Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all well. Today I’m very excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Alexandra Burt’s chilling new novel, ‘The Good Daughter’, and I’m going to be posting an exclusive extract from the novel. Thanks so much to Harper Collins/Avon for this opportunity! So, keep reading…
What if you were the worst crime your mother ever committed?
Dahlia’s childhood memories consist of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and a rootless existence travelling the country with her eccentric mother. Years later, she desperately wants to distance herself from that life. Yet one thing is stopping her from moving forward: she has questions.
In order to understand her past, Dahlia must go back. Back to her mother in the stifling town of Aurora. Back into the past of a woman on the brink of madness. But after she discovers three grave-like mounds on a neighbouring farm, Dahlia learns that in her mother’s world of secrets, not all questions are meant to be answered…
About the Author
Alexandra Burt is a freelance translator and the international bestselling author of Remember Mia (published in the UK as Little Girl Gone). Born in Germany, she moved to Texas more than twenty years ago. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, an organisation promoting the advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. The Good Daughter is her second novel, and was released on 23rd February 2017.
After leaving the Barrington for the last time, I rack my mind, wondering what the next step down from hotel housekeeper is going to be. On my mother’s street, I find her house sitting quietly without a sign of life. The glaring and lonely porch light illuminates the impeccably clean front porch. I can’t make out a single cricket in the harsh light of the bare bulb.
When I cross the threshold, beneath my feet something crackles as if I am stepping on a cracker or a piece of popcorn. I take another step and again I hear a crunching sound. Another step, another crunch. I swipe the light switch upward. Arranged two inches apart like cookie dough on a sheet pan is a carpet of cricket carcasses.
“Mom?” I call out, but there’s no answer.
The back door gapes open, leaving a hole big enough to swallow a body. After I check the house and search for a note haphazardly left atop newspapers and magazines, I step out into the backyard. The fence gate is wide open.
My mother’s neighborhood sits in rows of identical houses, all bungalows, no basements, small upper windows above narrow porches and square bays. The only differences are the conditions of the lawns and an occasional hanging basket, but mostly the houses are uniform. I call out her name every so often and I tell myself that she went for a walk and forgot to shut the back door. And the gate. And forgot to leave a note.
When I arrive at the nearby park, less than half a mile from the house, I find the parking lot deserted. The entrance sign states that entering after dark is prohibited but around here no one really cares. The walkways are concrete and the silver maples, planted many years ago, now reach all the way up to the streetlights. No faint trickle of a nearby creek, not in the summer, not in Texas.
I stride down the walkway, past park benches and a small pond. I catch a whiff of garbage cans from the dog park to my right and I smile, for once certain this is not a figment of my imagination or my nose betraying me. About half a mile later, I hear a whining sound coming from the playground. Then I hear a whimper; this time it seems almost childlike.
“Mom?” I walk toward the general location of the whine, stop, and wait for it to resume.
“Mom?” This time louder, more urgent. I hear hissing that sounds like a snake, but then a cat scurries past me and disappears into the bushes.
I return home and dial the Aurora precinct number. I ask for Officer Roberto de la Vega and leave a voicemail. I tell him, “My mother has walked off into the darkness.” I realize how melodramatic that sounds. “Call me back,” I add. “I don’t know if I should wait at home or look for her. Or where to look. I don’t know if I should worry even. The back door is open and she’s gone.” I’m trying not to sound too alarmed, it’s not an emergency, but it is in the middle of the night. “She didn’t leave a note or anything.”
I am exhausted and I prop my legs up on the coffee table and fall asleep.
I awake to harsh lights shining through the kitchen window. Parting the curtain, I see a police cruiser parked in the street with its nose poking into the driveway. A face stares at me through the window and Bobby points toward the front door. After I open the door, Bobby fumbles with the radio attached to his shoulder.
“Hey, troublemaker,” he says and smiles. Then, more seriously, “I got your message. A couple of patrol cars are out looking for her. Do you have any idea where she could be?”
“She goes out without telling me, but never in the middle of the night. I told her to always leave a note so I know where she is. I checked the park earlier. That’s where she goes often.”
“Was she upset or acting strange at all?” Bobby asks.
My body blocks the view into the house and the crickets on the floor. I step outside and pull the door shut behind me. No one needs to know about the crickets just yet.
“Not that I know of,” I say. “I got home and the back door was wide open. I wouldn’t have known she was gone if it hadn’t been for that door. I thought she was upstairs, in bed. She’s usually asleep by the time I get home.”
“Well, sit tight, we’ll find her. Call me if she shows up?”
“Sure,” I say.
I follow Bobby down the driveway to his cruiser and watch it crawl down the road. He never really speeds up, and then he stops and puts it in reverse. He rolls down the passenger’s seat window and leans forward.
“Just got word. They found her.”
“Down country road 2410, toward Elroy.”
“2410 and Elroy? That’s miles from here.”
Bobby doesn’t answer. He fumbles with the mobile computer and, without looking at me, he says, “They’re taking her in.”
“Taking her in for what? Did she rob a gas station or something?” I say, trying to sound lighthearted.
“She’s okay, but she has a few scratches. And she refused to tell the officers her name. They asked her repeatedly but she wouldn’t tell them. Told them she was out for a walk.”
FM 2410 is nothing but a deserted country road and I don’t know of any houses out there at all. There’s an occasional mailbox, and driveways leading to properties, most of them just plots of deserted land. Walking down 2410 is a peculiar thing to do. Not telling the police her name is a new one, even for my mother. And then there are the neatly arranged crickets in the house. A voice in my head is whispering, telling me that none of this is remotely in the realm of normal, reminding me that lately she has been talking without punctuation or taking a breath, but all I can think is that I’m glad she’s okay.
“They’re taking her to Metroplex,” Bobby finally confirms. “They will call you.”
He goes on, but I stop listening. I don’t mean to tune him out but I can’t erase the picture of my mother walking down a dark country road. I imagine her defiant, ignoring the officers, stomping off: I don’t need to tell you my name, walking down the street isn’t illegal.
Happy reading 🙂