In my life, no two days are alike. Especially not now, when I am actually between lives. For over ten years I have worked as an international aid worker in different parts of Asia and Africa. It suited my restless spirit, my love of adventure, and my compassion for others. I loved the work and the people I met – their food, their culture and music, their humour and courage – but a year ago a terrifying encounter with a band of thugs waving AK47s left my health and sanity in tatters. Back in Canada, my safe haven, I retreated to my aunt’s country cabin to heal my wounds and to figure out whether I would ever have the courage to go back into the line of fire. Increasingly, aid workers are soft targets for every terrorist group trying to be the toughest on the block.
An experience like that forever puts you on the other side of an abyss from ordinary people, so I’ve been feeling pretty rootless, directionless, and alone. My parents live a nice, safe life inside the ivory tower of their university careers, and after ten years as a nomad, I have dozens of friends around the world but none at home. I really have nothing but my lime green motorcycle, which gives me the freedom to roam – and escape – and Kaylee, my exuberant Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, who makes me laugh and keeps me safe.
For a year I’ve worked on a daily rhythm that includes fitness training, biking, therapy, yoga, and mindful meditation. I always delighted in cuisine from all over the world, but I’ve never had much patience for cooking. This past year, I’ve tried to impose some discipline on my diet. I’ve inched towards health, but the cabin days have been long and lonely. As it healed, my spirit grew restless for fun and adventure again, so when my friend and fellow trauma survivor, Phil Cousins, wrote to invite me on a wild Newfoundland adventure of whales, icebergs, and mountain hikes, I bought Kaylee a custom bike trailer, threw some clothes in a bag, and set off.
This first story, FIRE IN THE STARS, opens as I stand on the top deck of the ferry, getting my first glimpse of the rugged Newfoundland coast. I’m excited but worried. I haven’t heard from Phil in days, and I don’t know where to meet him. Newfoundland is a big place, with eleven thousand miles of coastline and millions of mountains and trees. More importantly, his wife tells me that he left home the day before with his young son in tow. The young son had not been in our plans; I love the boy, but this was to be a journey of catharsis and healing, not a family outing. Perhaps even more than me, Phil has been damaged by our ordeal, and I know he can go to some very dark places inside. Not places you would take an eleven year-old boy, if you were thinking at all clearly.
So I feared for Phil, and for his son, as I embarked on my trip across Newfoundland in search of him. The ensuing days were full of twists and harrowing adventures as the mystery of his disappearance deepened. I found out that pain and danger don’t just erupt in faraway lands ravaged by war and poverty, but can bump up against the quiet, almost deserted shores of Canada as well. But I also found the beginnings of a path forward. A path that stays true to my spirit and my dreams, but hopefully keeps me safe. Although no two days are ever likely to be the same.
Fire In The Stars is the first book in the NEW Amanda Doucette mystery series, published by Dundurn Press, September 2016.
A former aid worker returns home haunted by her time in Africa and channels her pain into a murder investigation that’s all too personal.
After surviving a horrific trauma in Nigeria, international aid worker Amanda Doucette returns to Canada to rebuild her life and her shaken ideals. There, the once-passionate, adventurous woman needs all her strength and ingenuity when a friend and fellow survivor goes missing along with his son.
A trained first-aid and crisis responder, Doucette ― always accompanied by her beloved dog Kaylee ― joins forces with RCMP officer Chris Tymko to discover the truth about the disappearance. Their search leads them to the Great Northern Peninsula, a rugged landscape of Viking history, icebergs, whales, and fierce ocean storms. Elsewhere, a body gets hauled up in a fisherman’s net, and evidence is mounting of an unsettling connection with Amanda’s search for her friend. Fradkin writes evocatively of the beautiful, often hostile, Newfoundland landscape where Amanda soon finds herself fighting for her very survival.
# # # # # # # # # # #
Meet the author
Barbara Fradkin is a retired child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. Besides her short stories and easy-read short novels, she is best known for her gritty, psychological Inspector Green series, which has received two Arthur Ellis Best Novel Awards. She is now embarking on a new mystery suspense series featuring former international aid worker Amanda Doucette, who battles her own traumatic past to help people in trouble. Connect with Barbara at www.barbarafradkin.com.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Fire in the Stars. US and Canadian entries only, please. The giveaway will end September 29, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!