Everybody loves a good mystery. Clara's Secrets are four tall tales about Bristol, each containing an element of truth.
An antique bath in a house in Clifton sheds new light on an old tragedy; a wedding in Stoke Bishop is attended by a ghostly apparition; a job applicant is sent on a mission to find a Bristol Blue vase.
And where exactly did the Crown Jewels spend the Second World War?
To find out more and read an in depth interview with the Bristol Evening Post including their review of the novel please see the Bristol Evening Post website.
SS GREAT BRITAIN STEAM SHIP: 24th August 1852
Harry Brooke is sitting on the Aft Deck, just beneath the Mizzen Mast, three days out of the Port of Liverpool. He is restless, tired and just a little sea-sick. The sea is turbulent; raging foam is thrashing against the iron hull, the wind blowing the sails relentlessly. They are in the open sea and the vessel is bouncing, almost being thrown from side to side on massive breakers.
A lot of people are out on deck, despite the conditions, for being cramped below is intolerable even in first class where his cabin is located. In his sheltered spot, he takes a roll of paper out of his pocket, unfurls it and studies a pencil drawing of a man’s face. Brooke’s expression is grim, his brow deeply furrowed.
As a lady approaches him, he re-pockets the portrait discreetly. She is slightly older than him, clutching the cloak of her nurses’ uniform tightly. For some reason her awkward predicament amuses him, lifting his dark mood.
“I’m Sister Mary,” she says, her voice fighting against the wind, “of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. I’ve seen you dining in the Aft Saloon, alone. Do you mind if I join you? My husband has been occupied in the ship’s infirmary for over two days – sea sickness. And he’s not the best of travellers.”
“Not at all,” he stands up courteously, “be my guest. It’s certainly turbulent!”
He moves a deck-style chair, near to his in order that she may sit comfortably. “Thank-you,” says Sister Mary, arranging herself busily, “so are you immigrating to Australia like all the others? Off to the land of sun, gold and opportunity. Or, like us building a new hospital there?” “None of those,” replies Harry dryly, “it’s a working trip; working for Mr. Brunel.” “Oh! How exciting! You’re not the Captain?” Was there a hint of mockery in the tone of her voice? Something he just could not place. “No, I fear we would not get there, if I were the Captain.”
A stifled laugh – was he being serious? “Harry Brooke,” he says finally, holding out his hand. “So are you planning to return? To England, I mean?” “I’m not sure,” he turns to her, now he is being serious, “you see, I allowed my best friend to get killed by a madman and lost the one woman I ever truly loved.” “My Goodness, Mr Brooke! Would you like to talk about it?” “Not really.” He remains, for a few moments, granite faced and laconic.
Then he looks out at the distant horizon and wonders, maybe he should, maybe it is time……..