One day. One week. One month. They’re all pretty much the same. Only the weather changes. And the intensity of the headaches.
It wasn’t always like this: Once, Hannah Manning was one of the world’s top international journalists. If it’s been in the news in the last couple of years, chances are she’s been there. War zones, disaster areas, political meetings. Hannah wanted to report on the news, not make it.
But then came a day in Afghanistan, a dusty road in Kandahar Province.
Sunlight had been strong in my eyes when it happened. We’d been driving west, the setting sun a brilliant, round yellow ball hovering above naked tan hills. I was adjusting my sunglasses, trying to cut the glare when a light so bright it seared my eyes followed instantly by a wave of sound overwhelmed me. I remember wondering if the sun had exploded, but that might have only been later, when I woke to the glare of pure white hospital lights.
Afghanistan. Where the sun always shone in a sky of brilliant blue and the hills were bare and the streets dusty tracks and behind every scrubby bush or mud hut death might lurk.
Grieving the loss of her photographer boyfriend and their unborn child, suffering from severe Traumatic Brian Injury, Hannah goes to her sister’s small-scale vegetable farm to recover. There she finds peace in the soft rolling hills, the growing crops, the love of her family, particularly her ten-year-old niece Lily.
But Hannah’s days are full of pain and confusion and inertia. The headaches won’t go away; she can’t read the printed word, can’t remember what happened only a few minutes ago. Feeling useless, desperately frightened that she will never recover, and sometimes thinking that she doesn’t much care if she doesn’t, Hannah spends her days trying to be helpful, but causing more work for her busy sister and impatient brother-in-law. She finds solace in daily walks with Hila Popalzi, a refugee from Afghanistan taken in by a neighbouring family, and nights in the attic of the two-hundred year old farmhouse looking through the family’s letters and journals.
Then Hila disappears, and the gentle rhythm of Hannah’s new life is shattered. When Hannah is unable to account for her time, not even to herself, old enemies begin circling. In her fear and confusion, Hannah experiences visions of a woman emerging from the icy cold mist.
The wet grass was cold on my bare feet; the fog chilled me through my cotton nightgown. Chickens scattered at my approach. They weren’t white, but rusty red and black. A wagon came down the road, pulled by a horse. Mud splashed its flanks, and then it, and the road, was gone. The neat fields disappeared; nothing but tree stumps lay between the house and the cloud-wrapped lake. The forest was thick and dark and old.
I slid between the bushes at the top of the ramp. No foul stench assaulted me. I walked down the ramp. I opened the door. I did not bother trying to turn on the light.
Fabric rustled, and I smelled tobacco and woodsmoke and unwashed clothes.
“Your duty here is to the children,” the man’s voice said.
“I do not need you to lecture me on duty,” the woman replied. “I have lost everything because of duty.”
Is the woman real? Or the product of a severely damaged brain?
Which would be worse?
You can read more about Hannah Manning in Vicki Delany’s modern Gothic thriller, More than Sorrow, published by Poisoned Pen Press.
** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of MORE THAN SORROW to give away. Contest open to residents of US and Canada only. Contest ends September 20. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **
Meet the author
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Her popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She writes standalone novels of modern gothic suspense such as Burden of Memory and More than Sorrow (Sept 2012), as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Fever), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.