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Her father stabbed to death, her brother caught with the bloody murder weapon, and her stepmother suspiciously missing: eighteen year old Abigail Sergeant is forced into a dangerous cross country adventure to uncover the truth and bring the real killer to justice.
Travelling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth-century, Abigail and her naive younger brother hope that reuniting with their father — and his new wife — will offer them security. What awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life.
Discovering her father murdered and her brother seemingly caught red handed, Abigail’s life is thrown into turmoil. The police are convinced of Bertrand’s guilt, but Abigail is determined to prove his innocence, whatever it takes. The only thing that the now insensible Bertrand will say about the murder is that their step-mother, Frances, knows what really happened.
Frances, however, has fled south to Albany, a port from which she plans to board a ship bound for New Zealand. With time running out, Abigail persuades the police to let her follow Frances, but only if she is chaperoned by the reluctant Constable Ridley Dunning. Embarking on a heroic train journey across Western Australia, Abigail faces deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, forcing her to draw on a resolve she didn’t know she possessed. But will that be enough to save her brother from injustice?
ON TRACK FOR MURDER by Stephen Childs is a thoroughly exciting murder mystery set in 1889. Abigail Sergeant has dealt with a lot in her eighteen years - the death of her mother, her father's remarriage to a woman who dislikes them, caring for her younger brother who is detached from life a lot of the time, and now a journey to Australia. But when she arrives at her father's new home at the Swan River Colony, Abigail is hopeful about their fresh start. But when her father is found murdered soon after their arrival, and her little brother is arrested as the killer, Abigail knows that she must find out the truth. Using her intelligence and determination, Abigail finds herself amidst danger at every turn, and a plot is unfolding her around her that is beyond belief. Can she trust Constable Dunning or Mr. Sleath? And how is her stepmother involved in this nightmare? With plenty of twists and turns, and life at that time described in such a fascinating way, ON TRACK FOR MURDER by Stephen Childs is a great story that will keep you entertained from beginning to end.
BOOK RATING - 📖📖📖📖 4.5
Born in Ealing, West London, Stephen Childs immigrated with his family to New Zealand in the 1970s. He has enjoyed a long career in the film and television industry. After a serious health scare in 2005, Childs’ view of life changed. He briefly went into politics as a parliamentary candidate in the national elections, standing against the now New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key. The drive to pursue new challenges prompted Childs to relocate to Western Australia, where he now lives in Joondalup, north of Perth, with his family and two cats. In his spare time, Childs enjoys exploring the great Australian outdoors and studying genealogy.
*I would like to thank Rachel and Authoright.com, alongside Stephen Childs, for the opportunity to review this book and to be a part of the #12DaysOfClinkStreet. Read on for an extract from On Track for Murder 📚
It’s 1889 in west Australia. Abigail Sergeant is searching for evidence that will disprove a murder charge. In this extract Abigail has been kidnapped and tied up in the engine room of a small steam boat. She fell asleep attempting to wear away her rope bindings…
A loud scraping noise woke Abigail. Firstly, she felt the pain of numb hands twisted in rope bonds. Then the hard floor that had deadened her bottom. A dribble of perspiration ran from her forehead into her eye. She blinked, desperate to rub it away but unable to do so. Why is it so hot in here? Another scrape, this time followed by a clang as the firebox door slammed shut. Hissing sounds began to rise to her attention. A low roar from the boiler provided a background to further thumps. Larkin began yelling from above. Eugene appeared from behind the boiler and strode angrily out the door.
The light level was lifting, the blackness outside turning to light grey as night slowly receded. Shouts from above became more recognisable; an argument. Larkin’s distinctive voice cut across the others’, shouting and stomping around in anger. Abigail strained, listening intently. She could make out occasional words, enough to establish a thread. Larkin wasn’t happy. The two men had got drunk the previous evening and subsequently overslept. They were supposed to be ready to leave by now. A full head of steam should have been up hours ago. Now, they were in some danger of discovery if they became trapped by the tide. Where are we going?
Abigail searched her memory of the surrounding area. Albany sat in a large bay with an entrance at the eastern end. Beyond that, she had been told, was a river that ran inland and a couple of small islands. Heading directly out to sea would take them either west to Africa, or east to Sydney or maybe even New Zealand. Abigail didn’t imagine this vessel was capable of such a sea voyage, being designed purely for port work. She hoped that the men wouldn’t be so stupid as to risk such a trip.
The door clanged open and Eugene strode back in. “So, you’re awake at last. Good dream, was it?” He turned to face her. “Did you dream of me? You would make a good wife. Strong willed, I like that in a woman.” Laughing, he clomped up to the coal hopper and recommenced his shovelling. The heat from the open firebox was more intense than in the railway locomotive. With no open sides to allow for cooling, the thick air had become like treacle.
Abigail shuffled in an attempt to regain feeling in her lower limbs. “Where are we going, Eugene?”
“None of your business.”
She shuffled some more. “Look, I’m here with you on this boat, aren’t I? Don’t I have a right to know where we are bound?”
“Listen, you.” Eugene paused his work. “I don’t know what is going on. I just do as I’m told, right. If you need to know something, ask Stan. He knows everything. He’s the one who hired us for this bit.”
“But Eugene.” Abigail smiled a false but believable smile. “You seem to be an intelligent fellow. Do you not care if your life is placed in jeopardy?”
“It’s not.” He turned to the coal heap, yelling over his shoulder, “Talk to Stan.” The shovelling continued.
Abigail watched the pressure gauge rise. As the reading neared its optimum level, Thomas yelled out from above. Eugene was wanted on deck for casting off duty. He slammed the firebox door and strode out, muttering under his breath. So, Larkin hired Thomas and Eugene. This must be their boat.
A clanging sound brought Abigail’s attention back to the engine, where several levers moved around under control from above. Mad hissing was quickly followed by movement as the entire apparatus shuddered into life. The boat rocked then leaned over as they turned away from the jetty. The engine speed increased. Abigail watched the gauges flick and bounce as they gained speed.
Abigail wished they were still tied up to the jetty. She had made reasonable progress working away at her rope bindings, but all that would be to no avail if they were miles out to sea. She couldn’t swim and had no intention of learning with such short notice. Thinking about it, she realised that she would willingly leap overboard if her life depended on it. That would be a difficult decision, and one that would have to be considered at the time. She immediately recommenced sawing the ropes over the pipe mounting.
The vessel began to pitch and roll as they moved further away from the shore. Where they were going, and how she would get back, worried her. Beads of sweat streamed down her face. She considered the irony: ceasing crying in favour of action yet still being plagued with wet cheeks. In any other situation it would have made her laugh. At this particular time, laughter was not an option.
A large wave caught the boat side on, sending it rolling heavily to the left. The motion caught Abigail off guard and she fell backwards. There was a light pop and Abigail felt her hands come away from the pipe, the rope dropping to the floor. She was finally free. It all happened rather faster than she had imagined, before a proper plan had been formulated. She remained still, using the time to wipe away perspiration from her face and to massage her numb legs. Slowly, Abigail lifted herself to a standing position and turned to peep out the small window.
They were powering across the bay towards the entrance. As they passed through the heads Abigail groaned softly. Civilisation was slipping away. They were headed out to sea.
Hi fellow bookworms. My name is Linda and I'm a reviewer & blogger from Ireland. Oh and also a wife and mother!
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