is, unless Leah and her mother Hannah are prepared to join up with their once deadly enemies.

Should the prey ever trust the predator?

Is hope for future generations ever enough to wash away the sins of the past?

With a new and chilling danger stalking them all, and the survival of their society at stake, they may have little choice...


CHAPTER 1

Interlaken, Switzerland

The face contemplating Leah Wilde from the petrol station’s restroom mirror was her own, but it wouldn’t be for long. With the door locked, and the scent of disinfectant sharp on the air, she pulled a passport from her bag and studied the image of the woman it contained.
Pouched skin hanging beneath tired eyes. Cheekbones robed in fat, framing a fleshy nose. A filigree of lines branching from the lips, like the contours of a landscape glimpsed from space. A mole to the left of the chin. Earlobes like pale tears of candlewax.
Leah closed her eyes, took a breath, and heard Gabriel’s words inside her head.
Create a mould, and pour yourself in. See what you want to be, and be. Don’t fear the pain. Pain is good. Pain is the price.
But pain wasn’t good. And now here it came: an unwelcome prickling at first, like the rash caused by a nettle’s sting. Quickly it intensified, needles sinking deep into her face. She gritted her teeth, felt the skin around her mouth loosen and pucker, felt her heart thump in her chest as the blood surged into her head, her flesh swelling, stretching, slackening.
Reaching out, Leah gripped the washbasin. She held on tight, stomach slopping around inside her, waiting until the pain, finally, began to recede.
When she opened her eyes she saw beads of sweat shining on a forehead mapped with age lines and blemishes. An older face. A stranger’s.
At some point she must have dropped the passport into the sink. She fished it out, shaking off droplets of water, and opened it back to the photograph.
Again she studied the woman’s image. Compared it to the face watching her from the mirror.
Good.
She was ravenous now, stomach cramping with urgency, but her hunger would have to wait. She’d pulled into the petrol station near the town of Jestetten, a few miles from the Swiss–German border; she needed to get out of here, and fast. Removing a baseball cap from her bag, Leah screwed it down onto her head, keeping her eyes on the ground as she returned to her car.
At the crossing she showed the passport to a border guard, submitting herself to a cursory inspection before being waved through. In Zurich, she abandoned the car in a side street and checked into an anonymous chain hotel.
The next morning, under a different passport and with a different face, Leah rented a motorbike from a garage in the city. After following the kinks of Lake Lucerne’s shore to Altdorf, she turned west and rode through the Susten Pass, a route that wound among mountain peaks so extraordinary they drew the breath from her throat.
Perhaps it was the drama and raw beauty of the Bernese Oberland’s landscape, but as Leah guided the bike along she felt the weight of her indecision begin to lift. No one knew she was here. They had forbidden her outright from coming, had forbidden her even from investigating this, but she knew it was the right thing to do, the only thing left she could do, however dangerous it might be.
She reached Interlaken a few hours after midday. The town perched between Lake Brienz in the east and Lake Thun in the west, twin cobalt bowls that reflected the blade-like sharpness of
the Alpine sky. Looming above the town to the south, the fortress peaks of the Jungfrau, the Mönch and the Eiger, jagged brushstrokes of rock and snow.
Leah found a small hotel along the Aar, the river that connected the two great lakes and formed the town’s northern border. Her first-floor room was basic but clean: table and chairs in one corner, cupboard in another. Opposite the bed, a cabinet on which sat a TV, coffee-maker and kettle. Shuttered French windows opened onto a narrow balcony. Below slid the Aar’s turquoise waters.
Throwing her rucksack down on the bed, Leah returned to the door to check it was locked. A spyhole gave her a distorted view of the deserted corridor outside.

Written in the Blood is out on November 6th and is published by Headline. 

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

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