Today I have an extract from Whirligig by Andrew James Greig to share with you. This is from the very beginning of the book and sets and eerie tone I feel! The book is available now from Fledgling Books.
The old oak whispers in the dead of night, fresh leaves rubbing against each other as a cool breeze catches the branches in a playful embrace. The tree stands alone in the glen, deep roots lying exposed on the surface where a rough track has worn away the thin topsoil. Higher up in the tree and concealed by the canopy, a rabbit gently swings suspended from a wire. The rabbit slowly descends through the hours of darkness, the movement so slight that it appears not to move at all. Minute increments, just one small step at a time. Measured.
The rabbit’s head is held at a quizzical angle, as if this aerial view of the ground below were a novelty. But the rabbit’s eyes are dull with death and stare uselessly as they bulge out of a furry face, morphed into an agonised sneer. The neck is broken and a wire snare holds the animal tight in a deathly grip. The wire continues higher into the tree where it joins with a peculiar mechanism constructed from bone and exquisitely carved wood. This arboreal ossuary is alive insofar as the other untrusting occupants of the tree are concerned and they watch its movements and listen to the rhythmic creak of its mechanical heart with suspicion. Each measured drop of the rabbit provides fresh impetus to bone gears transmitting rotary movement via the main pulley, meshing with each interconnected neighbour in an intricate ballet of bone wheels, cogs and spindles, all held in place within a skeleton case of polished branches and carved twigs. In the heart of the caliber silently beats a balance wheel, a perfect disc of silver and gold.
As the stars wheel around the tree, clockwork on a celestial scale, so the tree-borne mechanism performs an intricate dance to its creator’s tune. Dawn touches the eastern sky, and a blackbird bursts into song, notes falling over each other in pleasing progressions. A robin, then thrush and small flock of goldfinches join the chorus until the solitary tree is alive with songs enough to welcome in another day. The mechanism reaches a conclusion and a bone shaped like a barbed javelin falls out of the tree onto the rough tyre tracks below, a well-used route for vehicles following the lay of the land along the valley floor. As the bone falls, it pulls a captive filigree metal thread that snakes sinuously down from the tree. The wire passes through a carved contraption shaped like a wishbone, holding the edges apart to present a gaping noose just above normal walking height. The wire is mostly concealed in the tree’s shadows, the leaves and branches serving to obscure any pattern to a casual observer. The birds quieten as the mechanism speaks, the more timorous fly off to find a quieter spot from which to proclaim the dawn. The blackbird studies the mechanism with a bright black eye until all motion stops, then finally satisfied that it offers no threat, returns to the important business of announcing that this is his tree. The Hanging Tree.
My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour. Whirligig was published by Fledgling Press on 26th March and is available in paperback and as an ebook. You can order your copy online here: Whirligig
From the back of the book
Just outside a sleepy Highland town, a gamekeeper is found hanging lifeless from a tree. The local police inves tigate an apparent suicide, only to find he’s been snared as efficiently as the rabbit suspended beside him. As the body count rises, the desperate hunt is on to find the murderer before any more people die. But the town doesn’t give up its secrets easily, and who makes the intricate clockwork mechanisms carved from bone and wood found at each crime?
Whirligig is a tartan noir like no other; an exposé of the corruption pervading a small Highland community and the damage this inflicts on society’s most vulnerable. What happens when those placed in positions of trust look the other way; when those charged with our protection are inadequate to the challenge; when the only justice is that served by those who have been sinned against?
This debut crime novel introduces DI James Corstophine – a man still grieving for a wife lost to cancer; his small close-knit team of passed-over police and their quiet Highland town. He’s up against a killer who plays him as easily as a child. For a man whose been treading water since the death of his wife, he’s facing a metaphorical flood of biblical proportions as he struggles to understand why these murders are happening, and who is behind each carefully planned execution. All the time, the clock is ticking.
About the author
Born in London, moved to historic Monmouth as a young teenager and escaped as soon as I could to the bright lights of Bristol where I combined the careers of sober aerospace engineering and libertine sound engineering for as long as I could juggle these disparate and separate worlds.
Now living happily in central Scotland, where I enjoy writing books, playing music and exploring the great outdoors with my best friend who happily is my wife.