This is the second book in the Greek Island Mystery series. Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, ‘Jennas’s Journey’, do make an appearance.
Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?
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Jenna’s Journey – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EXDPZD2
The boy knew he shouldn’t be out so late on his own but a dare was a dare! His best friend, Vasilli, had dared him to meet up at midnight in their den in the woods. He’d been so excited he could barely sleep. His mother had come to tuck him in—not that a boy of nearly eight needed tucking in he’d reminded her as they went through the usual nightly ritual.
“Sleep tight, mind the bugs don’t bite.”
Then when she’d gone, he forced himself to stay awake until he heard his parents come back up the stairs to their room. He waited for the light to go out and gave it a few more minutes to be on the safe side. The luminous watch that he’d asked for on last birthday was showing nearly 11.30. There would be plenty of time to get there. He peered out of his bedroom window. It was dark out. There were no streetlights in his village. It was lucky that he’d remembered to pack a torch. He crept silently down the stairs, careful not to wake either his parents or the sleeping twins, put a jacket on over his pyjamas, slipped his trainers on and spying the fruit bowl on the table, put a couple of apples in his pocket in case he got hungry.
The gang had built the den during the long summer holidays when they were allowed to play out until late provided that they told an adult where they were. This was different. The summer had given way to autumn and there was a chill in the night air. He wrapped his arms round himself for extra warmth or maybe just to give himself courage. He thought fleetingly of turning back but he knew he wouldn’t be able to stand Vasilli’s taunts of ‘chicken’ the next day. All he had to do, he reminded himself, was cut through the woods at the back of his house and meet his friend in the den. Just then, as if giving him a signal, the moon came out from behind the clouds illuminating the woodland path. He set off at a run, not wanting to be late. Once he reached the safety of the den, they’d have a good laugh about what a great game it had been.
An owl hooted in the branches above him almost scaring him silly. It felt so different at night. Every sound was magnified a thousand times, making him alert to every eerie sound. Little creatures scurrying around made the leaves underfoot rustle. Twice now he’d thought he heard someone following him but when he stopped there was no one. Only a few more metres to go and he’d be safe.
Not wanting to cut through the churchyard, he kept to the wall until he reached the woods. The moonlight showed him the den, just as he’d left it. He rushed inside, breathing heavily, surprised to see that Vasilli hadn’t arrived yet. He glanced at his watch. It was only 11.54. He decided to wait no more than ten minutes and then he was going home. His father would give him a right talking to if he got caught. He’d probably be grounded for weeks. It never crossed his mind that his friend wasn’t coming. He settled himself into the snugness of the den to wait. At least it was warmer in here, out of the wind.
He woke up suddenly, surprised that he’d fallen asleep. There were footsteps just outside the den: Vasilli must have been held up. He was about to shout to him but thought he’d surprise him instead by shouting ‘boo’ as he crawled through the entrance. The footsteps stopped and he heard a scraping noise. He peered into the darkness but couldn’t make out what his friend was doing. Then the moonlight clearly showed him that whoever it was, he was far too tall for his friend. It was a man with a spade. He could hear the soft earth plop onto the ground as he dug a hole. Suddenly the den smelt of fresh earth and vegetation. He hoped the man wasn’t going to be long. He was in enough trouble already. The moon disappeared and it was dark again, totally silent now except for the sound of the spade on the damp earth. He’d wanted an adventure but suddenly an adventure on your own wasn’t nearly so much fun. He wondered what the man was doing. Maybe he was burying treasure. They could come back tomorrow and dig it up. That would be fun. He knew though that he shouldn’t be here and was afraid. What if the man caught him and told his parents? His heart was thumping so loudly he was sure the man could hear him but the spade just continued to thwack as the soil was lifted. It seemed like hours but his watch showed it was 1.10am. When the moon came out again he saw the man lift something big and heavy into the hole and start to cover it up. Now he knew he had to remain totally silent or else he’d end up in the hole too no doubt! He had a horrible thought that perhaps instead of treasure, the man was burying a body. At any rate it certainly didn’t look like treasure. Why was he out here in the woods at this time? He couldn’t be up to any good? Just then the man trampled down the earth so that it wouldn’t leave a trace just as the moon slid out from the shadows. The boy realized with a jolt that he knew the man. Fear trickled through his body, just as he lost control and wet himself. Hot urine trickled down his leg, turning cold seconds later. He didn’t consider the trouble he’d be in for wetting his pajamas, right now he just wanted to be anywhere else but in the middle of the woods with a murderer for company. He was tired, cold and wet. He watched the man leave and when he was sure it was safe, he ran all the way home. He was relieved that his parents hadn’t missed him. He half expected all the lights to be on and his father standing in the middle of the living room asking him where the hell he’d been. Instead there was a gentle snoring noise coming from the bedroom. Luckily the twins hadn’t woken his parents up while he’d been out. He quickly changed into clean pjs. He’d admit to wetting himself in the morning but that was all. He crept into bed and fell asleep straight away but somehow his mother’s words kept playing on his mind over and over again. ‘Mind the bugs don’t bite.’ He dreamt of bugs covering him but instead of a bug’s face, he saw the man in the woods. He was to dream the same dream time and time again.
They say you should never go back to a place where you were once happy, not unless you are prepared to be disappointed. As she surveyed the all too familiar island from the deck, Kat wished she’d heeded that advice. The beautiful cove where they’d played as children was now home to a luxury hotel—the azure blue waters of the infinity pool glinting in the sun. ‘Why on earth had she come back?’ she asked herself. She knew that it would only lead to more heartbreak, yet after all this time she had finally been unable to resist the pull of her homeland.
“Is that it?” Asked an excited voice next to her.
“Yes darling, that’s where mama grew up. If you look carefully, you can just make out the house where I used to live when I was your age. It’s at the top of the hill. Can you see it yet? The little house painted yellow. It’s called ‘To spiti lemoni.’”
“I see it, I see it,” replied Izzy jumping up and down.
Looking at her daughter’s face flushed with youthful exuberance, Kat felt a tug of nostalgia for that innocent time. She put her arms round her daughter and hugged her close, wanting to protect her from anything that might harm her.
“When’s daddy coming?” Izzy asked out of the blue.
“You know he has to work, sweetie. This is going to be our little adventure, okay?”
“But I’m going to miss him sooooo much.”
Luckily before Kat could think of anything else to say, they were caught up in the swell of passengers disembarking. Pushing their way past dithering tourists trying to get their bearings, they set off up the hill towards the lemon house. Luckily they hadn’t brought much luggage, just a bag with a couple of changes of clothes each, swimming things, underwear and a few toiletries. Anything else that they needed she figured they could buy on the island. They wouldn’t need much as she didn’t intend to stay for long. She’d planned on being away for a week, two at the most depending on how long the formalities were going to take. Izzy had her own backpack with her DS in it. She’d virtually refused to come away without it and Kat could empathize with that because she felt the same about her Kindle, which went everywhere with her. She knew she gave into her daughter far too much but she could honestly say she wasn’t a spoilt brat like some of the other kids in her class and that was down to her. She could hardly give Robert any credit for his daughter’s upbringing, as he was never there.
The email had pinged into her ‘in’ box just as she and Robert hit a really bad patch. They’d been arguing more and more recently. She knew he worked hard but he didn’t appreciate that she worked too as well as looking after their daughter and the house. It seemed that lately more and more was left to her and when they did speak it was just to complain about each other. She was fed up with his long hours and lack of family time; he complained that she was never satisfied. Then the email from Greece had arrived informing her of her mother’s death. For the rest of the day, she’d put it to the back of her mind. After all, she hadn’t seen her in years so she could hardly play the grief-stricken daughter. Then that evening over dinner she’d mentioned it to Rob and his sense of duty had insisted that she go and pay her respects. Of course, his work responsibilities didn’t extend to him accompanying her and with nobody to look after Izzy she’d almost turned it into a holiday, pushing the real reason why she was here to the back of her mind.
The sun was blazing and already she could feel a trickle of sweat run down her neck into the crevices of her shoulders. They stopped at the periptero, which had expanded from the tiny kiosk that she remembered into what looked almost like a shop with awnings and freezers taking up most of the outside space. She had to face up to the villagers at some point she reasoned and this seemed as good a place as any. Achilles had barely changed at all. As a child she’d thought he was old but back then he couldn’t have been more than forty-five. Now, he must be nearly seventy but she recognized the weather beaten features and the kind eyes. Steeling herself, she spoke to him in Greek remembered from years past.
“Two ice-creams please.”
Achilles looked up from the newspaper he was reading,
“You’re back then? We weren’t sure if you’d come or not.” He said.
For a second she wondered how he could possibly recognize her after all this time. Then she looked down at her daughter who was the spitting image of her at the same age. She knew that whatever she said would be all round the village in a matter of minutes. Achilles would take great pleasure in passing the news on to all his customers and soon everyone would know that Pelagia’s daughter was back for the funeral. There was a pause as neither knew what else to say until finally, remembering the circumstances under which she’d returned, Achilles waved away her offer of a ten euro note and said the ice-creams were on the house. Before he could ask any more questions they moved up the hill and sat on a low-whitewashed wall to eat their ice creams. Looking around her, Kat thought that this part of the village had changed very little. She still recognized most of the houses although some had evidently been sold and tarted up as holiday homes. Where the roofs had once held spare water tanks in case of drought and solar panels for the hot water, now they were proper roof terraces with sun loungers and patio furniture catering to the needs of tourists. The traditional donkeys that she remembered from her childhood had long gone, as the islanders’ wealth had improved. Now you had to be wary of young men riding mopeds and scooters instead. It felt strange to be in a place that was so familiar, yet to always be the outsider. It was strange too how she never quite felt English in England yet she’d been away so long she no longer felt Greek either. Even her name was neither one thing nor the other. She’d changed it from her birth name of Ekaterina to Kat when she’d realized that nobody in her class could pronounce such a mouthful. It wasn’t quite English either as she hadn’t liked to be called Katie. Perhaps she really should have trusted her instincts though and stayed at home. She’d only come because Robert insisted. It was almost as if he had an ulterior motive. She pushed that thought to the back of her mind too. Now she really was becoming paranoid. Maybe that’s what returning to the island did to you?
Soon they reached the top of the hill and the lemon house, pausing only to take in the tremendous view that she recalled so vividly. On a clear day you could see all the way across to the mainland. It was a view that no camera could quite capture. Its exquisite beauty refused to be pinned down. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to be back, after all?
Out of a childhood habit she automatically felt under the terracotta pot where her mother had always hidden the door key. Nothing! She couldn’t believe she’d come all this way to be refused entry to her own childhood home. Her emotions were running high but she knew she couldn’t let the tears fall, especially not in front of Izzy. She thought that if she started crying, she would probably never stop. Then the door opened and her grandmother said.
“I heard you were back. You’d better come in.”
Achilles’ early warning system had worked faster than even she could have anticipated.
“I got a text from Achilles in case you were wondering.”
Kat marvelled inwardly at how well her grandmother could read her mind but then that was something she’d always been good at. Somehow though she hadn’t associated mobile phones with her grandmother and wondered if she was being unreasonably ageist or if it was because the way she remembered the island was before the advance of technology.
Author Biography —Julie Ryan
Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a dippy cat with half a tail. She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance!
She is the author of two novels set in Greece, “Jenna’s Journey” and “Sophia’s Secret” both part of the Greek Island Mystery series. She is currently working on a third book, ‘Pandora’s Prophecy.”
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