The Bridal Party by J G Murray
About The Book
Sometimes friendship can be murder..
It’s the weekend of Clarisse’s bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to.
Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in.
But, there is a surprise in store – Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won’t stay buried…
A hen party is everything that Clarisse and her best friends want, to have a few funny days enjoying their friendship before the big day… Sadly, the weekend starts badly when the maid of honour can not join them… They don’t know where are they going or which are the plans for the weekend, and when weird things start to happen they don’t know if they will survive the weekend. Ready for The Bridal Party?
I have to admit that in the beginning this book sounded familiar, some girls reunited and then something happens and they start fearing for their lived, but then when we start reading about the past and their friendship, everything starts to change. It had been a twisted story, you could discover some of the twists, but not the ending, this I can assure you.
I am always surprised on how some friendship can turn into a feud with a blink of an eye; these friends are not as “friendly” as they appear on the outside, they have a big secret and someone is ready to open the Pandora box to let the truth escape. The only question is, what price are they ready to pay to keep the truth hidden?
The story is told by one of Clarisse’s friends (she is the bride to be) Nada, she is normally the quiet one and doesn’t know how to react when things start to happen… On the other side, we will see some of Nada’s memories from the past; how they meet and their time together.
I don’t want to make any spoilers, so simply enjoy these haunted Bridal Party!
Do you want to know more? Here is a little extract to let you enter to the hen party…
The house was every bit as impressive as it looked from outside.
Tamsyn had forwarded instructions from the owner, and they’d spent a few minutes figuring out how to access the key box. But once the fumbling was over and they’d got in, it was immediately apparent that they were somewhere exceptional. It was the kind of place where you entered and forgot to do anything other than look around, and the girls quickly separated, drifting around the rooms and uttering sounds of awe across the halls to each other.
It was the sort of house that made you feel small: the corridors were long enough to swallow up the sound of your footsteps, and the stone walls seemed thick enough to hold another set of rooms inside them. Despite this, however, it was not forbiddingly grand or unwelcoming; there was a rustic quality to the décor that was comfortable and homely, with rich-oak furniture and thick rugs colouring a parquet floor.
Most promisingly, Nada found a large fire place in the living room. The sight brought a smile to her lips. Whenever she had imagined this weekend, she had pictured her best friends gathered around a fire, tipsy on wine.
“The setting for tonight’s revelries,” Gaia pointed out as she and Clarisse joined her, looking at the long sofas circling the fireplace.
“Revelries? Have you got something planned?” asked Clarisse with mock-suspicion.
“Oh please,” Nada said. “Gaia’s always got something up her sleeve, even on quiet nights.
God knows what she’s got in store for this weekend.”
“You don’t know the half of it. It’s going to be wicked.” Gaia’s eyes shined with excitement.
The words had their desired effect: Clarisse squirmed gleefully, happy with the promise of mischief. There was still the hint of sadness in her eyes, but she was playing her part well enough, and that was going to have to do for now.
Something caught Nada’s eye. “Well, that’s a bit weird,” she uttered.
Hanging on the wall, not far from the fireplace, was a painting. Nada had barely noticed at first; it had seemed to blend in with everything else in the house. But the more she looked at it, however, the more remarkable the picture became.
The first thing to that was noticeable about it was how dark it was. It was like the frame had been dipped into black paint, and only a yellow-and-green pool of colour in the middle survived. All around the edges was a mix of thunderclouds and black, tumultuous sea blurring into each other. In the centre, a horde of women were riding on horseback out of the sky, piercing through the clouds with a flash of sickly yellow. They were bare breasted, with robes flowing from their middles as they charged forward. The leader in the middle had a malicious grimace, her eyes full of rage as she readied her bow and arrow to fire. Underneath them was a crowd of panic-stricken women on a dark beach, fleeing for their lives, terror written across their features. Some of them already had arrows embedded in their backs and limbs, about to tumble onto the sand with their mouths agape.
“A bit creepy, isn’t it?” said Nada. “I mean, it’s completely out of place…”
“Apparently not,” answered Gaia, pointing at the bottom of the frame. It said The Wild Witch Hunt of Herodias, 1862.
“Isn’t that–” Nada began.
“The name of the house. Herodias.” Clarisse finished Nada’s sentence. Her voice was strangely quiet.
“So the house has been named after her?” Nada pointed at the warrior leading the hunt.
“Let’s google her,” offered Gaia.
“That’s a point—what’s the wi-fi here?”
Making their way back to the entrance hall, they found a folder with information for visitors.
Gaia took it and sat back down on a couch in the living room. She did one of her strange contortions
which she insisted was comfortable for her, with one leg curling around under the other. She was impossibly tall and gangly, but always seemed to find a way to contort herself into impossible positions.
Gaia flicked through the pages until it came to the section about the internet and pulled out her smartphone. “So it says that there’s no reception here, so visitors rely on the landline and wi-fi.
It says to log on to the “HerodiasGuest” network, but my phone can’t seem to find it. You?”
Clarisse and Nada took out their phones, but they couldn’t connect either. Gaia puffed in frustration, but put her phone away; Clarisse, however, kept her screen in front of her, her brows knitted, refreshing the network list again and again. “How is Tamsyn going to get back to us? What if she changes her mind and wants to come and join us?” she said, again in that quiet voice.
“Well, she knows where we are and what we’re doing more than anyone, right?” answered Gaia.
“Come on,” said Nada, suddenly conscious that too much time was being spent on the wi-fi and the painting. They were, after all, the only causes for concern in otherwise impeccable accommodation. Already, she could feel that the strain of constantly keeping the mood upbeat was tiring her, but she was determined not to let Clarisse slip. “Let’s go get our rooms. I can’t imagine the others will be long.”
Afreya and Elena had taken another car and had passed by a supermarket to stock up on food and booze. Soon they would be there, and the house would start to feel a little fuller. And Nada hoped, it would feel a little more festive too; right now the enormity of the place made it feel daunting, unknown. Like they didn’t quite belong there yet.
Clarisse nodded reluctantly, putting her phone away. They rose from the couches, and with one last glance at the painting, left.
The floor upstairs was labyrinthine, with sets of smaller rooms tucked away in every imaginable corner. They had to split apart again, exploring the set of bedrooms.
“I think I’ve found your room, Clarisse,” came Gaia’s voice from across the hall.
Nada and Clarisse came to her. Sure enough, this was the only candidate for the best bedroom of the house. The wide windows let in streams of light, and outside there was a view of the green Jersey hills, spotted with white cows There was also an en-suite bathroom, and the large, luxurious bed was coated with layer upon layer of unnecessary pillows.
“You’ll manage, right?” grinned Gaia.
Clarisse smiled. “I’ll find a way to cope,” she said. The words were clearly meant to be sarcastic, but they didn’t quite come out that way.
Nada walked up to the window. “You can see the sea from here,” she said, almost to herself.
Beyond the rolling greenery there was a ribbon of the grey sea. Upon arrival, when they’d bought coffee and rented their cars, it had been easy to pretend that they were in England still. But here, with the sea delineating the skyline, it was a stark reminder that London was a world away, on the other side of the horizon. It had been exactly why Tamsyn had picked Jersey, along with the fact that she’d grown up there and knew it well: it was far from the troubles of their everyday existence. And yet something in that sight made Nada’s insides squirm a little. She’d rarely been this far from home, or from her mum, and hadn’t been abroad in a long time.
Nada and Gaia left Clarisse to unpack and went to find their own bedrooms. Nada chose one that was relatively small and cooped-up, preferring that rather than having to share space with others. Gaia, with no such need for privacy, had opted for one of the larger twin rooms.
Nada brought her bag in and plugged her phone to charge. She then lay on the bed for a moment, enjoying the comfortably thick duvet under her back, and gave herself a moment to think.
The others would get here soon, and it was a time to snatch a moment of quiet before the celebrations began.
Nada let out a deep breath, and stared at the ceiling, listening to the odd breeze brush past her window, and the odd creak of floorboard from somewhere within the bones of the house.
Here it was, she thought.
The hen-do, at last.
It was hard to believe that the weekend was finally happening, after all these years of waiting. Clarisse had only been with her fiancé for a couple of years, but the first conversations they’d had about her hen-do dated from a few years ago, when Clarisse had just started her career as an English teacher.
It had been a lonely time for Nada. All of her university friends who’d done her teacher-training had moved forward, getting jobs in schools around London. She remembered meeting up with them, and all they’d been able to talk about was work: the discipline issues, the endless amount of marking and the differing degrees of Head Teacher lunacy.
It had been hard for Nada not to feel left behind. Getting her teaching certificate had failed to give her any confidence in her abilities. Every classroom she’d entered seem to threaten to plunge into chaos at any given moment, and it had always felt like the students were a pack of animals, waiting to pounce at any mistake she’d make. She’d never managed to find a way to establish herself, to have that that presence in front of students which other teachers seemed to have so naturally. When it had come to the point where they’d all started applying for jobs in the last stages of her training, Nada had unable to shake off the feeling that teaching wasn’t right for her. She’d
avoided applying, staring blankly at school websites with a vague uneasiness in her stomach.
It was then that she got the news that her mum had fallen ill. It had almost seemed like a sign. Her father had died many years ago, and, with no else around to help, a clear path had revealed itself to Nada. It had almost been a relief: she’d been able to put off thinking about her career without having to feel defensive and had filled her time with some low-key teaching assistant work and looking after her mum.
And it was in that time, where many of her friends had surged ahead, that Clarisse had reached out to her. A text, asking to meet up. A coffee in a Costa somewhere central. Nada remembered the taste of the foam on her lips, the bustle of important professional-looking people in the background.
She remembered Clarisse leaning in, and saying that she was thinking of getting married, but wasn’t sure if she should. That she had been seeing a man for a while now, but hadn’t told anyone.
A man called Noah.
Lying on the bed, Nada’s brows knitted into a frowned at the thought of him. Thankfully, Clarisse had ended up with someone else.
Thankfully, but thanks to who?
Nada wrestled out of the comforts of the bed and looked out of the window. Her room was facing the wood; the trees stood sentinel at the border of the lawn, as if itching to come closer.
Everything seemed to be shivering: the blades of glass, the branches of the trees. There was only a slight breeze, but it was enough to set the world on edge.
Nada took the scarf circling her shoulders and bunched it up more tightly around her neck.
Just a look outside was enough to make her feel cold. She looked at the woodland, with the odd leaf veering down from the branches.
I’d best get going, she thought. I promised Clarisse a drink.
Not that Nada had any desire for alcohol yet. She regretted making that promise to Clarisse—it hadn’t felt right, coming from her. She could normally trust Gaia and the others to cover that sort of topic. She’d only said it because Clarisse had needed her to say it. And she owed Clarisse everything.
Nada turned to her bag. The weekend was supposed to be about drinking, and not having a care in the world. If that didn’t sit right with who she was, then she was just going to have to be a different person for a few days. She could do that for Clarisse.
She put her suitcase on the bed and unzipped it. But, within seconds, she realised that something was wrong.
At first, it was just a feeling: that things were not quite how she’d packed them. That clothes that were in one compartment were now in another. That her bag of toiletries, carefully tucked into the netting, was now among her socks and underwear.
But soon it became very clear that something was missing.
Someone had been through her bag.
About The Author
J G Murray grew up in Cornwall and, after a spell selling chocolates in Brussels, qualified as an English teacher. Murray now lives, teaches and writes in London.