Undercurrents: A Novel

Undercurrents: A Novel

by Frances Fyfield

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062301291
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 100
Sales rank: 778,982
File size: 518 KB

About the Author

Frances Fyfield has spent much of her professional life practicing as a criminal lawyer, work that has informed her highly acclaimed novels. She has been the recipient of both the Gold and Silver Crime Writers' Association Daggers. She is also a regular broadcaster on Radio 4, most recently as the presenter of the series Tales from the Stave. She lives in London and in Deal, overlooking the sea, which is her passion.

Read an Excerpt

Someone should have advised him against a February arrival. He knew what winter was like at home; cold and sharp and dry, manageable even in eight degrees below, but somehow he had not associated an English coastline with any notion of a serious chill. She had never described it like that. There had been mention of bonfires and brisk walks; of a breeze stinging the eyes when admiring the sea from the battlements of a castle, descriptions augmented by a memory of Dickens and picture postcards suggesting a modest covering of snow or a comfortable blanket of fog outside, all cleverly orchestrated for no other purpose than to make the fireside welcoming and the hot toast delicious. The sort of kindly cold which was a home designer's asset, purely to act as a contrast to a comfortable room.

Outside the station, the wind tore at his coat like a mauling dog. The rain skittered in the eddies of wind to scratch at his face and hat. His suitcase was ballast, lifting from his shoulder and leading him in a sideways sloping sprint across the carpark. It defied the mild sense of triumph he had felt in alighting from the train at all, beating the challenge of the antiquated door as the carriage lurched to a halt in front of a sign so obscure he could scarcely read it. WARBLING, a name like a dowdy bird. Doctor Henry Evans, poetry-loving scientist, with impeccable transatlantic credientials and comfortable North American lifestyle, felt himself unfairly fooled by the weather and did not enjoy the sensation of being outwitted. He congratulated himself briefly at the same time for that level of preparation which was his own hallmark. He had purchased a map; he had listened carefully to telephoneinstructions and he knew precisely where he was going.

Rain, spitting at him with renewed vigour. You can't miss it, squire. Straight down the road by the station until you reach the sea; turn left. Big hotel, squire. Nelson stayed there long before they built the pier. Henry had enjoyed the train, dirty though it was. At least he could open the window and breathe. He hated to be inside those capsules of transport where he had no control.

And he craved his first sight of the sea. His was a land-locked heart, in love with gentle ocean sounds. He could see it in his mind's eye, calm and dark, moody with moonlight and full of inspiration. The shops on his route were small and, in the shuttered darkness, less than quaint. He noticed a deserted cinema with posters of films he thought he might have seen a decade since, a forlorn wine bar with single occupant, the closed premises of a post office apparently doubling as a pharmacy and a florist's without flowers, but apart from a couple of illuminated signs, the only significant lights were the Belisha beacons where the road dipped into a pedestrian crossing before rising towards the sea. The yellow globes winked at a lone woman who waited as if needing some extra sign which would give her licence to cross an empty road. She was followed at a distance by a big, black dog, which did not seem to belong. Henry nodded and said hi. There was no response, reminding him of another feature about the natives he had encountered so far. They were not so much rude as preoccupied at any given time. They would not ignore the outstretched hand if you waved it right in front of their faces, but any gesture not initiated by themselves required repetition before -gaining acknowledgement. They were not unfriendly, he decided bravely, simply undemonstrative and destined to lead him into a deliberate and useful heartiness through the means of their natural reserve. You have to learn to come out of your shell, Henry. No one else is going to winkle you out. He was trying to remember what a winkle was.

The road which had dipped by the crossing rose to meet the seafront and its attendant sounds. He had forgotten the mad gust of the station carpark on his way thus far, relatively sheltered from the wind and the rain which struck him now with a series of staggering punches so hard and mean he yelled and grabbed at a railing. The shout was shoved down his throat in a lungful of icy air; the wind struck at his arm; the railing was sticky wet to the touch. As he staggered back into a doorway, his nose collided with the glass and he was suddenly eye to eye with another poster on the far side, depicting ice cream piled high in a fluted glass, topped with a cherry and set against a summer blue background. The wind howled round his head; he was glad of the hat and while on another kind of day he might have laughed at the ice-cream poster for its sheer incongruity, the wind was pummelling his back. The sea was an insane chorus of animal roars, followed by the vicious hiss of angry water clawing at stones, clattering and snarling in frustration; then the next crash, boom, hiss, a battle of sibilant fury, counterpoised by the deep bass of echo.

First Chapter

Someone should have advised him against a February arrival. He knew what winter was like at home; cold and sharp and dry, manageable even in eight degrees below, but somehow he had not associated an English coastline with any notion of a serious chill. She had never described it like that. There had been mention of bonfires and brisk walks; of a breeze stinging the eyes when admiring the sea from the battlements of a castle, descriptions augmented by a memory of Dickens and picture postcards suggesting a modest covering of snow or a comfortable blanket of fog outside, all cleverly orchestrated for no other purpose than to make the fireside welcoming and the hot toast delicious. The sort of kindly cold which was a home designer's asset, purely to act as a contrast to a comfortable room.

Outside the station, the wind tore at his coat like a mauling dog. The rain skittered in the eddies of wind to scratch at his face and hat. His suitcase was ballast, lifting from his shoulder and leading him in a sideways sloping sprint across the carpark. It defied the mild sense of triumph he had felt in alighting from the train at all, beating the challenge of the antiquated door as the carriage lurched to a halt in front of a sign so obscure he could scarcely read it. WARBLING, a name like a dowdy bird. Doctor Henry Evans, poetry-loving scientist, with impeccable transatlantic credientials and comfortable North American lifestyle, felt himself unfairly fooled by the weather and did not enjoy the sensation of being outwitted. He congratulated himself briefly at the same time for that level of preparation which was his own hallmark. He had purchased a map; he had listened carefully to telephoneinstructions and he knew precisely where he was going.

Rain, spitting at him with renewed vigour. You can't miss it, squire. Straight down the road by the station until you reach the sea; turn left. Big hotel, squire. Nelson stayed there long before they built the pier. Henry had enjoyed the train, dirty though it was. At least he could open the window and breathe. He hated to be inside those capsules of transport where he had no control.

And he craved his first sight of the sea. His was a land-locked heart, in love with gentle ocean sounds. He could see it in his mind's eye, calm and dark, moody with moonlight and full of inspiration. The shops on his route were small and, in the shuttered darkness, less than quaint. He noticed a deserted cinema with posters of films he thought he might have seen a decade since, a forlorn wine bar with single occupant, the closed premises of a post office apparently doubling as a pharmacy and a florist's without flowers, but apart from a couple of illuminated signs, the only significant lights were the Belisha beacons where the road dipped into a pedestrian crossing before rising towards the sea. The yellow globes winked at a lone woman who waited as if needing some extra sign which would give her licence to cross an empty road. She was followed at a distance by a big, black dog, which did not seem to belong. Henry nodded and said hi. There was no response, reminding him of another feature about the natives he had encountered so far. They were not so much rude as preoccupied at any given time. They would not ignore the outstretched hand if you waved it right in front of their faces, but any gesture not initiated by themselves required repetition before -gaining acknowledgement. They were not unfriendly, he decided bravely, simply undemonstrative and destined to lead him into a deliberate and useful heartiness through the means of their natural reserve. You have to learn to come out of your shell, Henry. No one else is going to winkle you out. He was trying to remember what a winkle was.

The road which had dipped by the crossing rose to meet the seafront and its attendant sounds. He had forgotten the mad gust of the station carpark on his way thus far, relatively sheltered from the wind and the rain which struck him now with a series of staggering punches so hard and mean he yelled and grabbed at a railing. The shout was shoved down his throat in a lungful of icy air; the wind struck at his arm; the railing was sticky wet to the touch. As he staggered back into a doorway, his nose collided with the glass and he was suddenly eye to eye with another poster on the far side, depicting ice cream piled high in a fluted glass, topped with a cherry and set against a summer blue background. The wind howled round his head; he was glad of the hat and while on another kind of day he might have laughed at the ice-cream poster for its sheer incongruity, the wind was pummelling his back. The sea was an insane chorus of animal roars, followed by the vicious hiss of angry water clawing at stones, clattering and snarling in frustration; then the next crash, boom, hiss, a battle of sibilant fury, counterpoised by the deep bass of echo.

What People are Saying About This

Minette Walters

Fyfield at her best - compelling - disturbing - but always elegant....

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Undercurrents 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book as a Free Friday book.   Both me and my husband enjoyed the book.   It is a better light mystery.   She reminds me at times of Daphene Du Maurier(spelling?)