Many commercially successful writers nowadays, the ones who churn out books in unrelieved succession in a particular genre, often write sequels, or even prequels. Or sometimes multi-book series, constantly and doubtless lucratively regurgitating a theme and cast of characters.
You see it on TV and in films too of course. Well, quality of work apart, it makes good commercial sense, not least to publishers and film companies. It’s called milking the cash cow author for all they’re worth, dollar or pound signs glittering in the corporate eye. Or more politely: franchising. Think Harry Potter. Think Game of Thrones.
Not wishing to denigrate writers like JK Rowling for a moment, who of course is a phenomenally successful exception to prove the rule, or writers of books that obviously lend themselves to series, like children’s writer Susan Keefe’s delightful Fantasy Farm series, I think it can be intellectually lazy. As if the writer only has one good idea and is either unable or unwilling to take a chance with something new and run with it.
What I try to do instead is always write a thematically new, completely different book each time, but with just a slight, subtle link between it and the preceding one. So, in the case of my new novel, The Flautist, the principal male character is Patrick, a soft-hearted Irishman who does a good, altruistic deed one rainy evening for a stranger, which has far-reaching consequences.
And this is the self-same Patrick who, a few years earlier, appears in a walk-on part in the preceding novel Secret Shame, as the brother of Julie, the female lead in that one.
So the cunning idea is that if the reader enjoys one of my books, their desire to read more of my work might be piqued knowing that a character also appears in another one. That’s my theory, anyway!
So here, to illustrate the point, is chapter 15 of Secret Shame, wherein Patrick makes a fairly brief appearance. As neither book is a sequel or prequel of the other, they can be read in any order without risk of plot-spoiling. (However, I’ve left out a few sentences as they would be spoilers for Secret Shame).
Julie got the phone call from Sorcha six days later, in the evening. Derek had picked up. He’d said ‘Hello?’ spoken briefly and handed the instrument to her, saying coolly, ‘Sorcha.’
It was bad news, of course. Sorcha’s voice sounded weary, flat. ‘She passed away an hour ago. It was quite quick in the end, and peaceful, it seemed to be.’
Julie’s throat caught, although she’d been expecting the call any day now. ‘Oh, poor Mammy!’ She paused, feeling guilty. ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t there . . .’
‘That’s alright,’ Sorcha said matter-of-factly. ‘You’re too far away to have been able to get here in time; don’t worry about it. None of yous over there could have got back soon enough, and obviously Billy couldn’t have got over from America at the drop of a hat. But Siobhan and Lucy and Brendan were here, so she didn’t die alone.’
‘Oh, well that’s good.’
‘Yes. Don’t feel bad about it. Besides, I know you’ve got other things going on as well now, Julie, so you have.’
‘Yes, true enough,’ Julie said sadly. ‘But let’s think about Mammy at the moment. Obviously, you haven’t arranged the funeral yet?’
‘No, of course not. I’ll see about it tomorrow.’ Sorcha paused; asked uncertainly, ‘Er, do you think you’ll be coming to it?’
‘Oh yes, definitely! Why wouldn’t I?’ Julie was surprised by her own vehemence. ‘One way or another, I’ll come. Just myself though, probably.’
‘Sure I understand that,’ Sorcha said gently. ‘Well as soon as it’s arranged I’ll let you know, and we can sort something out. I expect the others over there will be coming, so yous can probably travel together.’
Julie glanced at Derek, expecting a reaction, but he was engrossed in the television. Sorcha was still talking, her voice grave. ‘I want to tell you something, Julie.’
‘Well, one of the last things Mammy said. It was about you. It was yesterday. She was rambling – I suppose she was quite high on the morphine, or something – but she said something about being ashamed of herself, ashamed about turning you away when you needed her. About living with her secret shame, then her second shame about the way she’d treated you, these many years. About how she did love you, as she loved all of us, but didn’t know how to show it. Or didn’t have the emotion to spare. But she tried her best; really tried.’
Julie’s eyes began to prick, her throat tighten. ‘She said that, Sorcha?’ she croaked. ‘Did she really?’
‘Yes, she did.’
‘She really said that?’ Julie repeated, disbelieving, as her tears fell.
Sorcha phoned again the next day to inform that the funeral was fixed for the Friday. She’d contacted Patrick in London and he would be taking a few days off from the newspaper. He was a features writer, not doing the news, so he could be spared. He would be doing the journey by car and had declared himself delighted to pick up Julie en route, as Liverpool was almost on the way from London to Holyhead. They could do the same as Julie and Derek had done two weeks earlier: overnight there to catch the early morning sailing to Dun Laoghaire.
Julie barely recognised Patrick when she answered the door to him at four in the afternoon on the Wednesday. Nineteen years ago he’d been a red-haired, freckled boy of thirteen. Now he was a thirty-something, tall, confidence-exuding young man with a posh car, something sporty by the look of things, parked in the drive behind him. He’d clearly done well for himself.
‘Paddy! Is it yourself then?’ Julie laughed going into his spread arms to be hugged.
‘Julie! Hi! Great to see you!’ Patrick’s face lit up.
She took him into the house to meet the children, although Stacey was not yet back from school. Emma was engaged in some sort of riotous noisy game with Amber; Darren was glued to the television. Irene, the eternal surrogate granny, whom Derek had picked up the previous evening for yet more child-minding duties, sat ensconced on the sofa, beaming maternally. Introductions made, Patrick’s eyes fastened on Amber. He laughed, stooping down to ruffle her curls. The child gifted him a cautious smile. ‘Ah, so this is the famous Amber! The latest carrot-top in the family!’
Julie laughed again too. There hadn’t been a great deal of it lately, what with the tension between Derek and her. ‘Ah, sure, stop it Paddy! You’ll be giving the child a complex, so you will!’
Patrick grinned. ‘It’s okay; just joshing. She’s beautiful.’ He was losing his Sligo burr, Julie noticed. It was probably the English middle-class circles he moved in nowadays.
Julie made Patrick a meal and sat across the kitchen table from him while he ate, chatting, catching up on nineteen years. He told her how well he was doing at the paper, writing his features and doing duty as Ireland correspondent when necessary. Told her of his failed, childless marriage and enthusiastically about his new lady, Catarina, who was half-Italian and carrying his child. Julie told him about her own mixed fortunes, avoiding the most recent, delicate subject lest the children should overhear. Patrick nodded, fixing her with his unblinking, inquiring journalist’s eye.
In the middle of it Stacey arrived home, walking into the kitchen to prepare Amber’s meal and intrigued to meet her glamorous uncle, the owner of the very cool coupe standing on the drive. Patrick said Hi to her, turning on the charm and making her blush, asked how she was doing; complimented her on her daughter, tactfully avoiding the carrot top reference again. Stacey could not help but notice his red hair though, or the really quite marked similarity between uncle and great-niece. Julie had noticed it too. Well, they said that inherited looks skipped a generation, didn’t they? In spite of their different genders, they would be spitting images of each other in a few years’ time, she opined.
Derek was still not home from work when Julie loaded her already packed bag, with her hired black funeral dress and black veiled hat, into his car and they set off. Out along the fast, virtual-motorway of the A55, speeding through North Wales again so soon after the recent disconsolate, silent return from Ireland, she felt able to relax for the first time in days. She rested her hand briefly on his thigh. ‘Sure it’s good to see you, Paddy, so it is.’ Away from the children, she could talk uninhibitedly now.
Patrick looked at her briefly; smiled. ‘And you too, Julie. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?’
‘Sure it has.’
Patrick’s tone became sober. ‘Sorcha told me what happened when you visited Mammy. About her spilling the beans; your dark secret. Hope you don’t mind her doing that.’
Julie sighed. ‘Oh, she did? No, that’s alright. There’ve been too many secrets in our family, sure enough. It’s all out in the open now. I was a fool to think I could keep it buried, I suppose.’
‘Yes, I suppose so, although I don’t blame you for trying to. It is a hell of a lot of baggage to be carrying though. Poor old Julie.’
‘Mm, you can say that again. But I thought I’d landed on my feet at last, after two terrible men in my life. I wanted to keep it quiet. And it might have stayed hidden but for Mammy. Not that I bear her any ill will. Her life was far worse than mine, and for her it never got a whole lot better.’
Patrick murmured agreement. ‘Yeah, it was no picnic for her, was it? Even after Da left, not that I remember a great deal about him, really. I was only eleven when he went, after all.’
‘But you remember how he used to beat Mammy, don’t you? I certainly do. It was terrible.’
‘Yes, I do. And yes, it was. I remember the bad bits, but nothing positive about him. I used to be terrified he’d start on us kids, although he never did.’
‘Well, he might have done if he’d stayed any longer. Or done even worse things. Like with us older girls. Maeve and me. Know what I mean?’
Patrick grimaced. ‘Yes, of course I do. You’re right; it was a blessing in disguise when he went, really.’
‘It was, for all that we were left as poor as church mice. At least Mammy didn’t get any more abuse. Or any more children.’
‘Did Sorcha tell you about those dreadful places Mammy was in? The mother and child home and then the laundry?’
Patrick looked puzzled; said that she hadn’t. The conversation had mainly been about the funeral arrangements, the revelation about Julie and the practicalities of his giving her a lift. So Julie told her brother what Sorcha had relayed to her. Patrick listened intently, interjecting occasionally with a ‘Jesus’ or ‘Really?’ or ‘Bloody hell!’
Julie finished her story. Patrick was silent for a while. Then he said, quietly, ‘I’d no idea. Now that really was a terrible secret, wasn’t it? Poor, poor woman. Poor Mammy. No wonder she was like she was. It was cruelty followed by abuse followed by grinding poverty. That’s not going to make you a happy, lovable, well-adjusted person, is it?’
‘It certainly isn’t,’ Julie agreed.
‘I did know a bit about those awful Magdalene places,’ Patrick continued, but Jesus, I never dreamed our mother was in one of them, just for the supposed ‘sin’ of getting pregnant. There have been whispers about those laundries, I know, but it sounds as though there’s been an almighty cover-up going on, like there’s also been about child abuse by some of our religious ‘betters’. Bastards! I think I ought to write a piece about it for the paper. Do some serious investigative journalism. I’ll speak to the editor when I get back; suggest it to him.’
Julie looked at her clever brother admiringly. ‘Yes, I really think you should, Paddy. It needs to be exposed, doesn’t it, not least in our country.’
‘It does indeed,’ Patrick said grimly. ‘Plus the fact, it’s also personal, isn’t it? I owe it to Mammy’s memory, not to mention all the other victims. There must be a lot of them still alive. I wonder how many other lives were wrecked! They should get compensation.’
‘Yes they should, to be sure.’ Julie changed the subject. ‘And what do you think about our Maeve then? That’s a bit of a revelation too, isn’t it!
‘Oh, you mean the fact that Mammy and Da only got married because she was on the way?’
‘Yeah. As I said to Sorcha when she told me, our high-and-mighty big sister’s the only reason Mammy got saddled with Da, really. I wonder how she feels about that! Had Mammy not found herself in the family way with her, they might never have got together and she could have found a decent man instead.’
‘True.’ Patrick smiled, reflecting. ‘Or alternatively, she might have been stuck in that God-awful place for years. And also, of course, in both of these scenarios, you, me and the rest of the brood wouldn’t now exist. Now there’s a thought, right enough!’
‘Yes, that thought had occurred, Paddy!’ Julie grinned too, wryly.
Patrick was silent for a while, considering that. Then he said, ‘Anyway, we can’t change any of that. It’s past history. We have to live in the present. But what about you, Julie; what about your, er, past difficulty?’
Julie laughed humourlessly. ‘Which one? Stacey?’
‘No, the other. How is Derek about it, now the truth of it’s come out?’
‘Well, he was shocked and surprised of course. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s very moral in his ways – and a policeman! He has very black-and-white ideas of right and wrong.’
‘That’s fair enough, I suppose,’ Patrick murmured, unconvincingly.
‘Mm. But he’s very upset that I kept it from him, sure. He reckons I’m not the woman he thought he was marrying, now that he knows my stupid past.’
‘Well then he’s an eejit, if he thinks that! Of course you are. He judged you for what you were when he married you, not by your past, and presumably you told him how you came to be a single parent with Stacey, didn’t you?’ Patrick darted Julie an angry look. ‘And you haven’t changed in the intervening years, have you?’
‘No,’ she said, sadly. At least, only for the better, I hope. He’s been the making of me, so he has.’
‘Well there you are then. And anyway, with regard to what you did when you first came over; if you don’t mind my saying so, Derek doesn’t seem to take a very nuanced view of things.’
‘What do you mean? Stop using big words!’
Patrick grinned. ‘Sorry! I mean he doesn’t see shades of grey in issues; subtleties. Or complexity. As you say, he sees things in absolutes of black or white, good or evil.’
‘Julie sighed. ‘Yes, that’s about the way of it. He’s hardly spoken to me since the revelation.’
‘Ah, that’s bad,’ Patrick sympathised. ‘How did he react to Stacey getting herself pregnant then? Was it shock-horror about that too?’
‘Yes, it was for a while. He was all for her having an abortion at first; said it would be for the best, because having a child would be too . . . disruptive, or something. But I said it should be for Stacey to decide, because it was her body and her future. And I said that if he was going to try and bully her into a termination against her will, I’d leave him.’
‘Good for you, Julie,’ Patrick said approvingly.
She shot her brother a grateful glance. ‘Thanks, Paddy. But as you can see, it didn’t come to that. He backed down. Although he chased Luke, the father, for maintenance payments, so he did!’
‘That’s fair enough. And is this Luke still seeing Stacey then?’
‘Well, not exactly. Not as in being an item, anyway. He brings the maintenance money on Friday nights, regular as clockwork, and lately he’s been staying for a while, watching telly with us. I think Derek’s actually beginning to quite like him, although he’d never admit it. But as far as them having a relationship goes, there’s none of that. Stacey’s working for her A-levels at school, so she’s got quite enough on her plate at the moment. Maybe something might develop in the future; who knows?’
‘Mm, well it sounds like an eminently civilised arrangement to me,’ Patrick said, bestowing more approval. ‘Odd, how the social mores and attitudes change, isn’t? Thank God.’
Julie thumped him playfully on the left bicep.
‘You’re doing it again! Have a feckin’ dictionary for breakfast this morning, did you?’
Patrick grinned. ‘Oh; sorry! Anyway, about your dark secret: don’t worry; I’m sure Derek will come round. Give him time. It’s been a bit of a shock to his system, after all.’
‘Well I do hope so,’ Julie said despondently. ‘I really do.’
It was Julie’s first funeral – at least, the first of a close family member. There had been a couple of funerals of relatives of Derek’s, a grandfather and an uncle, which she’d attended with him just out of solidarity, really, but they’d seemed rather limp, alien affairs, both being Church of England ones. Not that she was any great expert in religious ceremonies though, apart from the Mass and Divine Orders and so on from the monastery interlude, and least of all funeral ones.
She didn’t really know how to order her feelings, having been estranged from Mammy for so many years. She thought she ought to be suitably tearful and grief-stricken, but the emotion wasn’t there. Or if it was, it was hiding. And it would have been hypocritical to put on a show of it and pretend. So what did she feel? Well, pity more than anything, she supposed, when she and Patrick arrived at Sorcha’s house to find the open coffin containing her embalmed mother, brought to the house that afternoon for the wake before her final journey to Saint Joseph’s church and the graveyard the next day.
And sorrow that her mother had had such a wretched, hopeless life, the only meagre joy coming when her children were off her hands and the responsibilities inverted when Sorcha bought the house and began to look after her. And there was Julie’s guilt, of course. There was nothing like bereavement to magnify guilt, she mused, sadly; the regret of not being a more considerate and understanding daughter, in spite of her mother’s rejection. But at least, in her artificially preserved state, Mammy now looked at peace.
But, the sadness of the occasion apart, it was grand to see the other siblings again: Siobhan, now also into the first year of her thirties with her husband Conor and their children Suzy, Brendan Junior and Terry (all born since she saw them last at her wedding); sophisticated Lucy, now twenty-five, with designer-stubbled boyfriend Ryan; Brendan and his pretty girlfriend Emily and, astonishingly, baby-of-the-family (the last time she’d seen him) Seamus, now a strapping, sun-tanned twenty-two year old. Billy hadn’t been able to make it back from Dallas, to Julie’s disappointment; she would have liked to see him after so many years.
The following day it was certainly a crush of them all in the modest front room, with the coffin on its bier occupying much of the space, with visitors looking in now and then to show support. Fortifying whiskeys were distributed to the men and sherry to the women, apart from feminist Lucy who wanted hard stuff too, in readiness for the funeral procession. Friends and neighbours had begun congregating out in the street for some time prior to the setting off, waiting to join it, those who hadn’t attended the wake the night before coming inside briefly to murmur condolences and gaze gravely at Nancy, paying their last respects. And Father O’Hara, never one to miss out on a drink, had put in an appearance twenty minutes before start-time too, solemnly also accepting a whiskey, thank you, out of courtesy.
And so Nancy Brennan née Flaherty had been laid to rest according to the rites of her church: the procession on foot to Saint Joseph’s (thankfully, it wasn’t raining) following the hearse; the brief reception at the porch with Father O’Hara’s greeting, the sprinkling of Holy Water, the carrying in of Mammy to lie in the sanctuary, feet towards the alter in the proper manner; the recitation of the Our Father.
Then the Requiem Mass itself, ritualistic and beautiful and comforting and moving: the psalms, the songs, the prayer, the reading from scripture; the touching homily. The solemn mystery of the Eucharist. The Absolution of Nancy’s weary soul to the Libera me, with more sprinkling of Holy Water, just to make sure. The Final Commendation before the last part of her earthly journey to her resting place. Father O’Hara’s final petition at the graveside to Nancy’s maker, on that bright, early September afternoon in Sligo, as her children bowed their heads and several of them wept: ‘May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.’
When Patrick dropped Julie back in Liverpool two days later, it was early evening and Derek was home, having had the Sunday off. Julie introduced them and the men (slightly warily, in Patrick’s case) shook hands. Rather to Julie’s surprise, Derek was quite affable. ‘Nice to meet you, Patrick,’ he said, smiling.
‘And you too,’ Patrick cautiously replied.’
Irene, still in surrogate-granny mode, relinquished her hold on a sleepy Amber, whom she’d been nursing, heaving herself from her armchair and handing her to Stacey. ‘I’ve got the vegetables prepared for dinner; I’ll pop them on the stove now.’ She cast a motherly, brooking-no-refusal look at Patrick. ‘You must be ready for a bit of scran, pet.’ Clearly, she had everything well organised.
Patrick looked slightly taken aback; mumbled, ‘Er, yes, thank you.’
It was quite a cram seating them all around the dining room table, the four adults, two younger children, Stacey and Amber in her high chair, but everyone wanted to be there in the company of exotic Uncle Patrick from sophisticated London. Stacey cast him many admiring looks, in between eating and spooning pureed mush into Amber’s messy little mouth. Derek and Patrick made polite conversation, asking about each other’s jobs. Of course Irene, full of sympathy and nosiness, wanted to know all about the funeral. Had they given her mother a good send-off? Was it a nice service? She was Catholic herself (although she had to admit she hadn’t been inside a church in years, apart from her Debbie’s wedding, seven years ago) and she did like the pomp and ceremony of the Mass. Had there been many people there? And was it a good do afterwards? The poor woman, dying so young, at only sixty-three! It was no age, really, was it? Such a shame!
At eight-fifteen Patrick thanked Irene profusely for her wonderful meal and said he really must be on his way. Although it was motorway all the way to London, it was a lengthy trek. And secretly, he was anxious to see Catarina. It was all well and nice to catch up with the others, but three days with them, being reminded of his crowded childhood, was quite enough really. He kissed all the females: Julie, a blushing Stacey, Irene, a thrilled Emma and even the forehead of Amber; told Julie that they really ought to stay in touch more, gazing for a long moment into her eyes with a soft, it’ll-be-okay expression on his freckled face. Julie saw him out and, joined on the doorstep by Stacey, Amber and Emma; waved him off, out of her life again for who knew how long?
Derek dropped not-too-subtle hints to Irene that she should be collecting her things from the girls’ room (she’d been sleeping in Emma’s bed, Emma having temporarily rejoined Darren in his bedroom, sleeping on a futon bought for Aunty Irene-staying purposes) so that he could drive her home. Irene heaved herself up, fetched her bags, gave Julie (who had told her all her troubles in a quiet moment alone together before the funeral-attending trip) a long hug and whispered to her not to worry, everything would sort itself out, said goodbye to the others and took her reluctant leave.
The younger children went off to bed. Julie cleared the dining table (she had insisted that Irene leave her to do it) and loaded the dishwasher. Stacey put a rather fractious, up-too-late Amber to bed and settled to watch some television. Julie suddenly felt exhausted. It had been a tiring, emotional trip to Sligo. There had been tears after all, at the graveside. Tears of what though? Loss? Yes, probably. Loss of that which never was? Or loss of what could never now be? And, yes regret. Regret at lost opportunity, now gone forever. There might have been reconciliation, had not the cancer, in a final terrible violation, got to Mammy’s cervix first.
She was ready for her bed, albeit that it was an unwelcoming bed now. A bed shared with a stranger, which felt lonelier than sleeping alone. She sighed, emotion welling up. ‘I’m going to bed now, Stace,’ she said, feeling a sudden compulsion to hug her daughter. She got up and crossed to the sofa; sat down beside her. She took Stacey’s face in her palm; pulled her head down onto her chest, clasping it there, fervently, her other hand fumbling around her shoulders to hug. ‘I do love you, Stace,’ she said, desperately needing to say the words, her voice choking. ‘Never forget that. Never!’
Stacey’s free arm came around her waist. She sighed. ‘No, I won’t, Mum. And I love you too.’
Julie got into bed and settled down, expecting oblivion to come quickly. But as always, it didn’t. She was too emotionally wound up. Half an hour later, still awake, she heard a car pulling onto the drive: Derek was back. She looked at the alarm clock. Twenty past ten, it said. He’d been a long time taking Irene home. Minutes later his footfalls sounded on the stairs. He put his head around the bedroom door; spoke quietly. ‘Are you awake?’
He withdrew his head and crossed the landing to use the bathroom, then came back and into the bedroom, clicking on the bedside light on his side. He began undressing.
‘What are you coming to bed for?’
‘I want to talk, Jules.’
‘Oh dear . . .’
‘No, you’re alright. Don’t worry.’
He slipped in beside her. Turned off the light.
‘What is it then?’ Julie asked suspiciously.
Derek took a deep breath. ‘Well, I’ve been having a long chat with Auntie Irene. She told me what she thought, in no uncertain terms!’
‘I thought you’d been a long time. What about?’
‘Um, about . . . you know. Your, er, secret.’
Julie laughed bitterly. ‘Oh, yes, my secret shame.’
‘Yes, well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, the last few days. And then tonight I asked Irene what she thought about it.’
Julie found herself holding her breath. ‘And?’
‘Well, she more or less told me what I’d been thinking myself. Confirmed it, really. Told me I was a fool, and didn’t appreciate what I’d got. That your past shouldn’t matter. That it doesn’t make any difference to the person you are now, even if what you did was a shocking thing then. She’s right of course. I can see now that you must have been pretty desperate, to do something like that. I’m sorry; it came as such a shock when you told me. Especially when you said it was that Barlow bugger who caused it. It really floored me.’
‘Yes, I’m sure it must have. That’s why I tried to keep it a secret. I’m sorry too.’
‘Mm. That’s okay.’
‘It sounds as though you and Irene have been thinking the same as Patrick, really.’
‘You’ve been talking to him about it?’
‘Well yes, of course. He is my brother! I was so miserable when I left here the other day; I had to confide in someone. And he was so understanding about it.’
‘So what did he say then?’
‘Well, basically what you’ve just said. That I’m still the same me, regardless of that baggage. And he said something about different social something-or-other. He came out with a lot of big words I didn’t understand. And he said you were an eejit if you thought I wasn’t now the woman you married.’
Derek laughed humourlessly. ‘Yes, well he’s right there, I reckon. I get the impression he’s a clever bloke, very thoughtful. Not a stupid clod-hopping copper, like me; too quick to judge.’
Julie laughed too. ‘It goes with your job though, I suppose. You deal with people doing bad things all the time, after all.’
‘Mm; Maybe. Anyway, it’s in your past, Jules; a long time ago.’
‘Yes, it feels like a lifetime, like an entirely different existence, so it does.’
Derek shuffled his arm around the back of her neck and down her far side, pulling her to him. She responded instantly, gratefully, her eyes smarting, her arm going across his chest.
‘Okay, so I’ve been a stupid prat. Am I forgiven?’
‘Of course you are, Love. Yes, if I am. I’m sorry if I deceived you. It was only because I was so terrified of what you’d think; of losing you. I’m sorry.’
‘Right,’ Derek said, sighing audibly. ‘It’s a deal then. We’ll put your past back in the closet, where it belongs, if you want.’
They lapsed into silence. Julie felt the anxiety of the past few days, the dull leaden unhappiness, ebbing away. She would be able to sleep now.
So that’s it; this is how I subtly link books through characters without writing sequels or prequels (although Secret Shame is in fact set a decade or so earlier than The Flautist). If you read Secret Shame, by chapter fifteen Julie’s terrible shameful secret is revealed, but I’ve avoided disclosing it here so as to prevent spoiling. Both The Flautist and Secret Shame are available on Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback.