Treasure Hunters – Part Three

Jane and I pushed past Rimath and tried to open the sitting-room door. The handle refused to budge.

Jane kicked while I shoved and then she pushed me out of the way, and in desperation, started to pull at the handle even though it would never work.

Rimath reached our side, put his paws over our hands and stopped our feet from kicking with his tail. His eyes were wide and he mouthed the words ‘be quiet.’

From inside the room, we could hear our parents’ voices. Mum seemed to be threatening through gritted teeth: ‘as soon as I can get my hands on you, you’ll be so sorry…’ It was something she said to us all the time but this time she sounded like she meant it and also as if she were in pain. Dad’s words were just a muffled mumble. He must have been gagged but it wasn’t stopping him try to talk anyway. 

Then there was another voice. It reminded me of corners and unseen cobwebs; of slippery stone and murky water.

‘Silence!’ it growled.

Rimath tapped our hands until we looked at him and touched his mouth with his tail. Shh.

The voice came again. ‘The door was rattling. Is there someone else in the house with you?’

Dad’s mumble became more frenzied. I could hear the tears in Mum’s voice as she said ‘n-no. We’re here alone. It was just the storm. Let us go!’

‘Stop struggling or it’ll be worse for both of you,’ said the voice. ‘I am Noggler and I want my treasure.’

‘What treasure?’ Dad’s voice was a little clearer. He must have squirmed the gag away.

‘Don’t give me that,’ said Noggler. ‘The owners of this house have hidden it for centuries and so far, no matter what we do to them, they’ve never told us where it is. Well, this time, things are going to be different. Let’s go.’

‘Go where?’ Mum’s voice was shaking.

‘You’ll soon find out.’

‘But…’

She gave another scream and Dad’s words were muffled again. Jane was now kicking at Rimath but he shook his head. Her furious eyes were full of tears. There was a sensation as if all the air was being sucked from around us and a deafening noise like a firework exploding as it spiralled down a drain. Then everything was quiet apart from the sound of rain against windows and the wind in the tiles above. The sitting-room door popped open.

Jane and I went to rush inside, but Rimath slipped in front of us, barring our way for a second before letting us through.

The room was much as it had been earlier. The overhead lamp cast a pale, sickly glow onto a table where a blackened but half-cooked Spanish omelette congealed. The front of the cassette player had been ripped off and mangled tape spilled out over the edge of the sideboard. Something dropped onto my head and this time I grabbed it. In my palm a creature like an inch-long woodlouse with uncountable legs, long antennae and a long forked tail squirmed. Trying not to be sick, I stared into its face. Bulbous red eyes blinked and a mouth full of fangs opened silently. I loosened my grip as I screamed and before it hit the floor, the creature sprouted wings and flew to the ceiling to bury itself in the beam.

‘Don’t be scared,’ said Rimath, putting an arm round my shoulder. ‘The fork-beetles are harmless. They’re just not pretty.’ 

I shrugged him away. ‘Where’s Mum and Dad, Rimath? Why did you stop us from getting in here?’

‘It’s not that simple. I -’

‘Where’s Mum and Dad?’ Jane’s voice wobbled as she pulled chairs over and dragged the sofa round. I stared into the corners and prodded the ashy fire-place with the poker. There was nothing to see but cobwebs and I could just make out red blinking dots under the mantlepiece. I assumed there was a cluster of fork-beetles watching me and felt sick again.

There was no sign that anyone had ever been in here. Outside the grimy window, the rain still poured in a thick curtain. We were miles from anywhere, all alone, with no-one to help. I shook the tears from my eyes. I turned on the dragon. ‘Why wouldn’t you let us come in and rescue our parents?

‘There were too many of them inside,’ said Rimath. ‘And they’d sealed the door just in case…’

‘In case of us?’

‘In case of me.’

‘You?’ Jane went to kick him again. Rimath’s tail curled round her waist, lifted her and put her in a musty armchair. He pointed at me and at one of the few dining chairs still upright. I sat down. 

‘Who are you to boss us about?’ I shouted. ‘You’re no use. You’re a dragon. Why didn’t you just burnt the door down?’

‘Do you want to rescue your parents?’ said Rimath. We nodded. ‘Then you need to listen to me. Really carefully. It’s quite a story. I’m not sure where to start.’

‘Who’s Noggler?’ I said. ‘And where has he taken Mum and Dad?’

‘He’s a… I don’t know how to describe Noggler and his crew. I don’t want to frighten you.’

‘I’m not scared of anything,’ snarled Jane.

‘Nor me,’ I added, hoping he wouldn’t start describing large dogs, long-legged spiders, dark corridors or great-aunts.

‘Well,’ Rimath scratched his nose. ‘They’re krakenmen. Half human, half sea-monster. It’s very complicated. I won’t know which of his lairs Noggler has taken your parents to till we’ve worked out which way they went. Now what we’re looking for is a square of floor or wall which is a different colour to the rest.’ He peered up at the light-bulb. ‘That’s going to be hard in this light. I’d throw a very bright flame but there’s a risk Noggler has posted a guard and we might be seen.’

‘I’ve got a better idea,’ I said. I didn’t really want to leave the room, unnerving as it was, but there was nothing for it. I ran into the hall where our luggage was and rummaged in my bag. Buried at the bottom was the flash-light I had hidden for late-night reading under the covers. Every squeak and bang of the old house made my heart beat faster. I rushed back into the sitting-room and shone it round, shading the light from spilling beyond precisely where I pointed. 

‘There!’ said Jane. The rug near the sofa was askew and we could just make out a scorch mark. It wasn’t the usual sort of shapeless burn, but was geometric and neat. We dragged the rug back and revealed a large square on the floor-boards. 

‘That’s it,’ said Rimath. ‘If we hadn’t found it within half an hour, it would have faded back to normal. They have powerful magic, the krakenmen. On my own, I couldn’t have done anything but put you into danger too if I’d gone inside. Now I know which way they’ve gone, I know which lair they’ll have gone to and what to do.’

‘So we need to lift the planks and chase after them.’ Jane knelt on the floor and started stabbing at the edges of the square with the poker.

‘No!’ said Rimath. ‘That won’t work. It’s completely sealed again and only they know the spell to open it. We need to follow them a different way. My way. I’ll explain the rest as we go. You have to trust me. But you have to be quiet and…’ he prodded Jane with his tail, ‘not argue back. Promise?’

‘Huh,’ said Jane. ‘If you think – ’ 

‘Oh stop it Jane!’ I said. ‘We’ve got to rescue them. Goodness knows what mess Dad will get us into if he starts talking. He never knows when it’s time to joke and when it’s time to be serious. I trust you, Rimath. Which way now? 

I thought Rimath would take us outside into the rain but instead he headed straight into the kitchen. In the space where the cooker or fridge should have been there was – now I looked closer – another small pointless cupboard door embedded into the wall near the stone floor.

Rimath muttered under his breath. A tiny flicker of flame licked round his mouth and then disappeared. The cupboard door opened to reveal a dark space. 

‘You’d best go first Laura,’ he said. ‘You’ve got a flashlight and you might need it. Jane can go in the middle. I’ll be at the back. We’ll just have to trust each other. Come on, what are you waiting for? We need to get to your parents as soon as possible.’

I crawled forward and shone the flashlight upwards. Above was the shaft leading to the cupboard on the landing. I redirected the light forwards and could see nothing but rock. I had thought maybe there would be a tunnel heading out from the house but I was wrong. With a trembling hand, I pointed the flashlight down and felt over the edge. The shaft continued deep into the ground. My terrified imagination made me think I could hear echoes and crashes. All I knew for certain was that the rungs were slippery and the beam of light was swallowed by the depth of the shaft. I had no idea how deep it was or what waited at the bottom.

But there was nothing for it. Someone had to rescue Mum and Dad and we were the only ones who could.

I turned the flashlight off and pushed it deep into my pocket. Then I slipped over the edge of the shaft until my feet made contact with a rung.

I took a breath and met my sister’s eyes. ‘Let’s go.’ I said.

‘Yes,’ said Jane. ‘Let’s go.’

gold spiral

Words and photograph copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Treasure Hunters – Part One

Treasure Hunters – Part Two

 

 

 

 

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Treasure Hunters – Part Two

All my life I’d longed to meet a dragon and here one was. I couldn’t think of anything to say.

He was a soft brownish green like a leaf that was about to change in autumn. His snout was long and narrow with an upturned tip. His eyes, wide and hopeful, changed from brown to grey to green as he emerged from the cupboard onto the landing. His mouth was stretched into a slightly daft smile. His skin looked soft as a ballet shoe and his claws were barely visible. He was beautiful.

‘How do we know you won’t eat us?’ said Jane, crossing her arms as if to make herself hard to swallow.

The dragon paused three-quarters of the way onto the threadbare carpet. A mixture of hurt and puzzlement crossed his face. 

‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘I’m not that sort at all. And besides…’ he scanned Jane from head to toe and settled his gaze on her feet, ‘you’re almost as big as me and your feet look a bit grubby.’

Jane gave a proud grin. ‘I haven’t changed my socks for three days,’ she said. ‘It’s an experiment. I want to see how stiff I can get them.’

The dragon said ‘yeuch’, stuck out a yellow tongue then oozed out of the cupboard to sit on his haunches in front of us. His tail had a life of its own. It scratched the dragon behind the ear and then flicked at the spider which was trying to build web to block the open cupboard.

I peered inside the cavity. There was a narrow shaft within the wall of the cottage. Rungs were embedded in one side or at least they were at the top. The shaft was so dark, there was no way of telling how deep it went or whether the rungs went all the way down. It was strange how I could hear the sound of the sea more clearly through the shaft than through the inadequate window.

‘I’m Jane,’ said Jane. ‘This is Laura. She’s not normally this quiet.’

‘I’m Rimath,’ said the dragon. ‘Pleased to meet you.’

We stood and stared at each other in silence. Outside the wind changed direction and rain crashed against the window with enough force to make pop the catch open. It was barely possible to see the beach now, the downpour looked thick enough to slice.

‘Wrecking weather,’ said Rimath and shivered.

Where do you start with a dragon? He wasn’t very large, perhaps as tall as Mum who said she was five feet high. His skin looked soft and the nobbles on his spine were small. Perhaps he wasn’t fully grown, maybe a child like us, and yet he’d said he hadn’t seen anyone for decades. On the other hand if you lived for hundreds of years, then maybe… my mind spun.

‘Do you live in the cupboard?’ said Jane. She lay down on the carpet, stuck her head inside and yelled ‘hellooooooo.’

Another plate or something smashed in the kitchen and this time, the sound of bickering parents and rude words were clearly audible. Only they were coming up the shaft.

‘No of course I don’t,’ said Rimath. ‘I live in a cave. But there’s a tunnel all the way from my cave into this house. Sometimes, when there’s nothing going on, I come in here and pretend I’m human. Although – ’ his tail reached to scratch his head again, ‘it’s a bit boring. What do you do all day?’

‘I play with my toys,’ said Jane. ‘And I put spiders and beetles in Laura’s room when she’s not looking. Then she screams.’

I glared at her. This wasn’t the sophisticated image I wanted to portray to a dragon. I put on what I hoped was a mature and intellectual face. ‘I read and write stories,’ I said.

‘Are they exciting?’

‘They’re ok,’ said Jane. ‘But they haven’t got enough blood.’

‘I’ll give you blood…’ I started.

The smell of burning wafted up the stairs. 

‘Oh no,’ I groaned. ‘Dad’s making dinner after all.’ 

Rimath wrinkled his nose. ‘That’ll bring them out.’

I remembered the mousetrap. ‘Are there lots of mice? I hope they keep out of sight. We’ve brought our cat.’

‘Mice won’t eat Dad’s cooking,’ said Jane. ‘But you should try it, Rimath. Dragons might like the taste of the burnt bits.’

Rimath stood on all fours and started towards the stairs. His tail was flicking. 

Strains of classic music drifted. Dad must have brought the cassette player. Rimath’s tail relaxed and started to wave. He sat down again.

‘Ah, music,’ he said. ‘I like music. They don’t. That might do the trick.’

‘Mice don’t like music?’ Well this was new. Our family had sat through hundreds of wildlife programmes but no-one had mentioned this.

The rhythm of the music altered and the melody distorted into a high pitched wibble. Rimath’s tail tried to plug both his ears at once.

‘What was that?!’ 

‘The tape’s bust,’ I said. ‘I think Dad got a really cheap player. It’ll be all tangled up inside.’

‘Yes but that noise!’

‘I know,’ said Jane. ‘It’s worse than Laura screaming when I drop a worm on her head.’

‘That’s not what I mean, the burning, the noise… they’ll come out. I know they will. Who are the idiots downstairs?’

Jane and I exchanged glances and with a shamed sigh admitted: ‘It’s our parents.’

‘We need to stop them.’ Rimath made for the steps. ‘We need to get to them before they do. They’ll be all right as long as they stay in the kitchen.’

‘Mum’s not scared of mice,’ argued Jane. ‘And Dad’ll probably make friends with them and want to take them home afterwards.’

‘Mice?’ said Rimath, pausing to turn and look up at us. ‘Who said anything about mice?’

The mangled music screeched to a halt and Dad’s voice bellowed up the stairs.

‘Come on down girls! Dinner’s ready. Mum’s laying the table in the sitting-room and I’m going to see if the TV works.’

‘No!’ gasped Rimath. ‘They mustn’t go in there.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Things will drop on our heads and in our food.’

‘That will just be the start,’ said Rimath. ‘Come on!’ 

We rushed down after him just as Dad crossed the hall and went into the sitting-room. The door slammed shut behind him. 

There was a muffled scream then silence.

‘Too late,’ said Rimath. ‘We’re too late. They’ve got your parents.’

‘The mice?’

‘Why do you keep on about mice?’ shouted Rimath. ‘It’s not the mice who are the problem. It’s the monsters!’

dragon eye

Words and photograph copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Treasure Hunters – Part One

Treasure Hunters – Part One

1975

Jane and I were enduring our homework. I chewed my tongue as I worked my way down a page of decimals but Jane’s struggles with history were beyond tongue-chewing. Mum came and peered over her shoulder.  

It looked simple enough.

Queen Elizabeth I was portrayed standing smugly before two windows, outside one of which the Armada stormed towards England in anticipated victory and outside the other the Armada foundered in an actual storm. Various symbols of Elizabeth’s reign, ambitions, superiority and personality were placed about the Queen herself who was stiff with brocade, jewellery and cosmetics.  

The teacher had drawn arrows pointing at various things in the picture and the aim of the homework was for Jane to complete labels to explain what they represented. So far, she had written Armada arrives,  Armada sinks and was staring at the ceiling for inspiration. Mum told Jane to stop dawdling. She only gave a cursory look at mine, having less idea where the decimal point should go than I did before she went into the kitchen to start dinner.

Jane sighed. History she could get, just about. Symbolic art she couldn’t. And if she didn’t finish soon, the cartoons on children’s TV would be replaced by something boring. Pushing the homework as far across the table as possible and laying her head on her arm, she scrawled a thought next to one of the arrows and then gave up.

Mum returned to examine progress, preparing her ‘in my day we had proper homework’ speech and looked down at the label pointing at good Queen Bess with her hand on a globe. Jane had written ‘she liked jography’.

We could almost feel the seismic response working its way through our mother’s system. The only thing stopping her from yelling immediately was the fact that she didn’t know whether to start on history, laziness or spelling. She had just worked up enough steam to open her mouth when Dad came home early from work.

‘I’ve bought another house,’ he said.

Mum’s mouth shut, opened again, shut again. After a pause she choked out, ‘what do you mean you bought another house?’

‘Well, it’s more of a holiday cottage,’ said Dad. ‘It needs a bit of doing up.’

Mum peered round at the ancient anaglypta that Dad had tried to remove and then painted over in two shades of blue (going round the furniture rather than moving it) and the bit of plastering he’d started but not quite finished and finally in the general direction of the lean-to which was leaking yet again, despite all Dad’s attempts to fix the roof. If that moment had been frozen as a picture with arrows and labels explaining things, I suspect all the comments would have been very rude.

‘Everything will be fine,’ Dad said. ‘It’ll be an investment. We can let the cottage out. Besides, it’ll be good for the girls. Fresh air, countryside, wildlife, history and -’ he added as an aside to us, ‘pirate gold.’

‘Pirate gold?’ Jane and I breathed.

‘It’s right by the beach. There are caves. It’s Cornwall. Bound to be pirate gold.’

I often wonder how my mother’s eyes never got worn out from all the rolling.

A month later, we went to Cornwall.

By the time we got there, our senses were on overload. Four hours of trailing through country lanes had made us stiff. We had taken Harlequin the cat with us and she sat on our laps in turn. When Dad cornered too sharply, she anchored herself with her claws. Dad’s efforts to install a radio meant there was a hole with a draught and lots of dodgy loose wires in the dashboard. We were thus reduced to making our own entertainment. Dad had sung his way through the entire contents of the 1956 Youth Hostellers’ Association song book about three times. We joined in to start with and then simply sat back and suffered. Dad, I should point out, was tone deaf. 

Jane and I discussed the cottage. We decided it would be white, with a thatched roof and roses round the door. The sea would be just a few yards away and when it stopped raining, we’d go down to our own private beach and swim before treasure-hunting in the caves. The sitting room would have window seats. We would each have our own bedroom with a sloping ceiling where we could pretend to be Anne of Green Gables.

Mum broke into our thoughts as the car splashed through another huge puddle. ‘It does have a functioning kitchen and bathroom, doesn’t it?’ she said as if that sort of thing was important.

Dad, as perhaps you can tell, had never got round to showing us any details.

‘Oh, it’ll be fine,’ said Dad, backing up a lane to let someone else go through for the four millionth time.

It was early evening and still pouring, when half an hour after that, we met the cottage.

‘I thought you said it needed just a bit of doing up,’ said Mum.

‘It’ll look better in the sunshine,’ said Dad.

‘Will it really?’

There are some things that whitewash can’t cover up and this was one of them. The cottage looked as if had been thrown together from grey lumps of rock without the use of a plumb line and each stone was fighting to escape back to the quarry. The windows were grimy. The roses round the door looked diseased and overgrown. They were whipping round in the wind and rain on a loose trellis as if they wanted to pull the house down on purpose. The gables were green. Or perhaps more accurately, they were mossy.

‘Chop chop,’ said Dad, handing us stuff to take inside. Jane and I exchanged glances. Most of it seemed to be camping equipment. Juggling a large box and a struggling cat, Dad unlocked the door and let us in. Harlequin jumped down and vomited on the cracked lino. 

It improved the smell of damp.

‘Right,’ said Dad, ‘this way.’ He led us into a small bright room. It had a table. Otherwise, there were just spaces where a cooker and fridge should have been. He rummaged in the box for a camping stove, a kettle and a container of water. ‘While we’re waiting for that to boil, we’ll have a look around.’

‘You said this place had a functioning kitchen,’ said Mum.

‘What’s wrong with this? It’s got a roof and walls. Don’t you remember all the fun we’ve had cooking on camp stoves? It’ll be fine.’

‘Bathroom?’

‘Weeeelll,’ he indicated my box. I opened it to find the dreaded camping bucket with the loo seat.

My mother was not a swearing woman, but I thought she might finally break her rule at that point.

We started the tour.

What seemed to be the sitting room was large but very dark: overhead lights producing less illumination than a birthday cake candle. The grubby ceiling’s black rafters seemed to get lower the longer we stayed under them. Things dropped onto our heads.

‘We’ll just pop back to the kitchen and make something to eat,’ said Dad. ‘You girls go and explore upstairs. Maybe we’ll have a nice Spanish omelette.’

Jane and I exchanged a glance. Our friends said Spain was wonderful but we’d been put off by the thought that Dad’s Spanish omelette, which comprised undercooked potato, onion with bits of peel on, eggs burnt on one side and raw on the other with the occasional bit of shell for extra crunch summed up Spanish cuisine. 

I’ll make something to eat,’ said Mum. ‘You find something to drink.’

With some foreboding, Jane and I went upstairs. A creaky flight of steps led up to four bedrooms. Sloping ceilings abounded, so did peeling floral wall paper and threadbare curtains. From the biggest room, we looked down onto the sea which crashed and slammed against the beach as if it was trying to eat its way towards us. 

We went back out onto the landing. There was some sort of pointless cupboard with a warped, vomit green door between two of the bedrooms and opposite, a much smaller, even more pointless cupboard embedded in the thick wall of the house itself. Masses of cobweb stretched right across its small brown door. A large spider sat in the middle. It was hard to be sure if the web was trembling from the draught or the spider was stamping its feet in warning.

Above us tiles rattled and a steady drip had made a puddle on the thin carpet. 

At the end of the landing was another door. Varnish had been applied in streaks and lumps, congealing as it ran down in dark trickles. As Jane reached to open the door, Harlequin, whom I’d been carrying, hissed, squirmed out of my arms and shot downstairs.

‘Shall I get Dad?’ I suggested but Jane was made of sterner stuff. She pushed at the door. Nothing happened. 

‘Come on Laura,’ she said. ‘Help me.’ She grabbed my hand and forced it onto the handle.

‘You don’t want to go in there,’ said a deep, warm voice behind us.

We both jumped and spun round. There was no-one there. 

‘Perhaps we should go back downstairs,’ whispered Jane.

A plate smashed in the kitchen followed by a muffled exchange. It sounded bad-tempered.

‘Oh don’t leave me,’ said the voice.

A breath of warm air wafting round our ankles made us look down. Out of the small, pointless, cobwebby cupboard poked a dark green snout.

‘Don’t go away just yet,’ said a dragon. ‘I haven’t had anyone to talk to for decades. Come and make friends.’

 

END OF PART ONE

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Words and photograph copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Treasure Hunters – Part Two

 

 

Murder Britannica – Book Launch

‘I’ve written up everything that just happened.’

Anguis scratched a long fingernail down the shorthand.

‘I think you may have misspelled that bit,’ he said, handing over two denarii. ‘I think you should have written “Today we saw a wonderful classical Greek tragedy in one act”.’

‘But I want my art to reflect truth.’

‘Very noble,’ said Anguis, ‘but I think you’ll find fiction pays better. Have another denarius.’”

OK so the ebook went live yesterday and the paperback a week ago, but as I have been away on a training course, I wasn’t able to update this website.

Murder Britannica started as a paragraph and over a couple of years and with a few rethinks turned into a book.

This could be the book for you if

  1. you like murder mysteries that don’t take themselves too seriously.
  2. want a book to make you laugh, make you gasp and make you say ‘ahh’ at the odd bit of romance (‘odd’ being the operative word).
  3. you like old-fashioned murder mysteries where there are lots of bodies but justice is done (sort of).
  4. you like a historical setting with a modern take.
  5. you like to think the Ancient Britons got more out of Rome than the Romans got out of Ancient Britain.
  6. you like strong female characters who aren’t content just to be there to support the male characters.
  7. you wonder what the area North of Cardiff just might have been like in AD190 (it probably wasn’t, so any scholars out there might need to take a deep breath and suspend their disbelief – go on – read it – it’ll be fun anyway).
  8. You want to know who Anguis is.

Why Roman Britain? Actually originally it was supposed to take place in Rome, but as the story grew, I realised it would be more fun to set it somewhere I knew, among Britons trying to eke the most benefit from being part of the Roman Empire without necessarily giving away anything of their Britishness they didn’t want to. I have always loved history in general and, perhaps because of my own heritage, the interplay of invasion and empire that is part of my own culture. But…. Murder Britannica is neither serious nor literal. If you want to know what’s recorded about life in Roman Britain don’t look at my book. If you want to imagine what could have happened if someone hadn’t tidied up the records to make them politically correct (as in the quotation above), then read my book!

For reasons which have long since escaped me, I took Latin A level (at 18 years old) when I probably should have taken History or Spanish. The actual option to do so was fairly rare in a comprehensive even then so I grabbed the chance. I was in a class of three and just about scraped a pass. My A Level Latin teacher (easily side-tracked into talking about current affairs as the two of us who were less conscientious frantically finished our homework) used to despair at my ability to have two choices in translation and unerringly pick the wrong one. (I thought of this when I sat a multiple choice paper this morning in which I had four things to choose from. Fortunately none of them were in Latin, and I managed to pass with a bit more than a scrape.)

My O Level (taken at 16 years old) Latin teacher was impossible to side-track. She once threw me out of the lesson for coughing too much and I ended up standing outside the class room in what was effectively a covered walkway looking into an open courtyard as the ‘old block’ was built in the same shape as a cathedral cloister without the charm or antiquity. All along the walkways were various ne’er-do-wells, disobedient, insolent malcontents, chucked out of English or Maths or Geography or whatever for being rude or noisy or obstructive or disruptive. They were known faces, boys (mostly) whom you avoided at all costs because it was safer that way in case they thought you were ‘looking at them funny’. (Actually the girls were more frightening.) And then there was me, one of the swots chucked out of the Latin class for coughing. Mortifying. I was especially annoyed because we had got to an interesting part of the life of a fictional man called Caecillius (I think), the son of a freed man living in Pompeii just before it erupted and I missed it.

Perhaps the roots of this story go back that far. Perhaps they don’t. At heart, Murder Britannica is about a family and I’ve got one of a family. Mine is a lot more functional than the family in Murder Britannica perhaps, but Murder Britannica has, among other characters, a mother-in-law (tick), a rather dippy sister (tick), a couple of teenagers (double tick) and a gladiator (well OK I haven’t got one of those). What’s not to like?

Check it out. See what you think. Just don’t tell my Latin teachers.

MB Cover 7

Words and photograph (book cover created using Photoshop Elements, Natanael Game Cinzo font from Fontsquirrel and Image ‘Ancient Roman Mosaic of Young Woman’ courtesy of Dreamstime Neil Harrison ) copyright 2018 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the authors and material may not be copied without the authors’ express permission.

Click here to buy Murder Britannica