I would like to thank the lovely Francesca Poggi, representing publisher Austin Macauley, for sending me a complimentary paperback copy of this thriller for review.
I was even more pleased when author, Zoe Beesley, agreed to write a unique Guest Post for me to share with you all.
I have included a premise for ‘A Sinner’s Gift’, but after that I shall hand the show over to Zoe….
Standing in the dim light, with the clouds threatening to break over the hills, hopes of a fresh start are fast becoming a distant memory.
Death is a part of him. He can’t escape it.
The scene before him is haunting, beautiful somehow. The remnants of the day just gone still linger in the sky, offering a final breath of light before the corpse turns to black shadow and the landscape claims the soul of a broken man.
A textbook suicide.
The evidence is there in front of him. But as Toop digs deeper he finds himself caught in a web of buried truths.
Only one thing remains certain:
Not even the dead can keep their secrets.
The mountains held an eerie quiet, broken only by the howls of wind. Not a tree in sight.
Even in those summer months, the Scottish weather remained changeable. While the warmth of the sun clung to the end of day, winds brewed over the Atlantic Ocean and gathered moisture. The first faint warnings of rain had started to fall, beading on Toop’s jacket as he stood in unvoiced thought. He watched as the evening mist toyed with the corpse, caressing each patch of exposed skin as it played with the lifeless extremities.
Toop had never seen a crime scene like it.
It was haunting, beautiful somehow.
(Chapter 2 – A Sinner’s Gift)
Hi! I’m ZOE BEESLEY
I was born and raised in Scotland, although I now live in New Zealand.
I have a Master’s degree in International Relations and Arabic and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education.
A Sinner’s Gift is my first novel, and a book that has been inspired by my love of the mountains and their secrets.
IT WAS ALWAYS THE SAME QUESTION
Are you going to use a pseudonym?
I remember frowning at the query, bewildered by the oddity of it. Like someone had asked me if I liked chocolate. Obviously I like chocolate, doesn’t everyone? It’s like little pieces of melt in your mouth happiness. Of course I was going to use my own name. Why wouldn’t I? It is my name after all. It’s not like I go around writing e-mails and randomly sign them off, Love Heather or Regards Sarah. The initial feeling of confusion was usually followed by self-doubt. Was there something wrong with my name? Was it too ordinary, too run of the mill? Or was it because I was a female writing about murder and crime? Should I have gone with Z. Beesley, more mysterious like J. K. Rowling. Then I could have been a Zak or Zander or Zane. But seriously, who is called Zak? It’s a ridiculous name. In fact, it was the name that I gave my childhood cat. Zoe was just fine, thank you very much.
Then boom, like a wet fish to the face, it hit me. I understood what they had all been talking about but never quite had the courage to say. Except now, now that I had finally caught on, it was too late. I had signed off the final proofs and my manuscript was soon to be printed, committed to history as a permanent, unchangeable document with my name on it. Yes, that’s right, my real name.
Idiot, I should have gone with Zak.
It’s like that common saying; imagine that everyone else is naked and you will be fine. Except this time it was the other way around. I was the one who would be standing exposed on the stage, as naked as the day I was born, and everyone else would be there, fully clothed (probably wearing multiple layers), ready to scrutinise every mole and wrinkle. Not just ready, oh no, for I had given them permission to do it. Go ahead, throw your rotten tomatoes and cabbages for I, Zoe Beesley, give you, unknown individuals, permission to critique my work. There would be no hiding the patches of cellulite or the wobbly bits left over from Christmas, or Easter, or every last Sunday.
Yep, Zak would have been an excellent idea.
It’s a funny thing, being a first time author. You come to the realisation that, come publication day, you are willingly putting yourself out there, a naïve and enthusiastic lamb to the slaughter. Hoping, with every fibre of your being, that people will like what you have done. That you are good enough.
Before I started writing A Sinner’s Gift, my partner bought me a copy of Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I didn’t study Creative Writing at University, choosing instead to study International Relations with Arabic, and thus Mr King’s book proved to be somewhat of a bible. It was little wittier perhaps, unapologetically honest, with the odd curse word thrown in, but there were three things that stuck with me.
- The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
- Write what you know. (Including what the heart and imagination know.)
- Stories resulting from a plot are dull and artificial. Just watch the characters and write what happens.
And so, armed with an idea—and a strong distrust of words ending in -ly—I started my first novel. There was no plan, no twenty-page plot, no preconceived ending. I opened with a predicament—a body found in the Highlands of Scotland—and I followed the characters as they reacted, allowing them to do things their own way, leaving the next page as much of a mystery to myself as to the reader.
And now I stand naked and proud, ready to share my novel with the world (or whoever is willing to read it!).
I am Zoe Beesley, writer and author of A Sinner’s Gift.
SCOTLAND’S WILD AND DESOLATE LANDSCAPE
The Scottish landscape offers the perfect canvass for a crime fiction novel. The vast and desolate environment is delicious and wickedly inviting. It is all but screaming out for a sordid narrative, for a murderous tale and a writer eager to tell it.
The Scottish Highlands are neither crisp nor clear like the great mountains of Europe or America. They are cast in a dim, watery light, reminiscent of a watercolour painting. Even in the throes of summer, the Scottish landscape refuses to reveal itself in its entirety, never relinquishing the sense of mystery. The humbling effect of the Scottish mountains comes not only from the jagged peaks and the towering walls of scree, but from that which cannot be seen by the naked eye. The mysteries of this remote landscape lie beneath the fog, carried by the mist as it snakes through the rolling hills and out over the wide expanses of black bog. It is this sense of bleakness and isolation that make the Scottish Highlands the perfect setting for a crime; a place to bury the past and leave unwelcome truths to rot in the earth.
Prior to writing A Sinner’s Gift, I was on holiday on the Isle of Skye, a small island off the northwest coast of Scotland. It was one of those unpredictable Scottish springs, when the heather grew freely one morning, its purple hues abundant across the hillside, only to be blanketed by snow the next. One stormy evening, with the hatches battened down and the snow battering the windows, my mother’s friend told me a story. And from there came the inspiration for my first novel.
The woman shared her son’s story, explaining how a number of years previously he had stumbled across the body of man in the mountains. He had found the corpse propped up against the rocks, a rag doll slumped upon his throne, with his arms and legs hung limply as if from threads. The case, which managed to avoid the headlines, was drawn out for months, clouded by unanswered questions and suspicion. Eventually the investigation was closed, reports were signed off and the world moved on, but there was one question that never quite went away.
Had they got it right, was it really a suicide?
It was this line of questioning that led to my first novel.
My novel A Sinner’s Gift is entirely fictional and it is not a retelling of the aforementioned case. A Sinner’s Gift is based on fictional characters and places that bare no likeness to the real investigation. It is, however, a novel inspired by the wild, forbidding nature of the Scottish Highlands and a thought that plagued me during that week on Skye.
Did the Scottish Highlands provide a quiet and isolated place for a lonely man to say his final goodbyes? Or, was it, that the Highlands provided the perfect location for a murder?
No witnesses. No interruptions.
No one to hear a dying man’s screams.