Release Date: 8th June 2017
Blog Tour: 5th – 11th June
Facebook launch party: https://www.facebook.com/events/238051203320198/
“A gripping tale of secrets and lies remembered long after the last page.” – Amanda James, author of Behind the Lie.
Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle – and a secret that could destroy everything.
When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992. A summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity.
In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open.
Amazon UK | Amazon
On those rare occasions when Abby allowed herself to think about Philippa, it was never as a pile of bones but as a girl of fourteen. A girl who was very much alive. A girl who could burp the National Anthem (well, the first couple of lines), hurl herself off rocks, catch scorpions with her bare hands, hold her breath until she fainted, and who always slept with one arm straight up in the air.
A girl who rolled her eyes and pulled faces behind people’s backs, and spurted her drink over everyone when she laughed. Being with Philippa meant laughing until you were sick, sharing your deepest, most thrilling secrets, keeping each other awake with disgusting jokes and gut-wrenching stories. And, of course, planning the perfect murder.
If she let herself, Abby could still hear Philippa’s voice – sweet, teasing and shockingly clear. ‘Jump on. It’ll be a laugh.’
‘Where did you get that?’ she heard herself say.
The dark glasses twitched and the freckles on Philippa’s nose spread above her unstoppable smile as she shook back spirals of flame-gold hair. ‘Does it matter?’
The adult Abby watched her twelve-year-old self move forward and throw one leg over the back of the Vespa.
‘Hold on,’ said Philippa. ‘Not like that. I can’t breathe. Stop moving about.’
The bike wobbled as they set off, shouting and laughing. Abby held her breath as they plunged through the tunnel of trees towards the first hairpin. Light flickered through the leaves, darts of heat stabbing at knees and elbows as they hurtled from shadow to blinding light and back into shadow.
‘We’re going to die!’ they screamed, as they bounced over potholes and snapping twigs.
Abby found herself trapped inside a fireball as Philippa’s hair whipped around her face. Unable to see, she was acutely aware of smells – dust on wild herbs, melting tarmac, petrol fumes, and coconut shampoo. But the hair tickled her nose and crunched in her teeth. She grabbed a fistful and held it out of the way.
‘What are you doing?’ Philippa yelled. ‘Stay still.’
Seeing they were now skimming the edge of the precipice, she did so. Below them, the land fell away through vineyards and olive trees to a shimmering patchwork of rooftops and bell towers. A flash of metal as a small van rounded the hairpin bend in front of them.
‘Move over!’ shrieked Abby.
‘All right. Keep your knickers on.’
Philippa slewed across the road. The driver leaned out of the window and made a rude gesture. But then, seeing it was Philippa, he turned it into a wave and shook his head, smiling.
Past the church and into the village, through the web of tiny streets, past cages of canaries, geraniums bursting from windowsills, a blur of terracotta moons on sun-baked walls, gargoyles leering over lintels. As they ducked under a line of washing, Philippa reached up with a whoop and grabbed a pair of the woodcutter’s voluminous pants. She held them up like a flag before discarding them over a stone cherub.
Abby’s teeth rattled as they bounced over the cobbled stones, and her plaits thumped against her back so hard she could feel bruises forming. A woman carrying two bags of shopping flattened herself against the wall. Philippa blew a raspberry at Brutto, who was sunning himself on a balcony. The dog flew at the rails, barking himself into a frenzy.
They cut through the piazza, scattering pigeons in the golden haze, sticking out arms and tongues to catch the drifting spray from the fountain.
‘Ciao, Armando,’ Philippa shouted.
‘Ciao bella!’ called the barkeeper, looking up from wiping his tables, and setting right the wig that made him look as if he was auditioning for a role as a Medici in a costume drama.
But they were already gone, under the dark arch at the end of the piazza, past the abandoned convent where Abby used to imagine a chorus of ghost maidens flinging open the shutters and singing out operatic warnings.
If she could stop time, that’s where she’d have stopped it. Right there under the arch that first summer, before everything went bad. Looking back, perhaps the whole thing had been inevitable. She had always known she would lose Philippa – it was just a question of how. She wasn’t interesting or exciting enough to hold onto her, no matter how hard she tried. She had made pacts with invisible beings, invented rituals – if I bounce this ball a hundred times without missing; if I touch every one of the olive trees before the song on my Walkman finishes; if I eat this white, blobby cheese on my plate… But in her heart, she had always known.
She never thought of Philippa as she’d last seen her. How could she do that and carry on living a normal life? How could she finish school, get a degree, go to work every day, marry, do all the things normal people did? So much easier to think it had never happened.
After all, it was impossible to imagine now, just as it was impossible to recapture the blinding heat, the scorching clouds of dust that peppered your legs as you walked, and the incessant nagging of the cicadas that drilled into your skull.
Impossible to think of the place existing without them, of life going on just as it had when they had been there. But it must. People drinking in the bars below the villa or lazing in deckchairs around the swimming pool, must look up into those forested hills hundreds of times in a day and have no idea what they were concealing.
Brambles as thick as Abby’s arm must have grown up by now over the place she had last seen Philippa, spreading their fingers around the stones. Acacias with their dagger thorns would have muscled in to form a second line of defence. Landslips would have showered mud and rocks on top, erasing it, erasing Philippa, erasing everything.
‘If you keep on lying about something, it becomes the truth,’ Philippa had said once.
But perhaps it really hadn’t happened. Because if it had, surely by now someone would have broken through the woods, torn down the brambles, pulled apart the stones, clawed back the earth, and they would have found her, wouldn’t they?
A girl without a face.
About the Author
Katharine Johnson is a freelance writer and editor and has worked for a variety of magazines. She has a passion for crime novels, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu). She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and madcap spaniel. When not writing, she plays netball badly and is a room guide in a stately home. Her next novel The Silence, a psychological/coming of age story set in Tuscany will be published on June 8th.
For Katharine’s latest news, writing advice, book releases and gossip follow her on
Rafflecopter: Prize = one of two ebooks:
a Rafflecopter giveaway