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Blood Sisters (Romans) de Jane Corry

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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2018 Jane Corry 1September 2016Alison Careful. It’s not the size that counts. It’s the sharpness. And the angle. The blade must sing. Not scratch.I hold the piece of blue glass up to the window light. It’s the same color as the type you occasionally see in bottles lining the shelves of old-fashioned pharmacies. A nice clean cut. No sharp bits that need trimming, which is always tricky. So easy to get splinters of glass in your skin or on your clothes.Or in your mind.Now for the acid test. Does the glass fit the lead outline? My heart always starts to beat wildly at this stage, as though it’s a matter of life or death. Silly, really, but that’s how it feels. After getting this far, you don’t want to get it wrong.“Would you mind helping me with this, Mrs. Baker?”“Actually, it’s miss,” I say, looking up from my demo piece. “And please, call me Alison.”A new student stands in front of me. He’s substantial without being  chunky—six foot one and a half, at a guess, and three inches or so taller than me.As a child, I was teased mercilessly for being the tallest in the class. I did my best to shrink, but it didn’t work. “Stand up straight,” my mother would plead. She meant well, but all I wanted to do was blend in, not to be  noticed—to hide my slightly overlarge nose, my thick-framed mud brown glasses and my braces. My perfectly put-together sister, on the other hand, had that gift of innate confidence that made her naturally poised.Nowadays, I’ve learned there are some advantages to my height. You can carry off clothes that others can’t, or put on a pound or two without it showing. Yet, every time I pass my reflection in a mirror or shop window, I am reminded to push back those offending shoulders.“Alison?” I am jolted back to the present.The man asking the question is—at a guess—in his mid- to-late thirties like me. The more the years go by, the less I want to give out an exact figure. It makes me panic about the things I thought I’d have done by now and that somehow haven’t happened.In fact, this is the one place where maturity doesn’t matter. It’s the steadiness of the hand that counts. Making stained glass windows might seem like an innocuous craft, but accidents happen.“I can’t quite remember, Alison, what you said about stretching the lead.”The man’s voice is deep as it slices through my thoughts. Not many men sign up for these weekly courses I run at the local college. When this particular student arrived at the first session last week, I felt an instant fluttering of unease.It’s not just the way he keeps staring. Or his intelligent questions. Or the confident manner in which he scores his glass, even though it’s a beginners’ class. Or his  name—Clive Black, which has an authoritative abruptness. Nor is it even the way he said “Alison” just now, as though he found it intriguing rather than everyday.It’s all of these things. And something else, too, that I can’t put a finger on. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust my instinct. And it’s telling me, right now, to watch out.Wearing my protective gloves, I pick up a thin, slightly twisted piece of lead, about a foot long. It always reminds me of a strand of silver licorice, the type my sister and I used to buy from the corner shop on the way back from school.Swiftly, I hand Clive a pair of pliers. “Take one piece—the flat edge of the pliers needs to be on  top—and pull. I’ll do the same at the other end. Lean forward. That’s right.”“Amazing how it doubles in length!” he says in awe.“Incredible, isn’t it?” breathes someone else as the class gathers round. I love this bit. Excitement is catching.I pick up a different trimming knife. The funny thing is that I’ve been clumsy ever since childhood, yet this is the one area where I never falter.“Next, we’ll wiggle the blade from side to side and then push down,” I say. “Anyone want to try?”I address my question deliberately to a horsey-faced woman who has been in several of my courses. Once, she even offered to leave a positive review on my Facebook page and was distinctly disappointed when I confessed to not having one. “Don’t you need it to publicize your work?” she’d asked incredulously.I’d shrugged casually in an attempt to hide the real reason. “I manage without it.”Class is ending now, but the man with the deep voice— Clive—is still lurking.In my experience, there’s always a May I ask a final question? student who doesn’t want to go. But this one is unnerving me.“I was just wondering,” he says. Then he stops for a minute, his eyes darting to the blank space on my wedding ring finger. “Are you hungry, by any chance?”He laughs casually, as if aware he is being slightly too forward on the strength of a short acquaintance in which I am the teacher and he is the pupil. “I don’t know about you,” he adds, “but I didn’t have time to eat anything after work before coming here.”His hand reaches into his pocket as he talks. Sweat breaks out round my neck. Then he brings out a watch and glances at it. The face appears to have a Disney cartoon on it. I’m both relieved and intrigued.But not enough to accept his invitation.“Thanks,” I say lightly, “but I’m expected back at home.”He looks disappointed. “OK. I understand.”Turning round, I tidy up the spare glass offcuts, putting one of them away for later.On paper, Clive seems like someone my mother would approve of. Nice manners. Seemingly educated. A man of means, judging from his well-cut jacket. A good head of light brown hair, flicked back off a wide forehead.“Maybe you’re being too choosy,” my mother is always saying, albeit kindly. “Sometimes, you have to take a risk in life, darling. Mister Right can come in all shapes and forms.”Was this how she’d felt about marrying my father? I’m stung by that familiar pang of loss. If only he was still here.Clive has gone now. All I want to do is go back to my flat in Elephant and Castle, put on some Ella Fitzgerald, knock up a tinned tuna salad, take a hot shower to wash out the day, then curl up on the sofa with a good book and try to forget that the rent is due next week.Peeling off my rubber gloves, I wash my hands carefully in the corner sink. Then, slipping on my fluffy blue mohair thrift store cardigan, I make my way downstairs, pausing at reception to hand in the classroom key. “How’s it going?” asks the woman at the desk.I put on my cheerful face. “Great, thanks. You?”She shrugs. “Fine. I’ve got to rearrange the noticeboard. Someone’s just dropped this off. Not sure that anyone will be interested. What do you think?”I read the poster.WANTED: ARTIST IN RESIDENCE FOR HMP ARCHVILLE (A MEN’S OPEN PRISON). ONE HOUR FROM CENTRAL LONDON. THREE DAYS A WEEK. TRAVEL EXPENSES PAID. COMPETITIVE REMUNERATION.APPLICATIONS TO [email protected] My skin breaks out into goose bumps.“You wouldn’t catch me in one of those places,” sniffs the receptionist. Her words bring me back to myself, and I fumble for a pen.“You’re not really interested, are you, Alison?”I continue writing down the e-mail address. “Maybe.”“Rather you than me.”The pros and cons whirl round in my head as I make my way out into the street. Steady income. Travel costs. Enough to stop me worrying over my bank balance every month. But I’ve never been inside a prison before, and the thought terrifies me. My mouth is dry. My heart is thumping. I wish I’d never seen the ad.I pass a park with teenagers smoking on the swings. One is laughing, head tossed back in a happy, carefree laugh. Just like my sister’s. For her, life was a ball. Me? I was the serious one. Earnest. Even before the accident, I remember a certain mysterious heaviness in my chest. I always wanted to make things right. To do the best I could in life. The word “conscientious” featured on every one of my school reports.But there are some things you can’t make right.“It wasn’t your fault,” my mother had said, time and time again. Yet, when I replay it in my mind, I keep thinking of things I could have done. And now it’s too late.I’m walking briskly through an evening market. Silk scarves flutter in the breeze. Turquoise. Pink. Primrose yellow. On the next stall, overripe tomatoes are going for 50p a bag. “You won’t get cheaper, love,” says the stallholder, who is wearing black fingerless gloves. I ignore him and take a left then a right. I go down a road of identical Victorian terraces with overflowing wheelie bins and beer bottles in the streets. Some homes here have curtains, while others have boarded-up windows. Mine has shutters.There are three name stickers by three bells: my landlord’s, the other tenant’s, and a blank—mine. I reach for my key and move into the main hall where the post is left. Nothing for me. The second key lets me into my ground-floor one-bedroom apartment. I’d have liked a room on the second floor, as it would have felt safer, but I couldn’t find one at the time, and I was desperate. Now I am used to it, although I always make sure the windows are locked before I leave the house.Shutting the door, I kick off my shoes and chuck my bag on to the secondhand beige Ikea sofa.The yearning starts inside me. Hurry. Fast. My hands dive down for the sliver of blue in my jacket pocket like an alcoholic might reach for the bottle. To think that something so small can do such damage!Today it’s the turn of my right wrist. Far enough from the artery, but deeper than yesterday’s. I gasp as the jagged edge scores my skin, and a dark thrill flashes through me followed by the pain. I need both.But it’s no good. It doesn’t hurt enough. Never does.For it’s the cuts we hide inside that really do the damage. They rub and they niggle and they bruise and they bleed. And as the pain and anxiety grow in your head, they become far more dangerous than a visible open wound. Until eventually, you have to do something.And now that time has come.

Revue de presse

“Blood Sisters is one of the most addictive books of 2018 so far. . . It’ll keep you guessing until the very end.” –HelloGiggles“Secrets are gradually revealed in a plot that twists to the very end. From the author of My Husband’s Wife, this is nicely sustained psychological suspense.” –Booklist“Gripping, intense and masterfully crafted.” –Bookreporter.com“Engrossing.” –Publishers WeeklyPraise for My Husband’s Wife:“Full of twists and turns, [My Husband’s Wife] draws you into its complicated world within the first chapter, and it doesn’t let you go until you’ve turned the final page. Corry’s talented storytelling and brilliant writing make even the most seemingly obvious aspects of the novel appear in surprising ways. A must-read book for fans of the kind of psychological thrillers that have been all the rage.” –Bustle ‘[My Husband’s Wife] nicely fits into the psychological suspense genre that’s riding a slipstream of popularity, thanks to the success of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. . . Addictive. . . [a] seemingly unending trove of delicious disasters and deceits.” –Washington Post “If you loved Gone Girl and The Talented Mr. Ripley, you’ll love My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry. It’s got every thriller’s trifecta: love, marriage and murder.” –Parade’Brilliant, original and complex, with a dark triangle at its center. A compelling thriller that kept me turning the pages until the end.’ –B.A. Paris, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors’Lies fester and multiply, undermining intimate relationships in this psychological thriller. Corry’s suspenseful debut novel is already a best-seller in the UK and is likely headed for similar success here.’ –Booklist (starred review)’A devilishly devious U.S. debut. . . this swiftly moving psychological thriller offers surprises right up to the finish.’ –Publishers Weekly

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