#BlogTour Undercliff by Mark Brend |
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by Mark Brend
It’s the summer of 1972, and 30-something divorcee Martyn returns to London after some years away. He joins the Olive Grove, a religious community, where he forms a relationship with Amelia. Over time Martyn becomes suspicious of the Olive Grove’s leaders, a pair of apparently ordinary men who can speak in perfect unison, known as the Two. A sequence of ambiguous events might indicate that the Two have malign purposes, though Martyn cannot be sure. These suspicions come to a head when Amelia breaks off with Martyn and appears to vanish. He travels to Devon, where the Olive Grove has a retreat house, in search of Amelia and the truth about the organisation. There, events take several disturbing and unexpected turns.
I wasn’t really concentrating and tried the handle of another door marked STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE by mistake. It was locked, of course, as it always was.
Magnus’s voice in my ear was quiet but so urgent and unexpected that I started. Within a second or two Simon was at my other side, a hand on my shoulder, emollient. “Sorry Martyn,” he said, and explained that the heating system was housed behind the door, that it was old and could be dangerous. “Got to think of the children, you see. Safety first. It’s the one rule we’ve got.” His voice was easy as he turned me toward the other door, the one I had meant to open. Magnus was walking away from me, across the room. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
It was generally known that he, Magnus, who was a little more reserved than Simon, had once been married but that his wife had died, though I never heard him speak about her. I went to their homes. Simon lived in a small terrace in Peckham, Magnus a flat in East Dulwich. Both homes were comfortable, but thinking about it now they lacked the stamp of personality. Everything was new. There were books and records, but they were the sort of books and records anyone might have had at the time. No family photos that I can recall, apart from a faded snap on Magnus’s mantelpiece of a woman with long curly hair, presumably his late wife. No old furniture handed down from parents, no artwork by a niece or nephew stuck to the fridge. I don’t think I ever heard a specific reference to earlier lives. Just “when I was younger…”, or “I once met someone…”, or “when I worked in the Midlands…”, or “when I was at university…”
Mark Brend is a writer and a musician based in Devon. He has written several books about music and has released six albums under various artist names. Undercliff is Mark’s first novel.