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Death of a Mermaid by Lesley Thomson
About The Book
Freddy left her childhood home in Newhaven twenty-two years ago and swore never to return. But now her parents are dead, and she’s back in her hometown to help her brothers manage the family fishmonger. Nothing here has changed: the stink of fish coming up from the marshes; the shopping trolleys half-buried by muddy tides; the neighbours sniffing for a new piece of gossip.It’s not what Freddy would have chosen, but at least while she’s here she’ll get to see her childhood best friends, Toni and Pauline. At school, the three of them were inseparable. The teachers called them the Mermaids for their obsession with the sea, and with each other.Then Pauline goes missing, and Freddy must decide. Go back to her new life, or stay and find her friend?
‘Sort it,’ Karen Munday snapped. On her way upstairs, she heard the front door shut. She assumed she was alone. The bedroom was a heap. Karen picked up a pillow from the floor and then, revved up by the exchange, flung it down. She was within sight of her goal.
That morning she’d bumped into Toni Kemp in the Co-op. Kemp was no better than she ought to be. Just like when they were kids. Acting like she didn’t need God. This time, Toni had served Karen gold on a plate. She retrieved the pillow and, hugging it, sank onto the bed. Her mind travelled back twenty-five years as if the morning in the convent chapel was hours earlier. The forty-year-old Karen Munday was a teenager again, sliding along the Mermaids’ pew in the hope of sitting close to Mags.
‘Sorry, Karen, this is taken.’ Mags did sound sorry, but Karen didn’t pick it up.
‘Then where will I sit?’ Karen glared at the crucifix above the altar.
‘We don’t care, but you can’t be there.’ Freddy Power’s rosary dangled from her fingers. She jerked a thumb for Karen to move away from Mags.
‘I was here first.’ Although marked with a prayer card, Karen flicked through her missal for the place. Some pages were ripped from when her mum had gone off on one.
‘Toni’s dad’s dead,’ Freddy hissed. ‘That’s her seat now.’
‘But I’m a Mermaid,’ Karen asserted loudly.
‘Shut up!’ Freddy hissed. Being a Mermaid was a secret thing. ‘So is Toni.’
‘Who says?’ Karen was stung by this news. You got to be a Mermaid if you liked the Disney film of The Little Mermaid or, like Karen, you’d stopped Mags being done over by one of the Dunnings. Karen survived home life by keeping her head down, and school by going in fists first. A face-off with Freddy Power was new territory.
Freddy’s dad ran the local fishery. Karen’s uncle had lost his job for giving Fred Power lip, and Power had seen to it that he couldn’t get other port work. The
Mundays never again took on a Power. Until now. A hush fell over the pews. Girls scented trouble. Fights in the convent were supposed to be out of the sight, if not from God, at least from the nuns.
And never in a sacred space.
Two sanctions equalled a misconduct mark. Karen had three for sins that involved queue-barging for a second pudding, chewing gum in class and not doing her homework.
‘Leave it, Freds,’ Mags mouthed at Freddy. Karen was off the hook. Freddy Power always did what Mags told her. Freddy moved up for Toni Kemp and was rewarded by a smile from Mags.
Mass progressed in a blur for Karen. Toni Kemp was a Mermaid, which meant they were no longer a select group of three. As Father George lisped through the
‘Gloria in Excelsis’, Toni approached the altar and Father George passed her a book.
She was doing the second reading. You only did that if you’d been very good, could read without stumbling or were Margaret McKee.
About The Author
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel,A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.