Sweet Vengeance

Sweet Vengeance

A short story by Harriet Young

AI generated artwork for Sweet Vengeance

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A crime of passion, that was what they were calling it. A woman scorned. And on the face of it, that was what it seemed to be. All of the evidence pointed to it – the messages to the other woman, the reports of furious rows, the neighbourly gossip about what a nice man he had been, what a difficult woman she had been, who could blame him. This was more than corroborated by the wife herself, who had been deeply unpleasant to everyone who had been unlucky enough to be in contact with her.

But something still didn’t sit right.

Flo eased the key into the lock, glancing left and right down the dark street. There was silence, in the way there can only be at 3am. Inside, darkness. Flo tried the light switch – nothing. They must have cut the electricity. She took her torch from a coat pocket, the thin ray of light illuminating the room.

No one had been inside for months and everything had been cleared out, but the scent hung in the air. A sickly sweet smell of royal icing, sugar roses, vanilla sponge. A memory of the first time she had been in the shop rose unbidden to her mind’s eye. The beautiful display of wedding cakes with their tiers and flowers and golden sashes defaced by the angry blood splatters, Ray Hammond lying face up on the floor with his eyes frozen in horror, his throat a mess of slick crimson. 

Now, the surfaces were clean and empty. There was nothing to suggest it had been a wedding cake shop at all. Nothing apart from that lingering smell.

Flo moved over to the spot where the body had been found. Another flash of a memory hit her; Ray, splayed, the blood. She shook it away. There was nothing to be seen now apart from a very well scrubbed patch of floor.

Flo crouched, knelt back on her heels and took out her phone. She located the file she’d emailed to herself, opened the attachment and began to flick through the photos. There was the evidence, every bit of it pointing at Ray’s wife, Jean. The paring knife usually used for trimming icing but most recently used for slicing a jugular, the fingerprints – everywhere, though that wasn’t surprising in her shop, the sweet daisy earring found just beside Ray’s body. So why was it that Flo had this nagging feeling?

 She zoomed in on the photo of the paring knife, examining every millimetre. As she stared at the incomplete (and unreadable) fingerprint on the tip, her phone began to ring, the sound shocking in the tight silence. She fumbled to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hello? Ma’am? It’s D. C. Wideacre. Sorry to wake you, but there’s been a development in the work permit case.”

Shit.

“Go on, John.”

“You’ll want to be here for this. We’ve got someone under caution, interviewing in the next half hour. Can I tell the captain you’ll be here?”

The very last thing she needed. Her mind wanted to be here, poring over the crime scene, not in a dingy interview room talking about work permits. She sighed.

“Yes, but I’ll be a little while. Send me everything you’ve got and keep me up to date with the questioning.”

“Sure thing. See you soon.”

Almost immediately, her phone alerted her to a new email. It looked like they had arrested a woman with a false work permit. The electronic work permit itself was attached – she opened it and immediately saw the problem. It had been granted on the basis of her English spouse, and his name was Grant Owen. This must be the twentieth work permit that had turned up in this small town with a spouse named Grant Owen. It was suspicious, sure, but Flo was too distracted by the Ray Hammond case.

She decided to give herself fifteen minutes before heading to the station. She brought up the video of the first interview with Jean and listened to her chillingly calm voice admitting to murder, a heart-shaped smudge of blood still sitting on her left cheekbone. It looked so cut and dry. But why did something feel off?

Flo ran her fingers over the counter where the till once was, pacing back and forth across the room. Nothing new came to her and, reluctantly, she accepted it was time to leave.

Almost as soon as she had begun her drive to the station, her phone – connected to the car’s handsfree system – rang again.

“John? I’m on my way. Is there a development?”

“Yes, ma’am. There is.” He sounded defeated somehow, his energy sapped.

“Go ahead.”

“It’s bigger than we thought. This Grant Owen, or whatever his real name is, he’s a genuine person. He married them somehow. They paid him, the women, and not only that.” He paused.

“What else?” Flo prompted.

“He made sure the marriages were consummated. Even if the women didn’t want to.” He sounded disgusted, and Flo mirrored his feelings. She felt a renewed interest in the case, a drive to catch this man.

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Flo parked up and half ran through the dark station to Interview Room A. Wideacre was waiting outside, looking morose behind his round glasses.

“There you are ma’am. Selina’s in the room. That’s her name. She knows you’re coming. She’s upset, but I think she’ll give us more. Anything to catch this bastard, right?”

“Right.”

Flo gritted her teeth, took a deep breath and walked into the interview room.

“Selina? I’m Flo. Good to meet you.” Flo extended her hand to the woman sitting across the table. A petite, dark-haired woman with a tattoo snaking up the left side of her face. Piercings in her nose, lip and several in her ears. She wore two pairs of hooped earrings and an extra stud in her left auricle. A small stud. Shaped like a daisy. A sweet daisy.

Discovering the Real Pendle Witches

In August 1612, the Pendle witch trials took place in Lancaster, Lancashire. 80 years before the notorious Salem witch trials, these trials against a group of people from a remote area of Northern England set precedents that stretched all the way to Massachusetts and beyond.

My debut novel, The Hellion, is based on some of those who found themselves accused during the trials.

The People Behind the Pendle Witch Trials

Much information is available about the political history of the trials. The king at the time, the lawmakers, the prosecutors and the scribes are all well known and well documented. What is often overlooked in stories of horror such as this one is the victims. The people who lost their lives are overshadowed by the power balance.

It’s natural (though frustrating) that we wouldn’t know as much about these people as we do about the men at the the top of the pile. Often illiterate, certainly without access to record makers, the poor of Pendle would have lived their lives in utter obscurity compared to the ruling classes in London, and even Lancashire.

However, we are lucky – in a way – that such comprehensive records were kept of the trials themselves. From these, we know the names of the accused, where they lived, who they were related to, and – from the often heated exchanges – an idea of their characters.

Malkin Tower and the Devices

Some of the accused lived in a home called Malkin Tower. This gives us an immediate insight into them and how they lived. Although it may sound grand, Malkin Tower was a nickname. Malkin was an old word meaning slovenly or slatternly, and the ‘Tower’ part was likely a joke. The fact that the house had been given this name, that it was widely used – even in official court documents – suggests that it was somewhat infamous. The occupants stated that it was their address – did they encourage the use of the name?

As well as this, we learn a little about what they were like from the things they said in court. From a combative and well-worded speech given in defence, to a sorrowful and genuine confession of guilt, when we read carefully we can find out what they were like, and what they thought of the charges brought against them.

When we take these reactions and consider them within the wider religious and cultural background, we can ascertain much more about their lives.

Reading About the Pendle Witches

It was an honour to research some of the accused for The Hellion. To learn about their lives, and imagine how they may have lived, was a privilege. You can find The Hellion for sale on the Book Depository (for worldwide free delivery), Amazon (for the paperback, ebook and audiobook), and any other good bookshop. You can also request it from your local independent bookshop.

If you liked this, you can buy me a coffee by making a donation below. No pressure and it is certainly not expected, but each donation gives me the sweet caffeine I need to carry on writing. Thank you!

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Requests for interviews, discussions, book club meets, signings etc are welcomed. I’d love to hear from you- just enter your details below. Looking forward to hearing from you!

The Hellion Launch Party

You are invited!

The Hellion is officially released on 15th April, and I am planning a virtual launch party to celebrate. It’s not the launch party I had hoped for (though I will be arranging a physical one when restrictions allow!) but it would still be fantastic to come together with you to mark the occasion.

The details:

Date: 15th April 2021

Time: 7pm BST

Link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/75726903894?pwd=SFowYS9Sb21UNDVpZko2OFAvdW1Udz09

Meeting ID: 757 2690 3894
Passcode: 233433

Nitty gritty: anyone and everyone is invited, so feel free to pass the link on to anyone who you think may enjoy it. You don’t need to have read the book (there won’t be any spoilers!), you don’t even need to own it (though if you do want a copy for launch day you can get one here).

The party will last for around 45 minutes (full schedule to be decided, but it won’t be any longer than this). Glasses of champagne are encouraged, snacks optional. Cameras can be on or off, whatever you’re most comfortable with.

I can’t wait to see you there!

The Hellion by Harriet Young – Updates, News and Reviews

The Hellion author Harriet Young

The Hellion will be released on 15th April, and as the publication date gets ever closer, I thought it would be a good idea to share some updates and info.

The Hellion is the story of the Device family, who lived in the shadow of Pendle Hill and were haunted by the whisper of witchcraft. Read the full blurb here. It is being published by Unbound Publishers, and is currently available to preorder from most major bookshops (links below).

News

The launch party is in the planning stages right now! This will be an online party on the 15th April, with details to be announced shortly. It will be open to anyone, and details will be announced on my Instagram (@thesenovelthoughts) and through the blog soon. If you would like to sign up to receive an email invitation, please enter your email address below.

There will also be a short FAQ session as part of the party, so if you have any questions you would like answering (about me, the book, the publishing process, anything!), pop them in the box below and I will answer as many as I can on the day.

The physical launch party will be going ahead as soon as COVID restrictions allow, so stay tuned for updates.

Reviews

“I absolutely loved this book, it had me gripped from the beginning and I could not put it down until I finished it.” Alison – Goodreads

Reviews for The Hellion are starting to trickle through online, and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who takes the time to rate or review The Hellion. Reviews are vital for authors, and every review you leave helps to spread visibility and bookish love. Thank you!

If you would like to leave a review, here are some popular places to do so:

Goodreads – free to set up an account

Amazon – you don’t need to have bought the book from Amazon to leave a review on there

The StoryGraph – an awesome website which will track your reading too

LoveReading – sign up to add books to your bookshelf

Updates

If you’re keen to read The Hellion right now, the audiobook is available to listen to. It’s narrated by Melanie Crawley, and you can find it on scribd, audible, Google play, and many more.

The paperback and ebook are available to preorder from a variety of places including:

Waterstones

W H Smith

Book Depository

Blackwell’s

Wordery

Bookshop.org

Amazon

Unbound

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Ah, now this is exactly the sort of book I love to pick up. A creepy, energetic thriller with just the right balance of horror, intrigue and fantasy.

The beginning of the novel was similar to many haunted house stories – a young woman must visit an old house in the middle of nowhere. When she arrives, she discovers that it is decrepit, mouldy and its occupants decidedly odd. There are silent servants, lecherous men and a cousin who is acting anything but normal.

The protagonist is Noemi, a character that you can’t help rooting for. She is bright and fun and the perfect antithesis to the bleak surroundings, high in the mountains where the mist is a constant companion.

About halfway through, the plot veers away from that of a traditional haunted house tale and becomes something very different. It surprised me, but I loved it. The plot is imaginative and brave, and I am now looking up Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other books (Gods of Jade and Shadow next, I think!)

You can find Mexican Gothic here.

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Still Life by Sarah Winman

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Ah, what a joy this book was to read. I absorbed it slowly, savouring every word and getting to know the sweet characters within.

Still Life is the story of Ulysses, a soldier turned globe maker, and Evelyn, a delightfully witty art historian and lecturer. They are generations apart in age, but their respect for one another is one of the key themes in this book.

Set mostly in Florence, I enjoyed every single one of the hours I spent on an Italian terrace as I made my way through the story. We stay mainly with Ulysses, but also grow to know and love his rag tag group of friends who make the move from London to Italy with him.

The book begins in the Second World War, and spans decades. I eventually adored every character, with all their nuances – there was not one I disliked, and I grieved for them when I closed the last page.

There is great depth to Still Life, with many layers of meaning, but the one that struck me most of all was the fleeting nature of life. Of the snapshots that you remember as time follows its unrelenting path, and the memories and people you treasure along the way. Of the fact that, at the same time, you are tiny and insignificant in this universe and enormous and vital in someone else’s world.

Pick up this book, and fall in love.

You can get a copy here – it’s out on June 10th. Thank you to 4th Estate for sending me an advance review copy.

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

When I heard that a new book by Kazuo Ishiguro was being released, I was extremely excited. I love Never Let Me Go (you can read my review of that book here), and had very high hopes for Klara and the Sun. My excitement was just tinged with a hint of concern that perhaps it could not live up to those expectations.

Well, I am delighted to announce that it did. As always, the depth of detail in Ishiguro’s world was incredible. Klara and the Sun focuses on an artificially intelligent being who is sold as a companion to a child. I won’t say much more about the contents, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone wanting to read it, but I was blown away by the insights into how an artificially intelligent robot might think. You are party to the learning process, as she becomes more socially aware following exposure to varying events. There are countless curiosities – what would a solar powered robot think of the sun? How would a robot’s programming affect what it thought about humans, their emotions and the hierarchy of problems they may have?

As with Never Let Me Go, you do not get any more information than Klara herself has. This naturally leaves many questions unanswered at the end of the book – which is frustrating but, equally, perfect.

I found the novel intensely moving, thought provoking and a genuinely delightful way to spend a weekend. Highly recommended.

You can get a copy of Klara and the Sun here.

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Sharing A New Writing Challenge – 1,000 Happy Thoughts

Sharing A New Writing Challenge – 1,000 Happy Thoughts

Writing challenges always appeal to me. They’re great for keeping the creative juices flowing.

I decided – well, actually, I didn’t decide at all. The challenge appeared, fully-formed, in front of me and I didn’t really have any choice. I’m excited about it, and I’d love you to join in too.

1,000 Happy Thoughts by Harriet Young

1,000 Happy Thoughts

The premise is simple. It’s about sharing positivity, in as simple or as complex a way as you choose. The great thing is that you can join in any way you want to, taking up as much or as little time as you want it to.

The idea is to share a happy thought each day, to take a few minutes to appreciate the wonderful things – however big or small. Essentially, it’s a gratitude journal, but one we can share. To make it a community, we can use #1000happythoughts on Instagram. I’ll be browsing through the hashtag and sharing whenever I can.

1,000 may seem like a lot. I considered 365 – one a day for a year. But there are so many things to be happy about that it seems wrong to limit it. Let’s keep it going for as long as we can! I may well fall out of the habit at times. Please feel free to kick me back into it.

Here’s how I will be participating:

    Each day, I will be writing my brief ‘happy thought’.
    I’ll share it on my Wattpad here: https://w.tt/3sdpI5w – there are two there already so please do check them out to get an idea of what it’s all about, and follow to help me accountable!
    I’ll also share the link on my stories using #1000happythoughts

Here’s what you could do:

  • Share your happy thoughts on Instagram with #1000happythoughts
  • Comment your happy thoughts on my Wattpad (through the link above)
  • Write them on a blackboard, in the sand, anywhere! The value is in the doing.

Getting Started

If you’d like to join in, it would be amazing to have you. You can start sharing whenever you like, and you can share as many happy thoughts as you like each day. There is only one rule – that we share 1,000 happy thoughts. The when and where and how are completely and utterly up to you.

It’d be wonderful to have you following along on my Wattpad if you are interested. The more the merrier! Here’s the link again: https://w.tt/3sdpI5w

Any questions, comments or suggestions? Let me know! This is a challenge for anyone who wants to spread and feel a little positivity. I would love for you to join in too ❤️

Birthday Book Haul

Birthday Book Haul

I wasn’t able to head to any exciting book shops or restaurants or bars for my birthday this year (and I usually like to spend my birthday PROPERLY enjoying myself), so a little retail therapy was certainly on the cards.

I do love collecting books. The ones I bought will add to some of my favourites sets. I did want to purchase one other book that I’ve had my eye on for a while – Mexican Gothic. However, my process is that I purchase newer releases (read: anything that’s not a classic) second hand, and I then pass them on to friends and family when I’ve read them. Mexican Gothic seems to be too new at the moment for me to pick up a second hand copy online, so I’ll just have to wait.

So, here we go, my birthday books:

Wuthering Heights, leatherbound and clothbound classic books

1. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald

A beautiful Barnes and Noble leatherbound edition by one of my favourite authors. I love collecting these big, chunky books and I adore the quality- it’s exceptional.

You can find it here.

2. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

I have multiple editions of this book – my favourite novel. When I spotted this one, I had to get it. It’s a Puffin Clothbound Classic and a jewel in my collection.

You can get a copy here.

The next books are all Penguin clothbound classics. I strive to finish this collection, though they keep publishing beautiful new ones!

3. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole (can be found here).

4. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (get it here).

5. Animal Farm – George Orwell (available here).

I’m so pleased with this little stack. I’m already looking forward my next birthday!

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What I Read This Month – January 2021 Edition

What I Read This Month – January 2021 Edition

Stack of blue classic books with espresso cups and tea cups

One good thing does come from lockdown; reading more books. I thought I’d share with you the books I read in January and what I thought of them. A slight caveat to begin – I have been researching cults for some writing, and this dictated most of my choices! However, if you’re interested in cults then this could well be the reading month for you.

I finished 4 books which I was happy with; I generally try to get through one a week.

Book 1 – In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park

What a great way to start a new year’s reading journey. This book was simply astonishing. It documents the true story of Yeonmi Park’s escape from North Korea, and what happened to her afterwards. This book will stay with me for a very, very long time. The chapters sharing her life as a child in North Korea were awful, but unsurprising- full of hunger, illness and an impossible political system. It was what occurred after she escaped over the border with her mother that truly shocked me. I think, like many, I had heard of North Korean defectors and assumed that, once they were free, they were safe. I was wrong on both counts. Yeonmi Park and her mother were neither free nor safe as undocumented refugees in China. I won’t share what happened to them here, but I urge you to pick up this book and read her harrowing, inspirational journey yourself.

You can find a copy of this book here.

Book 2 – Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk

My second book of the month was Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. Keeping in with the cult theme, this is a fast-paced and wild yarn about the last survivor of a suicide cult. As you would expect from Palahniuk, this story investigates the darkest corners of the human condition whilst remaining completely character-focused and utterly readable. I enjoyed it, it had some seriously quotable phrases, but I already find it slipping from my memory. It’s not a book that hit me, you know?

You can get this book here.

Book 3 – A Game Of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

Sometimes you need some pure escapism. I’ve watched the series multiple times and enjoy it. My husband gave me the full box set of the books for Christmas and I thought I’d get stuck in. The series follows this first book very faithfully, so it was an easy read. It was lovely (if that is the correct word to describe a book like this…) to revisit these characters and I spent several happy hours in Westeros. I won’t explain what it’s about because, well, I’m sure you already know.

Get yourself a copy here.

Book 4 – Underground – Haruki Murakami

Ok, I was very divided by this one. The book is a series of interviews conducted by Murakami with survivors of the Tokyo underground terrorist attacks in 1995. The interviews themselves were fascinating. The layout, with different people who experienced the same attack and their contradictory memories, was great. Murakami’s input, however, was jarring. In the introduction, he laid out his efforts to contact survivors. He noted that many women declined, and said that this was probably because the men in their families wouldn’t want them to be interviewed. Of course, I found that angering. Then, prior to an interview with a woman, he described (in great detail) her attractiveness, how men would like her and how she was young enough to be his daughter. The men he clearly admired were described in terms of being controlling, in charge of their families. I understand that a lot of time has passed since this book was written, but I found his attitude towards women to be awful, and it completely distracted from the content of the book.

If you still somehow want a copy, you can get one here!

There you are – my January reads! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them?

Looking ahead to February, I have a few exciting books on my radar, but I may well read less (due to the very exciting fact that my debut novel The Hellion is being released in a few short weeks…!)