Intro to new detective fiction

The look of surprise on Hilary’s face rivaled any I’ve yet seen. It’s normal for my clients to raise an eyebrow or make a joke upon entering my office, but this woman looked like she’d been shot. Maybe she had, I couldn’t know for sure, but certainly not as she walked through the door.

‘Um, hello,’ she said after a moment. She put a hand to her hair, which was somewhat disarranged. It was windy out today. I gave her my most reassuring smile, but it only seemed to confuse her further.

‘Do sit down,’ I indicated the dark blue armchair on the other side of my desk, and regretted for a moment choosing the more professional but less comfortable chair I sat in. Sometimes, when I wasn’t expecting anybody, I switched the chairs around and worked in luxury.

She took two steps to stand beside the chair, but didn’t sit. ‘I didn’t expect -’ she began, then broke off.

I’m the first to admit that my career choice was inspired by the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, but this is twenty-first century Australia. My offices are modern and airy; I don’t work from a dingy flat above a shop. My newest client, I realised, thought she was in a paperback.

‘That’s quite all right,’ I told her. ‘Just sit down and tell me all about it.’

‘About what?’

‘About whatever it is you’ve come to talk about.’

‘Right.’ She visibly collected herself, took a deep breath, and sat. ‘I’m not sure.’ I nodded. People who were sure went to the police. ‘Maybe I’m imagining things,’ she began babbling. ‘Maybe it’s nothing, and maybe she really is in Uganda only she didn’t tell me anything about it, but she does go to some strange places sometimes. Maybe she’s just on holiday and this is all my imagination.’

This didn’t sound like the usual accusations of adultery or petty theft. This might be interesting. I took up a pen. ‘Why don’t we start with your name?’

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Gluten Free Tortilla Wrap

A soft, flexible gluten free wrap! Will wonders never cease! And it’s really easy.

Image

Ingredients

100 grams gluten free flour

200ml water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Method

Mix all ingredients well with an electric beater, then leave to sit for 15 minutes.

Heat a little bit of oil in a frying pan over medium heat.

Fry 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture for about 2-3 minutes before flipping, and another two minutes on the other side. I had to manually spread the mix out, as it didn’t spread out on the pan.

Put onto a wire cooling rack for a couple of minutes, then wrap in cling wrap or foil while still slightly warm, to retain the moisture.

When ready, wrap up your favourite fillings and nom!

Missing Sara

ImageSara Douglass’ BattleAxe, the first in her Axis Trilogy, was first published in 1995. It can’t have been long after that when I first read it; I was certainly young and imaginative and impressionable. It was – and remains – a favourite. Re-reading it now, I can’t help but recall including it in my usual style of play: role-playing, or re-enacting. In my imagination, I was everybody: Azhure, strong and determined but beset by self-doubt; Faraday, sacrificing all for the Prophecy; even Axis as he discovered and re-invented himself. I went on to read all nine of the Axis books. They nurtured my on-going love of fantasy, and hold a special spot on my heart to this day. Reading it now evokes childhood.

Then somehow I forgot Sara Douglass. Her books sat on my shelf for years, gathering dust, as I went on to obsess over Terry Pratchett, Isobelle Carmody, Daphne Du Maurier, and other forever-favourites.

One day in a bookshop I saw one I’d never seen before – and, at a busy time in my life, a stand-alone fantasy book was a rare and welcome thing. The Devil’s Diadem, thank you very much, more Douglass adoration without having to commit to a long series.

It was shortly after that I discovered she had passed away. I was about two years late to hear the news, making the shock surreal. I confess to shedding a tear or two despite never knowing her personally; she was a wonderfully talented Australian writer, and I felt the loss.

So now, even as I read her words and feel her tremendous power as a story-teller, there is an additional sadness. I’m a grown up now, and she is gone.