The Taste of Ash – A psychological crime suspense novel
What is it like to be a victim? How do you move on from losing everything? How do you cope when someone is watching your every move and you have no idea who it is - or what they are going to do next?
When Zoë Graham’s flat burns down in an arson attack she loses everything. But the man in the flat downstairs comes off much worse and a murder investigation is launched. Who started the fire and why? And who was the intended victim? Soon Zoë has reason to wonder if it was her. Feeling like a refugee, all she wants is to get back to some sort of normality and move on with her life - but someone is determined that isn’t going to happen.
An unknown stalker sends Zoë’s life spiralling out of control and she doesn’t know which way to turn, or who she can trust.
The shrill blare of an alarm wrenched me from sleep. I pulled the duvet up over my head. Just five more minutes. Blindly I reached an arm out and groped for the alarm clock, bashing wildly. I was sure I’d hit the snooze button, but the wailing didn’t stop. I rolled over to do it properly and saw that it was 2:16 - the middle of the night. That couldn’t be right. And the noise wasn’t coming from the bedside.
Now that I was more awake I recognised the wailing as the smoke alarm. My flatmate, Claire, had been stumbling about as if drunk when she came in a couple of hours ago. Had she got up to make some toast? It wouldn’t be the first time. And she was always burning something. I thought I could smell smoke.
I slid my slippers on and stumbled, yawning, towards the bedroom door. The noise was unbearable. And the smell of burning was strong - too strong. Fingers of smoke clawed under the front door of the flat from the stairwell beyond and hung like a thin ghost in our small hall. Suddenly I realised the building was on fire.
Panic seized me. What should I do? Should I phone the fire brigade? Where was my mobile? There was no time to find it. I had to get out.
I threw open the door of Claire’s room. ‘Fire!’ I screamed. ‘Wake up.’ She was comatose and snoring loudly. I shook her. Claire snuffled. She gave a small cough but showed no sign of waking. I threw back the covers. ‘Fire!’
My voice was a screech. It choked into coughing as I hauled her from the bed.
‘Go away,’ she murmured irritably.
I slapped her. That woke her. Her hand flew to her face.
‘We’ve got to get out. There’s a fire.’