Six beach huts on the sands at Little Piddling contain surprises in this unusual summer beach read anthology…
From Edwardian days to the present all manner of people – and beings – have used the beach huts at this little seaside resort and left their mark.
Whether you enjoy romance, humour, historical, tales of the unexpected or even a cozy crime, you’ll find a novella here to enhance your summer reading.
Read an extract from my story, Grapes and Ale.
Louise Allen, Lesley Cookman, Liz Fielding, Joanna Maitland, Sarah Mallory and Sophie Weston have joined together to create six novellas in this anthology from Libertà Books.
“I had something on my mind.” Jac scooped up the keys, decided that a passably good-looking man bearing wine was probably better than having a quiet attack of the heebie-jeebies by herself, and opened the door. “Come in. It’s a bit early in the day for me, but don’t let me stop you if you need it.” She waved a hand towards the bottle as he passed her.
That got her a narrow-eyed look. “It’s more than just something on your mind. You look as though you’ve had a shock.”
“Yes, someone creeping up behind me on the stairs.” She went into the galley kitchen that opened onto the living room and filled the kettle. “Tea or coffee, Mr Dumaine?”
“Henry, for heaven’s sake. Is it decent coffee?” He took the packet she thrust at him with one hand as she reached for the cafetière with the other. “Yeah, coffee, please. Black and one. What’s this?”
Henry perched on a bar stool on the other side of the island and opened the book. “The old brewery ledger? This is great. What’s the date?”
“Eighteen nineties.” She wanted to snatch it away but poured the coffee with a steady hand instead, then slid his along to him.
“What happened here?” He’d flipped through to the cut page.
“That’s the last thing that Bertram Bascombe wrote before he disappeared.” Henry looked up and she found herself telling him. “Someone stole the recipe for a fabulous new beer, Piddling Perfection. The brewmaster wrote it down then had a heart attack or something the next day. Bascombe found the recipe was gone before he had a chance to study it. Then he went for a swim and vanished.”
“No-one knows. I don’t think there was a note.”
“Poor guy.” Henry ran his fingertips over the scrawled swear words. “Strange. I wonder…” He looked up again sharply. “How do you know all this if the recipe’s gone and Bascombe left no note?”
“I, er, guessed. Pieced it together.” Jac gulped coffee.
“Really? Down to knowing what this fabulous beer was going to be called? And working it out left you pale and jumpy at eight o’clock in the morning?”
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Do you believe in ghosts? Or time travel?”
“No and no. Nor alien invaders, nor that the earth is flat.”
“Exactly what I think. But… Look, I wanted some peace and quiet to think about – about stuff. And I wanted to read this ledger. So I took it down to my beach hut early this morning. And I’d just found the cut page the hard way.” She held up her paper-sliced finger, still with a blood smear. “And then Bertram turned up.”
Henry opened his mouth. Shut it. Drank some more coffee. “As in, Bertram Bascombe, brewer, deceased?”
“He wasn’t deceased, he was very clear about that. He was stark naked, dripping wet and very indignant that some strange woman was in his bathing hut.”
“Do you often hallucinate naked men? Wet, naked men?” There was an interested glint in Henry’s eye that she didn’t trust.
“Not as a matter of routine, no. Not ones with a small pot belly and side whiskers at any rate. I gave him a towel. He told me that this was May the twentieth, eighteen ninety nine. Then he saw the ledger, forgot about me intruding in his bathing hut and went off on a rant about what had happened to the recipe for Piddling Perfection. When he got really agitated he vanished.”
“Have you ever considered writing fiction? Scripts for TV? The producers of Doctor Who would love you.”
Jac slammed down her mug, then shifted the ledger away quickly when the coffee slopped out. “Look – look there. Do you think I’d take the trouble to drip water on the page just in case my neighbour ambushes me on my stairs and I decide to spin him a yarn?”
Henry narrowed his eyes at her, then sniffed at the page, rubbed his right index fingertip on the biggest splash, still damp. He licked it. “Salt.”
“Exactly. Cunning of me to traipse down to the sea, which is a fair way given that the tide’s out, just to add verisimilitude to my fantasy by sprinkling the book with salt water.”