Read an excerpt from The Rising Tide – the new pulse-pounding thriller from Sam Lloyd
More about the book!
Penguin Random House SA has shared an excerpt from The Rising Tide by Sam Lloyd, the bestselling author of The Memory Wood.
About the book
Life can change in a heartbeat.
Lucy has everything she could wish for: a beautiful home high on the clifftops above the Devon coast, a devoted husband and two beloved children.
Then one morning, time stops. Their family yacht is recovered, abandoned far out at sea. Lucy’s husband is nowhere to be found and as the seconds tick by,
she begins to wonder – what if he was the one who took the boat? And if so, where is he now?
As a once-in-a-generation storm frustrates the rescue operation, Lucy pieces together what happened onboard. And then she makes a fresh discovery. One that plunges her into a nightmare more shocking than any she could ever have imagined …
Read the excerpt:
The news doesn’t strike cleanly, like a guillotine’s blade. There’s no quick severing. Nothing so merciful. This news is a slovenly traveller, dragging its feet, gradually revealing its horrors. And it announces itself first with violence – the urgent hammering of fists on Lucy Locke’s front door.
Lucy’s in the study, hunched over Daniel’s laptop. Breath whistles past her teeth as she frantically casts about. Onscreen is her husband’s company balance sheet. Spread across the desk is a mess of bank statements, invoices and scribbled notes. Around her feet, cardboard folders spill over with receipts.
She’s tempted to cram every scrap of paperwork into the fireplace and toss in a match, but that won’t help them. If there’s something here she’s overlooked, it’s vital she finds it.
Lucy’s wet hair leaks cold water down her spine. The study is unheated and the bath towel around her torso offers little comfort. In the hall, the barometer mercury is plunging. No storm has yet broken. But gunmetal clouds, rolling in from the Atlantic, are pregnant with threat.
This doesn’t feel like the end of the world. Not quite, not yet. In their nine years together, it isn’t the first crisis they’ve weathered. She’s saved him before. She knows she can save him again.
Lucy rocks back in the chair, tries to control her breathing. Glances around the grand old Georgian room.
On a side table stands a silver plastic photo frame, a relic from back when they were penniless. She’s bought Daniel lenty of others since, but he’s never replaced the original. In this house, items with little value gain it as they age: the scarred furniture, the chipped crockery, the art on the walls; all of it connects to a thousand different memories, priceless artefacts of the Locke family story.
The frame holds a photo of all four of them – Lucy and Daniel, Billie and Fin – taken six years ago on Penleith Beach. Fin’s in a sand- crusted Babygro. Billie sits cross-legged beside him, an elfin twelve-year-old in a neoprene shorty. Daniel – in faded board shorts and nothing else – crouches over a foil barbecue. Summer sun has caramelized his skin. His eyes aren’t on the steaks but the ocean, as if something out there has caught his attention.
Lucy, just into her thirties, wears the world’s most contented grin. Her denim cut-offs and tie-fronted bikini top reveal flesh as smooth and supple as a seal’s. Two belt-hoop stretchmarks on her abdomen are subtle evidence of her motherhood. Above them, her breasts are a far more obvious sign.
She’s always teased Daniel about that, claiming they’re the reason he keeps this photo close. And yet in truth she loves the image too. She can’t remember who took it, but the photographer captured something of them Lucy has always felt, yet never managed to express.
When she realizes how tightly her jaw is clenched, she turns away. Too hard, suddenly, to contemplate her family.
Balanced on the desk is a stack of unopened post. Lucy begins to tear through it, alert for further shocks. The first three envelopes yield junk mail. The fourth is from an insurance company. She checks the date – flinches when she realizes how long it’s been sitting here. When she scans the policy document, the muscles of her abdomen pull tight.
Lucy’s gaze returns to the balance sheet, then the framed photograph where Daniel is looking out to sea. Only last night, in the darkness of their bedroom, she’d entwined herself around him and vowed they’d survive this. He’d muttered a reply, rolled on to his side. And Lucy, sensing his despondency, had felt her eyes fill with tears.
Beside that photo of their family is a time-battered Polaroid, creased and sun-faded. In it, eight-year-old Daniel, all elbows and knees, stands on the steps of Plymouth’s Glenthorne Hostel for Boys. Lucy recognizes his expression. He was wearing it the day they met: a startled-prey wariness more suited to an animal than a human; a heart-rending fusion of fear and hope and longing.
That day, she’d felt a powerful compulsion to put her arms around him.
Whenever Lucy sees this photo – the earliest image of her husband that exists – she feels exactly the same way.
On the steps beside Daniel stands Nick, broader and taller despite their similar age. Whereas Daniel squints at the camera, Nick glowers. His arm is thrown protectively around his smaller friend. Lucy knows more than most how it’s lingered there ever since.
Scowling, she rips open the remaining envelope. Realizes, too late, that the letter’s addressed to Billie. Tossing it down, Lucy re-checks the balance sheet. She makes a fist, thumping the desk so hard its drawer rattles in its frame.
And then she hears a response, echoing along the hall. But it isn’t another drawer rattling. It’s the front door. Someone is pounding upon it.
Lucy blinks. Tilts her head. A cold pearl of water rolls down her neck. The sound of hammering ends as abruptly as it began. All she hears now is the tick of the wall clock.
A commotion at the window draws her attention. She turns in time to see a herring gull land on the frame. The bird is so large that it struggles to balance, flapping its wings for stability. It peers in at her with one pale eye. Then it taps its beak against the glass.
Her great-aunt Iris, since succumbing to dementia, has grown darkly superstitious of seagulls – doesn’t like any part of them touching her house. Lucy glances away from this one to the clock. Just past two. Roughly an hour since high tide.
Did she imagine what she just heard? Nobody in this family uses the front door, nor anyone else who knows them well. Good friends and associates, in long-standing tradition, don’t even announce their arrival; they wander in through the kitchen, reach for the biscuit barrel, whatever makes them feel at home.
The hammering resumes. Four emphatic bangs. With a cry, the herring gull flaps off the ledge. Lucy stands, gripping the bath towel to her chest. She moves to the study door.
Like the rest of this sprawling clifftop residence, the hall is grander in dimensions than repair. Duck-egg-blue walls – long in need of repainting – support a chipped yet finely stuccoed ceiling. On the parquet floor, a threadbare runner does little to deaden sound.
The house stood abandoned on Mortis Point for two decades before they bought it. Four years on, Lucy knows that even the pittance they paid was a ransom. Wild Ridge, as the place is named, is still salvageable, but they’ll never afford the repairs. Certainly not now.
The front door is an immense mahogany slab. A transom window above it admits a rectangle of slate sky. The door itself features two panels of sand-blasted glass. As Lucy watches, a shadow moves across them. Proof, if any were needed, that the interruption wasn’t illusory.
She calls up her mental map of Skentel, populating it with the people she loves most. Fin at Headlands Junior School, where she dropped him just before nine. Billie at college in Redlecker, further along the coast. Daniel in his workshop, on the backshore above Penleith Beach.
Lucy steps into the hall and pads along it. The hammering starts up again, so violently that the door shakes in its frame. From the force of the blows, and the size of the shadow, she assumes her visitor is a man. Could it be a creditor? A bailiff? One of Daniel’s customers, intending to surprise him at home?
As she draws closer, the banging falls silent once more. Her fingers reach out, touch the brass latch. Hesitate there.
Something about this feels wrong. Portentous. To be avoided at all costs. Lucy’s never been one to doubt her gut, but she can’t ignore the intrusion. This is her home – until someone with authority says otherwise. No way she’ll cower inside it.
Flipping up the latch, she hauls the door wide.
Lucy’s so surprised that she glances up the lane, expecting to spot an accomplice. Bizarre that someone so petite could create such a racket. Or cast such a deceptive shadow.
Dressed in black with bubble gum-pink hair, Bee peers up at her through lashes as extravagant as a giraffe’s. What she lacks in height she compensates for in girth – wide hips, heavy shoulders, a pleasing roundness of belly. On her T-shirt is a rainbow unicorn with the legend: I DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU EITHER. Lucy’s known her five years, ever since Bee walked into the Drift Net and demanded a job.
Bee jerks backwards when she sees Lucy’s towel and wet hair. Her bangles ring like windchimes. ‘Hey, Luce. Daniel in?’
Lucy’s fingers fall from the latch. ‘Bee?’ Again, she glances along the lane. All she sees is Bee’s electric scooter, leaning against a hedge. ‘Who’s running the Drift Net?’
‘Eh? Oh, I left Tommo in charge.’
‘Tommo? Is that— Do you trust him?’
Bee regards her strangely. ‘Dude, he’s my boyfriend. Of course I trust him.’
Still, Tommo’s a fresh catch, landed just six weeks ago. Lucy’s only met him once, and hardly in the best of circumstances. ‘Does he know how to—’
‘I called you loads,’ Bee says. ‘Thought I’d better hop up. They found the Lazy Susan.’
That throws her for a second. She’s never quite got used to the name of Daniel’s boat. Their boat, she corrects. Although if ownership were awarded on maintenance effort, Daniel could probably claim it. Lucy may have scrubbed barnacles one or two seasons, diving beneath the hull in full scuba, but it’s nothing to the effort Daniel’s sunk in. Hard work and heartbreak’s a price you don’t see going all-in on a forty-year-old yacht. A saner couple might have learned from the experience of renovating Wild Ridge. Not them.
‘They found her?’ Lucy frowns. ‘Who? Found her where?’
‘Just drifting, I think. Somewhere out to sea. They’re towing her in right now.’ Bee cranes her neck, angling for a peek down the hall. ‘So is Daniel here? I mean . . . shit, I know she’s not his boat, especially.’ She pulls out her vape pod and takes a hit, exhaling strawberry-scented smoke. Again, she glances past Lucy’s shoulder into the house.
Lucy sidesteps, blocking her view. And feels instantly strange. But the study is visible from the front door. She doesn’t want Bee to see what she’s been doing. ‘Are you saying someone stole her? From the dock?’
‘I’ve no idea. Some guy came in, talking about what he heard. Coastguard chatter, I think. Dunno much more than that, really, but I figured you guys should know.’ She shifts her weight from one Doc Marten to the other. ‘You . . . um . . . you good?’
Lucy feels another bead of water climb down her spine. The day feels like it’s unravelling. ‘Yeah, look. Thanks, Bee. I’d better throw on some clothes, find out what’s happening.’
‘You want me to come with?’
She shakes her head. ‘Can you get back to the Drift Net? I’m sure Tommo’s coping fine, but I’d feel better if you were there.’
Bee takes another hit of strawberries. ‘Sure, dude. I’ll skedaddle.’ She pivots and trips down the path.
They found the Lazy Susan. Just drifting, I think. Somewhere out to sea.
Lucy glances behind her. Stalking along the hall to the study is a draggle of wet footprints. Seeing them makes her shiver.
By the front gate, Bee drags her scooter from the bush. She hops on the deck plate and hums away down the lane. Lucy stands in the doorway, watching. Three herring gulls fly over the house from the west. She knows what it means, a trio of those birds. Closing the door, she rushes back along the hall.