Published: 15th December 2017 (Killer Reads)
The perfect neighbours tell the perfect lies…
A dark and twisty psychological thriller from a rising star in the genre. When Helen moves into an exciting new neighbourhood, she finds herself in a web of evil with no escape.
Behind the shutters lies a devastating secret…
When Helen moves abroad with her loving husband Gary, she can’t wait to meet her fellow expat teachers from the local International School. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare…
As soon as the charming family across the way welcome Helen into their home, she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely and a child goes missing, vanished without a trace.
When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the community, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything…
I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Rachel Sargeant to Have Books, Will Read to share a guest post – in the spirit of Christmas, Rachel takes us to the German Markets…..
A taste of Germany by Rachel Sargeant
Thank you, Clair, for hosting me on your blog during my tour. I really appreciate your support.
It was essential to the plot of my psychological thriller The Perfect Neighbours that the action took place in a tight-knit community. The story might have worked in a small town or village in Britain, but I chose to set it in a British expat enclave in Germany for two reasons. First of all, it suited main character Helen’s sense of cabin fever to have her trapped in a country where she couldn’t speak the language. Secondly, I wanted to indulge my love of Germany. I lived in a town there for ten years, longer than I’ve lived in any other town in my adult life. I loved writing the sights and sounds of my memories into The Perfect Neighbours.
This is an extract that takes place in a German Christmas market:
Helen gripped Gary’s hand as they headed towards the wooden huts that glowed with Christmas lights. She could see their painted stall signs, although she didn’t have a clue what they meant.
“I hardly recognize it as Dortmannhausen,” she said, feeling disoriented.
“That’s why we waited until it got dark – to get the atmosphere,” Gary said. He led her past a crêpe stall that smelled of cinnamon and Nutella.
The mention of the darkness unsettled her. She hadn’t felt right since they returned from their summer break. The sense that someone might be watching crept up on her. She scanned the market, but saw no one looking in her direction, just people enjoying themselves. Nearby a small boy was playing a violin. Gary tossed a euro coin into his open music case. Further on a jazz band supplanted the child’s hesitant strains. Helen felt a hot blast from the two big heaters on the musicians’ stage. She and Gary watched for a few minutes, absorbing the welcome warmth, as well as their high-tempo rendition of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.
Her stomach rumbled when they came to a man spit-roasting knuckles of pork that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a cave painting. Ahead, people of all ages were gliding across a temporary ice rink.
Helen spotted Chris Mowar at a Glühwein kiosk. He had his back to her but she recognised him by the huge Cossack style hat that he’d taken to wearing. It made his head look even bigger than usual.
She took Gary’s hand and tugged him in the opposite direction but, too late, he saw him. She put on her bravest smile and suppressed the expletive that came to her lips as he led her over to say hello.
Chris made a show of buying mugs of Glühwein. “I asked for a shot of Amaretto in yours, Helen, because you like a kick in everything.”
Gary squeezed her hand: don’t rise to the bait. She squeezed back: I won’t.
Eventually Chris decided to move on and said he’d catch them later. They swept into the throng of the market. Helen stayed clamped to Gary’s arm. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that someone in the crowd was watching.
Gary led her through the stalls and ordered chips at a catering trailer. He also bought Backfisch, oblongs of battered fish with chunks of white bread. As they ate at a customer table, two teenage saxophonists serenaded them with a decipherable attempt at Silent Night.
After he tipped the musicians, he went to look for drinks. Helen wandered about on her own, unnerved and feeling heady with the scents from two huts selling perfumed candles.
The lights from inside the church in the town square illuminated its one stained glass window – of St Boniface, wearing what looked like Marigold gloves – but failed to throw much light beyond the nearest stalls. Helen headed towards the flaming torchlight further on and came to a makeshift stable housing two sheep and a donkey. Life-size models of Mary and Joseph knelt over an empty manger, awaiting the arrival of the Christkind on Christmas Day. Recorded organ music from a loud speaker completed the effect. She’d never seen a living nativity before and couldn’t imagine UK councils allowing beacons of naked flame outside a stable.
Sascha Jakobsen appeared next to her. The sounds of the market blurred into the background behind the noise of alarm in her head. She hadn’t seen him since that stupid day in July, but the same feelings of fear and anger and craving thundered through her. She wanted to flee, but stood her ground, gripping the top of the stable gate. Why run when he knew where she lived? He could catch her any time he wanted.
Rachel Sargeant grew up in Lincolnshire. The Perfect Neighbours is her third novel. She is a previous winner of Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been placed or shortlisted in various competitions, including the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel has a degree in German and Librarianship from Aberystwyth University and a Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She spent several years living in Germany where she taught English and she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.