Thursday, 20 December 2012

One Night by Malla Duncan

One night in a lonely cottage in the woods, and Casey Blaydon’s life is changed forever. When Casey is asked to spend one night looking after her friend’s dog, she has no idea that it will turn into a race for her life. An isolated cottage, mysterious visitors, madmen, thieves, murder and violence. But even surviving this is no guarantee of safety because the terror in the woods follows her home like a shadow, laying wait for her in the comforts of suburbia. 

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‘One Night’ is my fifth thriller in my favourite genre Women’s Suspense Thrillers. I have been writing for many years, beginning with poetry when I was about 7 and graduating to short stories during my teens and early working years. Making the move to writing novels was very difficult. My preferred medium was the short story which I found more gripping – the perfect vehicle for the twist in the tale. But at a stage I realized I needed to ‘train’ myself to write novels because that’s what people preferred. I studied writers I admired to learn technique and form, then added my own style in pace, tension, dramatic scene and sense of visual reality.

It was important to me that the reader’s expectations were met while at the same time making them part of the story, ensuring that they were ‘there’ in the flow of events along with the characters. That’s why I chose the first person for my women’s thrillers – loosely based on the ilk of writers such as Nicci French and Minette Walters. I feel that the first person creates more immediacy and character identification. My books are not chick lit or detective novels. They are murder mysteries where the key characters are ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary situations, finding all sorts of inner strength and self-reliance as they solve their problems. 

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I no longer had the torch and the woods were pitch. Occasionally a splash of moonlight would drive me forward but I had no idea where I was going. Distance was key – as much of it between me and Matthew Bunting I could possibly gain. I was living on adrenalin, heart pumping like a machine, my breath harsh in my ears. Eventually the darkness forced me to slow. I’d smacked into one too many trees…and the last one had definitely left an imprint on my cheek. Blood was now running into my mouth. I could taste that salty intrusion but the rest of my body felt numb. I was moving stealthily and with some speed but an iron band had tightened around my chest and I knew I would have to stop to take a breath. Hoping on some kind of sixth sense for direction, I focused on finding the cottage.

I knew if I kept bearing west I should be somewhere within its vicinity. And all the lights were on. I just had to keep looking for any tiny chink of yellow between the trees. Except – bearing west in the confused dark jumble of the woods was almost impossible. The thought floated in my mind that Matthew Bunting must know the area very well. I had no idea how long the Buntings had lived there but they seemed well-entrenched. Perhaps they’d been there since childhood – and if that was the case then Matthew Bunting had a huge advantage over me. I didn’t have to speculate what he would do if he caught me. I knew what he would do.

I heard the faint run of a stream. If I could hear that then I was too far east. I eased to a complete halt and listened. The woods fell to a crackling silence. If somebody was close to me and sneaking up, they could be anywhere; sound was emphasized by the creaking quiet of the forest night. I stood a moment peering into the dark, my breathing ragged, trying to get my bearings. Fear prickled like a scattering of cold drops on my back. He was near. I was as sure of it as if I had absorbed all the wild history of the forest and become super-sensed. Danger was imminent. I could almost feel the heat of his body.

And then there…up ahead. Something ridged in a fall of moonlight, an alignment clear-cut against the undergrowth. The old ruined house that Mona had shown me all those months ago. My breath was shallow and too quick. I was struggling to focus. Could I hide there? I remembered the door in the floor to an underground room, the old cellar. Could I get there unseen? Could I hide until morning?

I edged forward. There was a rustling of leaves under my feet, the ripe scent of moist soil. I crossed a small dell which offered little camouflage but allowed me to move faster. Yes, I thought, hurrying, yes, I can get there!

I went up the slope of the dell on the opposite and saw the lumpy lines of the perimeter wall rising through the dead leaf ground. I forgot stealth and ran forwards – and into the arms of Matthew Bunting as he stepped out from behind a tree as though he’d been there for ages, just waiting for me.

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