ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #Extract from Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane @BloomsburyBlue #RandomThingsTours
I’m delighted to be able to share an extract from Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane today. My thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the place on the tour.
A hidden masterpiece. A secret buried for 500 years.And one woman determined to uncover the truth.
When London tour guide Helen Oddfellow meets a historian on the trail of a lost manuscript, she’s intrigued by the mystery – and the man. But the pair are not the only ones desperate to find the missing final play by sixteenth century English playwright Christopher Marlowe. What starts as a literary puzzle quickly becomes a quest with deadly consequences.When Helen realises the play hides an explosive religious secret, she begins to understand how much is at stake. Relying on her quick wits, she battles far-right thugs, eccentric aristocrats and an ancient religious foundation, each with their own motives for getting their hands on the manuscript. She discovers there is a price to pay for secret knowledge, but how high is too high?Unlawful Things was shortlisted for the Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award. If you love a bit of historical sleuthing and a healthy dose of fast-paced action, you’ll enjoy this intriguing debut thriller from Anna Sayburn Lane.
Discover Unlawful Things today!
At first, he thought he’d been punched. A dull thud, low in his back. He spun around as hands yanked at his jacket, scrabbled for the inside pocket. He’d hidden the book just in time. The man yelled in his face, demanded to know where it was.
He pushed back, fingers jabbing for his attacker’s eyes. With tremendous effort, he broke free of the man’s grasp, staggered towards the road and tried to shout for help, his voice ragged in his ears. But his legs felt heavy and unreliable, as if he were wading through water.
His assailant was gone, a shadow dissolved into the dark of the churchyard. He tried to get his breath. It was cold. His heart began to thump faster, a panicky, urgent rhythm that told him something was wrong. Really, properly wrong. He fumbled to loosen the tie that constricted his throat. He needed help. There were lights close by: a London pub. He stumbled to the door and pushed his way in. It smelled of warm beer. A handful of men looked up.
‘Shit! You’re bleeding, mate.’ A man with wide eyes, staring at the floor beneath his feet.
His trousers were soaked through, he realised, sticking to the back of his thighs. He brought his hand round from the ache in his back, held it before his eyes; it was gloved in red. A million flies buzzed in his ears as he struggled to make sense of what he could see. The glare hurt after the dark churchyard. The world lurched.
He fought to stay conscious as hands helped him into a chair. Voices were raised, calling for someone to ring a bloody ambulance, there’s a bloke here’s been stabbed. A woman emerged from the wall of bodies and pressed a cloth against his side. The buzzing was so loud now, he couldn’t hear the words coming from her pale lips. She was trying to help. Surely someone would know what to do, someone could stop this. He looked down, saw a dark pool around the chair. Oh, Christ.
He didn’t have much time. He needed to tell someone. He reached out, saw the woman recoil as he smeared crimson onto her white T-shirt.
‘Cut,’ he said. ‘Cut is …’ His chest heaved and his mouth filled. He leaned forward and spat. A string of bloody mucus hit the floor, splashed onto work boots and trainers. He looked up at the woman, apologetic. He searched her face for a sign of compassion. She was young and frightened. Tears started in his eyes.
He wiped his mouth on his sleeve. ‘Cut is the branch,’ he said. ‘Tell her. Cut is the branch …’
He felt pressure building in his chest. If only he could get his breath. But he knew, now. His mind fixed for a second on another woman’s face, troubled and uncertain, sweet. Is this the face? he thought, words swimming through his brain. Was that the face?
The smell of booze and sweat receded. A Deptford pub, he thought. How very appropriate. He wanted to laugh. The laugh became a cough, and then the blood came.
Anna Sayburn Lane is a novelist, short story writer and storyteller, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. Unlawful Things is her first novel and it was shortlisted for the Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award.
She has published award-winning short stories in a number of magazines, including Mslexia, Scribble and One Eye Grey.
Her Mslexia award-winning story Conservation was described by judge and Booker-longlisted author Alison MacLeod as “a powerful and profound contemporary piece in which one man’s story stands for an entire nation’s… it’s a punch to the heart, a story that will haunt and touch its readers deeply”.
She has told stories at London club The Story Party and One Eye Grey’s Halloween event, Moon Over the Lido.